Douglas J. Whaley
Emeritus Proffessor of Law,
Ohio University, USA
Atheist: Let me start by asking if there’s really such a thing as a hell where sinners writhe in eternal damnation
God: (Laughs) Oh, my heavens, no! Pastor Rob Bell had that right when he pointed out that no fair deity would send Gandhi to hell just because he wasn’t a Christian. What sort of creator would condemn human beings to eternal torment because they belonged to the wrong faith or made some misstep? Who on earth hasn’t done something that in, the eyes of one religion or another, would have them flaming forever? The idea of hell is something earthlings thought up all by themselves. They think it helps keep people in line.
Atheist: Do you pay a lot of attention to what is going on in human civilization?
God: Hmm. Well, only from time to time. Sometimes I do amuse myself by watching the complicated mess down there, but then centuries will pass and I don’t visit at all. What humans do can be fascinating, but it also can be downright boring or too sad to watch. Often, of course, it’s funny.
Atheist: Many people believe God always monitors their activities, or sends angels or such to check on them.
God: They get that notion from the various ancient books they wrote, but it’s used for the same purpose as hell. Omnipresent surveillance makes people behave better, or at least that’s the theory. (Scoffs) Angels!
Atheist: So you didn’t dictate those ancient books?
God: (Laughs) They contradict each other! And, really, have you read them? Take the
Christian bible which clearly was written by many hands, each with different styles and ranging from typical myth stories (which can be entertaining though improbable) to lists of kings or begats which can put the most attentive reader into a coma. The New Testament can’t even agree on the details of the opening of Jesus’s tomb! If I’d authored the bible the whole work would be much shorter and would certainly have a consistent viewpoint no matter its size.
Atheist: What would it say?
God: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Atheist: That’s it?
God: That’s plenty! If people concentrated on the Golden Rule the earth would be a much better place. Men wouldn’t subject women to rape or mutilation or hide their identities in massive clothing, nor would young children be sexually assaulted by men of the cloth, or thousands of other atrocities—from war to unthinking bigotry—hidden or even promoted by religions. It sickens me.
Atheist: Why don’t you stop these things? Why is there such misery in the world? That’s always been the big question people ask about God?
God: I don’t micromanage, though many humans think I do. When people are disappointed, others try to console them with meaningless slogans like “God works in mysterious ways”—as if that helped. Look, the people who promote religion have an idea of God which is incapable of “falsification”—there’s no way to prove it wrong. That should make them suspicious, but it doesn’t. If good things happen, they thank God. If they pray and their wish comes true, they truly believe God answered their prayer. But if the opposite occurs and a tsunami wipes out half a million people or if a prayer doesn’t work, do they ever condemn me? No, that would be “blasphemy.” I get the credit, but never the blame—a cushy reputation! So bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad ones, but either way, I come out on top. It’s both stupid and wonderful at the same time. They don’t seem to notice that the world goes on exactly as it would if all their religions were completely wrong.
Atheist: That’s how it seems to me. Why don’t they notice?
God: Humans are so afraid of dying—of their existence being stuffed out with no more significance than that of an ant—that they’ll believe impossible things and especially about some sort of hazy afterlife. They spend a lot of time thinking about something that won’t occur: a destination that doesn’t exist. In the meantime they don’t concentrate on the journey they take along the way, wasting precious life.
Atheist: But aren’t we somehow different from the ants?
God: It’s true that homo sapiens are the only creatures with a clear idea they’re going to die someday (which is what leads to religion and all these afterlife speculations), but from the ant’s point of view, no.
Atheist: Atheists have no expectation of an afterlife. What do you think of them?
God: Well, at least they’re thinking.
Atheist: Why don’t you just appear and make us all believers?
God: Believers in what? The universe clearly exists. That should be enough. Beyond that, you’re all strictly on your own. Some day they’ll wake up and stop concentrating on needless ritual and religious books that frequently give bad advice. The astounding hatred of others that has been done in my name should shame everyone on earth. It’s mindless.
Atheist: So you don’t interfere. The universe just is what it is.
Atheist: Then do you exist at all?
God: [No answer]
Courtesy: Free Inquiry, December 2017-January 2018 Vol. 38, No. 1