The End of the World


"The End of the World is so astonishingly brilliant that it almost hurts to read it, but at the same time so wise and loving and full of yearning..." —Barbara Ehrenreich, author, Nickel and Dimed

"Here's why God invented fire and brimstone to begin with: to help humans avert personal and collective apocalypse. In a heartfelt book short enough to read under the light of your last set of AA batteries, my friend and pastor Billy Talen shows how the more we buy, the more distance between us we create, and thus the more we need to buy, ad infinitum. Life or death, love or stuff: the choice may still be ours." —Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and Saint, Church of Stop Shopping

"Reverend Billy's The End of the World is the beginning of wisdom. Its comedy is just camouflage for its truths, which are dead earnest -- that is to say, if we don't take them dead seriously, we may end up seriously dead." —Benjamin Barber, author, Jihad vs. McWorld

"The Rev. Billy leads his congregants through programs of blazing testimonials, uplifting gospel music and fervid rituals (throwing away credit cards is a favorite) that blur the lines among theater, protest action and religious ceremony." —The Los Angeles Times

"The zeal of a street-corner preacher and the schmaltz of a street-corner Santa." —The New York Times

"The collar is fake but the calling is real." —The Village Voice

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About the Book

Children: hurricanes swamp our coasts! Fracking poisons our drinking water! Mountain tops are bulldozed into streams! The end of the world is nigh!

In pages that crackle with the lightning of an electric storm, the Reverend Billy, messianic leader of the Church of Stop Shopping, thunders from his pulpit, sounding the tocsin on the toxins that are poisoning our planet.

The Mayan calendar points to the final apocalypse descending on us in December 2012. Evangelicals have been raising hell about the coming Rapture since the death of their Christ.

But the good Reverend’s eschatology is less scriptural. Rather it is rooted in the environmental disasters that rampant capitalism and couldn’t-care-less governments are visiting on our world.

As the fish and forests perish, our future here on earth looks bleaker than ever. But, our Reverend insists in a sequence of surreally imagined sermons, we cannot be passive congregants in the face of our own demise.

Rather, with soaring parables from protests as far apart as the bank lobbies of Barcelona and the underground police cells of New York City, our preacher raises a resounding “Earthallujah!”, turning back the devils of debt and destruction, rallying those of radical faith to save themselves and save us all.

Publication February 2013 • 118 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-935928-93-5 • Ebook ISBN 978-1-939293-94-2

About the Author

Bill Talen, aka The Reverend Billy, is the author of What Should I Do When the Reverend Billy Is in My Store? and (with Savitri D) The Reverend Billy Project: From Rehearsal Hall to Super Mall with the Church of Life After Shopping. He lives in New York City where he street preaches (and is arrested for doing so) on a regular basis. You can find him at revbilly.com.

In the Media

Fortean Times, Issue #309, December 2013

Peace News, October 2013

New Left Project, June 14th 2013

AlterNet, April 24th 2013

San Francisco Bay Guardian, April 16th 2013

EXTRA! EXTRA!, April 2nd 2013

Utne Reader, March 6th 2013

Reality Sandwich, February 21st 2013

Waging Nonviolence, February 20th 2013

New Internationalist, February 2013

Democracy Now!, December 21st 2012

Uprising Radio, December 21st 2012

“Talen still has the strapping, square-jawed good looks of his upper Midwestern heritage. He also still has the passion for proselytizing that’s a legacy both of his Dutch-Calvinist upbringing and his worship of Lenny Bruce, patron saint of creative subversives. In performance, the Rev. Billy leads his congregants through programs of blazing testimonials, uplifting gospel music and fervid rituals (throwing away credit cards is a favorite) that blur the lines among theater, protest action and religious ceremony”. —Los Angeles Times

“The title of this engaging manifesto/memoir is taken from a Starbucks memo (thoughtfully reprinted) instructing employees on how to deal with its protagonist and author, New York City’s most visible anti-shopping provocateur, “Reverend Billy.” The reverend is, after all, the sort of person who, accompanied by his “devotees,” might interrupt the gentle slurping of Mocha Frappuccinos with an impromptu discussion and preach-in, and perhaps a hymn or two. Starbucks’s advice boils down to “try and ignore him,” but the good reverend makes such an undertaking difficult. Combining the situational flair of Abbie Hoffman with an evangelist’s tireless zeal, Reverend Billy’s efforts against mindless consumerism and corporate greed have adding the oxygen of publicity to the flames of a number of worthy causes, as well as reintroducing a much-needed sense of fun to Manhattan’s somber and overregulated plazas. One of the keys to the success of Talen’s creation is reflected in the book’s good-natured tone. Unlike many recent political tomes both right and left, Talen’s account of his alter ego’s pilgrimage is evenhanded and reflective and remarkably free of the rancor that poisons so much public debate. Reverend Billy was not born overnight, and Talen is candid and un-self-righteous about the ethical and moral considerations that accompanied both his emergence and career. Talen never confuses the employee with the corporation or mere disruption with thoughtful protest, and the discipline and inventiveness of his crusade demonstrates that sometimes the absurdities of power are best undercut with absurdity, and greed with generosity”. —Publishers Weekly (On What Should I Do When the Reverend Billy Is In My Store?)

Read an Excerpt


It was a distraction, as the end of the world approached, that there were still such great sales.

New and improved Apple apps, survivalist yoga techniques, “Drowning Elmo” toys – all kinds of things.

The tsunamis and heat-waves and flash floods and volcanoes and hurricanes bounced on the horizon like loony tunes.

The accelerating apocalypse got us hot.

The really bad disasters were available on Pay-Per-View.

What didn’t kill us made us watch.

We could take a mile-wide tornado off the shelf, hit a button, watch it drop into a city and wow! It was like watching Lady GaGa doing the splits in a dress made of flank steaks.

You can say one thing about the humans, we were a species that scribbled, texted, hologrammed and burst a blood vessel of pixels in the final years of modern life.

If the revolution wasn’t televised, the end of the world certainly was.

Millions of movies were found on mounds of stinking corpses, still flickering on screens through cold grasping fingers, glowing at the bottom of sodden suitcases.

Of the six known mass extinctions on Earth, this was the self-conscious one, produced and consumed in high def, broad-color with advanced compression algorithms.

“The End of the World” was the story-line of all best-selling movies and books. In its own way, this was the perfect happy ending. The media was made, completed, and shipped to consumers. The End was casually tagged “to be continued.”

A kind of eternity was claimed. “Products have the power to survive and you can join them beyond the storms and fires and floods – no money down!” This sustained a certain giddiness in the culture.

But it was not a pretty sight, the day the humans went into the ditch. The bitterness had become embarrassing. Home-owners fumed at the coyotes and cockroaches that poured through the front doors of their suburban palaces as they packed their SUV’s for the final drive.

The “this-isn’t-fair-we’ve-been-betrayed-by-Nature” was a favorite kvetch, as if the new predators were going off-script. And speaking of predators why hadn’t the United States of America already saved the world? The USA was supposed to be the hero. We’d seen it a thousand times. In fact some consumers thought the world WAS saved, but they were on the wrong channel.

So death was denied and dying was purchased with relish.

That old pre-apocalyptic approach to death wasn’t as good for business as the disaster market, whose growth could only end when every last shopper was grotesquely, operatically dead.

Where are the consumers? Oh, the consumers consumed the consumers.

What do you do? You stop watching. Stop shopping. You get away. How do you get away? You run across a field and keep running. Join the animals.