Dr. Kenneth Ring writes, :"Earl Thor's Dragon of God is a superlative spellbinding thriller."
Today, we’re hosting author Earl Thor, who shares an excerpt of his book The Dragon of God. Thor artfully weaves a tapestry of research and characters based on true-to-life NDE research and researchers.
We’re also offering Kindle copies as giveaways (see link at the end).
What if a series of NDEs reveal an understanding of heaven that contradicts Christian fundamentalist beliefs? The implications are staggering. In this mystery novel, 60 Minutes plans to air a story about this new "revelation", but an unknown avenger is prepared to kill to prevent the broadcast of this potentially heretical information.
Sierra Nevada, CA
Day 1, 12:30 PM
Hiking alone in the Sierra Nevada always came with risks. Oscar Johnson knew this well, and while the protests from his daughter were never enough to dissuade him from doing one of the things he loved, the sixty-seven-year-old had consented to take trails that had cell phone reception at occasional points. He figured this was enough of a concession to safety. Besides, his doctor had said hikes would strengthen his heart.
The early-afternoon sun filtered through branches of lodgepole pine and white fir overhead. Johnson climbed a series of switchbacks that led to his favorite destination, Devil’s Fall. The spectacular viewpoint overlooked a precipitous fifteen-hundred-foot drop-off to the valley below. He always exercised caution when he approached such beautiful yet dangerous spots. Johnson removed his backpack, eased himself into a prone position, and crawled forward to the edge.
As he took in the grandeur of the vista before him, he heard footsteps approach from behind. Johnson drew back and came to his feet. A young redheaded man dressed in hunting clothes and armed with a rifle moved toward him with a sense of urgency.
“There’s been an accident,” the man said. “My phone’s dead. Can I use yours?”
“It’s in my backpack,” Johnson said as he reached for it. “Sorry to hear that. How serious?” He handed the man his phone.
The man didn’t answer as he appeared to scroll through the contact list for a name.
Johnson, uneasy, edged closer. “What are you doing?”
“I’ll explain in a minute.” The man typed a text message, then handed the phone back.
Johnson looked at the message that had just been sent. His apprehension turned to shock. “What!”
As Johnson looked up in disbelief, the man abruptly thrust his rifle butt forward, striking the stunned hiker in the chest. The impact knocked him backward to the ground, perilously close to the edge. Bewildered, Johnson sucked in breaths of air and staggered to his feet. By instinct he grabbed the assailant’s wrist and twisted hard to deflect another strike.
For a moment, the two men struggled, chest to chest, until the rifle discharged, sending a shot in a wild direction. With a forceful pivot, Johnson wrestled the man to the ground, landing on top of him. With all the strength he could summon, Johnson drove his right fist down, scoring a hard punch.
But Johnson soon realized he was not a match for this man many years his junior. The man rammed a knee into Johnson’s groin and doubled him over. Coming to his feet, the man shifted his stance and gripped the rifle by the barrel. “Devil’s Fall. Perfect justice,” he said as he swung the weapon like a batter aiming at a fastball.
The blow struck Johnson square in the chest, sending him careening over the edge of the cliff, plummeting toward the valley below.
I sipped a cup of Peet’s coffee in my office after a lecture on textual criticism. I felt solemn, but it wasn’t due to the subject matter. I was worried I could lose a position many would have given their right arm to have.
A tap on the door interrupted my troublesome thoughts. Brad Russell, dean of religious studies, popped in. “How are you coming on your book, Bill?” He paused and waited for a response. When none came, he said, “You know the tenure review meeting is in a few weeks. What will I tell them?”
“Brad! I’m working on it. All right?”
“Well, you don’t have to take that tone,” he said. “Look, I’m on your side.” Russell plopped down in a chair and leaned forward with a steady gaze. “My hands are tied until you finish that book. I want to see you get tenure.”
I drained the last dregs of coffee from my cup and looked into the eyes of the man who had hired me after I’d resigned from church ministry, the man who had mentored me.
“I don’t mean to be testy,” I said. “This situation has me irritable.”
The looming tenure clock wasn’t just a distraction from teaching. It threatened to end my career at Berkeley.
“Brad, why do people do bad things, sometimes unspeakable things, in the name of religion? Why do people who might otherwise be good surrender their own moral judgment to others and commit acts that violate their own conscience?”
“Hey,” Russell said, “I understand the theme of your book. Those questions have taken on urgency. Homeland Security isn’t just worried about ISIS. We’ve got religious fundamentalists of our own making. Church shootings, abortion clinic attacks, committed in the name of righteousness. But Bill, you’ve got a deadline.”
“I know, I know. I’ve got my theoretical model, but I want to include the perpetrator’s point of view. It’s hard to reach these guys because they end up dead in a police shootout or by suicide.”
“Look, Bill. I admire your integrity. You want to be balanced and comprehensive, but you’ve picked a tough one here.” Russell eyed the Lone Ranger bobblehead that sat on my desk. “Maybe you should ask your masked friend if he’ll loan you one of his silver bullets.”
The Lone Ranger. My childhood hero. A man who symbolized integrity, the fight for moral justice in the Old West. Where was the moral justice in the tenure process? A race against an artificial deadline—publish or perish. Sure, I could take an easier route—produce a thematic overview of important religious traditions—but the world needs another such compilation like it needs global warming. On the other hand, my previous research on religious cults had proved useful to the FBI for better understanding groups on the fringe. This book would go further—to identify when religious beliefs become evil.
I glanced out the window as the ring of the Campanile bells reverberated across campus. It had never sounded more ominous.
“I better scoot,” Russell said. He came to his feet.
I returned his silent stare.
He pointed a finger at the thin hair on his head. “See what you do to me? You bright guys, midthirties, future ahead of you—full of independent attitude and unwilling to listen.”
I released a sigh of exasperation.
Russell tilted his head toward the ceiling tiles. “There’s still time to switch topics,” he said, “avert a disaster.” He directed his gaze back to me. “It wouldn’t take long to compile the data to analyze contemporary trends in America’s religious landscape. That would sound more promising to the committee members and I might be able to buy you some additional time.”
His words weighed on me. I knew he was trying to save my hide, not wanting a member of his department to be sacrificed like a goat on the altar of the Board of Regents.
“I couldn’t ask for a better boss,” I said. “Thank you. But I’d rather go down swinging than give up what motivates me and switch to another subject.”
Russell shook his head. “Yeah, well, you know I’m rooting for you. Just try to understand what motivates the tenure review committee.” As he reached the door, he said, “Being an academic administrator is like trying to push a wheelbarrow full of frogs while keeping them from jumping out.”
READY TO READ THIS? ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY!
The first fifty members who email us with the subject heading EARL'S BOOK will receive a complimentary Kindle edition. Paperback version is available here.
Born and raised in Missouri, I’ve lived most of my life in Northern California with my wife of fifty-six years. My educational background in math and computer science enabled a career in clinical systems software development at Kaiser Permanente.
This was my first book. I knew the story would crumble if I didn’t get details correct in many complex subject areas, most importantly, the Bible, but also current research on near-death experiences, medical and surgical procedures, police and FBI protocols, and aircraft operations. That required five years of study before another five years of writing.
This would not have been possible without a devoted wife and the inspiration of a loving son and daughter. I've had the time of my life. And I’ve gained a richer perspective as a seeker.