The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 4: “Is There A War On Christmas?”

A Soldier's Dispatches from the War on Christmas – RI Future

We know – because it gets hauled out of storage every year along with the lights and tree ornaments – what Christmas means to those who practice Christianity and to those who follow Jesus (not necessarily the same people). Plenty of Christmas songs (many, ironically, written by Jews) celebrate good tidings, good cheer and good will toward all. But, underneath Christmas’ cheerful red and green exterior lies a neurotic mess.

The good news – such as it is – is that the commercialization of Christmas isn’t a modern invention. Harriet Beecher Stowe complained about how bad it was back in 1853! By 1867, Macy’s in NYC was holding Christmas Eve sales till midnight Christmas Eve.

Was Christmas ever really simpler or were we simpler (while Christmas was always fraught and complicated)? And how did Christmas get like this to begin with? We feel pretty safe in saying that you’ve probably never heard a Christmas discussion quite like this one. Is there a war on Christmas? Not really. But Christmas can definitely be at war with regular people.

Maybe that’s the question we should ask. Can Christmas really be a universal, one-size-fits-all holiday? Maybe. But, first, you’d have to remove the Christmas centerpiece: Jesus. And without Jesus…

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 4 – “Is There A War On Christmas?”

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…

Of Rituals, Rites And Wrongs”

Show us a human, we’ll show you a collection of rituals. Though the word “ritual” comes to us from the Latin “ritus” (rites), what the word articulates transcends the church and even Latin itself. Human beings are suckers for having habits. Throw in a little of the sacred and even a mundane habit can become ritual. Yet. the more we ritualize a thing, the more mundane it become. Sometimes, the ritual is all that’s left of the profound.

When rituals overstay their welcome, they become dogmatic and counter productive. So – how do we stop that from happening (assuming that’s what we want)? Some rituals are essential to our spirituality or our work process. How do we keep them properly framed? Some rituals are essential to our work process. Sometimes the best part of a writing day is its hours of work avoidance rituals.

We think you’ll enjoy this conversation and find it both enlightening and entertaining. Let us know what you think!

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3: “Of Rituals, Rites & Wrongs”

Or, if you prefer to watch…


Mason Curry: “Daily rituals”

The Atlantic:

Thank you for listening and, please – let us know what you think.

Of Rituals, Rites And Wrongs”

Show us a human, we’ll show you a collection of rituals. Though the word “ritual” comes to us from the Latin “ritus” (rites), what the word articulates transcends the church and even Latin itself. Human beings are suckers for having habits. Throw in a little of the sacred and even a mundane habit can become ritual. Yet. the more we ritualize a thing, the more mundane it become. Sometimes, the ritual is all that’s left of the profound.

When rituals overstay their welcome, they become dogmatic and counter productive. So – how do we stop that from happening (assuming that’s what we want)? Some rituals are essential to our spirituality or our work process. How do we keep them properly framed? Some rituals are essential to our work process. Sometimes the best part of a writing day is its hours of work avoidance rituals.

We think you’ll enjoy this conversation and find it both enlightening and entertaining. Let us know what you think!

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3: “Of Rituals, Rites & Wrongs”

Or, if you prefer to watch…

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3: “Of Rituals, Rites & Wrongs”


Daily Rituals (book) –

From The Atlantic: “Seeing Spirituality in Chjampanzees” –

The Faitheism Project Podcast Season 2, Episode 2: “Generation Z Calling”

Generation Z Is Entering the Workforce |

This one’s special. As regular listeners and readers of this podcast and blog know, Randy and I began as social friends. Our sons went to the same elementary school here in LA. They played on the same sports teams (some of which I coached). Then middle and high school and college sent everyone in different directions. But, our sons are both very much products of the environments they grew up in. Randy’s son Lucas grew up in a religious household while my son Tristan grew up in a family that was one hundred percent secular if not downright irreligious. So, the first question we ask: how did that translate?

It’s part of the continuum of life, watching your kids take their place in the world. It’s even more spectacular when they take the lessons we put into their heads and go out and make them their own — or simply put new ideas entirely into their heads. Where Randy and I have ideas, Lukas and Tristan have ideas plus youthful curiosity.

And, boy, do they have questions.

The point of the exercise, as always, is a conversation that surprises and informs and even delights. I don’t think anyone listening to this one will be disappointed.

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 2 – Gen Z Calling

Or, if you prefer to watch…


Some sources on panpsychism —

Sources on the Gold Standard —

On History Of Consciousness —

The Faitheism Project Podcast Season Two, Episode One: “The Conversation Continues”

There’s an excellent joke that even an atheist can get: “Q: How do you make God laugh? A: Tell him your plans”. Mel Brooks made that exact idea the theme song of his movie “The Twelve Chairs” — “Hope For The Best, Expect The Worst”. Disruption is simply one of Life’s possibilities. Disruptions happen organically: the earth quakes, volcanoes blow, hurricanes howl. They happen because one tribe declares war on another. They happen because human beings are strange creatures who don’t always think things through before acting. On the other hand, imagine how dull Life would be if nothing ever disrupted it.

The pandemic started this podcast — a thing for which (perversely) Randy and I are grateful. The podcast platform both gave Randy and I a way to continue a conversation we’d been having over lunch for fifteen years but, also it gave us a way to share that conversation with the world. On paper, a Presbyterian Pastor and a born-atheist should have nothing to say to each other. As 44 podcasts in season one proved, that ain’t the case. Not only did Randy and I have plenty to talk about, we knew even as we were talking that we were, at best, scratching the surface of all we had to talk about.

That wasn’t the most surprising, most edifying realization. Our similarities — the ways we thought very much alike; we just used different vocabulary to describe those thoughts. The remarkable truth was (and remains): Randy and I are on a very similar spiritual path. The only real difference is how we describe our path and our journey on it.

Disruption doesn’t care what anyone believes. Just as the internet disrupted the music business and then film & TV (Alan’s business), it’s now come for Randy’s business: religion. The thing about disruption though — what it giveth, it also taketh away, but, what it taketh away? It can “giveth”, too — if you know how to make that work. In this podcast, Randy and Alan catch up after a podcasting hiatus.

Life’s been good but challenging. Alan’s been trying to get a TV series ready to take out and sell (a post-pandemic comedy called “Threshold” about a group of women who start a threshold choir to sing people out as they die (a very real thing!) while Randy’s been dealing with the prospect of disruption — and the opportunities disruption can present as he begins to transition from something recognizable – a preacher with a longstanding relationship with a religious institution (the Presbyterian Church) – to something entirely newfangled: a virtual spiritual guide. Yeah, disruption has come to the religion biz.

Let’s get talking!

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 1: “The Conversation Continues”

Or, if you prefer to watch…

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 43: “Three Movies We Love And One We Don’t”


Every now and then one has to step back and take a deep breath. While Randy and I do that — it being summer right now — we’d like to revisit one of our earlier podcasts where we each talked about three movies we love and one we kind of hate. Like a lot of our topics here at the Faitheism Project, movies we love is timeless. It won’t stop being relevant tomorrow just because the news changed and went somewhere bizarre again.

A big part of what we’re attempting with The Faitheism Project is meant to be “instructive”.  Randy and I want to impart something we’ve each learned.  I’m didactic by nature.  That’s a nice way of saying I’m an a-hole who’s read a few books and isn’t ashamed of bragging about it.  Randy’s a preacher.  Teaching is part of his job description.

Talking religion and politics is like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool before being confident in one’s ability to swim.  One needs to build up to it.  That’s why we started our podcast conversation talking about spirituality instead.  That’s where we found common ground.  We can all talk about these things without offending each other.  We understand each others’ passions because we feel similar passions.  And — best part — because the subject matter touches everyone, everyone’s willing to LISTEN.  

So, today, let’s talk movies!  

Randy and I have both chosen three of our favorites — and one that isn’t.  Do our favorite movies reveal who we are?  Maybe.  Do they make for a great conversation starter?  Bet on it!

Or, if you’d prefer to watch it…

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 43: “Three Movies We Love & One We Hate”



-The Mission:

Slavery, politics, the church, heroism, Richard Chamberlain, Robert DeNiro;  all set in a back drop of incredible beauty…What’s not to love?

Use:  Restore a commitment to fight for what is right in the world.

Key Quote:  “We must work in the world.  The world is thus.  No, Senor Hontar, thus have we made the world.”  says Cardinal Ultamirano.  “Thus have I made it.”  

“The light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

The Mission is a 1986 British period drama film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th-century South America.[4] Directed by Roland Joffé and written by Robert Bolt, the film stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Aidan Quinn, Cherie Lunghi, and Liam Neeson.

It won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Cinematography

The music, scored by Italian composer Ennio Morricone

Set in the 1740s

-The Winslow Boy:

“Let right be done!” * 

Justice, women’s rights, wonderful dialogue, the Bible embodied in life.

The Winslow Boy is a 1999 period drama film directed by David Mamet and starring Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam and Gemma Jones. Set in London before World War I, it depicts a family defending the honour of its young son at all cost. The screenplay was adapted by Mamet based on Terence Rattigan‘s 1946 dramatic play The Winslow Boy.

*What seems a puny affair of a schoolboy and five shillings is not puny at all but has everything to do with British rights and liberties, Morton declaims. “Once allowed through indifference, one act of injustice—by degrees, by the slow poison of indifference, by being convenient—may cripple and destroy those rights and liberties.” Something far greater than young Winslow’s guilt or innocence is at stake here. At stake is the due process of law that the 39th chapter of Magna Carta promises every Englishman. At stake “is Winslow’s right, as a common citizen of England, to be heard—to be heard in defense of his honor, so wantonly pitched into the mire.” Therefore, Morton sums up, “I will not let the government rest, until the Attorney General has endorsed Mr. Winslow’s petition with the time-honored phrase, the phrase that has always stirred an Englishman and I hope always will stir him wherever he may be—in his castle, in his backyard, or in the humblest little public house at the corner of the humblest street: ‘Let right be done.’”

Here the movie sounds the deepest chord of English jurisprudence, for Morton is paraphrasing England’s mid-eighteenth-century prime minister, William Pitt the elder, who was himself echoing the great Jacobean chief justice, Lord Coke: “The poorest man in his cottage may bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown,” Pitt had declared. “It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” 

-Enchanted April:

Use:  Restoring a sense of beauty/wonder and awe.

Enchanted April is a 1991 film directed by Mike Newell.[1] The screenplay by Peter Barnes was adapted from Elizabeth von Arnim‘s 1922 novel The Enchanted April.[2] The film stars Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, Polly Walker, and Joan Plowright, with Alfred Molina, Michael Kitchen, and Jim Broadbent in supporting roles.

1920’s England and Castello Brown in Portofino, Italy; the castle where the author of the book had stayed in the 1920s

(And one movie that I can’t watch:  “A Clockwork Orange“)

“Dystopian” is my problem.  I don’t enjoy watching  that portrayed because I already feel that deeply enough.  

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess‘s 1962 novel of the same name. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future Britain.


Having been in the film and TV business, I “see” movies a little differently than most people.  I can’t ever completely separate myself from the craft that went into making them.  That’s not to say I don’t get as transported as the next movie watcher to a galaxy far, far away.  I just get transported with the thought “Wow, that’s a great shot — how the hell did they get it?” in my head.  

I adore great movie-MAKING.  I don’t need a movie to be coherent per se.  I like long, obtuse foreign films with subtitles.   I enjoy Terence Malick movies (he directed the beautiful “Days Of Heaven” and strange but contemplative, deep movies like “Tree Of Life”).  I love great editing.  Editing is where any movie or TV show happens.  

I’ve been fortunate to work in TV most of my career.  Whereas features are almost completely director-driven, in TV, the writer-producer is god.

I’ve gotten to physically produce most of what I’ve ever written.  I didn’t have to watch other people destroy it.  No, I got to do that all by myself.

In a sense, editing the “film” (it’s the rare filmmaker who uses actual film anymore) is like writing it a second time except this time using sounds and images instead of words.  

My bottom line is great characters and great writing.  I don’t need explosions.  That said, if an explosion happens to take out a bridge?  That’s different…

My three (in no particular order) — with explanations & thoughts following:


The movie I DON’T like — I’ll even use the word “HATE” (it’s a movie I MADE!) —


The Movies I Love —


A classic.  It’s loosely (very loosely) based on a true WWII story about British prisoners of war who were forced to build a railroad bridge for the Japanese army in Burma — and the allied mission to destroy the bridge before the Japanese could use it.  It’s really a character study about three nationalities — Japanese, British and American as embodied in the story by three men: Colonel Saito (the Japanese prison camp commandant), Colonel Nickerson (the English officer in command of the prisoners) and Major Shears (the American former prisoner of the camp now sent back into the jungle to help lead the mission to destroy the bridge).  

Sesue Hayakawa plays Saito.  Alec Guinness plays Nickerson and William Holden plays Shears.  They’re all perfect in it.  Saito needs to get the bridge built.  Those are his orders.  Nickerson wants to keep his men sane; he sees building the bridge as a way to occupy his men but, also, prove their superiority over the Japanese.  Shears, well —  he’s a bit of a fraud.  Holden’s character was a sailor who, after his ship was sunk, found one of his commanding officer’s dog tags floating near him.  He took them and “became” Shears.  He’s an opportunist who couldn’t color inside the lines if his life depended on it.  He doesn’t volunteer to return to Kwai, he’s coerced.  

Spoiler alert — here’s the ending.  It’s one of the best in all movie-dom. 


Paddy Chayefsky — Network’s author (he deserves that credit) — saw the future.  He saw the Foxification of TV news — its bastardization by entertainment.  Network is about a struggling 4th network (up against ABC, CBS & NBC back when THAT was pretty much “television”) and its struggling news division.  When news anchor Howard Beale flips out on the air one night (“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”), news executive Max Schumacher is made his keeper.  Meanwhile Diana Christensen, an aggressive female executive from the entertainment division, guns for Beale herself: she envisions merging news and entertainment into a format she believes will take over both news and entertainment.  Sidney Lumet directs it all masterfully.  

Peter Finch died before collecting his Oscar for playing Howard Beale.  William Holden (he’s in yet another movie that almost made my list — “Sunset Blvd”) plays Schumacher and Faye Dunaway plays Diana.  

There are lots of amazing moments and brilliant scenes.  One of my favorites is “the boardroom scene” where Chairman of the Board Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) explains “how life really is” to Howard Beale —

Everything about that scene is perfect.  Love, love, LOVE how Lumet stays in the wide shot for the early part of Beatty’s money speech.  


I was never into westerns as a kid.  But then, Butch Cassidy isn’t a western.  It’s an “anti-western”.  Actually, the movie’s pretty much one long chase scene as Butch and Sundance (Newman and Redford) try to outrun the mercenaries sent to hunt them down and kill them.  

All the characters stand ever-so-slightly outside their time.  They seem to sense the grander themes.  Early in the movie, as Butch and Sundance head to Hole In The Wall (where their gang hangs out in safety from the law), Butch tells Sundance his new idea: Bolivia.  Sundance laughs at Butch.  Tells him to Keep thinking.  “That’s what you’re good at,” Sundance chuckles.

“Boy,” Butch replies, “I got twenty-twenty vision while the rest of the world wears bi-focals”.

One flaw — While the characters seem to stand a little apart from their time (Sundance’s relationship with Etta Place — Katherine Ross — is fairly modern and Butch himself is a completely post-modern character, the music is totally out of place and overly 70’s.  

Aside from that, it’s simply one of the best scripts ever written.  Newman and Redford are iconic.  Scene after scene is quotable.  

And then there’s the knife fight scene…

The movie I DON’T love — BORDELLO OF BLOOD

Most people don’t see Bordello the way I do.  They can’t.  For me, Bordello was a personal Waterloo.  Every day we spent making that movie was stupider than the day before it.  Considering the experience of the assorted filmmakers, it’s mind-boggling that we made just about every stupid mistake filmmakers could make.  The movie’s perfectly watchable.  

It has no right to be.

I will save my Bordello stories for the podcast…

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 42: “Can’t We All Just Get Along? – The Subtle Art Of Reconciliation”

Here at The Faitheism Project, we’re all about starting conversations that, on paper, shouldn’t be do-able. Of course, once two people realize how much common ground they have (versus how little they thought they had), they naturally begin to build on that ground. As we also keep discovering here, most of us are on very similar spiritual journeys; it’s only the vocabulary we use to describe our journeys that differs. Still, some differences are truly fundamental. At least they seem that way to us — and that makes them fundamental. How do we reconcile two people or two positions that, to them, seem irreconcilable?

Our guest for this podcast, Mike Harbert, works for the Presbyterian church as a kind of “reconciliation specialist”. When estrangement strikes a church community, Mike’s the guy the church sends in to talk everyone off their respective ledges. As you’ll hear, Mike is very good at his job. Some of that is because of the person Mike is (you’ll meet him and like him a lot!) But some of that has to do with the process Mike uses to defuse the powder kegs he confronts.

Reconciliation after all is a process. That means it’s repeatable. And — most importantly — teachable and learnable.

But, as you’ll also hear, just because you’re the calm, adult in the room doesn’t mean that inside your head you aren’t groaning in exasperation and wringing your hands. Getting people to get along ain’t easy. That’s no revelation. But, the better we get at getting past our differences? What could be bad about that?

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 42 — “Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Art Of Reconciliation”

Or, if you’d prefer to watch —

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 42: “Can’t We All Just Get Along – Reconciling With Reconciliation”


Alan’s How To Live Bullshit Free blog can be found here —

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 41: “Spirituality & Healing, Part Deux”

The title of this podcast doesn’t do it justice. Sure, there’s plenty of good conversation about spirituality and healing, but there’s really so much more. Maybe we should call this one “Spirituality, Healing & Some Amazing Storytelling”. In this one, Randy, um, lets his hair down. He pulls back the covers and talks frankly about the workaday job of being a preacher — especially a young one just starting down the road. Over the course of his spiritual journey, Randy has traveled to some pretty far-flung places (some of which he’ll talk about). Each of those locations has produced a moment that both challenged Randy to his breaking point but then reassured him that he was where he needed to be, doing what he needed to do. He’ll talk about several of those moments.

As these are travel stories, there are bathroom stories that go with them. Those, as anyone who’s traveled knows, can be the most challenging. But the most spiritually rewarding, too?

As Randy can personally attest, spiritual roads and a healthy gut have a tendency to diverge. Those stories alone are worth the price of admission. Randy has truly made some considerable leaps of faith.

Also in this podcast, Alan pays tribute to a former boss who just passed away, the Hollywood action film director Richard Donner. Donner was one of Alan’s Executive Producers when Alan ran “Tales From The Crypt” for HBO. Among Donner’s biggest hits: the Lethal Weapon films, The Goonies, Superman (starring Christopher Reeve) and Scrooged.

Donner also directed a little movie called “The Omen”. And Donner had an idea why “The Omen” was so successful. And it had something to do with Americans and their family Bibles… Did we mention there are stories — lots of cool stories? There absolutely are!

The Faithesism Project Podcast, Episode 41: “Spirituality & Healing, Part Deux”

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…

The Faitheism Project Podcast Episode 40: “Feeling No Pain — Spirituality And Healing”

Spirituality is a journey of discovery. It can also be a journey of healing. There’s plenty of data that says being spiritually or religiously engaged can provide very real health benefits. Religious people tend to have more positive attitudes (whether justified or not) and good attitudes do correlate to good health outcomes. Deeply spiritual people can get all the same benefits that religious people do but without the dogma. The point is, something deep and profound happens to us when we manage to let go of ourselves and get out of our own heads.

Spiritual healing can be as varied as human experience. We moderns like to get away from it all — head out into Nature for a bit of solitude. Ironically, that’s a recent invention. Back in Jesus’s time, someone heading out into Nature wasn’t looking for solitude, they were looking for battle — spiritual battle against the wilderness (both real and conceptual).

First question: what exactly are we healing?

What hurts should dictate how we apply our spirituality to its cure. If the thing in pain is our own psyche, healing is essential; it’s hard to be happy and productive when your “soul” — whatever you perceive it to be — aches.

And what can we do to help our spirituality do its heavy lifting?

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 40: “Feeling No Pain – Spirituality & Healing”

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…


As more information about Nancy Coyne’s work with horse whisperer Cisco becomes available, we will update. I can say unequivocally (Alan speaking) that it’s impact is deep, profound and amaaaaaaazingly uplifting.

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 39: “The Big Score: Spirituality And Sports”

Sports and spirituality go together like tailgating and football. Like playing hard and sweating. Or hockey and fighting. Well, maybe not so much the last one but — sports wouldn’t be sports without its strong spiritual component. We experience sports spirituality whether we’re a fan slowly chewing their fingernails off with the tie run on third base or a runner chasing a runner’s high. Sports transcends nearly everything. It is Life encapsulated.

That makes it the perfect subject to kick around, as we dig into its spiritual sides. There’s something temple-like about a great sports stadium. Fenway Park, for instance, or the original Yankee Stadium — the House That Ruth Built. And there’s something distinctly Zen about the pursuit of physical excellence itself.

Back in the day, ABC had a Saturday afternoon sports omnibus called “ABC’s Wide World of Sports”. The show’s intro famously described “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. The agony of defeat was illustrated by a skier on a ski jump experiencing maybe the worst wipeout ever. We can all feel that poor guy’s pain (in the abstract anyway).

The thrill of victory is never assured. The agony of defeat always threatens to snatch victory away from the team we love. Are we out of our minds to follow sports with such ferocity? Or just incredibly human?

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Episode 39: “The Big Score – Spirituality & Sports”

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…