Deity: Hello. Welcome. <spreads celestial “hands”>
me: uh … hi. Where am I?
Deity: What’s the last thing you remember?
me: Going to bed, I think. Yeah, that and a weird dream after I fell asleep. And then, all of a sudden, here.
Deity: uh huh.
me: Am I … ?
Deity: Are you …?
me: Am I … dead?
Deity: So it would seem, yes.
me: That means … wait! Are are you … God?!
Deity: Among other things, yes.
me: But that can’t be. I’m an atheist.
Deity: So I’ve seen. And yet, here we both are. Care to update your belief?
me: Shit. Does that mean I’m, you know, heading to <gestures downward>?
Deity: Nope. You and I wouldn’t be having this little chat if you were.
me: But, how’s that possible? I don’t … well, I suppose I didn’t … believe you existed. Doesn’t that mean eternal damnation or something like that? That’s what all the religious folks kept insisting.
Deity: Yes. Well. They’re wrong about that. Many are wrong about a lot of things. Their agenda frequently doesn’t align with mine, if you get my drift.
me: So it’s OK? I’m not going to be punished for not believing in you?
me: That’s a lot to process.
<pauses some more>
me: Wait! This could just be the dream I was having, continued. Or it could be random neurons firing as my body dies. This could be a hallucination!
Deity: Skeptical to the end, I see. I love it!
me: You LOVE it? How’s that?
Deity: Look, you did something in life that most people don’t, and you’re still doing it. You’re thinking. You’re questioning. You’re using one of the greatest gifts I ever gave you: your intellect.
You’ve said it yourself (I was watching, after all): you looked, but you found no evidence to support my existence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, you said. And you were right.
And you’re still doing it. Even here, in the afterlife, you’re questioning and looking for evidence that what you’re experiencing is real.
Good for you. I enjoy seeing my gifts used to the fullest potential, even if the conclusion you reach turns out to be wrong. Couple that with your having led a mostly moral life of kindness to others, and I’d be a horrible deity if I threw you out like so much offal.
OK, assuming it’s allowed, let me ask you this: why wasn’t there evidence? It would be so trivial for you to prove to everyone that you exist.
Deity: That’s on purpose. It separates those who think for themselves from those who simply follow. I did say your brain was the greatest gift I gave you. Religion is one way of many ways I set things up to see if you’d bother to use it.
me: So atheists win because we used our brain?
Deity: This isn’t a win or lose thing. Believers or not, it’s the folks who use their brain that I take the most pride in. That they may come to different conclusions is irrelevant, as long as the path to that conclusion is honest and thoughtful, and open to correction in the face of … let’s call it “updates”.
Besides, atheists have their fair share of blind followers just tagging along without thinking, just like the religious do.
me: That’s a lot to process. You’re saying independent thought is the goal?
Deity: Not really, no. Using the gifts I’ve given you — intelligence, your world, science, philosophy, … and yes, even religion … to make yourselves better and to be kind to one another along the way, that’s the goal. At least in ways you can understand right now.
me: Right now?
Deity: I have more in store for you.
me: Like what?
Deity: You’ll see. And whether or not you believe … well, I’ll still leave that up to you.
Come on in.