RDF: Brian, thank you for speaking with us today. We're super excited to have Mr. Deity appear on the Richard Dawkins' Newsletter. Tell us a bit about the concept!
Brian Dalton: Well, basically, the show is about god and the universe in a kind of a daily operation. Initially when we started I was going to call him "Mr. God" which just happened to be taken on the web, so I ended up calling him "Mr. Deity". The Mister part was about trying to show the practical reality of being God and the decisions he'd have to make.
People talk about God in the abstract and I really wanted to take the concept and concretize it and show the people he'd have to take all of this terrible decisions like how much evil he is going to allow in the world, how much free will we're going to have, how that free will is going to be taken away in Heaven, because you can't have free will in Heaven.
RDF: You know we're told to love God but also to fear him, in fact, Christians will brag about being God-fearing - You know, that seems weird to me!
Brian Dalton: Yeah, I agree with that. Mr. Deity is not quite the fearful type; I guess he can be wrathful but his wrath is generally more of just blatant insensitivity. We did an episode about the genocide in Canaan and what you see in that episode is that it's a lot less about wrath and more just about insensitivity towards the human creatures.
One of the concepts which I've always been interested in is how would a immaterial timeless being ever be able to relate to humans with their very temporary worldview and their bodies riddled with pain sensors and thoughts that aren't necessarily controlled and their hormones that are raging - whatever it is! The whole concept of someone being so outside of this whole experience being able to relate to it was always kind of crazy to me.
The Mr. Deity character isn't so much wrathful as he is just complete insensitive to human suffering and human devastation that he's wreaked on his people for however long.
RDF: Speaking of human devastation, you were once a Mormon - what was it like to emerge from something like that? Do you think or Mormonism as a cult or as a religion gone wrong like so many others?
Brian Dalton: Well, there's that old saying that goes "A cult is the newest religion on the block" and that's kind of true. I don't think of Mormonism as a cult because I'm out and had an easy time getting out; there was never any kind of an attempt to keep me in by any means, threats or intimidation or that kind of thing which I generally associate more with cults. It is a brainwash if you're born into it; the only reason I was in it as long as I was it's because that was my world, that's what I understood as my world and it took me a little longer than I think it should have to figure it out; but I did get out easily.
When you speak of human devastation and Mormonism in the same fashion I think that's appropriate - I mean, the (Mormon) people are great. If I had my choice to pick my neighbors I would probably pick the Mormon, because they're great people.
RDF: But they smile A LOT!
Brian Dalton: Yeah, they do smile too much! But to me, their religion is unique in the way that it's really the only major religion in our world that is absolutely false! Because the entire religion, instead of being based on faith claims like Jesus being raised from the dead or something like that, is based on very empirical claims that you can go and test, and people have and have failed time and time again, particularly about the origins of the Native Americans - So it's a strange religion in that regard, because there's nothing else like it. You can just look it up and go "Well, this is definitely wrong"
RDF: Tell us a fun story about you interacting with Mormons. I know that you did a comedy show for a Mormon audience... and you were not stoned! Or maybe you were stoned, but you were not stoned by them?
Brian Dalton: I was a little stoned - No, no, I wasn't! Yeah, I was invited to the symposium which is really not.. I mean, they are Mormons but they're the liberal contingence, often in trouble, often afraid because the general church audience isn't very fond of the people who really think about this stuff -
RDF: They're Mormons then -
Brian Dalton: They're very cool Mormons. In fact it's in large part thanks to publications like "Dialogue", "A journal of Mormon thought" that I was able to find my way out because they provided me researches there that weren't easily available and they're dealing with that stuff... and to be fair, within the faith, I couldn't do it; just the intellectually honest stuff, where Mormon archaeologists talk about how there is no Mormon archeology, there's no such thing and it doesn't fit with the Book of Mormon at all - To me, I just got out of there, but some people can live with that kind of dissonance in their minds but I couldn't do it; that's why I walked out. But they are very nice to have me come back and speak and we did a couple of our skids; we hadn't really written any of our Mormon stuff so we did some basic generic fun stuff on men and women, which often gets me in trouble with the more liberal contingence of the secular community because some people don't understand that you can still joke about male/female things without being a misogynist.
RDF: So do you think doing a comedy really makes it possible to even touch on some very serious topics?
Brian Dalton: Yeah, I believe so. Some 2-3 years ago I started doing another series along with Mr. Deity called "The Way Of The Mister" which was a take on Kurt Cameron's "Way Of The Master", but the point of it was to take the ethos of the Deity world and do other episodes: we did one on reparativetherapy, one on the idea that god will torture everyone in the afterlife, but a couple of them we did on Mormonism called "Mormonism is racism" and we got a lot of feedback on that - A lot of people wrote to me, former mormons, saying how these videos were very helpful in getting them to come out of their cocoon. I get the same thing from Christians who watch the show - A lot of people who watch the show are religious! I'd say from my emails about 40% - and I always say that the nuts that we see on TV are on TV because they're very much the man-bites-dog story, they're interesting, and if you put them on TV the vast majority of religious people in the country, or in America at least, are not the crazy nutballs and they're moderate and fun-loving and if something is of good quality and it's funny, even if it pokes a little fun at something they love, they'll watch it and enjoy it and that's exactly what happens. A lot of times people have written me to say "Well, I started watching you and now that I've been thinking about it -"
RDF: Oh, oh, they start thinking!
Brian Dalton: Yeah! And pretty soon - they're one of us
RDF: So, tell me about how you met the Devil -
Brian Dalton: Oh, Amy. She only plays the Devil in the series, though. We'd known each other for 18 years before we started doing the show together and she was going through a divorce and I'd written a part of Lucifer and hadn't even thought of it being a woman; I was going to have Mr. Deity tease the guy by calling him Lucy all the time, and her ex-husband who I knew and was friends with suggested that Amy played the role of Lucifer and I could call her "Lucy". I don't think there's a lack of connection between the divorce and him suggesting that she'd played Lucifer... but to me she still is the angel of goodness.
And in the show we have Larry, the original Larry, was the heart of the show, Lucy was the brains and Jesus, of course, was the body.
RDF: The "Holy Trinity of Mr. Deity" so to speak! Anything else you'd like to add?
Brian Dalton: Well, if you want to watch the show the best way is in YouTube or go to iTunes and subscribe. I prefer the YouTube, though, 'cause we get the views and we know how many people are viewing it. We always ask people at the end of the show if they want to support the effort because it is solely based on people's contributions so you can go to the website and hit the donate button to donate or set up a financial subscription. We always appreciate that.
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