Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A conversation with God.

“Like, THE God.”
“Uh huh.”
“Who created the universe.”
“Well, I don’t like to brag.”
“Hm. You, uh, you understand I’m struggling with this.”
“Well, it’s a lot to take in.”
“Yeah, kinda. I mean, my entire world view proved wrong.”
“Not necessarily. What part did I play in your life?”
“Well…none really. I argued against your existence a bit, I scoffed at people who dedicated their life to you, and I tried to understand the theories that explained the universe in your absence. But I’d pretty much convinced myself you didn’t exist.”
“And if you’d known about me? What would you have done differently?”
“Probably wouldn’t have carved my initials in the pews when my folks dragged me to church I guess.”
“A bit of graffiti? You think that made me sad?”
“More the implied disrespect I suppose.”
“Meh. Regardless, hardly a significant life change. What else you got?”
“I…might have prayed I guess? Asked you for help, for guidance, for…whatever people pray for?”
“Huh. Mostly it’s lotto numbers, sports wins and avoiding punishments. Usually deserved. Not exactly edifying stuff. Any of that on your shopping list?”
“Not really. I don’t do lotto or sports. And it’s been a while since I’ve done anything that warranted punishment.”
“Maybe that means I was watching over you.”
“Or that I’m inherently good.”
“Maybe that’s the same thing.”
“Well that’s a circular argument. ‘I’m good because God watches over me, and God watches over me because I’m good.’ I mean, if we take you out of the equation, what changes?”
“Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.”
“Look, if you’re going to talk in cat posters and fake Buddha quotes we may as well wrap this up.”
“Okay, okay. So where were we…right, ‘take me out of the equation and nothing changes’. Based on that, should you take me out of the equation?”
“A little tricky now. You’ve kinda shown your hand. You can’t exactly UNreveal yourself.”
“Sure I can. I’m God.”
“Oh yeah. Actually…look, for the sake of my own peace of mind, can you answer a couple of things?”
“The Bible. Job. And Abraham. And those kids who got killed by bears for calling some guy ‘baldie’. What’s that all about?”
“Ah. Literal interpretation of scripture. Never a good idea. Don’t worry, none of that stuff really happened..”
“But isn’t this your book? Your story? Why would you let people believe this stuff?”
“Look, I know. It’s tricky to get your head around. But you guys needed that stuff at the time. Prophets and preachers and peaceniks touring the countryside tended to get robbed and killed a lot, so talk of a vengeful deity protecting them from harsh language was one way to make the bandits think twice. It didn’t always work; a lot of the early guys ended up on the pointy end of a rusty sword. But it worked well enough. The message got out.”
“Huh. Okay. Nice to know there was no Job I guess. Uh, what were we talking about?”
“You asked whether taking me out of the equation made any difference.”
“Oh yeah. So if you disappear now, does anything change? You say I’m good because you watch over me, and you watch over me because I’m good. If you weren’t here, would I still be good? Or would I instantly and inexplicably turn into some kind of monster?”
“What do you think?’
“How did I know you were going to say that? Well, you don’t interact with me at all. And prior to now I didn’t know you existed. So if you are actually affecting my actions, it has to be through some sort of completely invisible…I dunno, God radiation or something.”
“Nope. Not happening. You’re on the wrong track.”
“Okay…so you’re saying you literally don’t affect my life at all. My surroundings? Do you hide things that might tempt me to sin? Yeah, scratch that; I know you don’t. Otherwise I wouldn’t have…”
“Yes, thank you, this will proceed much more smoothly without details of your minor sexual dalliances. To answer your questions, no. I don’t hide the lolly jar when you walk in the room. I don’t do anything that might affect your behaviour.”
“Really? Anything at all?”
“Nope. Sorry. All your own fault.”
“Wow. Well in that case, your non-existence makes no difference at all.”
“Correct. So what do you make of enormous millennial socio-political institutions built and sustained to honour and worship me?”
“Well…is it actually you they’re honouring?”
“Ah, you’re making progress. Go on.”
“I mean, you’re God. But did they know that? Was it you they had in mind when they built churches, wrote books, preached from mountain tops or whatever?”
“Does it matter if it was?”
“Look, I’ll drop the references to past sexual indiscretions if you’ll quit it with the ‘answering questions with questions’. Deal?”
“No promises. I move in mysterious ways you know. But okay, I’ll give you a do-over on that last one. Was it me they had in mind? Sort of yes, sort of no.”
“Well how is that answer any better!?”
“Gimme a minute. Sort of yes: they had a divine, all-powerful being in mind, someone in every respect indistinguishable from me in terms of capability. Sort of no: their guy was clannish, vengeful, petty and cruel.”
“So basically you on a really bad day.”
“Even on my worst day I wouldn’t tell anyone to murder their son, or kill forty two kids for calling one of my crew ‘baldy’.”
“Hm. Feels like a solid ‘no’ to me.”
“Except that brings us back around to my first answer. Did it matter if it was?”
“Well, of course it did! I’d be pretty cranky if I built a temple to a non-existent god!”
“What if that temple was a good place to hide when it rained?”
“I would’ve built a  gym, or a school instead! Just as good at keeping my sandals dry, but all that money on bibles and pews and pulpits could go towards text books and a rowing machine.”
“Good point. But do you think you could convince people to build it?”
“Sure, once they were sick of getting rained on.”
“You know better. They’d build their own little huts, and not let anyone else in.”
“Sounds like you’re getting it.”
“So…faith as a unifying force. It doesn’t matter what they believe in, so long as they all believe in it. That sort of thing?”
“Ding, prize from the third shelf.”
“Huh. But…”
“Still troubles you, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. A lot. All that work, all that effort, all that passion. All built on a lie.”
“Not a lie. A misunderstanding.”
“The god they believed in didn’t exist!”
“A reasonable facsimile did.”
“They didn’t know that.”
“They still built the temple. And it still kept them dry when it rained.”
“But it answers my question, doesn’t it?”
“Which one?”
“About whether your existence matters or not. It doesn’t, at all. Does it?”
“Not a jot.”
“Hooboy. You’re saying the existence of god is irrelevant to religion.”
“Not to all religions. The ones that evolved with an endpoint, or a promise of proof, all of them fell by the wayside when they failed to deliver. My non-existence, or non-involvement, was the end of them.”
“So you mean all those cults that promised ascension, a ride on a comet, an apocalypse that only they would survive, they failed because they all pegged a date? Because when it rolled around and nobody was eaten by flying scorpions or whatever, they lost their tax-exempt status?”
“Yup. They did the same thing as the big religions;  they brought people together to build temples, but they had a built-in self-destruct that triggered the moment they had to show their hand. The ones that lasted were the ones that, perhaps accidentally, forgot to put in a Use By date. And they’re still around now.”
“The rapture? The second coming?”
“Nice and speculative. Could happen tomorrow, could happen in a thousand years. No clear dates, so no risk of failure.”
“But…all the things they’ve done; the wars, the inquisitions, the pogroms. People said they were acting on your behalf, on your instructions when they did these things.”
“Hm, that did get a bit much. But if it hadn’t been Me then it would’ve been some other excuse. None of those things were really about Me. I promise you, I didn’t speak to ANY of those idiots, I didn’t tell ANYONE to put their enemies to the sword. I was just a convenient excuse to deal with some troublemakers, and if it hadn’t been the way the enemy talked about Me, then it would have been the colour of their skin, the way they wore their hats or how they ate their boiled eggs.”
“And it doesn’t annoy you that people still take your name in vain? Or claim to do things in your name?”
“Meh. I’m God. Some clown fleecing a passel of dunderheads who think cash is the way into My Kingdom is hardly a blip compared to what I’ve done. Seriously, I wiped out the world with a flood.”
“Yeah, hang on. You said you didn’t do any of that stuff.”
“As far as they’re concerned I did; every callous, violent bit of it. In their world view, they’re paying money to get in good with a being who’d turn people into pillars of salt for being curious. They deserve to be fleeced by a lying douche in a cheap suit.”
“Huh. So all of it, all of religion, it all just sort of…happened. It was just lots of humans over a very long time doing their thing. No plans, no guidance from above; just human nature.”
“Not through design, nor through the divine.”
“Thanks, I liked it.”
“So. Now you know I’m real, what are you going to do different?”
“Me? Well…”
“Anything. One thing.”
“It occurs to me you already know what I’ll say. So why ask?”
“Because it helps you if you think it through.”
“I don’t…wait, it ‘helps’? Are you…”
“Ah. Did you just have a Revelation?”
“Thanks, I liked it. You were saying…?”
“What…oh. You just said you’re doing something because it helps. Are you trying to help me?”
“Guilty as charged.”
“So…you’re trying to help me by getting me to think about whether your existence matters?”
“Even though you said you don’t – and won’t - affect my life in any meaningful way.”
“Right again.”
“But…you can help me because, ah, because it doesn’t matter whether you exist or not; just thinking through how your existence…”
“Or otherwise…”
“…how your existence, or otherwise, affects me, is beneficial.”
“Bam, there it is. The purpose of Me.”
“And whether I decide you exist…”
“…and go on to start a religion that organises and protects humanity through its pre-Enlightenment adolescence…”
“…or I decide you don’t…”
“…and go on to rescue humanity from the grip of an anachronistic cult that’s served its purpose…”
“…I’ve benefited either way.”
“Aaand that’s a wrap. Purpose of Me in one sentence. Well done. Took most of civilisation two thousand years to get where you just got. Now go forth and spread my word. Or deny it, depending on which way you jump. Good luck.”
“So it’s really that si…hey wait! Don’t go! There’s so much more I want to…

...dammit. I should have asked for the Lotto numbers first.”

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