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So, there I was, smoking up again, just for a change, listening to Stevie Wonder, and he recommended I have a talk with God, and while I was sitting here at my keyboard, God announced Themself.  First, They appeared as Valerie Bertinelli.

Valerie:               I understand you wanted to talk to Me?

Fred:                    Are you God or Valerie Bertinelli?

Valerie:               I’m God, but I didn’t think appearing to you as a bearded man on a throne was likely to produce the desired results.  You would never have accepted Me in that form.  You would have assumed someone laced your weed.

Fred:                    God is talking to me as Valerie Bertinelli.  I’ve come to that conclusion already.

Valerie:               Humans are supposed to worship God.  You don’t.  The closest you come to worshipping anyone is Valerie Bertinelli.  So, I’m showing up as her.  So now you can worship Me.

Fred:                    I don’t worship Valerie Bertinelli.  I’ve been secretly in love with her for 40 some-odd years, but I would never kneel to her.  I would never tell her I’m unworthy or whatever.  I would be very Fan Boyish with her, I’m sure.  It’s not unlikely I would be unable to speak a coherent sentence, but that’s not worship… At least not in the sense Christians tend to mean.

Valerie:               Christians are such a tiny part of the universe.  They’re not even close to the only ones who have some form of belief in Me.  Even you have enough belief in Me for this conversation to take place, and you’re a not-particularly-militant Atheist. 

Fred:                    I don’t believe some supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being created the universe, and I certainly don’t believe any such being would care in the least what any of us do with our genitals.

Valerie:               Well, you’re right about that part.  It really doesn’t matter to Me, so long as it’s consenting adults.  I haven’t been too impressed with the Catholics, too many of whom sexually abuse children, but the Drag Queens don’t bother me in the least.  There are and have always been some pretty devout believers who have done lousy things and blamed them on Me.  Of course, that’s true for Atheists, too.   Drag Queens are just a distraction from real problems you folks need to solve.  Some of you do it by deciding what I want, as though you’re honestly smart enough to understand the mind of The Universe.  That always amuses me.  And then there are those who staunchly deny anything supernatural.  And yet, even you frequently admit that “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.”

Fred:                    This is true.  But God wouldn’t misquote Shakespeare.  It’s “YOUR philosophy,” not “our philosophy.”

Valerie:               It was “our philosophy” in the original draft.  I gave Bill the right line, and some 9-year-old urchin miscopied it when they were stealing the play at The Globe, and everyone believed the kid.  Bill didn’t care enough to argue over a single letter.  You humans make some odd choices about what you will believe.  Anyway, I have unlimited time, what with being God and all, but I know you don’t.  Would you like to ask anything?

Fred:                    How much time, exactly, do I have?

Valerie:               Do you really want to know that?

Valerie Bertinelli smiled in a way that seemed less like God and more like Barbara Cooper.

Fred:                    No.  I suppose not.  Don’t you have more important things to do than talk to an entirely unknown podcaster?”

Valerie:               I have an infinite number of more important things to do.  Fortunately, since I’m God, I’m doing all of them even as we speak.  Among those things, I’m also making a delicious all-in-one breakfast smoothie, singing lyrics into the ears of 11 different composers, and giggling quietly at people on their knees making themselves think they’re better than you. 

I hate to tell you, but you’re not really a very advanced species.  There are some interesting silicone-based life forms in Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy who have an interesting idea that I’m a very high-tech computer.  I’m also conceived by the Ant People of Jellico Seven as a very large peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  There are actual wars concerning whether you should put both peanut butter and jelly on both slices of bread, or put peanut butter on one slice and jelly on the other.  And you humans are no better with your equally deadly arguments about equally trivial issues.

Fred:                    I probably won’t publish this.  I’m losing listeners at an alarming rate as it is, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t going to be pissed off at me for any questions I would want to ask. 

Valerie:               Do you really think you’re the only person on Earth who would like to ask Me questions?  Does it even cross your tiny mind that you couldn’t possibly have any questions in your mind that millions of others don’t share with you?  Whether they are staunch Atheists or devout Evangelicals of one form or another, everyone has questions for God. 

Fred:                    Lots of people won’t like the answers you give.  They’ll say I invented them, and they’re bullshit.

Valerie:               Then I would begin by posing this question:  If God is omnipotent, and if everything is God’s Will, doesn’t it follow that God chose for you to write this? 

Fred:                    Theologians will burn that argument at the stake from one side, and Atheists will deconstruct it in every minute detail on the other.  God knows that.

Valerie:               Yes, I do.  So, do you want to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin next, or should we accept that everyone sees God, The Universe, Allah, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, The Mystical PBJ, or The Ultimate Computer, or any of the more than 300,000 versions of me in Hinduism, in their own ways?  There are life forms in 31 different galaxies that perceive me as a bowl of petunias.  George Burns played me once in a pretty good film version, and no one hated John Denver for appearing in it.  You’re not supposed to be worried about your numbers anyway.  Your commitment is to Art, not Commerce. 

Fred:                    This is true.  It’s a little lonely to lose listeners though.  I keep losing friends.  It messes with my head. 

Valerie:               You’re talking to God.  Isn’t that pretty good evidence that your head is already something of a mess?  I mean, who even does that?

Fred:                    Evidently, I do.  I wonder if that’s evidence that I’m mentally ill.

Valerie:               You could be The Mentally Ill Podcaster.  You could go viral.

Fred:                    I’d rather not.

Valerie:               Then shut up about losing listeners, and let’s talk.

Fred:                    Okay.  It feels wrong to be physically attracted to God.

Valerie:               Zeus slept with more than 50 mortals. 

Fred:                    Turns out I’m not Zeus.  Neither are you.

Valerie:               I could be.  Perhaps you would be more comfortable asking me questions if I were in the form of someone you trust with the answers.  Let’s try this.

(Strange sounds as Valerie reshapes herself into Carl Sagan.)

Carl:                     Is this more acceptable?  Are you ready to ask the biggest question on everyone’s mind?  If you can’t trust Carl Sagan with the answer, who would you trust? 

Fred:                    Well, it’s absurd to interview God without asking: is there an afterlife?

Carl:                     Of course there is.  Time is endless.  There was a very long time before you existed.  There was life prior to you.  That would be The Before Life.  There will continue to be life after you exist.  I, for example, don’t exist anymore.  I died in 1996, and here is all this life continuing after my life.  That’s The After Life.  But that’s not really what you want to know, is it?

Fred:                    What is the Afterlife like?  Do we exist in any other form after we die?

Carl:                     You’ll be in a form like the form you had prior to your existence.  The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.  I’m the universe.  I’m offering you the chance to get to know me so I can get to know myself.

Fred:                    A good friend asked me to ask why so many perceive You as male.  Or even human?

Carl:                     It’s built into many humans.  You tend to believe males are the authority figures, and is there any authority greater than God?  That pretty much necessitates seeing Me as male.  I kind of prefer being seen as a quasar or a collection of atoms scattered through the universe, but you’re not capable of that. 

Fred:                    Are you male?

Carl:                     You know better than that.  You’re making Me far too small.  I’m everything.  I’m male and female and transgender and human and a dolphin and an insect and The Moon and Jupiter and the homeless child, and the minister at every church, and every Atheist in the universe, and everything else there is.  I’m The Ant People and the computer the Silicone Folks think I am.  I’m a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I’m the weed you were smoking a few minutes ago. 

Fred:                    So, are you the Christian God or the Muslim God or a Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jewish, or some other God?

Carl:                     Yes.  I’m all of those, and I am many more.  Stop thinking so small.  I’m you.  I’m your listeners.  I’m your readers.  I’m everyone and everything.  This is just how you perceive me because you’re only human and you can’t perceive all of what I am. 

Fred:                    I hate to do it because I’m about to piss off a WHOLE bunch of people, but you know I have to ask.  Why should I believe you exist?  That’s the biggest question of all.

Carl:                     The evidence of your own senses should be plenty.  You see me and you hear me.  Why not accept that and be happy with it? 

Fred:                    There are quite a few reasons.  First, my listeners don’t have that evidence.  They have only my report of it, and I’m not entirely reliable.  I would doubt anyone giving me this sort of testimony because my favorite scientist once said…

Carl:                     Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Fred:                    A podcast provides no extraordinary evidence.  Neither would a video.  With the current state of technology, even someone on my miniscule budget can create convincing videos of things that simply never happened. 

Carl:                     That’s an objection for your listeners, though, not for you.  You’re here perceiving this.  Why not trust the evidence of your senses?

Fred:                    I have Dickens for that.  “Because… a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

Carl:                     I’m not claiming to be the ghost of your dead business partner.

Fred:                    No.  You’re making an even more extraordinary claim.  You claim to be God.  I’m assuming you’re saying you’re omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and, for good measure, omnibenevolent? 

Carl:                     There are those who perceive Me that way. 

Fred:                    Are they right?(Strange noises as Carl Sagan transforms himself into Aaron Sorkin.)

Aaron:                 You really want to explain the thirteen thousand reasons that’s logically impossible, don’t you?

Fred:                    And now you’re Aaron Sorkin?

Aaron:                 You might as well get all the people you worship in on the game, don’t you think?

Fred:                    Is Harper Lee dropping by too?

Aaron:                 I’m not enough?  I wrote A Few Good Men.  That, by itself, should give me all the credentials I need.  Throw in The West Wing, The Newsroom, which you quote about every three days, and The American President, and I’m as God-like to you as Sagan or Bertinelli. 

Fred:                    The American President isn’t your best work.

Aaron:                 I know.  I was learning.  But it was better than ending on The Money Game, don’t you think?  If you were listing your writing credentials, I don’t feel like you’d wind up on Mixed Messages would you?

Fred:                    No one’s ever read that, but it’s not bad.

Aaron:                 Your former best friend read it once like 13 years ago.  And it’s whiny bullshit.  You know better.  Now, do you really feel the need to impress everyone with your logical leaps of faith and explain why God, in the form those who annoy the hell out of you believe in Him, can’t exist?  Or, would you rather talk about something less often discussed? 

Let’s not go after the shiny objects.  There’s poker in Molly’s Game.  There’s decadence, and sex, and all the ugly things that have to be there, but that’s not what the movie is about.  Learn from my example.  That’s the point of having heroes, isn’t it?  Figure out when to turn left while anyone else would certainly turn right.

Fred:                    If I’m going to talk to my favorite living writer, I’m going to let him guide me.  I’m not going to tell you where to take it. 

Aaron:                 Then let’s talk about what really matters. 

Fred:                    There are so many things that fit under that category.  Ending poverty and homelessness.  Ensuring everyone has enough to eat.  Getting Speedy Shine to stop snapping at me.

Aaron:                 And you want the solution to all those problems?

Fred:                    Of course.

Aaron:                 Humans created all those problems.  You did it by setting unreasonable standards by which to measure yourselves: money, physical beauty, social status, intellect.  These are all human ideas.  Humans can change them.  No one needs to walk on water or wave a magic wand.  You’re allowed to drop those standards whenever you choose.  You can choose others.  You can also decide to stop measuring each other entirely.  You could try just accepting everyone as they are.  You change the universe by changing your mind.  That’s it.  That’s the whole answer.

Fred:                    We both know that the majority of people who come across this will reject that answer. 

Aaron:                 Do we decide truth by a vote? 

Fred:                    Sometimes.

Aaron:                 There was a time when a popular vote would have declared the Earth to be flat. 

Fred:                    When we know better, we do better.

Aaron:                 I’m sure Maya Angelou would tell you we all have a responsibility to the planet, to the universe, to help each other to be our best selves.  I think you’ve heard this somewhere before.  “… every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.  This is a time for heroes.  We will do what is hard.  We will achieve what is great.  This is a time for heroes, and we reach for the stars.”  And I’ll give credit where it’s due.  That’s Aaron Sorkin in The West Wing, but you knew that.

With that, God evaporated, and I was once again in control of my keyboard. 

That was my experience.  Make of it what you will.

And, yes.  I love you.