Eavesdropping on God and the Devil

Eavesdropping isn’t exactly a sin, but it’s certainly impolite.

And yet I couldn’t help it. Much.

I was getting some coffee in the break room. Outside, in the hallway, God was having an argument with the Devil.

I tried not to listen. But God has that deep, booming voice that kind of commands your attention. If you doubt me, just ask Abraham.

I peeked around the door to watch the fireworks.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know that the Devil works for God?

Well, he does. He’ll never be named “Employee of the Month” — attitude problems — but he’s essential. He provides the alternative to goodness. Without alternatives, there’s no choice; without choice, no free will; without free will, no sin or sainthood. That’s why God made him.

But now, the Devil was claiming to be more compassionate than the Deity. You’d expect him to have learned a lesson from the last time he challenged the Throne, but it’s his tragic flaw: pride. God knows, of course, and it’s probably why He tolerates the insubordination.

“I accept people as they are,” said the Devil. “I accept both the good and the bad about them, without discrimination or conditions. I don’t care what they’ve done. I don’t care if they’re batsh-t crazy. My embrace is open to all; it’s the ultimate of inclusiveness.”

“You, on the other hand” — he pointed impudently at the Lord — “You tie them down with rules and regulations: Be kind, not cruel. Forgive, don’t revenge. Be honest, don’t cheat. You forbid everything that their nature commands, and you command everything that their nature forbids. Is it any wonder that so many of them are screwed up?”

God let out a weary sigh — of course, He doesn’t actually get weary, but He seemed a little bored. He’s been listening to the same kind of complaints for millennia.

“Yes, you do accept them as they are,” God said. “You’re happy to let them wallow in the mud of ignorance and depravity. In fact, you prefer it that way.”

“I gave them the ability to be more than they are — to become their best selves. The choice must be theirs, or it means nothing. So I provide both the carrot and the stick to motivate them. If that’s exclusionary, well then too bad. People who choose to live justly should be rewarded for it. People who choose to lie, plunder, and murder have to answer for it.”

The Lord looked at his watch. He doesn’t actually need a watch, but wearing one seems to make Him feel closer to humanity.

“Are we done here?” He asked. It was only a rhetorical question, since God is omniscient. “I’ve got a meeting, and you should be getting back to DC.”

Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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