Interview: Author/Pastor Rick Warren

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Dec. 17, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In “The Factor” follow-up segment tonight, God. We've done a lot of reporting on him or her this Christmas season because most Americans believe the birth of Jesus concerns God. But the deity transcends Christmas and is dominating in the bookstores.

"The Purpose Driven Life (search)" has been on "The New York Times" bestseller list for 99 weeks. Next week, it'll be 100. It is a deeply spiritual book.

And joining us now from Anaheim, California is its author Pastor Rick Warren.

You know, it's amazing. This book is amazing. You were not a household name when you released it. You're a pastor. You have a congregation. The thing explodes week after week after week. Why?

RICK WARREN, "THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE": Well, I'm not surprised, Bill, that people are interested in the meaning or purpose of life. That's kind of a fundamental question, regardless of how old or young you are. Everybody wants to know what on earth am I here for.

And I do see some things taking place in our culture that are creating — I don't think there's deeper interest in religion, but I do think there's a deep hunger for God and for spiritual meaning.

O'REILLY: All right, but there are literally thousands of books of spirituality and self-help. Your book is the biggest of them all. You and... (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Why?

WARREN: Well, I think because it's a "so what" book. You know, right now, we're celebrating Christmas, and everybody knows that Christmas is the idea that God sent Jesus Christ to earth. The big question is: Well, so what? Why did he come?

And, of course, the Bible says he came to give our past forgiven, a purpose for living and a home in heaven. And that's what this book's about. It's about "so what?"

About 87 percent of the people in America would say, yes, I believe Jesus is who he claimed to be, but what difference does that make in my life, and this is a what-difference-does-it-make kind of book, and it talks about fundamental issues like what's going to be the center of my life.

And people are looking for a better life. You know, a lot of people have a good life. Americans have great lives, but we always say if there's a better life, would I want to know about it, and the answer is, of course, I'd like to know about it.

O'REILLY: Will people who don't have a deep faith in God respond to this book, or do you do have to have the fundamentals before you read it?

WARREN: No. If you're asking can anybody benefit from it, the answer is of course.

I've gotten literally tens of thousands of letters. Obviously, the book's selling about 25,000 copies a day, I think, and so I've got letters from Jewish friends, from Muslim friends, from Hindu friends, from people who have no religious background at all because it starts with basic things like you're not an accident, you were made to last forever, there's a purpose behind every problem. These are fundamental issues.

I think, though, there's another thing...

O'REILLY: But what — wait. Let me...

WARREN: ... in that...

O'REILLY: Let me stop you. What if you don't believe that? I mean, what if you believe that the whole thing's an accident, it was an asteroid hit the planet, and — you know.

WARREN: Right.

O'REILLY: You know, so...

WARREN: Right, right. Well, the truth is one of the things — well, I start the book with...

O'REILLY: Do you have to have faith — do you have to have faith to read the book? That's what I'm really asking.

WARREN: Well, you have to be a seeker to read the book. That's the truth. I start with a quote from an atheist, a famous atheist, Bertrand Russell (search), who said, "Unless you assume the existence of God, the question of purpose is meaningless." I happen to agree with that.

If we are just random chance, random accident, I'm just educated slime that happened to be a freak accident of nature, then the truth is my life doesn't matter and neither does yours. But I don't believe that.

I believe there is a creator, that he has a plan for our lives, that He — and that you were made for a purpose.

O'REILLY: So you believe in a God that's a micromanager, that basically is watching every move you make and hoping that you don't disappoint him and hoping that you use your potential? Is that a God that you believe in?

WARREN: I believe — obviously, I believe in a God — and, by the way, people often will tell me, see, you know, I don't believe in God, and I say, oh, really. And they expect me to be shocked as a pastor.

But I'm not so interested in people saying they don't believe in God as to why they don't believe in God, and...

O'REILLY: Well, they want proof. You know, they want proof.

WARREN: ... what kind of god they don't believe in. I say tell me the kind of God you don't believe in, and I often say will say I don't either.

O'REILLY: But again — but my question is do you believe in the micromanage — a micro-God who just watches you all the time to make sure that you do or don't do certain things?

WARREN: Absolutely I do. In fact, Jesus said that every hair on our head is numbered. The Bible says that every day of our lives were planned by God who loves us and wants what's best for us.

You know, the average American will live 25,550 days. That's if you're an average American, and I suggest that you take 40 of those days and spend some time thinking about what you're supposed to do with the rest of them.

O'REILLY: All right. It's good advice, and nobody can argue with the success of "The Purpose Driven Life."

Pastor, thanks very much. Merry Christmas to you.

WARREN: Merry Christmas to you, Bill.

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