Electronic Frontier Foundation
 Electronic Frontier Foundation
 Electronic Frontier Foundation
 Electronic Frontier Foundation
John R. Hall
Little Ricky / John R. Hall

~~ This was written as the foundation for a performance art monologue. Readers will benefit by imagining themselves as a member of an audience. ~~

I clearly remember the first time I questioned the existence of God. Of all things, a dentist was involved.

Because I was born into Eisenhower’s America at the end of the fifties and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I came to desire hash browns with my eggs (food plays a pivotal role in revisiting the God conundrum). When I was twelve years old, I was exposed to grits with eggs. The sight of grits disturbed and distressed me. They reminded me of runny masses our bodies involuntarily expel from either of its two major orifices. So, without a whiff or taste, I outright rejected grits.

My half brothers, both from different mothers, were born in the southeastern United States. Dixieland. They looked away, at least in their formative years, from hash browns. They preferred the regional grits.

That brotherly difference in breakfast preference was not any fault of ours. As with all children who were force-fed God’s nutritional and spiritual food, our initial faith and taste preferences, which were developed throughout childhood, reflected our distinct geographical upbringings. We were raised apart, scattered from Washington State to Kentucky to Florida to Texas to Georgia (one of us, and I won’t be naming names, had a transient rearing).

Even though we were dispersed across the land of manifest destiny, a unifying white Judeo-Christian God was thrust upon each of us. We were told if we fought the good fight, kept the faith, that we would be granted entry into Heaven as our reward. If we failed, then eternal damnation in Hell awaited us.

“Onward Christian Soldiers” filled our ears as we were taught to both fear and love God. That mixed message from Judeo-Christianity’s love-fear God paradigm caused much anxiety and was reflective of each of our dysfunctional family units. Loving while fearing is a perplexing state of being. There was no escaping it. We were taught to obey elders, be patriotic, follow leaders, eat our vegetables, fear and love God above all else, and to do so blindly . . . without questioning any of it. Trying to find rhyme or reason within our childhood charge was moot—and not open for debate.

Youngsters are so easily manipulated into lifelong unconscious biases and beliefs that are rarely reexamined, let alone questioned. Without intervention, the propensity to accept any answer from any authority figure who quickly quells complicated questions is subconsciously carried into adulthood. That is why celebrities, be they politicians, entertainers, or preachers, become beacons of hope and speakers of truth for millions upon millions in America’s land of plenty. They are exalted to unwarranted statuses.

A confused American mass is desperately searching, reaching out to grab ahold and anchor themselves to anything or anyone who offers salvation or hope. People look outward to have their fears soothed. They want answers to complicated questions given to them, so they can avoid digging deep within to find truth. It’s so much easier to take solace and refuge by believing that if President Trump says that it’s “fake news,” then that’s good enough—case closed!

I’m not the least bit surprised that the Republicans’ charlatan moral majority fell for Trump’s proclamation of being a man of God. After all, he’s selling the same Christian entitlement dogma that not only conquered the land now known as the United States of America but also enabled Constantine the Great, religious leaders, and even Hitler to a degree (to name only a few) to carry out their nefarious activities. Bob Dylan put it best: “You don’t count the dead . . . And you never ask questions when God’s on your side.”

America’s current religious and political quandary is nothing new. It’s the same old blind-following-the-blind parade charade. Trump is simply exploiting the naive who continue to fall for the “City Upon a Hill” rallying cry. That phrase was initially derived from the parable of “Salt and Light” in Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount,” which President Reagan modernized and popularized by adding the word shining to it. A “Shining City Upon a Hill” was Reagan’s parting gift to America.

In his farewell speech to the nation, Reagan said: “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed.”

I truncated Reagan’s ramblings because it is now common knowledge that he was suffering from the early stages of dementia when he uttered those words—at a time when he also had unfettered access to the nuclear launch codes and the authority to let ’em fly on the “Evil Empire.”

There’s no need to worry that Trump will do that, because he loves Russia, and Putin is his buddy. When Trump is banished from the Oval Office, maybe then we’ll finally be privy to the true depth of his mental illnesses, buried just below the surface of his obvious paranoid and narcissistic personality disorders.

Hopefully Reagan was only confused early on in his tenure as commander in chief when he mistakenly took Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the U.S.A.” as a glorious patriotic ode to America. One might be excused for confusing the sound exploding out of Max Weinberg’s snare drum—in the marching-off-to-war cadence that accentuated Springsteen’s continual raspy refrain of “Born in the U.S.A / I was born in the U.S.A.”—as a clear message of red, white, and blue patriotic fervor. But only morons or the mentally compromised could mistake the opening lines of “Born in the U.S.A.” as anything other than a dirge declaring the death of the American dream for the Vietnam vets.

Members of the E Street Band began calling Bruce Springsteen the Boss because they were his backing band. Springsteen’s legions of fans refer to him as the Boss because he never mixes words and always tells it like it is. Like he did for the Vietnam vets in “Born in the U.S.A.” when he screamed at the top of his lungs: “Born down in a dead man’s town / The first kick I took was when I hit the ground / End up like a dog that’s been beat too much / ’Til you spend half your life just covering up / Born in the U.S.A. / I was born in the U.S.A.”

Phew! That’s intoxicating stuff. The Boss was able to indict American society for its treatment of Vietnam vets while simultaneously selling thirty million albums and confusing the “America—love it or leave it” crowd. The problem with that group and its trope (America—love it or leave it) is that it assumes there is only one way to be an American—their way. During Vietnam, you were not a real American unless you supported the morally bankrupt war. True patriots love their country enough to confront its government and fight for it to change its evil ways.

It might seem like I have digressed from the title of this piece: “Revisiting the God Conundrum.” But I don’t believe that I have strayed off course at all. Please afford me the courtesy to explain. Thank you. Misinterpretation, deception, and repackaging of a message to meet one’s needs are hallmarks of political and religious con artists.

Generational stories first passed around by oral messengers before being written down, later to be translated, then later still updated for a contemporary audience or congregation, should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism—or taken with “billions and billions” (to quote Trump) grains of salt. From the beginning of time, wordsmiths have been aware of the power words possess. Politicians are second only to preachers in deploying words with deadly accuracy.

Word usage can be tricky, by design or inadvertently. For example, the Telephone game involves a group of individuals who form a line or a circle and pick a person who will start things off by whispering a short story into an adjacent person’s ear, who in turn whispers the story to the next adjacent person. This activity continues until the story is whispered to the last person in the group, who then speaks the story to the whole group. The resulting story is then compared to the original story to analyze the differences between the initial and final versions, which are exposed by distortions, additions, and omissions contained in the final story. The two stories rarely—if ever—match word for word. This childish game has been used by entertainers such as Ellen DeGeneres for audiences’ amusement and contestants’ competition. Professionals such as psychologists, academics, and law enforcement have used the same interpersonal activity to study human communications.

This game should be proof enough that all the ancient religious texts surely contain, at a minimum, unintended misquotes, distortions, additions, and omissions of historical or religious events. There is even ongoing debate among religious scholars about the Ten Commandments, with some suggesting that there were more than ten commandments, but that ten were chosen to ease memorization rather than reflect theology.

Now I’ll get back to my straight and narrow point for writing this article: trying to find a solution to the God conundrum. But I offer no promises that you will not come to believe that I have strayed off course again as you continue reading. Trust me (now there’s a valid reason to stop reading), I’ll always explain any self-perceived deviation from my goal of cracking the God conundrum.

To cut to the chase, there are three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (a persuasive argument could be made that secular humanism is becoming a major monotheistic religion, because its modus operandi is faith in nonbelief: that man does not need a god to be moral). A person’s initial religion is based on geography, which is also responsible for which type of food is preferred. A person born in Iraq is likely to spew Allah and the prophet Muhammad, whereas a person born in the USA is likely to postulate God and Jesus. My thesis, then, is that God and food are initially forced acquired tastes and beliefs based on the evolutionary timeline of birth and where birth occurs, or where it lands on the cosmic roulette wheel. Proshansky’s psychological hypothesis says it all: “environment directly influences behavior in a predictable way.” Consequently, we are locked into tastes and beliefs at an early age.

Casting off the chains of limited food desires forged through geography and adults’ taste buds during childhood is simple enough. Especially when compared to the agony experienced by escaping damnation when dismissing the dogma of the Judeo-Christian God. After all, Malachi’s prophetic promise from God that there will surely come a day when the earth shall burn like an oven and the disobedient shall be reduced to ash is reason enough for a child to unquestionably fall in line before the altar and offering plates. Couple that with the divine carrot that God gave to the prophet Jeremiah to dangle: that God has plans for us to prosper and not be harmed but rather to give us hope and a future. With those prophecies from Malachi and Jeremiah in our childhood back pockets, it becomes easy to see why leaving God’s flock can be so hard.

Sooner or later, all who were indoctrinated to believe in an almighty come metaphorically face-to-face with their omnipotent by questioning the existence or actions of their creator. Even Jesus Christ was not immune from such a moment of reckoning. He asked of God, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” before capitulating by saying (okay, I’m with you, Daddy-o) “into your hands I commit my spirit.”

I suppose if I had been hanging on a cross for six hours, Pascal’s wager would be both appealing and seemingly a safe bet. At that point, there’s really nothing left to lose by betting with Pascal, except earthly life. Therefore, living the last seconds of life as if God exists (thereby being positioned to inherit Heaven) is probably vastly preferable to betting on there being no God (thereby positioned to be dispatched to Hell).

My initial moment of questioning God came when I was sitting in a pediatric dentist’s chair. While my level of agony might not compare to six hours spent on a cross, I can assure you that while I was writhing in pain, I, too, wondered why God had abandoned me in my time of need.

Novocain alleviated the pulsating torment emanating from my preteen adult canine tooth, but it did nothing to quash the question of why a loving God would allow such suffering to visit a child. Trust me, as I grew, my crisis of faith became more complex. At that time, my inquisition centered on God visiting pain upon me and seemingly refusing to banish it. My childish mind thought that maybe God didn’t care about me. I later came to believe that God was probably preoccupied with more pressing matters. Like explaining design choices to platypuses, giraffes, orangutans, Donald J. Trump, etc. Or explaining multiple pigmentation selections to nonwhites.

Anyway, at eleven years old, while I was sitting in a dentist’s chair, I asked my first question of “Why does God allow?” It was posed to a young attractive female Christian apologist with whom, unbeknownst to her, I had secret secular plans of losing my virginity, and who was masquerading as a dental assistant. I asked her: “Why does God allow teeth to hurt?” Her response was unsatisfying. She replied that it was “God’s way of reminding us to take care of our teeth.” That day, the count against God became strike one—no balls.

The game of faith verses nonbelief I played with God intensified throughout my life. Neither God’s roster nor mine contain good batters in the game concerning the most crucial question of all: to believe or not to believe. But we both had superb fielders. Throughout my youth and into my forties, our fielders were always able to keep the score aught to aught, nil–nil, zero–zero, nothing to nothing. Nada. Neither God nor I had the upper hand in the ongoing, never-ending game, or battle, if you will, for my mind, for my body, and ultimately for my soul. Each of our serves were hit too hard and flew outside the lines, resulting in a never-ending love–love score (that was tossed in for any bored tennis fans who might be passing the time of day by reading this).

The spirited religious gamesmanship that God and I were locked into remained scoreless until I pulled sharp focus on the obligatory catchall answer to my ceaselessly recurring seminal question: “Why does God allow?” I was never pleased nor appeased by God’s spokespersons’ stock responses to my query of why the creator of earth and all life upon it allowed this or that or another horrendous thing to happen to humanity. By then I had long ago abandoned my insignificant selfish plea of “Why me, Lord?”

Because of my life choices and resulting plight, I came to believe that I am the son of perdition. The one doomed to destruction (excluded from salvation). Who’s twice rather cleverly but clearly referenced in King James’s bedtime storybook he had commissioned for himself. It seems that King James did not like the most popular bible being passed around in 1604 AD, the Geneva Bible, because he felt that some of the marginal notes encouraged disobedience to kings. So, in 1604, that wacky ol’ King James of yore decreed that a new translation of the bible be created from the original Hebrew and Greek languages into the King’s English.

The activity surrounding that endeavor was frenetic. Fifty-four men were chosen to undertake the translation. It was finished and given to King James in 1611; hence the always-in-vogue name for the 1611 version of the Holy Bible is the King James Bible 1611: KJB or KJV, for short (the V reflecting the king’s version).

Not long after King James was presented with the updated translation, which was dedicated “to the most high and mighty prince [of God] James,” he became indifferent to the text. He must have been a finicky bloke, because he never officially recognized the new holy book bearing his name, nor was it ever authorized as the only text permitted to be read in church. Nevertheless, the public’s use of it soon made it more popular than both the Bishops’ Bible and the Geneva Bible.

Strangely enough, the first appearance of the son of perdition in the King James Bible’s New Testament is found in the Gospel of John. Hmmm. That gives me great pause, because my name is John. Imagine my relief when I deciphered that John’s gospel was referring to Judas Iscariot as the one lost and not John Richard Hall. It seems that Judas, in addition to selling out Jesus, had a bad attitude to boot. He was not about to repent of his sins and instead hanged himself, thereby acquiring the dual monikers of the “lost one” and the “son of destruction.”

I’ll now quote the Gospel of John, verse 17:12, which is quoting Christ: “While I was with them [referring to Jesus’s twelve disciples], I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Bingo! That passage gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe I am not the son of perdition.

The son of perdition’s next appearance in the New Testament is found in Second Thessalonians. Lucky for me that it’s not found in Second Corinthians, or I might follow Trump’s misstep and refer to it as “Two Corinthians.” Unlike Trump, whose biblical gaffe was immediately overlooked (even though it occurred on the hallowed grounds of Liberty University, which is the birthplace of the moral majority and is appropriately located in Lynchburg, Virginia, in Dixieland), there would be hell to pay if I said “Two Corinthians.” Liberty University’s founder’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., laughs and giggles like an enamored and engorged teenage girl on her first date with the boy of her dreams when he’s lovingly reminiscing about the day that Donald J. Trump came to town and misstated the name of a bible chapter that is etched on buildings at Liberty University’s campus. Little Jerry Falwell would have had me burned at the stake for heresy if I had committed such a travesty.

President Barack Obama would have been less fortunate than me had he committed Trump’s blunder. The minion Falwell would have had him skinned alive before having him hanged, or drawn and quartered, disemboweled, entrails burned, and his four body parts scattered across Liberty University’s campus while a snickering unified faculty and student body stood erect (in more ways than one) and declared that the black president got what he deserved for blasphemy.

Okay, I agree, I have now committed the sin of digression. I’ll repent. Here goes: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Absolution and being absolved of sins by a simple penance is so cool that I’m tempted to praise God. But I fear that if I digress that far astray from the title of my unscholarly and brief thesis—“Revisiting the God Conundrum”—that I shall immediately be declared the prodigal son, rendering this endeavor pointless. At this stage, considering the progress I’m making, it’s best for me to remain a wayward soul.

So Second Thessalonians 2:3 is where the son of perdition’s second appearance in the New Testament occurs. And here’s where it gets tricky for my escaping my destruction and damnation, because it is written that “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

Confession time . . .

In my younger days, I was a magician, and I deceived many with my tomfoolery. I also wreaked havoc and destruction. I corrupted tender female flesh in hotel rooms while training films flickered across the TV screen. I also fornicated on public beaches, in parks, in moving vehicles, and in other places too numerous to remember, let alone mention. I also flouted the law. Did I partake of substances? Absolutely! And by having done all that, a strong case can be made that I’m a “man of lawlessness.”

Second Thessalonians 2:3 alludes that the “man of lawlessness” is the Antichrist. With Judas Iscariot long gone, all that I can do is clear my throat, ahem, take a slow and deep breath, g-u-l-p, and get busy saving my ass from eternal damnation.

It’s time to dig deeper, to see if there are any loopholes I can exploit for my salvation. Being known as a scofflaw who wreaks havoc and leaves a path of destruction and damsels in distress in my wake is all fine and dandy, but being defined as the “man of lawlessness” (the Antichrist, for Christ’s sake) is completely unacceptable. After all, I’m not a savage.

I discovered that an adequate description of the son of perdition appears in Hebrews 6:4–8. Where therein lies a description of a person akin to Judas Iscariot who has also experienced a close relationship to God and understood salvation but turned his back on it. Instead of bearing good fruit, he bears “thorns and thistles.” This person knows the path to salvation, which is accepting God’s unmerited grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to have his sins forgiven, as explained in Ephesians 2:8–9 and elsewhere. But instead of capitulating, he either outright rejects the existence of God or mocks God’s gift of salvation, thinking there’s a way to earn—or at least find a secret—passage into Heaven without surrendering unto the unmerited grace of God by accepting Christ as a personal valet. Scratch that—I meant personal savior.

Judas chose a path that ended in suicide by hanging instead of submissively accepting unmerited grace. So that shyster is off the hook as the Antichrist, leaving me flapping in the wind. Only God can label me as the son of perdition, because it is written that only God knows what he has in store for me (I’m sure that it’s not a peaceful death while I’m sleeping).

God’s written plan of eternal damnation concerns only two individuals: Judas, who I am not, and the Antichrist. Gulp! No matter how lost or evil they may seem, all other people, the faithful, are tasked to hope and pray for their redemption. This is not nervous hyperbole on my part. First Timothy 2:1 clearly states that Christians are to follow God’s charge and pray for me. Little Timmy wrote: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

Hopefully, there’s a few of God’s stalwarts around to whom I did not say “please don’t” when they offered to pray for me and my soul. I was so cocksure I had the answer to my God conundrum back then, but with all this chatter about the Antichrist, I’m not so self-assured. I’m beginning to feel like a porcupine in a balloon factory.

Despite my bleak afterlife prospects, I’m determined to get to the bottom of the matter. I want tangible answers to the God conundrum. I am becoming indignant. I’m irritated, annoyed, and peeved—to hell with it. I’m irate! I’m pissed off and fixin’ to hold my breath until I turn red in the face like some spoiled child who’s been denied this or that or another thing!

Clearly, the substances I consumed throughout the seventies and eighties, combined with my journalism education obtained in the nineties, have simultaneously confused and emboldened me. However foolish it may seem to the choir, I finally feel that I have the facts straight, and I am delusional enough to be prepared to take on all comers: the pulpit, the minions in the congregation, the choir, and even God almighty too. Not only do I want to peek beneath God’s veil of wisdom, I’m compelled to yank the damn thing off to get an unobscured, crystal-clear view of things to come. I have had enough of indifferently letting God’s postulators’ simplistic yet confounding answer to my “Why does God allow?” question to continue to concurrently pacify and confuse me. No more free passes for you, God!

But first I’ll deal with the Book of Job’s conundrum. And this ain’t an easy-peasy proposition. Because “it ain’t easy being cheesy.” After enduring a thorough ass-kicking from Satan’s hooves, Job (who the Book of Job is named after) basically asks God: “Why me, Lord?” Who knows, maybe Job even asked God: “What’s going on?” or “What’s up with this?”

Either way, when Job finally found the fortitude to address God about his plight, he was downtrodden and assumed his complete demise was nigh. So he was both ill equipped and caught completely off guard when God turned the tables on him by plopping his ass in a metaphorical witness chair for cross-examination.

When God refuses to answer you and instead addresses you back by belittling you and questioning your credentials by asking “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” you know that the shit has hit the fan, literally.

I can easily imagine you would begin to tremble uncontrollably like the Tin Man did when he stood before the indignant Wizard of Oz. And if you dare to respond back to God’s direct question, you run the risk of muttering incomprehensible blabber like the Scarecrow did when he was confronted by the same snarky Wizard of Oz. And when God tells you to “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me,” well, whatever smidgen of courage you may have had when you initiated what you thought was going to be a collegial conversation disintegrates when you find yourself on the receiving end of God’s tirade. Leaving you no other option than to beat feet and run away like the Cowardly Lion did when the cantankerous Wizard of Oz focused on him.

You better have a metaphorical Dorothy-esque slap at the ready when God finishes questioning you by continuing with “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?”

The reason Job found himself in the unenviable predicament of being asked to explain the “God Particle” theory to God without the benefit of a background in physics stems from a backroom conversation between Beelzebub and God, wherein it was understood that Satan believed that not one of the people upon the earth was holy. God disagreed with the ambitious and rambunctious “horned one” because he was pleased with Job. So it came to pass that after Lucifer and God concluded their banter, a deal was struck whereby Job became their pawn in a demonic-angelic battle for his soul.

The ground rules were simple enough. God would allow the Devil to strip Job of all his assets and wealth, destroy his fields, kill all his children, wipe out all but four of his plantation’s workforce, turn his wife against him—and basically ruin his day.

Nevertheless, Job persevered through all of Satan’s handiwork, including being beseeched and plagued by pestilence, by boils, and by this and by that and by another unholy thing, too, while God passively watched. Not only that, Job also suffered through seventy-two more scathing questions from God before finally falling to pieces. In Job’s moment of desperation and fear, he spoke the following to God: “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth . . . I will proceed no further.”

Wow!

Quitting is never an easy thing to do. Just ask any alcoholic.

Feeling pity for that poor bastard, Job, might come easy. Until finding out that after he capitulated (by basically admitting he was a bad boy for daring to ask a question), God restored everything to him that was taken—and a hell of a lot more to boot. In other words, Job was handed a winning celestial lottery ticket from God.

When I hear about bountiful blessings bestowed by God upon someone like Job, I find myself wanting to augment my childhood plea by asking God: “Why not me, Lord?” Truth be told, I’ve asked God that my whole life—to no avail. So, at this juncture, I’ll stop asking that and instead pick up where this amusing interlude of Job’s trials and tribulations began.

Well, why not? I have nothing to lose: no assets nor family nor vigor nor good health nor hair nor teeth nor sexy body that can be taken from me and used to beat me down by its loss. All that is already long gone. I’ve been emasculated. So I’ve got nothing left to lose by getting uppity. Additionally, like Cosmo Kramer, “I’m hip to the whole scene.”

I understand the mysterious and mischievous ways of Job’s unpredictable and indifferent God. I have recovered from my past divine beatdowns. I’m ready to get down to it: “to the heart of the matter; to the root of the root; to the bud of the bud; the sky of the sky.” I am even prepared to deal with the crazy catchall answer that stems from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. A word to the wise: “this ain’t no party; this ain’t no disco; this ain’t no fooling around.” This is original sin I’m talking about. Buckle up; this could be a bumpy ride.

I’m feeling a bit like the Blues Brothers when they realized they had 106 miles to go before reaching Chicago, except I’ve got 106 questions for God. And I got a full tank of gas in my ass, a few stogies, and a full glass of scotch. It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there. And I’m wearing sunglasses too. So let’s get down to it!

I’ll be asking the questions for Job, God. Or do you prefer the moniker Yahweh? The tables have been turned on you. Answer me this: Who are you? And don’t give me any of the nonsense that you spewed to a wandering in the wilderness, malnourished, barefooted Moses on a mountaintop with your voice emanating from a blazing bush about being “I am that I am.” What kind of a crazy crock of crap is that? What’s the matter, Elohim? Yeah, I know all your names—does the cat got your tongue? You must plainly see by now that “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” While not all that unusual, your silence, your Almightiness, is revealing.

I gotcha!

So let me tell you about yourself. You are a supreme omnipotent being without a beginning or an end. You’re the original everywhere and nowhere man. The reason you told Moses to tell the masses that when it comes to explaining who you are that he should tell them that you said “I am that I am” is because that’s the only answer that’s available to you. You haven’t a clue to who or what you are. Neither 23andMe nor AncestryDNA can help you—because you don’t have a family tree to climb. And you are unable to conceive of your end because, dare I say it, you have always been—and will always continue—evolving. I know the theory of evolution is deeply disturbing to you. But hey . . . if the sandal fits.

So why not update the Holy Bible, God? If King James could, surely you can too.

Oh well, there’s no need for you to reach for your chisel and tablets of stone, because if you do exist—and that’s a big fat “IF” in my mind at this particular time—but if you do exist, then I know why you put us here. You would have needed to create us in your image and then given us dominion over everything on earth, including the planet. Because only by doing that could you begin to define yourself beyond “I am that I am.” Through our lives, since you created us in your likeness and gave us godlike powers, you could attempt to define yourself.

Our lives have a beginning and an end, and by encapsulating our lives when we cease to exist, we become fully definable. Therefore, through each of our lives you become definable to yourself. You could look at one life who lived righteously—who did good; who lived in harmony with the earth; who was a simple, good, decent person: “who saw wrong and tried to right it; who saw suffering and tried to heal it, who saw war and tried to stop it”; who saw homelessness and tried to end it; who clothed those without clothes; who fed those without food; who cared for the sick; who visited those who were imprisoned; who saw climate change and tried to save the planet—and through that one life you created in your likeness, God, you are able to analyze its actions and say to yourself: “Since I created that and gave it dominion (godlike powers over all else on earth) and I did not interfere with it, and it did good on its own accord, then I must be good.” Again, I’m playing along as if you do exist.

So on with the show, this is it.

By examining the lives of Caligula, Nero, Hitler, the Reverend Jim Jones, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Lenin, Kim Il Sung, Mao, and many more detestable chaps, both infamous and anonymous, all created by you and in your likeness, God, you could then rightly conclude that you are evil.

Likewise, by examining the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi, Malala Yousafzai, President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah, Greta Thunberg, and so many more wonderful souls, both famous and anonymous, all created by you and in your likeness, God, you could then rightly conclude that you are good.

So here’s the deal, God; the only illogical and logical reason for creating us would be so you could see what you’re all about. Without having a beginning, and with no possible end, you are undefinable—even to yourself.

So that’s that. You are both evil and good. You already admitted as much. But before I address that, let me refresh your memory on Matthew 12:37, wherein you warn us about how you will judge us: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

May I assume, Your Greatness, that we can agree upon the adage that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I thought so.

So here goes: through your prophet in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 45, verse 7, you confessed to being good and evil by saying: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

I gotcha!

Let’s have a moment of levity again and examine another one of your creations: Donald J. Trump. I’m sure you are fraught with utter embarrassment with how he’s turned out. By looking at him, I am at a loss to what would have possessed you to create such a psychological and physical monstrosity. I’ll again give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you were trying to create an orangutan but got distracted and mistakenly spilled some extra DNA on the chromosomes that resulted in “The Donald” being sent forth. Oh well, “Nobody’s perfect, not even a perfect stranger.” Get over it. Supreme beings like us all make mistakes.

I have one final point to make concerning Donald J. Trump, Your Holy Whateverness: “The Donald” is a “man of lawlessness.” He seems hell-bent on being disruptive and destructive. Therefore, a fitting moniker for him could be the one doomed to destruction. Hell, he’s looking a lot like the son of perdition to me. I do believe that I have found the Antichrist.

At long last, I’m finally off the hook.

So, God, it appears that I have the bases loaded, and it’s the bottom of the ninth inning with a full count (two strikes and three balls) with two out, and the score is tied. I’m standing at home plate, pointing out into center field. Let’s see if we can wrap this crap up and end this game with me winning. I know, it’s going to take a mighty big powerful crack of the bat to knock it out of the ballpark.

Let me reiterate: We have a beginning and an end and possess godlike powers, thanks to you, over everything down here. We are expanding our kingdom, too, by traveling into outer space. Our visual and audible reach throughout the universe now surpasses “billions and billions” of light years. Forty-six billion light years, to be exact, according to our above-average demigod: Mr. Ethan Siegel.

Through another one of our dandy above-average demigods down here on earth, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, comes the not-so-surprising news to me that “whatever happened on Earth, it’s not likely to be rare or unique.” Moreover, Dr. Tyson thinks “we’re not likely alone in the universe.”

If that’s news to you, God, I’m sorry I blindsided you with it and delivered it so insensitivity. Do you need a moment to compose yourself? . . . Well, do you?

I’ll take your continued silence as a no and proceed accordingly, posthaste, to your catchall phrase your minions spew whenever they’re forced to answer the question of why God stood idly by while cardinals and priests and evangelists committed rape upon children who were trying to serve God. Can you answer me that? Take your time, because I already know your answer.

What’s that? Are you wondering why I started with that question? None of your business, Big Guy. Just answer the question, Jehovah!

Disregard that, and “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” because, for the time being, I’m the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz! I’ll be providing you the answer that your ambassadors offer up to “Why does God allow evil to happen?”

They say we were created with “free will.” That we were clean and free, running around in the Garden of Eden naked, which was not a sin then, and that we could partake of everything you bestowed upon the earth except the forbidden fruit. At that time, the forbidden fruit was on the limbs of a certain tree and not buried in the bush between our lower limbs. Of course, that soon changed. Shortly after you deposited the gullible Adam and Eve in Eden, a serpent, of all things, appeared on the scene and initiated a game with Eve that would later be augmented, much as happens with the telephone game. Yep, a slithering fork-tongued snake whispered into Eve’s ear, telling her to grab an apple and take a bite.

That really screwed things up. By partaking from the tree of knowledge by eating an apple, Eve gained knowledge and quickly understood the art of deception. She put that information to immediate use by convincing Adam to join in her shenanigans.

Chicanery, when improperly deployed, can have calamitous consequences. Just ask Adam. He fell for Eve’s seduction. He ate the apple. And soon after realized that Eve and he were both naked, which somehow then became sinful. That’s the time and place that humanity fell from grace—the original sin. And ever since then, according to King James’s bedtime storybook—and all your spokespersons—we’re to blame. For everything:

For Cain and Abel feuding, resulting in the first blood spilled upon the earth.

For what’s been described by Spalding Gray as an invisible cloud of evil that circles the earth and lands at random places like Iran, Beirut, Cambodia, Germany—America—and sets in motion mass auto-homeo genocides.

We’re to blame for famine. And for all the rapes—because we fell from grace—because God created man with free will and man blew it. That’s what your book reflects and your spokespersons spew.

And that’s bullshit!

Let’s end this nonsense once and for all. There is no free will.

If there was, I would have chosen not to be born into Eisenhower’s America. If I had any free will at all, God would have given me the free will not to be here. Instead of being asked if I wanted to come to earth, my ass just got sent here.

It would have been nice to explore my options.

I can imagine God trying to sell me a time-share on earth by saying:

“Hey, Johnny boy. I built this planet. If you want, you can go there. You’ll have some fun with tender flesh. There are substances down there to help you with obtaining that flesh, and other substances, too, that will assist with performance enhancement and endurance. Grapes will be there, too, and through the process of fermentation you’ll have fantastic wine to enjoy, especially the Napa kind. There will be trains and planes and automobiles to whisk you to and fro. There will be cannabis and peyote and cocaine too. I advise you to stay away from the OxyContin. You’ll enjoy steak and lobster, In-N-Out Burger, Krispy Kreme—hell, there’ll even be a Starbucks on nearly every corner.

“There’ll be so much more for you to enjoy. And to keep you entertained, there will be Netflix, Cirque du Soleil, YouTube, and Ellen DeGeneres. You might even offer up some entertainment yourself with your own one-man show. You could call it Revisiting the God Conundrum. But you’ll run the risk of damnation and being sent to Hell for that, and for partaking of the other things I mentioned.

“Also, for complete disclosure, there’ll be thieves and cheats and liars down there. You won’t know who they are until it’s too late. You’ll be subjected to disasters, famine, murder, rape, pillaging, and war. There will be a climate crisis too (which you’ll be told to ignore by people in rich and powerful positions). In short, you’ll be exposed to utter mayhem—complete chaos. So what’s it gonna be, son? You want to hop into my cosmic elevator and head on down there? Or do you want to remain here with me?”

Well, my choice would have been clear. If asked, I would have said: “I’m good. I’ll hang out here with you, Daddy-o!”

But I was never given that choice, so I never had free will!

And with that, I securely dismiss the “free will case” as hogwash. Nonsense. Bullshit! And hit God’s curveball out of the ballpark for a home run.

As I round the bases on my way to making the final score zero to one in my favor, I steadfastly proclaim, just as the New York Times did in 1966, that “God Is Dead.”

Above the roar of the crowd, I can hear the play-by-play announcer as I cross home plate, reading aloud from the New York Times “God Is Dead” article:

“Your God is dead. He died in the darkness of your image. He died because he grew ill from your dreams of salvation. He died because you held his hand too tightly. God is dead.”

Cancel Easter. My Mafia buddies know where the body is buried. Ding-dong the Judeo-Christian God is gone!

###

Postscriptum/encore:

Brother Theodore was a performance artist and monologist who described his one-man show as “stand-up tragedy.” In his memory, I’ll offer up some of his words: “Years ago I started performing and I became an overnight flop; the situation has been deteriorating ever since / I gazed into the abyss and the abyss gazed into me, and neither of us liked what we saw / I am what you call a controversial figure. People either hate me or they despise me / I wanted to be a good man doing wrong, and here I am a bad man doing nothing / I detest everything I stand for / I’m the bride at every funeral; I’m the corpse at every wedding / Each time I look into the mirror I burst into tears / The best thing is not to be born, but who is as lucky as that? / All the great spiritual leaders are dead. Moses is dead. Muhammad is dead. Buddha is dead. And I’m not feeling so hot myself! / The good hospitals, they let you die. The bad hospitals, they kill you.”

I will add to Brother Theodore’s statement on hospitals. I was recently hospitalized for forty-six days and near death. So I can assure you that at the mediocre hospitals, they force you to live. But as Theodore said: “As long as there is death, there is hope.”

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John R. Hall is a James Copley Scholarship for Journalism recipient. John studied journalism, psychology, communications & drama at City College, San Diego, California. John has largely traveled through life as a single and childless rolling stone, collecting little moss. He has been employed in numerous industries: first as a KFC dishwasher, then a Red Lion busboy, followed by soda jerking for Dairy Queen. All of that occurred before Uncle Sam whispered in his ear and he donned the olive drab green as a soldier in the U.S. Army. After that non Yankee Doodle Dandy duty was over, he attempted a career in entertainment, performing comedy and magic. When those opportunities disappeared, John reappeared in the transportation industry as a taxi and truck driver. He's been a barkeep, a hotel manager, a street performer, a professional student, a business manager, a dispatcher, an oil field professional, and an IT/IS professional; He's even been a procurer of substances. John developed and maintains both HuntingForThompson.com and HALLESQUE.com. All of this basically makes him an omnipotent . . . (in his own mind, which, as he says: "Is all that counts").