Who is James Tillich? Here is his story told to his best friend and life-long confidante, Paul Ewing.
James Tillich was born in a college philosophy class in December of 2006. A student suggested the name "James Tillich" as an incorrect option on part of a hypothetical test question. Upon hearing the name "James Tillich" the instructor burst out laughing and said, "There never has been a James Tillich." He immediately went over to the computer and Googled an exact word search for "James Tillich". Both instructor and class were amazed when "No results found" popped up. Later that night one student searched both English and German databases. Results? Zip. Nada. Nechevo. Nothing. There was no trace of such a person ever having existed. The instructor decided, "Well if he never existed, then I'll create him."
James Tillich now has a Facebook page, twitter account, blogs, MySpace, and his art, photography, and videos can be found in many places online. Every year, on March 15, the Ides of March, his devoted non-followers Google his name at precisely 11:30 pm and therefore add to his non-existence, which now numbers in the millions.
What fascinates me about this whole process is how easy it was to create an online identity for someone who never and still does not exist. He will most certainly be running for President too although you won't find him on any ballots because, well...he just doesn't exist in the kind of form that can go and shake hands and get himself bought by corporate lobbyists. He's more of a behind the scenes kind of guy.
But the most fascinating thing about all this is its parallels to the creation of another meme who never and still does not exist, but he was created the same way as James Tillich, and that's Jesus. Think about it. It's the exact same process using different tools and for different purposes, but the end result is the same: something that does not exist but attracts a lot of people who put effort into making others think it does.
The difference here, and it's a crucial difference, is that James Tillich was created out of a sense of fun and also the desire to educate others about what really constitutes truth in the material world. It's fun designing t-shirts for Mr. Tillich. I love putting together a whole set of campaign swag for him to run for president. There's a spirit of camaraderie, much as patients in an institution share over having pulled one over on the staff.
And if a thousand years from now someone tries to form a religion around his mythical non-beingness, they won't find any hateful agenda, any controlling body of haters, any words used as weapons to subjugate and control because James Tillich was not the creation of some medieval douchebags sitting around trying to figure out how to control anyone who wasn't male, white, and evil.
James Tillich will never inspire the kind of followers the creators of Jesus inspired because James Tillich's only agenda was fun and it continues to be fun. And also to demonstrate that even if someone has over a million links to him on the internet, it doesn't mean he exists anywhere else but cyberspace, or in the minds of the terminally weird, strange, and mentally deranged. And the religious. Let us not forget the religious whackjobs for without them, we'd have only boring reality and they'd have only each other to annoy. And there'd be no need to create James Tillich to remind them to lighten up, already. There's room on this planet for everyone's hallucinations to live in peace and harmony.
The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
New Offerings From The Heathen
Make personalized gifts at Zazzle.