God returns to set the record straight

August 6, 2006 | By | 10 Replies More

For centuries, of course, people had been praying for God to return to Earth.  He came back all right, but it was so very different than most people expected.  It happened on October 3, 2009.  I remember it like it was yesterday . . .

It had been quite cloudy that day, but the clouds parted to reveal a huge marquee announcing that God would appear within five minutes.  During this short wait, pastel patterns swirled across the skies while Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” played lushly from the heavens. Then, God’s image began to appear on thousands of monitors that appeared in the sky.  Everyone on the Earth was about see this spectacle simultaneously.

As you might expect with seven billion people, it took awhile to get everyone calmed down.  The preachers were especially excited; most of them were wearing big smug smiles as they strutted about.  “This is it!” many of them barked.

God cleared his throat and everyone waited, for what seemed to be an eternity, for His first words. 

“Hello,” He boomed. 

Many of you have referred to me by the name “God” or “Allah” or “The Force.”  I don’t really have any sort of body and thus I’ve never had any sort of sex organ.  Nonetheless, I’m presenting myself to you in the shape of an old man.  I thought this might make this presentation easier for many of you.

The preachers stopped strutting so much, and started to look perplexed.

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” God’s voice thundered. 

Well, pull out your video cameras and aim them right up here.  Pay attention, because my appearance is a one-time event.  Contrary to most of your holy books, I’ve never before visited Earth.  Contrary to many claims of your religious leaders, I’ve never before communicated in any way with anyone on Earth. I’ve never spoken to any of you through prayers. Ever. Anyone who claims otherwise is utterly incorrect.

The preachers got really quiet with that announcement.  The brash evangelical leader walking around near me froze in his tracks and dropped his Bible.  His mouth hung open and he was in a daze.

God continued:

After I finish today, you’ll never hear from me again.  I’m not angry.  I’m merely letting you know how I originally set things up as part of my master plan. When I set this universe in motion, I allowed all of the animals, including human animals, to fend for themselves.  This has always been my plan. No animosity meant.  I do wish you all well.

Tens of millions of people simultaneously began weeping and wailing.  Others of us simply watched and listened.

“I’ve come to deliver some special news for both believers and nonbelievers,” continued God.  “For you nonbelievers, I obviously exist.  Here I am. You were wrong.”

I remember nodding and thinking.  “Yep, I was absolutely wrong.”

God then continued.

For you believers, here’s your news: there is no heaven and no hell.  What awaits you after death is sweet painless nothingness, just like it was before you were born.  I’ll repeat that.  There is no afterlife.  This doesn’t mean that earthly life is meaningless. Your life on Earth is your only life, so enjoy it for what it is.  And, please, there is no reason to go around trying to please me or worship Me.  Actually, worship only annoys me.  It drives me away to quieter and more isolated places.

Many fundamentalists were aghast at this message.  You could see thousands of them looking for anyone who would listen, trying to explain that they had been “betrayed.”

God wasn’t finished, though. “I am only a first-mover type of God.  That’s all. Therefore, I’ve never listened to anyone’s prayers. Nor would I alter my omnisciently concocted master plan in response to the any pleadings of human animals, no matter how persistent or eloquent.”

God then paused, scratched His ear a bit, then continued.

If you think I’ve been talking to you through prayers, that’s your own voice echoing around.  That’s why the God of thoughtful people is purportedly thoughtful and the God of shallow people always appears shallow.  You praying people have been projecting.

It was at this point that the hecklers started heckling loudly: “you’re a fraud!  Where is our real God?”  

Many of the most fervent believers pulled out their Bibles and other holy books and started citing scripture to convince God that he was wrong.  God also noticed that billions of people were calling out “God is testing our faith” or “We will change God’s mind.” 

“Believers!” God bellowed, “Please! Settle down and focus on this great opportunity you have to enjoy an full and wholesome earthly life.” 

God could also see that many of fundamentalists were hyperventilating. 

Take a deep breath, please! There was no Adam, no Noah, No Jesus.  There is no heaven. There’s no need for forgiveness, no need for spiritual intermediaries.  The only way to connect with me is indirectly, by connecting to nature.  Take a walk in a quiet forest.  Or study nature.  This universe is founded upon many fabulous principles.  Humans have already uncovered some of my favorites, including relativity and evolution.  Frankly, I don’t get how any of you can find sycophantic readings of self-contradictory ancient verses more worthwhile than studying and celebrating the intricacies of nature.

Some of the young-earthers around me started yelling to God that they were, indeed, scientists, though God merely rolled His huge eyes.

God shook His head and shook his massive index finger:  “Humans concocted all the Earth’s holy books for their own human purposes.  “I would never have written something so incoherent or anything filled with such gratuitous violence. There has never been any divine revelation,” He boomed, “Not until today.” 

Several billion people were still murmuring that what they were seeing and hearing must be a giant hallucination.

Seeing this reaction, God pulled out a huge projector and showed a video he had taken of the Big Bang.  He then waved his hand across the horizon, causing the sun and moon to perform a song and dance number. 

Still, most of the Believers wept.  Or they cursed God, yelling at Him that He was not really God.

God shrugged.  “Okay, I didn’t want to do this but it’s important that you believe that I am who I am.”

God then “engraved” His own web site onto the surfaces of clouds scattered across the sky.  Notebook computers then started fluttering down from the heavens, one for each of the 7 billion people (with fully charged batteries). 

“I’m sorry to do this to you, but it’s the only way.”  God then told all of us to log on to his web site and to look up our names (“or the names of your neighbors and friends”) on his incredibly high bandwidth connection.  He told us that we could use His website to check out the deepest darkest most embarrassing secrets of any human being on the planet.  The noise was almost deafening as people talked to each other as they logged on.

The chattering got even louder as billions of people saw that it was true that they could look up their own names on God’s web site.  The clamor got quieter, though, as the people clicked their own hyperlinked names and saw that they could actually review a large table of their deepest darkest secrets, complete with videos and sound.  In the first column, they could each view (in reverse chronological order) accurate videos of each of the serious lies they had told throughout their lives.  In the second column, they could view videos of each of the times they took something that did not belong to them.

But the seven billion people became totally silent (especially the self-proclaimed holy people) when they started noticing that additional columns had hyperlinks to videos showing each of the times each person had engaged in very embarrassing acts, indeed.  The headings to these dozens of columns included the following: “Times you scratched your butt when you thought no one was looking” “Times you cheated on your partner,” “Slothful moments” and “Onanism.” 

For the first time in the history of the world, everyone on the planet got quiet.  “Ah, I see I’ve got your attention now,” said God.

God’s website included many statistics too.  I noticed, for instance, that preachers and “moralists” tended to have many more “incidents” than the average person.

Finally, a child called out, “Are you Santa Claus?”

No, I’m God,” thundered God.  “Look, I’ve never really paid much attention to your conduct—though I can summon up at any time.  You are like ants to me—there’s so many of you humans now that I really can’t keep up.  I’m not showing these embarrassing things to horrify you.  I really don’t judge you.  I just want to convince you who I am so that we can finish this meeting—I’ve got to tend to another universe I’m creating. It’s in the oven, so to speak.

Today, I’m stopping by Earth to let you know that I am puzzled by the amount of time that many of you are spending on elaborate religions that each claim to be the one true religion.  Listen up!  There are no saviors or saints!  There never will be.  You humans evolved brains over time. I had no blueprint for the human animal.  I let evolution do that hard work for me.

I’m going to leave now, forever.  For your own well being, you might want to consider taking care of each other.  Any moral system based on anything but empathy will end up causing massive dysfunction.

God paused one last time, then continued.

For many of you, the whole universe wasn’t enough.  Please listen carefully: there is no heaven and no hell.  When you die, you’re completely dead. I won’t judge you in any way.  I don’t believe in vengeance-I’m not here to deprive you of anything-it simply wasn’t ever any heaven.  I wasn’t the one that put that idea in your heads.  The only reward or punishment are the natural earthly consequences of your actions.   Stop worrying about pleasing me.

Those of you who are parents of young children know why I must not ever stay around.  If I were accessible, each of you would be clamoring and struggling for my time, attention and resources, just like children locked in sibling rivalry.  When I leave, you’ll have to work it out and get along with each other.  Bye, now.  Please take good care of each other.

As God’s image began to fade, He called out: “You’re now on your own and you have always been on your own.”

With that, God disappeared and the skies filled back in.  This is how seven billion of us were simultaneously orphaned. 

Many of us wondered whether we would treat each other better or worse, given the non-existence of heaven or hell.  Time provided the answer.

When it fully sank in that our earthly lives were our only lives, more people turned to the future the only way they now could.  Most people stopped frightening their children with tales of violent afterworlds.  Because we knew that God did not listen, most people stopped using prayers to request favors.  Instead, prayer time because more of an opportunity for peaceful contemplation.   Many Christians converted to Buddhism.  Many others started carrying around the principles of Secular Humanism in their wallets and purses and actively discussing these.

There was no longer a need to fight most wars; we soon realized that most wars were actually disguised religious struggles.  We could thus reallocate military budgets to much better uses like taking care of the children of the earth with better nutrition, shelter and preventative medicine.

With the news that there was no heaven or hell, the earth became a more sacred place for all of us.  It became the only place we would ever have.  There was no longer any point to “worshipping” God.  Instead, many more of us focused our efforts on relieving human suffering.  We also spent much more effort providing a liberal arts education to each child; we found this to be the best way of instilling a strong sense of empathy in each child.  

Most nations immediately took draconian measures to preserve the earth for future generations.  For instance, SUVs were immediately outlawed.  People started frankly discussing difficult decisions about family planning.  Birth control was deemed a fundamental human right across the globe.

There are still some nuts, of course, but they no longer have any political power.  Those who continue to invoke God as their friend or bodyguard are dismissed by most of the billions of people who had actually seen God. 

Who would have foreseen that God could have given us such an immense gift by completely abandoning us?

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Category: American Culture, Evolution, Good and Evil, Meaning of Life, Religion, Reproductive Rights

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (10)

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  1. Haku says:

    "Many Christians converted to Buddhism."

    Hmm…I see…so in one moment you claim to be debunking religion, and suddenly you reveal that you're only really attacking Christianity. After all, Buddhism IS a religion, with an amount of myths and rules just like any religion. And why is it only the Christians that converted? You seem to have oddly (albeit briefly) overlooked the existence of Judaism and Islam – either that, or you just wanted a throwaway comment in which it would be possible to state "Buddhism is BETTER than Christianity"; essentially, the very same religious competition which this piece is against.

    "When it fully sank in that our earthly lives were our only lives, more people turned to the future the only way they now could."

    Right. Everyone lived in a happy world of peace and friendship, thanks to the fact that religion had been debunked entirely. Hmmm…just *how* believable is this sort of statement? I agree that religion has caused tons of problems – not to mention wars, ethnic genocide and social ignorance – but you almost TOO-optimistically believe that if people thought this was their only life, they'd suddenly start being NICE to one another. There'd doubtlessly be a large amount of people who'd start raping and pillaging without fear of retribution; sometimes, you need the idea of an angry God to keep potential idiots in check. Ever heard of the concept of a "Social Contract"?

  2. Ricky Koppel says:

    Cute. One little problem: if we were not created, then do we have a purpose? Obviously enough we would not have an intended purpose, in that we would not have been intended to fulfill a specific role, but we may still have a self-created purpose, in which we create a sense of meaning for ourselves.

    Creationist philosophy tends to believe that our purpose is designated to us by our creator. And, if there is absolutely no existence of life after biological death, and it is known that we inevitably die (temporarily discarding the possibilities of transhumanism), then why would we choose to continue to live?

    Is the preservation of meaningless life a worthy cause for another meaningless life?

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Ricky's question has already been addressed on this blog, here:
    http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=362

    Haku's comment, that "There’d doubtlessly be a large amount of people who’d start raping and pillaging without fear of retribution; sometimes, you need the idea of an angry God to keep potential idiots in check." is contradicted by a couple of things. The first is the fact that human history has exhibited many peaceful, atheistic societies. Indeed, Buddhism — which posits no supreme being — is one such example. The second is that removing God from the scene obviously does not produce a society "without fear of retribution." Retribution abounds in our world. Indeed, without the hope of a heavenly afterlife, potential criminals might think much more seriously about whether or not they wish to spend their one-and-only life sitting in prison. And even if they did, the question remains whether an earth without religiously-motivated crime would be any more violent than the one we now occupy. Given the slaughter that humans have perpetrated in the name of their God, the answer to that question is by no means obvious.

  4. Jason Rayl says:

    Purpose is one of those words that sends otherwise reasonable people off on tangents of–pardon the sarcasm–biblical proportions.

    Life is.

    Purpose is self-designated and may not be the same tomorrow as it is today.

    Life is never meaningless to the individual as long as he/she can say "I have something interesting to do tomorrow." Meaning on a mass scale is irrelevent in this formulation, because even when an individual draws a sense of purpose from the masses, it is still an individual choice and an individual that finds fulfillment.

    But this is ultimately an aspect of the Strong Anthropic Principle. People have purposes, ergo the universe MUST have a purpose, otherwise…

    Otherwise our importance is not what we wish it to be.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    I started thinking about this piece a few weeks ago. It was motivated by my belief that most people are kind and decent for reasons other than the promise of heaven or the fear of hell. My hypothetical was going to involve God's appearance to tell people that there is no heaven or hell. Plain and simple. My story was essentially going to be a detailed epilogue of that surprising event: an account of billions of people being pleasantly surprised to learn that they would "naturally" treat each other with kindness and generosity even though heaven and hell were totally removed from the equation.

    I verbally ran this hypothetical past a two people at lunch. They both agreed with me that people would treat each other with kindness and generosity in the absence of the promise of heaven or the fear of hell. Nonetheless, they both strongly reacted against my suggestion that believers could be convinced that there is no heaven or hell. That is why my story took a lengthy turn. I began to wonder whether believers could ever be convinced that there is no heaven or hell, even if God Himself delivered this message. In the current version of the story, of course, the message finally got through, though I am not convinced that it would, in reality.

    Haku apparently doesn't like that I had many of the believers of the world eventually converting to Buddhism. I chose Buddhism because many versions of Buddhism concern strategies for living in this world and downplay the possibility and the significance of any sort of afterlife. I wasn't trying to argue that Buddhism is a "better religion" than Christianity. In fact, I am inclined to agree with Daniel Dennett who argued (in Breaking the Spell, page 10) that many forms of Buddhism wouldn't qualify as "religions" at all due to the lack of an "agent" God.

    Haku is reading much into the ending of my little story when he claims that I am claiming that the loss of heaven and hell would lead to a "happy world of peace and friendship." Gee, I don't recall promising any sort of utopia. I don't believe that at all. I think there would be a rough period of adjustment, followed by a general improvement in human behavior. This improvement would be caused by the gradual realization that we are all in this boat together and that we need to act decently with regard to each other for many reasons that we would better appreciate in the absence of constant chattering about heaven and hell. I believe this realization would bring home to many people a deeper and more meaningful sense of personal responsibility. Would everybody fall in line? Hell no, but not because of the absence of a hell.

    I'd also like to address Haku's claim that there would be large numbers of people that would start raping and pillaging without fear of retribution (if there were no heaven or hell). I agree that some people are held in check by the fear of hell. I don't believe it would be a large number, because I agree with Daniel Dennett that most people who claim to believe in God don't really believe in God. They actually believe in belief in God. In America, for instance, they go around claiming that the Bible is the most important book in the world, but they rarely read it and they rarely think of the Bible outside of organized religious activities. The prisons are filled with people who claim to believe in God yet (in my opinion) don't, as witnessed by their behavior.  In my opinion, it is not possible to tell the difference between believers and non-believers based on external life-style on a typical day.  In my opinion, almost all believers are actually people who live an "atheist" lifestyle all-the-while asserting that God exists and that the Bible is important. In America, most Believers are rampant consumers of material goods, just like most atheists.  They marry, divorce, waste time and engage in what might be argued to be aberrant behaviour to the same degree as non-believers. 

    Most law-abiding people rarely read the Bible. They spend far more time watching professional sports and vegging out in front of the television. To me, this is a very telling phenomenon. If I really believed that the Bible was authored by God Himself, I would read it day and night. My conclusion is that people like to appear religious but they don't really believe the things they espouse. On the other hand, I am not denying the great power of religion. What I do deny is that people are morally motivated by the promulgated "truths" of their religions. Instead, I believe that people are morally motivated by the social pressures of their community.

    Why else might I suggest that people don't need a heaven and hell in order to act decently? Billions of people on this planet do not strive to get to heaven or avoid hell. I have met many people from China, for instance, who claim no religious beliefs, yet they are among the most moral people I know. They are highly dedicated to their families and communities. How can this be? For me, the answer is easy. True morality does not require any form of religious worship.

    On at least a dozen occasions this year, I have spoken with religiously conservative people who express great surprise that I do not believe in heaven or hell. Their responses are virtually identical. They ask how can I possibly have any moral meaning in my life unless I am frightened of hell or trying to get to heaven? When they learned that I don't believe in a traditional God, they wonder out loud how I restrain myself from setting random fires or neglecting my children. They believe that an invisible hand causes people to behave well. Their conception is actually an invisible spanking hand of God. How sad, I often think, that people are being good to each other based upon their own personal reward or the fear of their own personal punishment. In fact, I don't consider behavior so motivated to be moral at all. It is merely prudent or Machiavellian.

    I believe that most people act decently most of the time because it is deeply in our bones to do so. We are human animals that show a high degree of cooperation and generosity, at least to our perceived in-groups. By the way, all of us (including those of us who are highly religious) excel at treating those not part of our in-group like dirt. We find it very easy to spend $50 on a vanity license plate when that same amount of money could have saved the lives of several starving children.

    There is an immense amount of cooperation and altruism among all social mammals. Franz De Waal has documented this in great detail with regard to the nonhuman apes. It is also apparent in many other mammal species, including dogs and bears, none of which go to church.

    Again, I admit that there are probably some people out there who are inclined to rape and pillage but are held back by the fear of hell. This is not an impressive form of morality. I consider this mindset to be "training wheel morality." In my mind, good people do good things in spite of religious dogma, not because of it.

    With regard to Haku's mention of the "social contract," I wouldn't think that it would be a good idea to use any form of contract to keep "potential idiots" in check. At law, one cannot be a party to a contract unless one is mentally competent.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Check out this excerpt of an video interview of E.O.Wilson on the topic of being good without God.  Other interviews of this same topic include Francis Fukuyama and Ursula Goodenough.

  7. Haku says:

    Good points all round, which is fair enough. You're one of the few "atheists" (if you are an atheist…or maybe you're an agnostic?) who doesn't simply God-bash and comes up with an intellectual, rational argument. I know that sounds like self-contradicting drivel (normally, it's the religious folk who invoke irrationality) – but you probably get what I mean. Although I won't be giving up what little faith I have any time soon, I'm glad you've poked holes in a long-standing argument. Plus, this has motivated me to discover some vaguely logical counter-argument. Watch this space…

    Oh, and just as another note – could you please give me a thorough idea of what someone on the "religious right" really is? I'm a Brit, and throughout my life have yet to encounter an American Christian zealot. I suppose you've more validity and more of an…"enemy-base"?…to bounce your arguments off. Well, in any case, thanks for the reply, and for proving you will take the time to come up with a clear argument rather than just spite.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Haku: Thanks for your kind comments.  As far as introducing you to a real-life member of the religious right, please consider this ticket into a real-life evangelical church. Here's another. And here's a post about a conversation I had with a bona fide conservative fellow concerning the reason that all gay people must go to hell.

     

  9. Erika Price says:

    Haku, your last comment makes an interesting point. Most of us strive to deconstruct any faulty or lazy logic here, but I think we do strawman the religious right as a cohesive group quite a bit. This comes with good reason: the evangelicals and the religious conservative politicians market their beliefs as part of enourmous but exclusive movement.

    But in reality, the people that support and vote for them come from a more varied background, including people living in the southern "bible belt" of the US, mostly rural or small-scale suburban families in the midwest, black evangelicals, and the group to which the politicians and religions leaders themselves belong– wealthy, overfed, conservative households essentially out-of-touch with the struggles of the people they claim to "represent". Now, all of these groups share basically the same political positions, and fall victim to the same illogic and bigotry (excuse the sweeping generalizations), but they DO have different overall backgrounds, and I think we tend to neglect that because they try to take on a unified front (and because the human brain has a fundamental tendency to stereotype).

  10. 2Black says:

    Loved the story and agree with it’s central thesis.

    However, the story could be made more satisfying if God offered an explanation of how he came to be. And what motivates his universe creation work?

    Get this right and you could convince believers that there is no heaven or hell.

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