FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)
A Conversation with God
Jeremy Patrick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daily Nebraskan (www.dailyneb.com)
November 20, 2000
"When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious."
Setting: The philosophy section of a library near closing time. A young scholar sits at a table thumbing through the pages of Cosmopolitan
Scene 1: God enters stage left in a flash of blinding light.
GOD: Rejoice my child! I am the Lord thy God. The Day of Judgment nears! Repent, and heaven shall be thine.
JAY: Yeah. You know, I'm really not into that right now.
GOD: What impertinence! Blasphemy! I am thy Lord and Savior. I have come to absolve thee of thy sins; one must only profess thy faith and the Rapture shall begin.
JAY: I guess, whatever. I really don't think I believe in you anymore.
GOD: But thou art speaking to me!
JAY: True. But I could just as well be dreaming, having an acid flashback or suffering from an organic brain disorder. Besides, I don't think it's rational to believe in God.
GOD: Rational! My pious servant, St. Thomas Acquinas, once said "If the only way open to us for the knowledge of God was solely that of reason, the human race would remain in the blackest shadows of ignorance."
JAY: Yes, but Locke believed in you too, and he said, "I find that every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly, and where it fails them, they cry out, 'It is a matter of faith, and above reason.'" And wasn't it Hume who said "A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence"?
GOD: Hume! That darn atheist! Look what his little triumph got him: a special place in Hell.
JAY: You sound different.
GOD: What do you mean?
JAY: Well, you were talking all "Thee" and "Thou" and shit; now you sound like a normal guy.
GOD: Oh, right. That's mostly just to impress people; I get tired of being so formal all the time.
JAY: Anyway, the library's closing, and I really should be going.
GOD: Wait! There is still time to save your soul. All you have to do is believe. Have I not always been there for you? Remember that time in seventh grade when you wanted to ask Michelle Wolford to your first middle-school dance? You were so nervous! But you prayed that she'd say "yes," and I delivered.
JAY: Yeah, that was pretty cool. If all life were like seventh grade. ... But hey, where the hell were you a few months later when she ditched me to go to Mark Anderson's birthday party? I was crushed! And ever since I stopped praying, pretty much the same number of good and bad things have happened. I think it's really all based on chance.
GOD: My son, sincere prayer is a sign of love and obedience.
JAY: So it's really just to pump up your ego? That sounds silly. I think it was Kant who said that prayer "is nothing more than a wish directed to a Being who needs no such information regarding the inner disposition of the wisher; therefore nothing is accomplished by it."
GOD: Yes, but that good philosopher argued convincingly that my existence was necessary for the existence of morality.
JAY: Only for an almost ridiculously rigid morality which nobody ever follows. Besides, you have to admit that there's plenty of evil-acting theists and plenty of good-natured disbelievers.
JAY: And his belief that the existence of morality was an inarguable fact was simply wishful thinking built upon metaphysical clap-trap. Or, as Nietzsche might have said, "There are no moral phenomena at all, only moral interpretations of phenomena."
GOD: You misunderstand Kant; he believed that the existence of morality was a necessary prerequisite to the existence of freedom. Besides, if you don't believe in God or immortality, what's the purpose of life?
JAY: I really don't know. I think before we try to figure out what the meaning of life is, we should find out whether there is a meaning to life.
GOD: That's nothing more than nihilist rhetoric. You're going to end up like your hero Nietzsche, insane and dead.
JAY: I'm really a fan of Sartre myself, but that's beside the point. Kant's belief in morality as necessary for freedom is a contradiction; for if eternal, universal morality exists, man is reduced to a mere automaton, always following the dictates of something he has no control over.
GOD: The same is true of your materialism, except it's the dictates of your much vaunted "laws of science." As Kierkegaard said, "The fatalist is in despair - he has lost God, and therefore himself as well; for if he has no God, neither has he a self."
JAY: I'm not sure what he means by "self." But I do know that if freedom really does exist, it means that I am free to define myself as I wish and decide upon my own reasons for being. If, that is, I decide I even need a reason for being.
GOD: I can see that there is no hope for you. With over 95 percent of your fellows believing in me, you're sure going to be lonely in Hell.
JAY: I don't think so. As Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
God departs stage right in another flash of light. The young scholar closes his Cosmopolitan and picks up the newest issue of Harper's Bazaar.
(c) 2000 Jeremy Patrick