[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.
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?
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?
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!