Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Conversation with God

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.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Conversation with an Evangelical Christian

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: God exists. Heaven and Hell exist as real places and in order to go to Heaven you need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior.

SINFUL WRETCH: That’s quite a powerful contention. You seem awfully sure of yourself. How do you know all this?

EC: It is in the Bible.

SW: Well I know lots of people who read the Bible and some of them do not believe that Heaven and Hell are real places. They believe they are metaphors. Some also believe that there may be many paths to Heaven and that Jesus is but one.

EC: They are wrong. You need to listen to me.

SW: But why should I listen to you? I also know people who tell me that God isn’t real and that when you die you simply cease to exist. What makes you smarter than them?

EC: I told you; what I said is in the Bible. And the Bible is God’s word. It’s inerrant.

SW: How do you know that?

EC: It is what I believe. It is part of my faith.

SW: So, in other words, you don’t really know; you only believe.

EC: I more than believe, I know it for a fact. But my knowledge stems from my faith.

SW: I bet you have that faith only because it is how you were raised to believe. It is what your parents taught you.

EC: Yes, I was raised a Christian. But my pastor says the same thing, and so do all my friends at church.

SW: Isn’t it possible that all of them simply believe a tradition handed down to them by their families, just like you? Haven’t your parents ever been wrong before?

EC: Of course they have, but not about something as important as this. Besides, I’ve read the bible and I know they are correct.

SW: Have you read the Bible in its original languages?

EC: I’ve read the Bible in English. I can’t read Hebrew or Greek. But I believe the translators were working under God’s guidance.

SW: Then how do you explain so many different translations? Were they ALL working under God’s guidance?

EC: I believe God’s word is true and He will make it known to us just like he has made it known to me.

SW: What do you mean? Did God speak to you?

EC: Not in audible words, but he speaks to my heart.

SW: In the same way that he spoke to the hearts of the terrorists who flew airplanes into our skyscrapers?

EC: No, of course not. They were misguided. They were not Christians.

SW: But Muslims have a holy book too. They claim that it is the infallible word of God and that Christians, like you, are misguided. And what about the Jews? They believe in the same god, but do not accept Jesus as divine. If anyone should believe in Jesus as God it should be the Jews, right?

EC: They are in denial. Besides, some of them did believe in Jesus, like Paul.

SW: True, but if Jesus were really the Son of God you would think that he could have made his status clearer to those who lived during that time. But, as it turns out, not a single word was written by or about Jesus by anyone who lived during his lifetime. In fact, not a single word has been written about Jesus by anyone who knew him personally.

EC: Maybe, but Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision and converted him from a blasphemer to an apostle.

SW: How do you know? I know it is part of Paul’s testimony, but isn’t it more likely that Paul was hallucinating, which was actually fairly common in those days given some of the stuff they were taking. It makes more sense that what Paul thinks he heard can be explained as a natural phenomenon than that it was a supernatural entity. The same thing can be argued about the rest of the Bible. How can you be sure that it is the inerrant word of God and the Koran isn’t?

EC: The Bible says that it is the word of God. It says that it is inerrant.

SW: There’s a sign on the coffee shop downtown claiming to have the world’s best cup of coffee. Do you believe that too? You are using circular reasoning: The Bible is true because the Bible says it is.

EC: It is what I believe and I have faith.

SW: You have faith because you were raised that way or because you listened to others who were raised that way. If you had been born in Saudi Arabia you would have been a Muslim. If you had been born in Israel you would have been a Jew. If you had been born in India you would have been a Hindu. Your religion is simply an accident of birth, nothing more.

EC: Perhaps so, but there are Christian evangelists in many lands, spreading the Gospel every day. It’s only a matter of time until they are converted to the true religion.

SW: And, again, how do you know yours is the true religion. Maybe God likes theirs best. Maybe God would prefer you didn’t have any religion at all. Maybe he is a deistic god who cares nothing at all about you. Or maybe he just doesn’t exist. I don’t know and neither do you.

EC: That’s where my faith comes in.

SW: Yes, you keep saying that as though it were a good thing. Do you have faith that the salesman who comes to your door won’t try to rip you off? Do you have faith that the bank will always credit your account with your deposit so you don’t need a deposit receipt?

EC: I don’t have faith in strangers. But I do have faith in God. And you have faith in things too. You have faith that the sun will come up in the morning or that when you drop something it will fall to the ground.

SW: I have faith in those things based on past experience and the laws of science. I know they will happen because they have always happened before and I have witnessed them. Have you ever witnessed God or Jesus first hand, or has it always been through stories told in ancient mystical texts?

EC: My faith is unshakeable, and you will find out one day that I’m right. I just hope you get right with Jesus before it is too late. I’ll pray for you.

SW: And with that retort you claim victory. You take the high road by offering me prayers, as though you hold sway over my immortal soul, if I have one. How pompous and self-righteous you are. Will you at least concede the possibility that the God you describe does not exist or that Jesus might not have been divine?

EC: (With hands covering ears) La-la-la-la-la-De-de-de-La-la-la-la I can’t HEAR you. La-la-la-la-la.

SW: Who’s the wretch now?