This interview originally appears in my book Interviews With the Rauschmonstrum.
William F. Buckley – 1968
The Rauschmonstrum was a guest on William F. Buckley’s show Firing Line on March 10th 1968. They discussed claims the Rauschmonstrum had made about himself, and the radical restructuring currently occurring in American culture and politics.
Buckley: Folks, here with us today is a most extraordinary guest. While we’ve certainly been lucky enough to have had many exceptional guests, tonight’s may take the cake in that he is of the supernatural variety. [laughter from the audience] There are many spectacular claims about him which if true would completely upheave the established order of Western Civilization, the world at large, and what many of us accept to be the celestial order. He is of course the Rauschmonstrum, and I am sure him being here will make for some interesting dialogue. Good day to you sir.
Rausch: Hello William, good to be here.
Buckley: Well Mr. Rausch…I can call you that right?
Rausch: If it pleases you to do so. I’ve been called many things over the years, and in many languages.
Buckley: What were you called in Jesus’ day?
Rausch: The closest translation would be shadow.
Buckley: That name suits you.
Rausch: It was rare for me to be seen in my natural form in those days, so few people had the chance to call me that.
Buckley: That brings me to my first point. You really maintain you were the one behind Jesus’ miracles.
Rausch: That’s correct.
Buckley: And according to you, it was all a hoax and you fooled the apostles into believing the resurrection so that they’d spread the story around.
Rausch: It was a good plan. It succeeded after all.
Buckley: Well I would be doing myself and my faith a tremendous disservice if I started this interview by talking in a way that suggests you are telling the truth.
Rausch: Very wise.
Buckley: There are several directions this conversation could go, so I intend to keep it based around this premise; if you are telling the truth, which I doubt, I think you are some type of oddity to physics. You may perhaps be the only type of your species. You may even be a genetically mutated human. But if you are telling the truth, then Christianity and religion in general would inevitably pass away, and with good reason. The very concept of morality would be greatly altered. What are your thoughts on all of that, Mr. Rausch?
Rausch: Isn’t this already happening? The Gallup poll already shows the religious populations are decreasing.
Buckley: I think the odds are better that this is a temporary trend rather than something unalterable. We’ll talk more about that later. However, I’d like to ask you about your overall thoughts about Christianity as a system.
Rausch: Well when I invented Christianity all those years ago-
[At this there are boos from the audience]
Buckley: Come on now, all of you in the crowd can’t be surprised by his remarks. You knew his views when you came here today. Go on Mr. Rausch.
Rausch: When I invented Christianity all those years ago, humanity was working with a much more limited set of tools than they are now. Having a Christian worldview was extremely useful for most people back then in terms of structuring their lives. The infant mortality rates were extremely high and most people spent their day to day fighting off catastrophe after catastrophe. Christianity was a much-needed opiate.
Buckley: So you espouse a Friedrich Nietzsche “God is Dead” idea about how it is needed for Christianity to be there two thousand years ago, and that it no longer fits with current contexts?
Rausch: Nietzsche could have articulated those ideas better than he did, but yes, the span of time from Christ’s crucifixion to around 300 years after that would have been a much drearier period of human history had I not stepped in. Of course, it was after that point when things began to flip and all the Christ nonsense made things worse.
Buckley: You’re referring to the point at which Christianity cemented power in the Western world.
Rausch: Of course.
Buckley: Constantine and all that? His deathbed conversion?
Rausch: Yes. I knew Constantine by the way. He was a ruthless, ruthless man, and I’m certain his deathbed conversation was a last ditched attempt to gain some kind of forgiveness for all his evil deeds.
Buckley: That brings up a good point. Central to Christianity is the idea of forgiveness, and central to the human condition is feeling that despite giving it our best shot we’ve done the wrong things, and have either harmed ourselves or harmed others. Much of the dread from situations like this can only be alleviated through forgiveness, either forgiving oneself or getting forgiveness from those you’ve hurt. Christianity teaches people to forgive each other for their trespasses and also provides mechanisms for people to be forgiven by a higher power, which in turn makes it easier for people to forgive themselves. Can a person find sufficient forgiveness in a godless world?
Rausch: It’s a good question. I’m not sure I have an answer. Something like that may vary from person to person.
Buckley: I believe Christianity has had an extraordinarily positive impact on the morality of its believers, and that without these things we would be living in a nasty, self-indulgent society, and I fear we are heading quite sharply in that direction.
Rausch: I’d first like to counter that by bringing up the mass amount of violence done in the name of Christianity during its history, particularly at the Church’s peak power around the time of the first Inquisition. I would know, I was there.
Buckley: The Inquisition was a disastrous set of institutions which happened because of poor leadership by the Church at that time. A lot of people like to bring it up to exemplify the Church’s failings, but I don’t think that’s a fair standard by which to judge it.
Rausch: You’d prefer to discuss Christianity’s effects on the people who practice it, and not necessarily the leadership of its institutions?
Buckley: I would.
Rausch: To start down that track, do you think it is good for people to be taught to base their lives around documents written thousands of years ago, which they aren’t allowed to question?
Buckley: I don’t know of many people who subscribe to biblical literalism, maybe some of the more fringe elements in the Southern region, and I don’t mean to offend the many Christians down there when I say that. Catholicism makes use of doctrines interpreting the bible which Catholics are at least on paper required to believe. That is true. I have a philosophy of ‘Mater Si, Magistra No,’ which means I do not accept entirely the authority of the governing body of the Church in all matters. I am under the impression this type of attitude is pretty common amongst Catholics.
Rausch: That thought will get you in some trouble.
[The audience laughs]
Buckley: It already has from time to time. But to go further into this, in the case of most Protestant sects, there tend to be less overseeing bodies to tell church members what to think about the scriptures. Protestants are encouraged to read the bible themselves and come to their own conclusions about what it means.
Rausch: Regardless of whether we are talking about Catholics or Protestants, and the literalness with which these people take the bible, both Christians and believers in the other religions are taught to believe they can find divine authority within texts. When people are taught to give religious texts and clerical figures authority over their lives, it’s easier for other doctrines to have a hold over their lives as well. This can take the form of political ideology, or the types of people you allow into your lives.
Buckley: That’s a bit of a stretch.
Rausch: You think so?
Buckley: I don’t think having faith in a religious doctrine makes you more susceptible to malevolent political ideas.
Rausch: Well, I don’t see us getting any further down this same dialogue path if you don’t think so.
Buckley: Let me ask you something regarding your virtue.
Rausch: Oh boy.
Buckley: If you did indeed trick Jesus of Nazareth at various points by performing the miracles yourself and settling things up for him to be crucified, that is an incredibly immoral action. How do you defend something like that?
Rausch: I don’t. There is no defense for what I did, and if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do it again. However, I will say my natural instinct is not to be merciful. My mercy is learned from years and years of practicing being merciful. It’s hard for me to explain this to you beyond that.
Buckley: …So we’re establishing you can’t go back in time.
[The audience laughs]
Rausch: It’s of the few things I can’t do. However, to answer your question, yes, what I did to the Nazarene was immoral. However, I must point out you seem perfectly okay with the idea of God doing these terrible things to Jesus for his own purposes.
Buckley: But the whole point of Jesus coming to Earth and dying on the cross was so man would be redeemed and could be eligible for everlasting life. If God led him on to the crucifixion for that point, then it served the greater good. If instead, you are telling the truth, and his death was completely worthless, then there is no justification.
Rausch: Did you ever wonder that perhaps God could have found any other number of ways to redeem humanity without sending his son off to die?
[There is a pause]
Buckley: First of all, because it is a Christian mystery, and there is no problem with there being mysteries within the faith. I’m quite comfortable not knowing everything which has happened. However, it was also important for Jesus to be there so that he may spread a revision of the morality that was present at the time, and for him to be willing to die for his cause displayed the seriousness of the ideas he believed and spread. This brings me to my next point, the subject of virtue. Christian virtue is, and I don’t know what to do with you if you don’t accept this, the bedrock of Western Civilization.
Rausch: It’s been essential yes. Christianity had wrapped itself around Western Civilization as tightly as a hangman’s noose.
Buckley: I don’t like that metaphor too much.
Rausch: I didn’t think you would.
Buckley: Christianity is the bedrock of Western Civilization, and it instills good behavior in people when otherwise they would very likely behave poorly. Christianity is more responsible for virtue than anything else. Right now, there are riots going on all over America’s largest cities. Detroit and Chicago are in shambles and I believe this is directly caused by your books, your public appearances, and the groups which have come together taking on your ideas.
Rausch: In terms of the riots and civil unrest going on in the country, there are several other variables going on other than what I’m doing, such as the unpopularity of the war in Vietnam, protests against racism, and new philosophies for general living the young are taking hold of. You are right though that some of the unrest has come as a result of me. I believe that’s growing pains stemming from people adapting to the massive amount of new information I’ve unleased. That isn’t necessary a good thing, but it’ll change in a little bit of time. As for your first point on Christian virtue, Christian virtue is just a monopoly Christians claim on rules societies tend to put in place in order to function, regardless of religion. A lot of the rules given out in the major religions could also be seen in play during the time of the ancient Greeks, and in Rome, and those people had religions which were quite different than what we’re talking about.
Buckley: Hearing you say that, I must respond by quoting Thomas Aquinas when he said-
Rausch: Thomas Aquinas was a pompous ass. Believe me, I knew him.
Buckley: That’s a bit childish of you, don’t you think?
Rausch: A little bit, but not without purpose.
Buckley: Since I am not going to suddenly believe you are who you say you are and you’re not going to bend to my theology, either because you’re a convinced fraud or the genuine article, I would like to move on to the subject of the current political situation.
Rausch: With pleasure.
Buckley: Based on your writing it is obvious to me you are a man of the left, or if that moniker doesn’t suit you, a creature of the left. Could I be wrong about that?
Rausch: My philosophies are a mix of far-left ideas and far-right ideas. However, I try to toss that all aside and think “what is good for the humans at this point in time?” It may appear to you as though I often come to conclusions which are left of center, but I am more interested in practical solutions above anything else.
Buckley: Could you explain that a bit more? Your mixture of ideas?
Rausch: If I were to go by all my cosmic knowledge, I’d take a nihilist viewpoint to human affairs. You are all so small in the grand scheme of everything, so it would be quite easy for me to discount your existence and carry out actions which are destructive to you with that in mind. But since I have lived at that malevolent capacity for a long time, and I mean a long, long time, I’ve narrowed my focus now so instead I think in terms of what services humanity the best.
Buckley: And what brought about this change in you?
Rausch: World War II and the Holocaust. I was nowhere to be seen when those events were happening, and I should have stopped it. Not doing so may be my biggest failing.
Buckley: I see, and that is a subject all to itself. Let’s go back to discussing the current state of American politics. There is a realignment happening in a major way. Military aged men have never been so resistant to a draft in the history of the United States, and older people seem less willing to see their sons go off to war than ever before. There seems to be less fear from the common people about communism and the Soviet threat. Most relevant to you, the levels of church attendance are going way down, and less and less people identify as Christian, particularly young people. All this taken into account, we’re looking at a much different electorate, and thus a much different political party system.
Rausch: Yes, the decline of religiosity has changed American politics in a major way, and I confess that’s due to me. Less people are religious, which leads to less people believing in an afterlife, which leads to less people willing to die in war, and also less people willing to see others sent off to die in a war. One of the rallying points vehement anti-communist politicians had was that the Soviet Union, our gravest enemy, is atheist, and that the “Christian” United States must thus be against the godless, Communist Soviets. In this way, these politicians could appeal to Christians over here who were frightened of Christianity losing out to communism. With the decline of religiosity here, that trick isn’t working anymore, and as a result not many people over here care about stopping Communist expansion in Southeast Asia.
Buckley: Are you not worried about the Soviet Union?
Rausch: I’m a shapeshifting monster. What could I possibly be worried about?
[laughter from the audience]
Buckley: But don’t you think Americans should fear them, at least to the extent that they are our adversaries, and we should be on guard?
Rausch: I worry about them in the sense that it’s quite possible we’ll end up in a head to head war against them, and that could spell the end of mankind. I also know that millions suffer as a result of their political and economic ideology. However, do I think their system could win out against our system? No.
Rausch: Because we’ve got better industry and military, and that is actually a result of our market oriented economy.
Buckley: Ah, at least you are a capitalist, Mr. Rauschmonstrum.
Rausch: Guilty as charged.
Buckley: Some people have theorized that you yourself are a Communist plot designed to weaken America’s certitude and moral fiber, and that you were created in a lab somewhere in Moscow or Leningrad. How do you respond to that?
[The Rauschmonstrum chuckles]
Rausch: Well if the Soviets are capable of creating beings like me, then there’s no question who’s won the arms race.
Buckley: What do you see the Republican and Democratic parties looking like in the coming years?
Rausch: Well with the decline of the church, the morals will be a bit looser. I won’t lie to you, there’ll be repercussions over that, but a lot of what is considered moral and immoral in the United States is that way because of the Puritan tradition, not because it was better for the functioning of society. Once that’s all tossed way, there’ll be a new standard American morality which will be a bit more permissive compared to what we presently have. In terms of the Democrats and the Republicans, the influence of religion simply will not exist within those parties’ structures anymore. Other than that, there will still be a party representing the left and one party representing the right just as we have now. Their platforms will be based around most of the issues which are important now; things such as wealth distribution, government size, spending, healthcare, social programs, and the nation’s role abroad. The social hierarchy will be the most central issue of all, but then again it always was. The only real thing that’ll change is that American politicians will no longer make appeals to superstition to get elected.
Buckley: So you do not foresee humans replacing religion with anything else? I think it’s in our DNA to seek out a higher power.
Rausch: That’s a good question. My hope is humans will not need to replace religion with anything, and it’ll in fact be shown it’s not in human nature to seek out a higher power to base their lives around. Perhaps there could be a revival of philosophy with people really using the great philosophical texts of the past to shape their lives. It may be that the big thinkers of our time could have celebrity roles, and be held in greater esteem than the actors and musicians who presently make up the popular culture.
Buckley: Are you aware a rather sizable group of people have begun worshipping you?
Rausch: Yes, and my response to them is to stop. I am not worthy of worship. I’m a monster after all. Right now I have benevolent intentions, but why should anybody take my word for it? I could be trying to trick you. To paraphrase Eugene Debs; even if I could lead you into the promised land, I could just as easily lead you out of it as well.
Buckley: Since you’re mentioning a promised land, didn’t you lead Moses and his followers into the Promised Land?
Rausch: Yes, but that was a long time ago, and that land wasn’t even promised. That was just a lie I told to get them through the hard times.
Buckley: And what do you think of the batch of celebrities who have entered the presidential race this year? Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, John Wayne…
Rausch: It’s not for the best. As much as we may like outsiders in politics, it’s insiders who actually know how the game is played, and who can get the most policies through the legislature and into reality. I think that if any of those men win, they’ll find quickly they’re unprepared for the Presidency. They wouldn’t be able to enact policy, and also would probably be taken advantage of by the advisors they place around them. That could be very dangerous.
Buckley: I’m in agreement with you there. Come to think of it, when Norman Mailer was on my show last, he actually floated the idea of running for president one day.
Rausch: Of course he said that. Norman is full of more hot air than anyone else, and I say that as someone who considers myself a close friend of his.
Buckley: What would you say to Marshall McLuhan’s idea that in the age of media, a politician’s image on a TV screen is more powerful than the substance of his ideas, or what he stands for, and that as a result, celebrities have a strong advantage when seeking political office because they understand media, and know how to come across better on camera than a career politician would?
Rausch: I’d say McLuhan’s on to something, and because of that, along with higher name recognition, I wouldn’t be surprised if an actor, or a talk show host, or a newsman became president in the near future.
Buckley: It’s an idea that really gets a person thinking.
Rausch: I would recommend strongly to politicians and those aspiring to be politicians that they really gain an expertise in the media, and to be always keeping up on cutting-edge ideas and technologies. I’d hate for people with good ideas to find themselves unable to get themselves any attention.
Buckley: As would I. At this point I’d like to move on to the subject of Vietnam.
Rausch: If you’d like.
Buckley: Undoubtedly we are in dire straits right now. Fighting with the troop numbers we’re willing to put to use, a conventional victory isn’t possible.
Rausch: I wrote an article against the war in the fall of ’65 if you remember correctly.
Buckley: I do. I shook my fist at certain passages as I read it.
Rausch: Of course you did.
Buckley: I still believe the war is for a good cause, although I am not as feverish about it as I was a couple of years ago.
Rausch: Once it lingers onward for another couple of years, you’ll change your mind.
Buckley: Perhaps. Based on what I know about you, I’m sure you have the power to intervene in the war in Vietnam on America’s behalf.
[The Rauschmonstrum grins]
Rausch: I suspected you’d bring something like this up. Yes, I do have the power. I could crush the Viet Cong army if I chose. The war would be over in a day. Regardless, I will not take part.
Rausch: Because I’m done interfering violently in human affairs.
Buckley: It’s as simple as that?
Rausch: Yes, I’ve caused enough destruction.
Buckley: You could so easily bring all of this to an end. The war would be over tomorrow if you did something as small as announce on television you intended to destroy the entire Viet Cong army unless they surrendered to American forces within a week.
Rausch: I understand, but I can’t budge on this matter.
Buckley: Is that really the moral choice for you to make? Consider the lives you could save if you did these things.
Rausch: It fits my personality morality. Other than that, there is nothing further I can tell you on that subject.
Buckley: My last question for you is whether or not you consider yourself an American.
Rausch: I’ve lived far too long to consider myself a national of any individual country, but America is where I live, and for the moment there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.
Buckley: You’ve spent quite a lot of time in the Middle East, if the things you have written are true. Do you have any interest in going back there?
Rausch: Not at this time.
Buckley: I’m very glad you could join us here on Firing Line. You are a fascinating creature.
Rausch: So are you Bill, thank you.