I woke up after my accident and suddenly I realized that I was dead. I was in a beautiful place, full of light and the most wonderful sense of well being I’ve ever felt. I thought to myself, “This could work.”
Then I saw a figure that introduced himself to me as God. He told me to look around and enjoy, because this brief moment is all I am going to see of Heaven.
“What?” I asked him. “Why. I mean my life wasn’t perfect but I didn’t do anything really bad. I never murdered, molested, or raped anyone. I didn’t steal stuff. I paid (most) of my taxes.”
“Atheists, like yourself, and other humanist types are not welcome in Heaven because you did not believe in me or my son, Jesus,” God explained.
“But God,” I pleaded. “I didn’t believe in you because you did not provide me with sufficient evidence that you exist. On Earth people have to learn to be skeptical, else they will be taken advantage of by those who really deserve Hell.”
“I gave you my Word. My word is in the bible, which you dismissed as fairy tales. I gave you the witnesses of my faithful who believe in me with all their hearts. That was not enough for you?”
“No God,” I replied. “Why should that be enough? People are not perfect; they have flaws, and some cannot be trusted.”
“That’s unfortunately true,” God ceded.
“And some people are gullible; they’ll believe anything, especially things they really want to believe.”
“Your point?” God demanded.
“My point is, if humans are unreliable, imperfect beings how can you rely on them to spread your word to other humans and then hold those other humans accountable for making the reasonable choice not to believe the seemingly unfathomable stories found in the bible? I mean, really, have you read them? There’s this one story about a man who lived for three days inside a fish, and another story where a talking snake convinces a naked woman to eat an apple that you, yourself, placed in plain site….”
“Yes, yes, I know the stories. They are highly embellished. The only one you really needed to believe is the one where I sent myself, er, I mean my son to die on the cross and then return a couple of days later so that all could be saved.”
“But,” I protested, “How was I to know that? I mean if the other stories are embellished, why not that one, too?”
“I didn’t say the other stories were false, just embellished. You know, to make them more interesting.”
“So, bottom line, Lord: You are going to send me to Hell to writhe in agony for all eternity because I decided not to take the tall tales of other humans seriously?”
“No,” God replied. “I’m not SENDING you to Hell. You CHOSE Hell because you chose not to believe in me.”
“Ok, you got me there. Still, off you go.”
“But you are supposed to be infinitely just. How can you say that justice has been done when you, yourself, did not provide me with evidence that you exist, but instead relied exclusively on fallible humans to convince me of your existence? On top of that, you allowed the devil to tempt me with false notions, as you did with Eve and the apple, and then you hold me responsible for making the wrong decision. If I am going to be held to that level then you should have created me and other humans to be perfect, like you.”
“I wanted to give you free will,” God replied. “Otherwise, you would have been like little god-like robots. And it was your free will that did you in. You chose to turn away from me.”
“So only those who are the most gullible, the ones who allowed others to convince them of those freaky bible stories, those are the ones you let into Heaven?” I asked.
“Well, yes. Those are the believers, despite how they came by that belief. They still get in, and they will live forever in eternal bliss,” God answered.
“So is there no free will in Heaven, then?” I asked.
“Yes, of course there is free will in Heaven. If I allowed humans to make a shambles of my creation because I wanted them to have free will then why would I not allow free will in the perfect eternal city?”
“Because with free will, people tend to screw things up, as you said. So they will probably screw things up in Heaven, too.”
“No, no,” God answered with frustration. “In Heaven things are perfect. No one rebels against perfection.”
“And you couldn’t have created that sort of perfection in the first place? You know, when you first created us and gave us free will? What’s the difference?” I demanded.
“Just go stand in that line over there, the one going down. I grow tired of this conversation. Suffice it to say, I work in mysterious ways.”