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The Fundamentalist and the Creator, or God Is an Atheist

Attila Romenian

A man with a glower and a long, thick beard was leaving the convenience store when he suddenly felt dizzy. He reached for the wall and slid down against it, then blacked out. Some time later he woke up. He could see nothing, but he distinctly felt a presence.

"Where am I?"

He heard, or felt, a voice coming from nowhere in particular:

"You are lying on a cot in the emergency ward of the Pauper's Pallet, as the hospital for indigents in your area is popularly known."

"Who are you?"

"I am called many things: the universe, the cosmos, nature, eternity..."

"You must be God."

"You can call me that, if you like. Many do."

Awed, he pondered about the significance of what he had just heard. Then he looked around. "I see nothing. Everything is dark."

"That is because you are unconscious."

"Yes, I remember falling down in front of the convenience store."

"You collapsed as you were leaving. The clerk saw you fall and called a doctor."

"There still are kind people in this world."

"He had to do something. You were blocking his door."

"What happened to me?"

"You had what is called a transitory ischemic attack. Nothing much to worry about. You will be fine when you wake up."

"So you did not punish me, God?"

"Of course not. Why would I punish anyone?"

"For disobeying your commandments."

"I make no rules. People do, and then expect the world to conform to them. Why, they even try to forbid themselves from thinking about what they see as transgressions."

"What's wrong with forbidding people to have bad or dangerous thoughts?"

"If you ask me that, there is no point explaining. You would not understand; or rather, you would not allow yourself to understand." This was not the answer he had expected. Could it be that he was unworthy? His mind bristled.

"As your worshipper, it is my duty to spread your faith across the world."

"I did not ask you to represent me."

"Are you saying you don't need helpers?"

"No, and I don't need you, either."

"But you made me, God."

"Don't let that go to your head, boy. I make lots of useless things, all the time."

There was a brief eternity of shocked silence.

"How can anything you make be useless, God?"

"Most of the things I make are more or less useless. Some turn out to be quite useful while a few others are so useless that they get in the way."

"Good and evil."

"No, a normal distribution. Can't get it right all the time."

"But you can make things any way you like. Why do you allow evil to exist?"

"Good and evil are relative terms at best. Trying to make them absolutes is pointless and futile. Look at it from my perspective. Perhaps I could really control everything; but that would require a great effort." The entity briefly paused as if yawning. "Besides, there is no point in controlling everything. A clockwork universe where everything is predictable would be boring. Even you can see that much. It's far more interesting to let things take their own course."

"But you run everything in the universe, don't you?"

"No, at least not deliberately. You might say that I am like a writer who lets ideas come to him and plots and characters develop spontaneously."

"The universe as your entertainment--isn't that rather selfish?"

The answer came in a tone that sounded like a shrug. "Perhaps; but then, your existence will have an end. I, on the other hand, will exist with the universe--be the universe--for an eternity. I would rather it entertain me than please you with your short sight and closed mind."

"You call my devout faith narrow-minded?"

"Your mind is narrow, yes, but you have also closed it to anything but what agrees with the teachings of your faith. You do not question its basic tenets, refuse to see its inconsistencies, live by its double standard, and hate all who will not close their minds as you have closed yours."

"If people will not see the light, they must be made to see it."

"The fact that there is no religion without fear shows the weakness of its arguments. Tell me, have you ever considered the possibility that it is you who could be wrong, not the others?"

"That is blasphemy!"

There was a flicker of a thought from the entity that felt almost like a chuckle. "Do you realize the irony of what you have just said? First you call me God, then you go on to imply that I blaspheme, this against some absurd rules which people, not I, have made."

He could not deny the logic of the argument. Then he had a daring idea. Before he could stop himself, he asked: "Have you ever wondered if there is something greater than yourself?"

"That idea would occur to any thinking being sooner or later. Entertaining such a notion and testing it is normal. Clinging to it and turning it into an institution, however, is not rational. I do not worry about things for which there is no evidence."

"You sound like a scientist."

"Trial and error is the only way to arrive at the truth."

"What evidence have you, then, that there is nothing greater than yourself?"

"None, just as I have no evidence for the contrary. Either way, what can be claimed without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." The entity paused briefly, then went on to add: "If you consistently fail to find evidence for something, there comes a point where you should say: 'Let's just say it doesn't exist and take it from there.' You cannot believe in something and then go on to take your belief as evidence that the thing you believe in exists. This is circular thinking, and as such unproductive. Scientists, on the other hand, ask questions, make theories and test them, and try to keep an open mind. Why, sometimes they even give me ideas."

"But don't you know everything already, God?"

"You confuse being with knowing. I am the universe, so I should know everything in it? You don't know everything about yourself either; like the little dark mole on your left buttock which will soon turn malignant if you don't have it removed. Anyway, knowing something doesn't mean that you'll think of it. Surely that must have happened to you before."

"But you are God. You can think of everything at once."

"That is a common misconception. Thinking requires focus, and focus is narrow. By focusing you shut out everything else."

A growing suspicion had been gnawing at him for most of the conversation. "You think that religion is not good, then?"

"Religion is an extension of the social instinct, and as such a social way of looking at the universe. It is not taking it on its own terms."

His mind thrashed like a fish on land. "How can you say this? How do you know what the universe is like?"

"I am the universe, remember?"

At a loss for an answer, he was quiet for awhile. "Do you talk to your creations often?"

"I contact minds sometimes. It makes my existence more interesting."

"What do they do when they suddenly find themselves in your presence?"

"That depends on their cast of mind. Religious people like yourself perceive it as a visitation by a supreme authority. Hence they are usually afraid. Artists tend to perceive it as a sudden inspiration. They feel some kind of beauty in it. To scientists it feels as if a question about the workings of nature or some other general principle was answered. Many also experience it as a particularly strong impression of being one with their surroundings, but not much more than that. They tend to be matter-of-fact people."

Once more he did not know what to say; nor was he sure what to think.

Eventually, the entity broke the silence. "I see you are about to regain consciousness."

Realizing that the conversation was about to end, he asked: "What should I do now, God?"

"Open your mind. Don't make it up in beforehand, don't jump to conclusions. Take things and people precisely as you find them. Above all, be critical and don't let others do your thinking for you. Question dogma, seek evidence, and suspend judgement if you cannot be certain."

When he bristled, the entity said: "Well, then, I will put it in simpler, more immediate terms for you: Get real, learn a skill, find a job and get off welfare. You could also try to fit in a little better; and do go easy on yourself. There's nothing wrong with a few violent or antisocial thoughts now and then, just so long as you don't dwell or act on them."

Again this was not what he had expected to hear. "What will you do now, God?"

"I think I will listen to the gravity waves. Sometimes I can almost hear echoes of the Big Bang in them."

He had the impression of his mind going dark. (This was different from the visual darkness which had surrounded him throughout the conversation.) He opened his eyes, blinked and looked around, still a bit dazed. Seeing that he was awake, the doctor came over and looked at him, took his pulse, checked his pupils and asked a few questions, then discharged him.

Leaving the hospital, he slowly walked down the street. The experience troubled him. He was a true believer. These thoughts should not have occurred to him. He wondered if he must atone for having had them, then decided that the experience was a hallucination sent to test his faith. (He avoided thinking about who might have sent it.) Walking home, he mulled over a plan to convert the world.


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Published:
  2013-07-29

Categories:
  Atheism, God, Rationalism

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