I met God the other day.
I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did you know it was God?
Well, I’ll explain as we go along, but basically he convinced me by having all, and I do mean ALL, the answers. Every question I flung at him he batted back with a plausible and satisfactory answer. In the end, it was easier to accept that he was God than otherwise.
Which is odd, because I’m still an atheist and we even agree on that!
It all started on the 8.20 back from Paddington. Got myself a nice window seat, no screaming brats or drunken hooligans within earshot. Not even a mobile phone in sight. Sat down, reading the paper and in he walks.
What did he look like?
Well not what you might have expected that’s for sure. He was about 30, wearing a pair of jeans and a “hobgoblin” tee shirt. Definitely casual. Looked like he could have been a social worker or perhaps a programmer like myself.
‘Anyone sitting here?’ he said.
‘Help yourself’ I replied.
Sits down, relaxes, I ignore and back to the correspondence on genetically modified crops entering the food chain…
Train pulls out and a few minutes later he speaks.
‘Can I ask you a question?’
Fighting to restrain my left eyebrow I replied ‘Yes’ in a tone which was intended to convey that I might not mind one question, and possibly a supplementary, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. ..
‘Why don’t you believe in God?’
I love this kind of conversation and can rabbit on for hours about the nonsense of theist beliefs. But I have to be in the mood! It’s like when a Jehovah’s witness knocks on your door 20 minutes before you’re due to have a wisdom tooth pulled. Much as you’d really love to stay… You can’t even begin the fun. And I knew, if I gave my standard reply we’d still be arguing when we got to Cardiff. I just wasn’t in the mood. I needed to fend him off.
But then I thought ‘Odd! How is this perfect stranger so obviously confident – and correct – about my atheism?’ If I’d been driving my car, it wouldn’t have been such a mystery. I’ve got the Darwin fish on the back of mine – the antidote to that twee christian fish you see all over. So anyone spotting that and understanding it would have been in a position to guess my beliefs. But I was on a train and not even wearing my Darwin “Evolve” tshirt that day. And ‘The Independent’ isn’t a registered flag for card carrying atheists, so what, I wondered, had given the game away.
‘What makes you so certain that I don’t?’
‘Because’, he said, ‘ I am God – and you are not afraid of me’
You’ll have to take my word for it of course, but there are ways you can deliver a line like that – most of which would render the speaker a candidate for an institution, or at least Prozac. Some of which could be construed as mildly entertaining.
Conveying it as “indifferent fact” is a difficult task but that’s exactly how it came across. Nothing in his tone or attitude struck me as even mildly out of place with that statement. He said it because he believed it and his rationality did not appear to be drug induced or the result of a mental breakdown.
‘And why should I believe that?’
‘Well’ he said, ‘why don’t you ask me a few questions. Anything you like, and see if the answers satisfy your skeptical mind?’
This is going to be a short conversation after all, I thought.
‘Who am I?’
‘Stottle. Harry Stottle, born August 10 1947, Bristol, England. Father Paul, Mother Mary. Educated Duke of Yorks Royal Military School 1960 67, Sandhurst and Oxford, PhD in Exobiology, failed rock singer, full time trade union activist for 10 years, latterly self employed computer programmer, web author and aspiring philosopher. Married to Michelle, American citizen, two children by a previous marriage. You’re returning home after what seems to have been a successful meeting with an investor interested in your proposed product tracking anti-forgery software and protocol and you ate a full english breakfast at the hotel this morning except that, as usual, you asked them to hold the revolting english sausages and give you some extra bacon. ‘