An Atheist, Post-Death, Meets God


[In the afterlife.]

Atheist: Wow. I can’t believe I’m dead.

God: Believe it.

Atheist: Whoa! Didn’t see you there! Who are you?

God: Hi. I’m God.

Atheist: Ha, ha. No, but seriously. Who are you?

God: I’m seriously God. It’s nice to finally meet you.

Atheist: You’re God. You’re telling me that you’re God.

God: This is what I’m saying.

Atheist: I don’t believe you.

[God instantly transforms into a colossal version of himself as Studly Old White Man, with the white robes and beard and all. In a dramatic gesture he thrusts his staff aloft. The skies rent and crack with lightning. As quickly as he changed it, God then resumes his former appearance.]

Atheist: Um. Okay. You’re definitely God.

God: Really? Are you sure? Because you don’t want to jump into anything. Perhaps what you just saw was an illusion of some kind. Maybe you’re asleep, and this is all a dream. Maybe there’s a scientific explanation for what just happened.

Atheist: [pause] You know, you’re right. Perception is a tricky thing. There could always be—

[Instantly Atheist has a second head—which, like his first now, wavers at the end of a long, rubbery neck. The two heads swing into view of one another. They both start screaming. After a moment God switches Atheist back to his former appearance.]

Atheist: [dropping to his knees] I believe I believe I believe I believe.

God: So that’s what it finally took? Two heads?

Atheist: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so terribly sorry.

God: Well, you should be. Please—stand up.

Atheist: [slowly rising]: I can’t believe I’ve been wrong all this time.

God: Well, that’s not important now. Right now the only thing that’s important is whether or not when you died you happened to be wearing flame-retardant underwear.

Atheist: [panicked] What?!

God: Relax. I’m kidding. They’re not going to help you.

Atheist: What?!

God: Kidding! I’m kidding, okay? I do have a sense of humor, you know.

Atheist: [calming down] No, actually, I didn’t know that. I’ve heard you don’t.

God: You hear all kinds of crazy things about me. But trust me: I have a sense of humor. You have seen pictures of dinosaurs, right? How are they not funny? Those little heads!

Atheist: Yeah, I guess dinosaurs are pretty crazy looking. Hey, whatever happened to those guys?

God: Long story.

Atheist: I’ll bet.

God: Listen, about you.

Atheist: Must we?

God: We must. You know that for the entire time you were on earth, I was almost desperately trying to communicate with you. You do know that, right?

Atheist: I guess I do now.

God: No, you do know now. I’m telling you. I never stop trying to communicate to people who have chosen not to believe in me that I am, in fact, real. That I’m here.

Atheist: I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you.

God: So am I. And I’m sorry for no other reason besides that you knowing that I was here would have made your life so much better for you. You would have been so much happier.

Atheist: I would have been.

God: Boy, do I love me some atheists.

Atheist: You do? I mean, I’m super-glad to hear it. But why do you love atheists?

God: Well, for one, I made them, didn’t I?

Atheist: Yes. Yes, you did.

God: And I made them with free will, didn’t I?

Atheist: Yes.

God: Well, once you give someone true free will, they’re free to think, believe and do whatever they want. That’s part of the package. Besides, what kind of God would I be if I designed people so that they couldn’t do anything but love and praise me? How excruciatingly boring for me would that get?

Atheist: Pretty boring?

God: Gee, ya’ think? Who needs a bunch of applauding zombies? What I want are partners. Friends. People who love me because they choose to, not because they have to. I want real relationships. In that regard, I’m just like you or anyone else.

Atheist: I wish I would have … known that about you.

God: Well. You were stubborn.

Atheist: I was.

God: And you were also an especially capable person, weren’t you? Smart. Resourceful. Good-looking. Great personality. You had it all, baby.

Atheist: I guess I did.

God: No, you know you did. You certainly knew it then. And people like the person you were—strong, smart, capable people—are always more resistant to my overtures than are people with a little more reason to look beyond themselves.

Atheist: [pause] Yikes.

God: Yeah. Funny, isn’t it? On earth, the very things that make a person a winner are most likely to keep them a loser.

Atheist: I always thought I could handle everything myself.

God: I know you did. And how’d that work out for you?

Atheist: Terribly.

God: But you kept up a good front, didn’t you? Nary a crack in the ol’ facade, right?

Atheist: Right. That’s right. I kept up a front.

God: And all along I tried to let you know that you didn’t have to do that. I tried to let you know that I was here, that I was loving and watching out for you. The whole system you were in is designed to unceasingly prove the reality of my loving presence. The earth. The sky. Wind. The seas. All of it.

Atheist: How I wish I had listened to you!

God: How I wish everyone would!

I also wrote Bob, Satan and God in Heaven.





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  • Love this post. I especially love how your dead guy character at least had an open enough mind to stop clinging tenaciously to his earthly beliefs… unlike those many characters in C.S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce". Those always made me sad 🙁

  • Allen

    Great Post, John. I especially like God's defense of free will. That's where my conversations (just the ones about my faith, not all conversations!) with atheists comes apart, usually. People tend to assume that the way they use their free will is the best. Even if it's an unexamined habit. Uh, Christians included, sometimes.

  • Ref: free will, I always have a simple argument for that. If your kid demands only candy for dinner, are you going to give it to him? His desire is for candy, if he could exercise his free will, he'd be eating the candy, but we as parents know better, even if they don't understand that forbidding this demand is better for them in the long run. It's also my explanation for "unanswered" prayers. God always answers. sometimes the answer is "no".

  • "God: And all along I tried to let you know that you didn’t have to do that. I tried to let you know that I was here, that I was loving and watching out for you."

    Perhaps He needs to work on his communication skills, then?

    And who says that there is true free will that is entirely independent of environmental influence? God himself admits that individuals whose lives entail more suffering are more likely to search for a deity than people who are strong, smart, and capable. So is the choice of the former group simply a result of unsatisfactory circumstances of their lives? If so, then this belief in God is caused by environmental, external factors rather than indepependent, internal free will.

  • "Improve your communication skills"– is that what you would tell hapless and heartbroken parents who have tried everything they can to raise their rebellious teenagers right and wrangle them in as they make destructive life choices?

    And while environment/external factors certainly do play a role in spirituality, that is just one factor, along with free will. There are many people in unfortunate situations that still shun God, just as there are prosperous people who worship God with thanksgiving. Free will can still exist, and even prevail, in spite of the circumstances.

  • Except under the traditional Christian system… this conversation is impossible since the atheist is whisked off directly to hell. Do no pass go. Do not joke with God about underwear.

    Or are you suggesting God's mercy is open to people who don't accept Jesus as their feudal Lord and Savior before they croak here? I certainly prefer that system to Signor Dante's and the one propagated at most Christian churches.

    Also I don't see why it's necessary to "believe" to have a conversation. I'm a regular practitioner of what I call "Agnostic Prayer" where I generate positive thoughts and project them to whomever may receive them.

    I would think the God depicted in this skit would appreciate such efforts. Now I'm going to go home and change my underwear!

  • I do approve of the sentiment, here, and would like to think of Jolly Ol' Santa God, making a list, checking it twice, and deciding that these naughty kids weren't so naughty after all, ho-ho-ho.

    But honestly, wouldn't that make all the devout Christians really feel like they got royally screwed? And if they feel that way, are they truly being Christian? It's a real pain in the ass if you take this stuff seriously.

    Damned as I am, I still love ya, John. I hope that doesn't count against you (can't keep it from the man upstairs….he sees me when I'm sleeping, he knows when I'm awake, he knows if I've been bad or good, so I'll be good, for Christ's sake…).

  • I loved this piece, John. Especially since you didn't toast the fellow. You didn't, did you?

    But I think that Mike makes a good point: not all (or even most) atheist's lives are terrible, just as not all Christians (or even most) have it all together, or are even happy. Belief and faith are not the same thing.

    About God's communication skills: I think Neale Donald Walsh addressed this well. He suggests that if God revealed himself to someone in a form that would indisputably prove that he was God then those he revealed himself to would latch on to the 'form', missing out on so much more of what God is about. However God 'reveals' himself (herself, itself) whether it be through nature, miracles, pillars of fire , the smile of a child or even Jesus of Nazareth this is not God. (uh-oh) I think I said this before: 'when you have found the Buddha, kill him", meaning that if and when you think you have a definite grasp on God then you are now being idolatrous.

  • ***Waits for part 2 to see if aethiest ends up in heaven or hell…..****.

  • “Improve your communication skills”– is that what you would tell hapless and heartbroken parents who have tried everything they can to raise their rebellious teenagers right and wrangle them in as they make destructive life choices?

    Humans have limited intellects and resources… oh, and it’s usually not that hard to establish that a human being like, say, a parent exists.

    I have to say, I rather think that if an atheist were to meet God, it’d go more like this:

  • God: I know you did. And how’d that work out for you? Atheist: Terribly.”

    Sort of presupposing a bit there, aren’t you John? Non-believers aren’t miserable by default … and there is no reason to think that they would be.

  • Hey, guys. Thanks for comments/input. I've read them all, of course. Fun/interesting stuff! It's so … weird. I write these little things, which come to me pretty much at the moment I sit down to do a post for that day—and then … people write in their opinions of them. Which …. I don't know. I guess that's the whole point, or whatever.

    Anyway, thanks. I sure appreciate you guys reading some/all/any of the stuff I write.

  • That's a pretty accurate portrayal of an atheist, except for the part where he freaked out about his second head. Atheists are science nerds, so he would have been like, "Coooooooool!"

  • Helly,

    Do you really hold no higher opinion of humanity than to paint the entire species as a group of rebellious teenagers?

    And how has god tried everything he possibly could in his effort to communicate with mankind? Randomly appearing on burnt toast seems a bit of an underachievement for the omnipotent master of the universe.

  • mm

    Well I'm an Atheist and what i see in the comment thread is a lot of people trying to define what an Atheist is. I know that the reason I am an atheist is because i just don't believe in any god. I don't care what you call it, I just don't believe in it. I don't believe in a soul, or an afterlife, or anything like that. And I will freely admit that thought is scary. It truly is. But It's the only thing I can accept as being true. When i die, my life is over. My body will decompose, or burn, or whatever happens to it becuase I'm dead and can't control it. I will not have any new thoughts, feelings, or experinces. Thats it.

    There's no hierarchy, no spiritual journey: there's nothing.

    And If 'm wrong, well, then I'm wrong. Not much I can do about that. Not arrogant enough to care. I just don't think I am.

    I don't hate people who believe in a god, or spirit, or eternity. I wish you all well. I do dislike people who use religion as an excuse to exclude or persecute others, but don't confuse that with any dogmatic staple of any one religion. I've met great caring open minded, tolerant, peaceful christains, jews, muslims, whatever and I've met intolerant, close minded, hateful ones. It's human nature. Some people just suck.

    And as always, love your work John. You're a real talent.

  • mm said:"And I will freely admit that thought [of no afterlife] is scary. It truly is."

    It is not scarier than the time before you were born/conceived. That was not an unpleasant time was it? One would not be scared of not getting a pet Unicorn after you die. You are not being denied anything; rather you are not getting something that doesn't exist…and we all don't get things that don't exist every moment of every day.

    No afterlife is zero issue for me and IMO should be zero issue for everyone.

  • Leonardo

    Yeah Mike, the hope of the evolution believer. So why do you care? Live? what for? So sad!

    "A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, Is like the beasts that perish." (wow, evolution in the Bible!)

    Your Scripture-quoter friend.

  • David Gleeson

    A real atheist meets God:

    God: Surprise!

    Atheist: Whoa! Who the heck are you? And where am I?

    God: I'm God. And you are here with me, in the Great Beyond.

    Atheist: Okaaay. Didn't see that one coming. Which god are you?

    God: What do you mean, which god am I? I am that I am. God with a capital 'G'. The Big Guy. The One.

    Atheist: Yeah, yeah. But which one? I mean, do you have a son named Jesus who came to earth in bodily form and die for all of our sins so that we may have everlasting life?

    God: Please. Look around you, for My sake. Your planet is but one of countless billions in your galaxy alone, in a universe of a hundred billion such galaxies and millions of trillions of planets. What makes you think Earth is so special?

    Atheist: I don't think that, but a lot of my fellow earthlings do.

    God: Yeah, I know. You guys are the only ones in the universe that are constantly chattering, "Look at us! We're unique! We're special! God created us in his image!" Embarrassing, really.

    Atheist: So the Bible isn't your word? Or the Koran?

    God: Those books are uniquely human, I'm afraid.

    Atheist: So what am I doing here? I kind of expected that once my body died, that would be it. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure where I am.

    God: You are everywhere, and nowhere. And now you get to decide: What will be your next adventure?

    Atheist: No Hell for me then? No eternal torment for not believing in you?

    God: I wouldn't be much of a god if I purposely hid myself and then punished you for not believing in me, now would I?

    Atheist: No, you wouldn't. Christians will be disappointed. Some of them seem positively giddy at the though of everyone else burning in everlasting Hell.

    God: They're not the only ones, I'm afraid. But I'll deal with that, and them, when their time comes. As for you, you lived a good life, you were a decent person, you didn't compromise your principles, and you thought for yourself, even though sometimes you were wrong. So for that, pick your next adventure. The universe is yours.

    Atheist: Cool.

  • Leonardo,

    How do you go from not believing in [your] god to a life being devoid of meaning? Seriously. This is quite a dim line of thinking on your end. We have friends and joy and awe and wonder and deep thoughts and the rewards of good deeds. We merely enjoy all of that in the life that we actually have instead of frittering part of our life away trying to please some deity that has no evidence of existing.

    …and please stop feeding the stereotype that John thinks all atheists have of believers. You make if more difficult to have positive images of Christian intellect.

  • David: NICE!! Terrific. I love it.

  • Leonardo

    So Mike, again, from this negative image of Christian intellect (myself): Why do you care? How do you know what is joy? and how do you know what are good deeds?

    The image you’re giving me is of a person who tries to live the big time (in your believing) before to go to nothing, but you won’t remember anything you did to say I had a good life!. So why the worries?

  • Yeah, Ric.

  • (And Mike: Has anyone in any of my comments ever said the things you're saying should be denounced? Did I just … miss that, or what?)

  • Of course I have been derided on your pages John…and of course some portion of your readers thinks my discourse makes me the devil incarnate.

    My point is that when some believers rattle on about how the 'great flood' explains more than all the accepted science of cosmology, physics and geology, they should be called on the carpet for that. There are areas that ignorance are tolerable…but not in matters of religion. That minority of the literalists/fundamentalists wields undue influence in the halls of power (and they seek more). Remember the Republican debate where [something like] 3 of the 7 candidates said they didn't believe in evolution? That is bulls**t. I am sure Huckabee's divinity schooling makes him more qualified than every biologist in the world on such matters. That is the type of c**p that I want to protect children and out country from.

    Nobody benefits from humoring the ignorant or remaining silent on matters of import. I don't think is speaks well of the enlightened/intelligent/pragmatic believer when they don't speak out against bald ignorance.

  • All I asked you was if here, on my blog, anyone had ever left any comments of the sort that you were chastising Christians for not denouncing. You used quote marks, so I naturally figured you were actually quoting someone. But … I see you're not. You're just taking to task the people who do read or comment on this blog for not denouncing something someone at some time might have said somewhere else. Because … above all, you love rational thought.

  • Leonardo, whether you’re living to please God, or please everyone else, or help human genes survive, everyone has the same problem. Sometimes we wonder what purpose our joy has. Sometimes it seems like an empty victory to help God get closer to His goal of…what? Or to bathe your brain in just the right chemicals. We’re all equally ignorant of the meaning of life. So if you want to pity someone because you think they’re more ignorant of it than you, then not only are you wrong, but you deserve the same treatment. Everyone else, avert your eyes.

    *pity face!*

  • I should have said “You make [it] more difficult to have positive images of religious intellect.

    Of course I realize that there are fundamentalists/literalists like Leo and that, thankfully, they are a minority of the believing population (though not a small enough minority). The more troubling aspect is that the enlightened/intelligent/pragmatic believers say nothing when the Leos of this world spout off with stupid stuff like “We have earthquakes as the aftermath of the ‘great deluge’. or ‘Katrina is God’s retribution homosexuality.’ or ‘Evolution is a theory in crisis.'” Who in the world benefits from not calling stupid stuff out for what it is? Does the tenet of not criticizing someone else’s beliefs extend to protecting stupid too. These people influence children and propagate ignorance. C’mon believers….man up and marginalize the whack-jobs amongst you.

  • Leonardo

    Steve, I'm not trying to pity Mike, How could I? So a high intellect could be pity? Just saying if he is just a cosmic accident why the worries? if he won't remember what he did. He said he likes deep thoughts.

    But the Mike's answer show me the usual reaction of people without a point.

    Let's see: "stupid" 3 times. "man up" kind of homophobic? . "Whack-job": wow! And the answers?

    And the answer to John:

    Let's see: "rattle on" well, not bad. "bulls**t" Ha! part of evolution, I guess. "c**p" says the Children and Country Protector!

    Well, it's the usual: "Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;"

  • I said: "spout off with stupid stuff like “We have earthquakes as the aftermath of the ‘great deluge’. or ‘Katrina is God’s retribution homosexuality.’ or ‘Evolution is a theory in crisis.’”

    Of course these things were said. Leonardo talks about the great flood/deluge on Oct 20th on…. There has been disparagement of evolutionary theory scattered here and there on these pages. I don't recall if anyone here specifically referred to Katrina (Leonardo vaguely attributed these 'natural evils' to God's retribution).

    Notice, though, that I prefaced it with like and I used single quotes simple to delineate multiple phrases in a single sentence. Unfortunately WordPress does not support searching comments to aid in my citation search.

    FYI: It looks like WordPress does have some optional plugin that would extent the search, but I don't know if that would be for everyone or just the blog owner.

  • Leonardo

    sorry: He said he liked deep thoughts

  • Leonardo

    Dear Mike: I said nothing about Katrina. Really need to take me out of context. C'mon, you have more than that!!!!.

  • Mike: I don't know where you learned the usage rules for quotation marks, but yowzer, what you've said about them is wrong. "I used single quotes simple to delineate multiple phrases in a single sentence" is just …. wow. Brain Fail.

    And, again: do you really think it helps your ongoing endeavor to appear imminently rational to argue a point someone made over three weeks ago in an entirely different post—and then make it clear they didn't actually say the thing you're complaining about?

    I'm so torn between allowing you to continue to bury yourself, and shutting down this comment thread because it's so uncomfortable to watch.

  • I would be happy to find a better vehicle to accomplish my goal if single quotes are not the way to do it. Who better to show me than you. I want to, in a single sentence, demonstrate three phrases. Those phrases would be single objects within the sentence and cannot be misconstrued as a single stream of words.

  • Then all you need is commas separating the phrases: "Some people think that ballet is boring, flies are fun, and dogs should learn to play Scrabble." Simple. What you don't want to do is use quote marks if you're not actually quoting someone. If you write this: Some people think "ballet is boring."—then it's assumed you're quoting someone who actually said or wrote, "Ballet is boring." And you use single quote marks for a quote within a quote: Bill said, "And that's when she said to him, 'Dogs playing Scrabble? Are you insane?' God, I love that woman."

  • Thanks. Duly noted. It is good to learn stuff.

  • For $12 I'll send you an autographed and inscribed copy of "Comma Sense: A FUNdamental Guide to Punctuation." Fun for the whole family!

    No, but one reason you never read in the blog comments anything like "Katrina is God's punishment for homosexuality," or whatever, is because I delete that kind of nonsense the moment I see it.

  • Leo,

    "Man-up" would be sexist, not homophobic. I recognized that as I was writing it, but a similarly effective, gender-neutral phrase doesn't exist. It was our host that first introduced "bulls**t" [without asterisks] to these pages. And you seem continue to make my point by saying that evolution is bulls**t with " 'bulls**t' Ha! part of evolution, I guess. " (I think I got the quotes right)

  • Done here. Thanks, guys. Comments closed.