Roger Nygard – The Nature of Existence

December 10, 2010

Roger Nygard recently produced and directed a feature documentary called The Nature of Existence. In it, he asks some of the biggest of questions to “the widest cross-section of humanity possible.” Why do we exist? What is our purpose? What is truth? He asked these and many other substantial questions to individuals with a wide range of worldviews—from Richard Dawkins, to 24th generation Chinese Taoist Master Zhang Chengda, to the founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling, Rob Adonis.

In this wide-ranging conversation with Robert Price, Nygard discusses whether or not it’s worthwhile to distinguish between “normal” religions and “weird” fringe belief systems. He talks about some common themes and huge differences in the worldviews he explored, and whether or not he found any of the worldviews to be helpful or genuinely harmful.

He talks about the conflict between science and religion, and even shares his own best guess at the meaning of existence.

Roger Nygard has directed, produced, written, and edited for film and television. He directed and edited Trekkies (1999), Trekkies 2 (2004), and Six Days in Roswell (2000), a docu-comedy about UFO enthusiasts.

For television, he has directed and edited episodes of the HBO series, The Mind of the Married Man, edited episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and directed episodes of the FOX series The Bernie Mac Show and The Loop, the NBC series The Office, the DisneyXD series Zeke & Luther, and many others.

The Nature of Existence is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Friday, December 10th, 2010. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry on Robert Price point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reasons, science and secular values and public affairs and the grass roots. Roger NIJ Guard is an accomplished writer and director whose work, you know, even if you don’t know, you know it. He’s directed and edited TV shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, The Bernie Mac Show and Zeek and Luther. He directed Trekkies one and two and six days in Roswell. And now he’s the proud papa of the interview documentary, The Nature of Existence, which just came out on DVD and Blu ray on November twenty third. Roger Norgaard, welcome to a point of inquiry. 

Thank you. Yeah, it’s great to be here. 

Your new documentary is called The Nature of Existence, a big title. Could you tell us a little about the movie and what you tried to capture in it? 

Yeah, I don’t. If I could’ve picked a wider subject than the entire nature of existence itself, but that was maybe part of the challenge. It kind of started for me when I was seven years old because that’s when I first realized I was going to die someday. And it was that existential crisis or the seed of an existential crisis that was sort of placed in my brain at that point that throughout my life kind of continued to flower grow or in the form of questions about things. And when my father died, when I was 13, that brought the concept home of mortality. And what happens, what we know when you die. And a few years ago, that existential obsession or interest that I had finally intersected with my filmmaking career. When I realized, I thought, why not make a film about these these questions that really intrigued me. I’ve been interrogating my friends, mercilessly questioning them. What’s the point of everything? Why do we exist? Is there an afterlife? Where are they located? And I started filming those discussions, which led to then sort of broadening the circle. I realized I had to go beyond just my friends. And ultimately, I went international and sought out people, experts, everyday people from all over the world, from all the major belief systems, religions, as well as atheists, Native Americans, Hindus, Janiece, Buddhists, Daoist, Confucianist Christians, of course, and Jews and Muslims. I asked everybody the same set of questions and collected all those responses into this movie. So in one sense, the nature of existence is kind of a snapshot of what the world thinks about the point of why we’re here. 

You did the interview. An amazing range of people with various world views. 

Did you find there were any unifying themes or on the contrary. Huge differences in their claims? 

Yeah, they were both. As you’d imagine, some things that overlapped were a sense of wondering why everything is the way it is. And human beings, it seems, have two different approaches for that question. There is a religious approach and a scientific approach. You know, science versus religion. It’s going on now and has always gone on sort of a conflict between the two. In the old days, religion explained everything. You know, why is there thunder? When why is there drought? Where do you go when you die? What happens to the body after you die? But now science has continued to make inroads in explaining all these things. We know that lightning is electrons moving from one polarity to another. And we know why drought happens. So as science continues to encroach on the territory their religion used to cover, there’s been conflict or pushback. And currently, the debate between creationists and evolutionists is one prime example for that. There is still friction going on in the long run. I mean, the only way to really predict the future is to look at the trends of the past, to see where it’s going to go. And science has continued to encroach in that realm of answering questions. The religious people, they describe it as we’re all born with a God shaped hole in our heart. And so you fill that with something, know, maybe, you know, learning or maybe it’s alcohol or maybe it’s love or maybe it’s God or, you know, the scientists. It’s all about quest for knowledge and learning and understanding and explaining why we’re here. Both of those desires are there the same desire. But there are different ways to fulfill them. And so that’s that’s one major overlap and distinction that I saw. 

That’s fascinating. It makes you wonder if somehow the Buddhists are right. And the thing to do is to keep the whole lamptey. Maybe something will emerge from within you. It’s kind of a womb. But I guess instead we feel like, oh, no, we’ve got to find some stuff in there. 

Yeah. You know, I think there’s a tendency for people to want to find a big complex answer. Up there in the sky, that explains everything. But I think the answer one reason it’s so hard for people to see is because it’s so simple. And Buddhism was all about simplicity. Eliminating the need for material goods eliminates their power over you and their ability to make you unhappy when you don’t have them. 

Yeah, they the ancient Stoics realized that that was liberating. And few people dare do it, it seems like. 

Did did you find anyone you thought had done that, attained freedom from material and material goods? 

Well, as a lot of people striving and Kenny will do it. 

Can you really 100 percent, you know, eliminate here your need for material goods? There are the sadhus in India, the sect of Hinduism, who have renounced all material goods to the point of walking around naked. They include clothing as a material good. So you see them and I interviewed one in the movie. Basically, you down to a loincloth and he has a little pouch where he carries his his holy text. And that was it. So he has. And when they become a star. Do you have to go through a ritual where you are essentially considered dead? They have a funeral for the old you and then a new you emerge as this new nonmaterial world entity. So they are there attempting to come close. 

Yeah. The I of a naked sect among the Janus is called the sky clad. And there’s a famous picture of Indira Gandhi talking to one of these guys and look and sort of feel at ease. You you had all sorts of opportunities that I can only envy as a student of various religions. You talk to all kinds of religious leaders and specialists and professionals, if I can use that of a non pejorative sense. But you also made sure you talked to people that would be considered maybe on the fringes of society, not not the. Institutionally accredited people like New Age gurus, the channelers of alien entities and the like. Do you think this societal distinction between normal mainstream religions and quote, weird unquote, belief systems is warranted? Or are they all really pretty much on the same level? 

You know, I’ve gotten criticized often at the at a screening of my film and not just for the nature of existence, but also for Trekkies. The documentary I made about Star Trek fans, I get the criticism, why didn’t you have more, not more normal Star Trek fans in your movie or in this case, why don’t you show more normal Catholics or whatever, put it fill in the blank? Why are you showing these fringe of these Christian wrestlers for as an example, you know, of of not normal? And so my only response to them is, who am I to decide what the correct expression of religious belief is? All I know is what’s interesting on camera. And so I try to find the most interesting people I can. Normal tends to be kind of dull. You know, who’s gonna go see a movie about average people who want to see the more exceptional people? But to take your point even further, I asked Richard Dawkins, you know, the to me, sort of I guess the pope of atheists feel like I was, you know, making a pilgrimage to the pope. That pope. And the way he put it was that with the acceptance of a religion has nothing to do with rationality or reality. It just has to do with the number of people that support it. The his heat wave says in the movie is that if an individual has faith that he is Napoleon, we say he’s a nut. But if one hundred thousand people have faith in some God, then because it’s a hundred thousand one hundred million or a billion, you’re supposed to respect it. But it’s actually no more evidence for the God that they believe in than for the lunatics belief that he’s Napoleon. 

Yeah, I take that very seriously. It seems to me that unless you’ve got, like Charles Manson or Jim Jones mapping out the religion, if it’s a workable, more or less benign way of living than it is really a nose count. As long as Mohammed is the only one that believes he’s a prophet, we rightly say, well, the guy’s got a delusion or is like Kris Kringle and Miracle on 34th Street. But if time goes by and millions of people come to share the belief and live in the world it creates, which is again, like the Star Trek fans. Now, what the heck is suddenly becomes a religion, but it’s no less delusional for that, right? 

You know, and in his Dawkins, the point was that they demand that you respect their beliefs because they have so many followers. And as so as though the litmus test is simply the numbers of people. You know, if we get enough people, even if they’re let’s say they’re delusional, for instance, and they they follow you take your pick of who you think is wrong, that Australians are Scientologists or whomever. You know, Jim Jones and his cult. Well, if it’s a simply a matter of numbers, then where’s the rationality or how does that fit in? And why was it? Part of what started me on this journey was seeing 9/11 happened, which forced our whole country here in the United States at the same time to all experience thoughts about our own mortality, which we normally all brush under the rug and we live in avoidance of. 

But as I saw that happen, I thought, how do these people who are flying airplanes into buildings believe that that’s the right thing to do? When I believe strongly that they’re wrong, who is right? And if the litmus test in that case is who believes that the strongest that they would win? Because I don’t believe anything strongly enough to drive my car into a building and immolate myself, it barely can commit to buying a car. So, you know, what is the litmus test for what is a real or normal or weird or not? 

I’ve met people at various conferences, a one woman I think was from the former Yugoslavia, and she was dressed sort of like of Dutch cartoon girl with the ponytails and the shoes and all this. And she claims she was a healer, channeling power from from an alien entity, from some other star. And she wasn’t a raving kook. She just operated on these beliefs. And somehow talking to her was refreshing because she was, in a strange way, the real thing, as opposed to all the other comfortable mainstream modernists that have accommodated and assimilated to the mainstream world view. So I’m glad you covered all the so-called weirdos. 

Well, you know, I asked of these psychologists about this concept, this this effect where people hear voices and where those voices come from. They get messages from whether it’s an alien or it’s Jesus or take your pick, whatever the entity is that’s guiding you. Where does that come from? And they describe one. These are all just explanations, right? What’s correct? I mean, who knows? But the other explanations generally in this case, based on experiments and testing, that we have a consciousness subconscious and the subconscious has messages. It has ideas, it’s thoughts, thinking all the time what you know, beneath our conscious awareness. And it gets messages to us in dreams. That’s one obvious example. And in most normal brains, there’s a barrier that the subconscious does not intrude very often or very forcefully into the conscious brain. But in some people, that barrier is broken. And it in it the two overlap. And schizophrenics, they hear voices. You can test their brain and you can see how the brain is actually lighting up the way a normal person’s brain lights up when they are actually hearing voices. But a schizophrenic. Of course, there isn’t a voice, but they are really hearing it. So what do you do if you really hear a voice that’s coming from somewhere other than real people around you? You attribute that voice to whatever the culture tells you. Is the entity that exists. And, you know, for some people, it’s aliens. They’ll attribute it to aliens because that’s what that’s the current vogue, you know. You know, the aliens are now the big headed, big eyed white aliens. They used to be little green men. Having a little green men. Well, culture changes. You know, you see witches or demons or leprechauns. What have you that’s you’ve got to attribute those voices to something if you genuinely hear them, even if they aren’t their. 

I think of Julian Jaynes, his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the breakdown of a bi cameral mind, and which itself sounds sort of like a psychotic or prophetic glossolalia conference. But he he seemed to think that in the he and real old times, the prophets and shamans and others were hearing, as you say, a voice from. Well, he said from the other hemisphere of the brain. But I gather he thought that people that heard voices today are throwbacks to that doesn’t make any sense. 

Yeah, well, in the old days, if you heard voices, you made it into the Bible. Yeah. Today you. They give you drugs. And so you can live a, you know, a regular or relatively more normal life. 

Yeah. If you’re talking to God, it’s prayer. If he’s talking to you, it’s hallucination. Right. Out of all these people, is there any way to narrow it down and say who was the most fascinating personality you met? 

Oh, you know, I just love people and everybody’s fascinating. But you know what? If I had to choose, I would say there’s a group of people that are were the best. And and it was the older the interviewee, the better they were. Because I think older people, they’re more in touch with truth. People I mean, children to children are very honest. But people, you know, know the middle range of ages have a tendency to tell other people what you think they want to hear. So they will like you. Whereas older people, the peer pressure is no longer doesn’t have such a big influence on them. So they will just tell you the way it is. So like Irvin Kershner, for instance, the director of Star Wars, the Empire Strikes Back, he when I interviewed him, he was 85, I believe, and he just passed away last week at the age of 87. And he was very direct and forceful in his opinions, forthright and fun and funny, really interesting to interview. So I got to go with old people as my favorite. 

Does your interviewing with them or your odyssey in general make you think that maybe there’s more meaning or even more spirituality in asking the questions than in getting the answers? 

Yeah. You know, the answer is the journey. It’s about being on a journey your whole life. Because when I say this in the film, once you stop learning, you start dying. You’re leaving the stage. And why do you want to leave the stage? There’s no reason why you can’t keep learning and growing your whole life. You know, as long as you have access to books, magazines, the Internet, television, whatever other people, you can still continue to challenge yourself through interacting with the world and improving yourself. I think there’s this misperception that people have, you know, how they say there’s this ideal of it for a pursuit of happiness, like Roswitha pursuing happiness. But as Julia Sweeney put it, I interviewed her in the movie. She said that happiness is a false goal. You can’t really pursue an emotion. It’s happiness is a byproduct of having a purpose in life. So the real question is, how do I find my purpose? And that’s really what the film deals with. 

Well, Aristotle says this. You you you’re really looking for happiness, but it’s gonna to be your own way to happiness does come as as a byproduct. I think that’s true. So everybody does seem to be wanting that. But was there any kind of an alternate world view you ran across where they were significantly different? Like, I often wonder if the ancient Gnostics weren’t really looking for happiness in this world or or people who were radically ascetic or. I don’t know, or would there be anybody you met that was really different in their orientation? 

Well, the more foreign it is, the what you grew up with, the more different radical it seems. If you grew up in an esthetic community, that would seem normal to you. And then you go to we meet Lutherans in Minnesota. That would seem really strange. When I was in India, there are so many sects in there. There are people who call themselves avatars popping up all the time. I’m the new avatar. And Avatar is just a God in the flesh and human flesh. God coming into this plane. The Bible lovers with a smaller sect that I profiled in the movie. And they follow me here, Baba, who died in 1969. I think it wasn’t working the way he puts it, is he? That’s when he dropped his body. And I knew nothing about them until I went there for one of their celebrations and met those people in all of their beliefs seem utterly strange and foreign to me. Yet there is a familiarity to it. Because it’s really about community, what the psychologists will tell you is that the main reason people get involved in religion is not about supernatural questions. It’s because it’s a social endeavor that your community does. And it’s a way for people to have a close knit group of people. It’s a social network. So when you’re sick, there’s someone to bring you soup. You know, if somebody cares about you, they’re people that have to listen to you. That’s far more meaningful and necessary for people. And I think that’s why the primary reason that people follow or take part in religious groups. 

I found in my pastoral experience visiting people in old age homes and the like or hospitals virtually never did anybody want to know why God had allowed this, et cetera, et cetera. They just wanted comforting presence and someone to show they cared. It just didn’t make any difference. And you know what’s going to happen, Pastor, if I die or the. I never heard any of that. It’s just human to human contact. 

That interesting. You know, if you really want to find out what people believe, you look at how they behave now, what they say. And if somebody is truly a Catholic, they would follow everything it says in their manual to the Bible. And how many people actually follow what it says in the Bible? 

You know, not many. 

Yeah, I think that there are there certain people that is sometimes called dominionist, so reconstructionists who really want to staple the Bible onto the Constitution. 

But I’m willand to think that even most of the so-called religious right never even thought of that, that they they identify their morality with the Bible. But it’s really just kind of the social assumptions of maybe the 30s or the 40s. It’s it’s just wanted to do it the old timey way. And if they took a look. Yeah. If you ever looked at some of these laws and Leviticus. I’m just Jermey. I haven’t. And so it’s right. You know, this drives me nuts as a teacher of Bible theology and am a debater that exactly as you say, people’s beliefs are a function of the social peer groups they’re in. And so they are so reluctant ever to reexamine them. And if you really boil it down and they were honest, they’d say, oh, well, why do I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity? Well, because the people in my church are so nice. I guess it proves that. But that’s that is what it boils down to. 

That’s funny. I mean, that’s the whole point of inquiry is to to challenge the things that you have heard or people have told you, because we know that human beings generally, they have agendas. Sometimes they’re not even aware of their agendas. And so they’re not necessarily presenting truth to you. So how do you find truth? And that’s another aspect of my film. You know, in the nature of existence, I ask people, what is truth? How do you find truth? How do you discern what the truth is? Among all these competing entities or media outlets or friends or whomever that are presenting you with different viewpoints, different points of view. And I think, like you said, people generally don’t want that challenge. So they’ll default to what’s comfortable and what’s comfortable is what you grew up with. 

Yeah. I’ve had students actually say I can’t open my mind to think about this or that because I would be disloyal to my priest or my grandmother if they just did like me. You can’t expect people to be philosophers and so on. But what a category mistake. It’s it’s an unquestioned personal loyalty or it shouldn’t be. But Saadeh to see past that. 

Well there is an aspect to human society of, of being heard following the herd. You know, we’re being social creatures. There have to be followers. And for there to be followers, it has to be built in to the species to do as they’re told. Some people anyway. 

Have you ever been in groups of overt nonbelievers, skeptics and so on, where they can’t do anything together? And it’s the old maxim about as hard to herd cats because they’re all hyper individualists. And I wonder if that’s just what you’d expect if they’ve decided, well, I’m not going to let the mass determine what I think. I you know, you’re gonna it’s gonna be very difficult to even get together to have any common agenda or ideas in the community of free thinkers. 

Well, maybe the saving grace there would be is if everybody in in a free thinking group acknowledged that rationality was what they all agreed was the way to perceive things. Because then you could make decisions based on rationality. And if you define rationality. As having the most evidence to support it, or as they say, you know, physicists say that the degree of your belief should be determined by the degree of evidence to support it. Then it becomes something that you can all demonstrate. I mean, that’s really our only hope for truth, is the scientific method to approach something that we can all call a fact. Well, we we’ve all agreed that if it has a preponderance of evidence in favor of it, you make a prediction and the evidence supports it. That is a fact. Until other evidence comes along, that supports some other conclusion. And so even scientists disagree on many things. But ultimately, the strongest idea does win out in the long run. 

Once a bold man said in his famous essay New Testament and Mythology, he says today even a cultism pretends to be a science. Did you find that that that people that most of us would think are floating in some kind of an ocean of of superstitious belief, believe themselves to be quite rational and scientific? Did you run across many folks like that? 

Well, I think it’s part of our in order to function, you have to believe that you are rational, because if you believe you’re irrational, then, you know, then what? How do you need help? Right. But maybe conversely to that or a correlate to that is the first step towards rationality is admitting how irrational you are as a human being. 

Yeah, that makes sense. You know, you never gonna get anywhere if you’re insane as long as you think you’re sane. Where are any of these things? 

I hate to use a term like insane, but are any of them so far out the end of it? You have met his I mean, you saw people in the real natural habitat of their faith. Did any of these belief systems seem to you to be genuinely harmful? 

Well, you know, the only arm I can see is in the concept of proselytizing when you try to force your path onto other people. And unfortunately, with some religions emphasize that, you know, in mostly the Western religions, I mean, that you get missionaries knocking on doors here all the time. And that’s part of their their mandate is to spread their influence and missionaries throughout the world. I think they’ve done a lot of damage to other cultures by trying to force their belief system onto other people. The Native Americans were very at ease with who they were sexually and with their bodies. They had no concept or word for shame. Until the Christians came and taught them to feel ashamed for their nudity or their sexual behaviors. That idea or meme, as Richard Dawkins calls it, was spread by proselytizing missionaries in the east. It’s much more about looking inward for answers as opposed to spreading outward your ideas to others. I think it maybe has to do with the more people you get to believe something, the easier it will be for you to believe in something, know? It strikes me sometimes that someone is working really hard and very voice differently, allowed to persuade people. It seems like he’s trying to persuade himself to me what he’s trying to persuade others. 

I think you’re right. And the more who can be recruited, the easier the recruiter can breathe. He says, well, hey, look, these people now agree with me. I guess we must be right. It’s a kritz, an odd thing how you’re ostensibly trying to save the others, but you’re really trying to save yourself. 

Well, you know, the golden rule is probably one of the main tenets, right, of Western religion, Christianity. And the Golden Rule has been around a long time before Jesus made it kind of his main thing. But the golden rule itself is a little bit invasive. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. It assumes that other people want what you want. And Julia Sweeney put it this way. I like Terry rewrite on the Golden Rule. She said she she put it this way. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But ask them first if it’s OK. 

Walter counterman said some to that effect in this book, The Faith of a Heretic, that I might like someone to light my pipe for me, but that doesn’t give me the license to make a nuisance of myself and hunt out people with pipes, with armed with matches and so on. 

And I know I got to ask you this after and are viewing all these people on this topic. I got to ask you, what is the meaning of existence? Did you come up with it in the long run? 

That’s a question I get a lot, too. What’s the. Sir, from people, you know, after screenings and, you know, you can’t give someone else a purpose, but what you can do is you can, like Socrates did, the Socratic method. You can help. Challenge them to find it themselves. And that’s what this film is about. You know, in the nature of existence, I ask a lot of questions and I think the clues are there for people to find a purpose in life. And what I learned, what Roger is, what Roger learned, what I took away from the experience, or one of the things if we all know the early the universe is here, right. We’re here, it was created somehow. And if you put aside the debate, whether it was a button pusher that started everything, some entity or whether the existence of the universe or the multiverse is just a natural property of matter. But that aside, we are here. And so I think the two most basic vibes of the universe are creation and destruction. Everything is in the process of being created and or destroyed at any given time now. For us living here on Little planet Earth. If you can align yourself with the vibe of creation, you will be a much happier person as opposed to destruction. So what’s the what’s the difference? You know what? What should I. What you create? What should I create? It kind of doesn’t matter. You know, for me, it was to create a movie, you know, for you, you know, maybe a broadcast, but it can be anything. You write a poem. Maybe make up a new dance. If you’re an architect, you design a new house or plant a garden, create new life for most people. The default is to create another human life much like themselves. And the challenge is to create that new human life in the best possible way you can and teach him well, hurt him or her well and raise them well. So you find people are depressed often when they’re not creating anything, they’re not contributing anything to society in a positive way. And once you give them a task, something to create whatever it is, finger paints, you know, it doesn’t really matter as long as they are in the process of creation. Happiness comes as a byproduct. And you find a purpose in doing whatever it is that you’re creating. So I think, in a word, creation is the answer. 

Mm hmm. That’s very wise, I think. I know it would be the end of me if my creative outlets were shut down. What would be the point of living? 

That’s great. Yeah. You know, they did a study once at a nursing home where they gave half of the residents will give they give all the residents a plant and they told half of them, you don’t have to do anything. We’ll take care of that plant. And the other half, they said that plant is your responsibility. Water it. Take care of it, please. Well, the half that had the responsibility for the plant live longer than the half that had no responsibility. Just a little plant that they had a responsibility for. Made a huge difference in people’s lives. 

Wow. That is significant. Amazing stuff. Well, I’d like to remind point of inquiry listeners. That’s the nature of existence is readily available on DVD, Blu ray and video on demand. And you can get more information on Roger’s Web site. The nature of existence, dot com. 

Yeah. And anybody listening. You can contact me through the Web site. I love hearing from people. All the questions I asked in the movie are listed on the Web site. My eighty five toughest questions where people can click and add their own opinions and see what other people have written. Because I love the feedback. I love the challenge of talking about these things with people. 

You may be starting your own religion here. That could be a risk you’re taken. 

Well, if it’s a religion of rationality, count me in. 

Roger, thank you so much for being on point of inquiry. 

Anytime. Yeah. It’s been great. Thanks. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved with an online conversation about today’s show. And Roger Nye guards film The Nature of existence. Join the online discussion forum at point of inquiry and dot org. Views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feed back at point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Adam Isaac in Amherst, New York. And our music is composed for us by Emmy Award winner Michael Waylan. Today’s show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host. Robert Price. 

Robert M. Price

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1954, Robert Price moved to New Jersey in 1965. At Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary he took an MTS degree in New Testament (1978), then, at Drew University, a PhD in Systematic Theology (1981) and a second PhD in New Testament (1993). He has served as Professor of Religion at Mount Olive College, North Carolina, pastor of First Baptist Church, Montclair, NJ, and Director of the Metro NY Center for Inquiry. He founded and edited the Journal of Higher Criticism and has authored scores of articles on the Bible and religion. His books include Beyond Born AgainThe Widow Traditions in Luke-ActsDeconstructing JesusThe Incredible Shrinking Son of ManThe Da Vinci FraudThe Reason-Driven LifeThe Pre-Nicene New TestamentJesus Is Dead, and The Paperback Apocalypse. Price is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar. He served as Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies at Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary and Professor of Biblical Criticism for the Center for Inquiry Institute in Amherst, NY. He and his wife Carol and daughters Victoria and Veronica live in Selma, NC.