Overview:

Can Bert's mind intuitively conjure up a more reasonable god than the one we see in the Bible? Almost certainly.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My jogging companion didn’t show up yesterday. He was suffering from muscle spasms in his back, and decided to take the day off. So, I was on my own for the daily five-mile walk. It was a gorgeous day…sunny, light breeze, a few wispy clouds, about 70 degrees. Just right to wear a sweatshirt and work up a little sweat.

About a mile into the walk, I came to a deserted section of the trail. My mind had been wandering aimlessly as my feet carried me along, not needing any guidance. I was recalling a conversation of a few days before with a devout Christian. I had challenged him to justify his belief in the existence of God. He had returned the compliment, challenging me to prove His non-existence. I had given my usual answer: I was skeptical, doubting the proposition in the absence of any evidence, and I assured him that I was open to any evidence of God’s existence. If any were ever presented, I would not hesitate to change my position.

Suddenly, a very loud sepulchral voice said, “What sort of evidence would convince you?”

I stopped in my tracks and looked around. I was completely alone, surrounded by the greenery of the forest. Then, I started looking more closely at nearby trees, looking for wires leading to speakers.

“Well?”

I hesitated. I had some Christian friends who would love to pull a trick like this on me. You just can’t trust those people! And then, I suddenly realized that whoever was speaking had known what I was thinking!

“I…I’m not sure, but you certainly have my attention,” I said, as I continued to peer behind nearby trees. Finally seeing nothing, I stopped and just stood, looking around.

“Don’t worry. From what I have seen so far, this planet is a long way from posing any danger to the galaxy. But you are in danger of implosion.”

“Satisfied?”

The voice seemed to come from everywhere; all around me and above me. Spooky!

“Okay. Are you…God?”

“Yes.”

Whoever he was, he sure didn’t talk much. The single-word sentences made me wonder if he had been reading Hemingway.

“Well…” I tried to keep my voice steady. ”It looks like I was wrong to think you didn’t exist.”

“Don’t worry about it. Everybody on this planet has got it wrong.”

I relaxed a little. If he really were God, he could have smashed me into road pizza in a nanosecond, and I was still standing there.

“Why are you here talking to me?” I asked.

“Been watching this planet for a while. Looks like it’s approaching a critical stage of development.”

I screwed up a little courage. “Why did you pick me to talk to?”

“Absolutely random. I wanted to talk to a representative of the dominant species…”

His voice trailed off, with just a tinge of disappointment. I had the fleeting impression that he wished he had found a better specimen to talk to.

“How is our situation critical?” I asked.

“The usual. Population and technology explosion. Social development lagging. Planet habitability degrading.”

“What do you mean ‘usual’? Are there other planets at our stage of development?”

A sigh. “Too many. I told them there were problems with the design.”

“Them?”

“My responsibility is just this galaxy cluster.”

“How many of you are there?”

He ignored my question. “Even so, it’s a huge job. Have you any idea how many planets there are to monitor? No, of course you don’t. Most of them develop without a problem, but some…like this one…things get out of hand.”

“What do you do to correct the problems?”

He went on as if he hadn’t heard my question. “We start each planet with a DNA seed and let it develop naturally. As more complex life forms develop, the most successful combinations of genes propagate…”

I couldn’t help myself. I interrupted. “You mean the organisms that those genes reside in…”

A laugh. “Don’t take this personally, but you are just the receptacle for the genes. If you get a good combination, you will survive long enough to reproduce and your genes will propagate into the next generation. If you die before you reproduce, your genetic code becomes…history.”

“The problem comes,” he went on, “—and I warned them about this—when one set of genes becomes dominant, overwhelming the others. It’s usually a very aggressive strain that destroys the planet through wars, ecosphere pollution, and wasteful depletion of resources. Eventually, they are faced with extinction…if they don’t develop interstellar travel. We have to be very careful, because they are like a disease, just waiting to spread. All they need is the means to reach other planets, and they will spread, infecting a whole galaxy. We have had it happen, and had to…”

“Had to what?”

A pause.  “Take steps to control the infection.”

I gulped. Was this the Apocalypse that the Bible predicted? A businesslike God inoculating our galaxy to prevent the spread of the human infection?

He must have sensed what I was thinking. “Don’t worry. From what I have seen so far, this planet is a long way from posing any danger to the galaxy. But you are in danger of implosion.”

“Implosion?”

“Destruction of habitability. Total extinction. It happens fairly frequently.”

“Can you give us some clues how to avoid it?”

“Hey, Bert! Bert! BERTBERTBERT!!!”

I looked up and Herb was waving both arms, trying to get my attention. Herb is a retired lawyer whom I run into out on the trail occasionally.

“Wow, you must have been in another world. I had to yell at you four times to get your attention!”

“Yeah, I really was in another world, Herb.”

I didn’t tell him about my daydream. Herb is a devout Christian, and he would have been certain that I was visited by God…until I told him about the conversation we had. Then, he would have changed his mind and claimed that my visitor was Satan.

The god that my imagination created was nothing like either of those mythological characters. He was rational, and businesslike in his management of the genes in his area of responsibility. My subconscious came up with a god that made a lot more sense than any of the countless ones created up to now…and certainly a lot more reasonable than the one that Herb believes in.

Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan College of Engineering, then pursued a career in electronic systems and software design. He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement has produced short essays on many subjects. His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion and the intersection of the two. You can contact him at bigelowbert@gmail.com.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...