The Antitheist’s Nightmare

 

For Sunday, another column I wrote for SciPhi Journal, with apologies to Bertrand Russell

The eminent antitheist and essayist Dr. Brussels dreamed that he died and found himself, against all expectation, at a pair of immense gates that shone like great pearls. He was shocked and rather apprehensive as he was met by a being that looked astonishingly human, like a king, with wings twice as long as he was tall.

“I see that I must be ill and hallucinating, or having an end-of-life experience,” he said. “For nothing else could explain the anthropomorphic delusion I am currently suffering.”

“You are not ill, but you are having an ‘end-of-life experience,’ said the being. “It is called Heaven.”

“Heaven could hardly exist,” Brussels replied, “And if it did, it certainly would not look at all like a mere Human conception.”

The being smiled. “Heaven can look as It pleases, though Its reality is indeed far deeper than any one species of the Creation could fathom, at least at first. You are expected.”

“But how could I be expected in Heaven?”

“That is hardly for me to judge, man,” said the being. “I am to take you to the Eternal.” And in no very long time, he was led through the glories of the Celestial City, where, to his great surprise, Brussels found himself standing in the Presence.

“My child,” said The Eternal. “You have come at last.”

“You cannot possibly judge me. Amid all the planets of all the stars of all the galaxies of the Universe, how could you possibly know who I am, let alone presume to judge my motivations, my circumstances, and my actions?”

“My dear child,” said The Eternal. “No one has yet mentioned judgment. But you devoted your life to the study of the Universe. How is it that you do not understand what “infinite” means? How could I possibly not know all about you? Is My time limited?”

“Of course I know what ‘infinite’ means,” said Dr. Brussels. “But I can hardly be expected to have spent much time upon speculation about Your attributes. My study was the facts of the Universe that were proven, and not about Your existence, which was entirely unproven.”

The Eternal replied, “And did your studies not teach you that the Universe I created had a beginning and was likely to have an end? And surely you learned that your own life had a beginning and an end: that was much more provable. You believed that because of your small size and short life, I could not possibly take any interest in you, and yet you devoted that almost nonexistent life to the study of the lifespan of a Thing that was also limited, but merely much larger. Did you think this a wise use of the time I had granted you?”

“Well,” he sputtered, “But You did not give me adequate proof of Your existence to make me think that studying You was likely to be of value.”

“I see,” smiled the Eternal. “And the fact that the vast majority of your fellow-humans spent a great deal of time on that very endeavor suggested nothing to you?”

“It suggested only that the ignorant love ignorance, for surely even You must agree that humans agree to believe things that are manifestly untrue,” Dr. Brussels riposted.

“Of course, child. You are correct. Tell Me, what sort of evidence would you have found acceptable?”

Feeling a little surer of himself, Dr. Brussels replied, “Any sort of physical evidence of your existence.”

“So you wanted Me, a Being larger than the Universe, to appear inside it?”

“Ah, but surely You could have made Yourself smaller, if You were indeed Infinitely capable.”

“So you believe I could have made myself small enough for you to perceive, but not that I could have paid attention to you? I could indeed have done so, and have,” replied the Eternal. “But then would you not have said that my small size proved Me an impostor?”

“Well,” said Dr. Brussels, “But You could have demonstrated Your power.”

“So, I might have come to Earth, perhaps disguised as a Human, and done miraculous works?” smiled the Infinite. “Or as a pillar of smoke and flame? If only there were records of such an event available for a learned man such as yourself to peruse.”

Dr. Brussels felt himself blushing at the trap he had nearly fallen into. “Records are hardly any use to a scientist concerned with truth!” he stated. “Only that which has been proven is acceptable.”

“I see. Then surely you, Dr. Brussels, performed every experiment of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, not to mention others we could both name, simply to make sure they were true. I am surprised, however, that you ever had time for anything else.”

“Of course I trusted the testimony of the great experts in my field,” Dr. Brussels said.

“But you did not trust the testimony of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus?”

“Of course not. Their methodology was flawed and their results untrustworthy.”

“Ah. So the lived experience of scientists about science was trustworthy, even to the extent of trusting them to point out the flaws of less capable scientists. But you could not trust the writings of theologians about theology because you had not shared their experiences directly, and they disagreed with one another.”

“But why,” asked Dr. Brussels, “could You not simply be with us all the time?”

“I believe you would have discovered that the answer to that question in the records to which I earlier referred. I withdrew because humans did not want My company as much as they wanted to discover truth in their own way, regardless of how harmful that could be, both to themselves and others. And now that I have withdrawn, humans ask where I Am. What would you have Me do, child?”

“You could at least, if you are so powerful, present Yourself to those who are honest and would be amenable to reason individually, so that they might have a chance of knowing you!” snapped Dr. Brussels.

“Of course, I could, child,” replied the Infinite. “And it would need to be personal, direct, and in a similar manner, so that those enlightened men you describe would know that it was from Me, and would have cause to humble themselves, and follow.”

“Yes!” cried Brussels. “So why don’t you do that?”

And he awoke in his home.

“Strange, the delusions that will overtake even the most serious and scientific minds,” he muttered.

Lost In Space Opera

A Patreon post I just felt like sharing further.

“Sir, I think we’re in a Space Opera.”
“Why is that, Commander?”
“Well, sir, look at the situation. Here we are in our prototype starship that’s supposed to be able to outfight, outfly and outlast anything that’s ever been put in space.”
“Once we’ve got all the experimental systems working properly.”
“Exactly. And we’re the only ship in the quadrant.”
“On the same day that…”
“…the Treacherous Empire is supposed to parade its decommissioned fleet before our entire Starfleet and sign a Treaty of Eternal Peace and Friendship.”
“Oh, hell.”
“Also, the President’s beautiful and inexplicably intelligent twin daughters are aboard for reasons that will never be fully explained, but allegedly have to do with being so darned smart that they’ll be able to help us out with those experimental systems.”
“Well, commander, it looks as though we’ll need to break it to the crew. They deserve to know. Officers only, though: the men’s morale would plummet. They’re all dead men.”
“And women, sir.”
“This is your first Space Opera, isn’t it, Commander?”
“Which of us do you think is the hero?”
“Let’s think about this, Commander. You started this conversation by bringing me an overthought analysis of the situation we find ourselves in, while I have iron-gray hair and a deep, commanding baritone voice. Are you familiar with my service record?”
“Yes, sir. You have a reputation for troubling High Command with your bold command style and refusal to play by the rules.”
“While you are a graduate of the Academy with top honors and do things by the book.”
“I’m… not getting any while I’m on this ship, am I?”
“Only if it’s an enemy agent desperate to worm secrets out of you, son. Or, you know, an alien who turns out to be male or a gender humans don’t even have. For laughs.”
“Dammit.”

William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act III, Scene iv

Dear Readers Of This Epic Shakespearean Science-Fiction Adventure:

I am in the process of doing more writing than ever before, and this is causing me to face some painful decisions: one of them is what to do about the William Shakespeare’s Dune Project, which is an unpaid labor of love. 

I will admit that I was tempted to move this project to my Patreon site, making it accessible for my patrons only. But honestly, I hate when creators I follow do things like that, so I have decided to keep this project here, and free.

This does, however, come at some cost to me. The writing I am doing for pay is going to have to come first. If you want to encourage this project to continue to update weekly, I ask that you support me by joining me on Patreon. You can get access to my patron feed for as little as $1.00 per month. Honestly, at this point, I would far rather have 10 patrons at the $1.00 level than one patron at the $10.00 level.

So if you have valued this project, as I know some of you have, I ask you to do the following:

1) Support me on Patreon, and let me know you’re supporting me because of this. Trust me, I will take the hint and keep up on this project.

2) Spread the word about this project to other Dune and Shakespeare sites or groups you might be part of. One fan talking about it once is more effective than all the talking about it I can do.

3) Finally, take the time to let me know you’re enjoying it, because that matters, too. Often, this whole blog feels like shouting into the void, so encouragement matters, too, although promotion and donation is even better. As the Reduced Shakespeare Company famously noted: “Give us your cash, if we be friends/And deduct it when the tax year ends.”

Thank you all.

And now, Without Further Ado About Nothing As Much As You Like It, we present Act III, Scene iv, in which Paul Atreides sets forth his plan to dominate the galaxy to both of his loyal followers.