The day of judgment had finally come, and all of humanity was gathered beside the pearly gates, to await their judgment and learn whether their fate was what they expected. Some cowered as far away as they could, out of fear, but a group of fundamentalist preachers pushed their way to the front, eager to receive their reward.
An angel spotted them and went over to them. “We’ve been expecting you,” he said. “Follow me.”
The angel led them into a room where another incredibly tall angel was waiting. Once all the preachers had gathered, the angel who had already been in the room spoke. “Because of your crimes against God and against humanity, promoting atheism and denying the Creator, you are to be consigned to the fires of hell. How do you plead?”
Looks of horror and shock appeared on the preachers’ faces. Almost in unison they began to shout out, “Not guilty!”
The taller angel said to the one who had brought them in, “I expected this. Go call the Lord.”
Within moments, God Almighty entered the room. The preachers, confronted with his actual presence, suddenly grew silent and fearful.
God addressed them and said, “I knew that you would contest my judgment. Can’t you understand that, while people always doubted me when there were hurricanes, earthquakes, or outbreaks of disease, it took your commentary on such events to make people not merely doubt but hate me. Atheism of a practical sort had always been around, but did you never wonder why atheism flourished so much precisely at the same time as you were around?”
The preachers were silent, terrified. God continued speaking.
“I gave to you, and to all human beings, the greatest gift in the universe, ‘wired’ with more connections than there were atoms in the universe: the human brain. And you had the audacity to tell people to ignore that gift because of things that were written in a book? You even went so far as to accuse those who actually used their brains of denying the Creator, while in fact you were refusing to use my greatest creation, and told others to do the same…”
At that point, one of the wiser preachers pushed his way to the front, fell on his knees and said, “Lord, we wish to change our plea. We are guilty.”
Perhaps partly because they had nothing they could say, and perhaps because some of them caught a glimpse of a slight softening of the angry expression on God’s face, first one at a time, but then en masse, the rest of them all fell to their knees as well.
God looked across the crowd of bowed heads, then summoned an angel, and commanded him: “Show them to the pearly gates.”
A murmur spread through the group of preachers. God began to walk away. One of the preachers could not contain himself and shouted after God, “You mean, we get to go to heaven?”
God turned, looked at the courageous preacher, and said, “You will have all eternity to spend among those whose lives were made sour and bitter by your preaching. You will have a lot of apologies to offer, and in some cases nothing you can do now will make amends for what they went through. Whether that should be called heaven or hell, I will let you decide.”