The Heretic began with a rhetorical question the author posed to himself for a comedy show: “If there is a God, why would He create us? If He’s perfect, all knowing, there’s nothing he can gain from us. He must have been so incredibly bored and lonely, that He created us for his own entertainment.”
Not exactly a new idea, it works well as the basis of a stand-up act, but it relies on the assumption that humanity was made not only in God’s physical image, but that we are all also cookie-cutter replicas of God’s psychological profile. That’s where Murphy thought the act needed to say a lot more about his own personal encounters with religion.
The challenge was to keep the laughs going through the widening gulf that inevitably opens up between the persona of God and the acts of creation in this stock-in-trade formula for comic monologues, and that’s where Murphy eventually stumbled on his alter ego: Jesus Murphy. Now a dialogue of voices performed by a single actor, the play opens up a discourse, where creation interrogates religion; atheists engage believers; secularists confront theists; in the context of the most fundamental and naïve of theological questions thrown out to a live audience of any and all faiths—in a contemporary world fractured by an increasing proliferation of fundamentalisms—including people who have never been exposed to religion.
Laughter is a form of recognition, an affirmation, and when a couple of hundred people all laugh together, all say “yes, that’s true” together, it’s a powerful feeling—a force of nature, which is exactly what the author intended. This story of a Roman Catholic man tormented by the religious anxieties of his youth, who resolves to become Jesus Murphy, an evangelical atheist, makes us all believers—in ourselves.
Cast of 1 man.