There is a Facebook trend going around where you are supposed to tell people what you would say were you to die and find yourself at the pearly gates. It appears to be one of those ‘gotcha’ questions that evangelists keep on asking, only to be shocked at the answers. I think Fry answered it best (so I’ve dredged up that clip) but here is my answer.
What would I say to him? Well I guess that would all depend on what He was.
If god was an awareness at the very beginning of things, who gathered together the raw materials and announced “let there be light”, then that is different. I’d love to sit down with that being and ask him about pretty much everything. What bits did we get right, where did we not understand something, where were we so close to understanding the truth but just missed it. I’d love to sit down beside that being and watch it all play out, beginning to end. That would be incredible.
If God was a being that developed creation, then decided he wanted something more. He reached down into one little creature and tampered with it to give it both self-awareness and free will, then sat back to see how thing would unfold. Then that would be amazing too.I’d want to talk to them too, ask them where humanity surprised them, learn about what they found disappointing, and what things we did that impressed or surprised Him. I’d love to know what He thought about our many bumbling attempts at religions, and if any of them even came close.
If we’re going back to early polytheism with the Sumerian,or Greek gods, then I’d still have questions. We know these gods were practically human, they may have been gods but they were flawed. they were prone to petty jealousies, big mistakes, and temper tantrums. They were beings with power but no one to answer to, no consequences for their actions unless they upset another of their kind. They made no claim to being good or evil, they were just capricious and powerful. I could respect that, kind of like kids with an ant far, sure they might not be benevolent, but I can understand why.
However if you’ve got a god that is able to intervene in our world, is all knowing, and claims to be benevolent, then we have a problem. To quote Stephen Fry, “bone cancer in children, what is that about?” So much misery in this world is outside our control, but if it was within the control of an ultimate being its existence goes from being unfortunate to downright evil. Parasites that clog our bodies until we die? Diseases that leave people deaf, blind, crippled, or in pain. Each natural disaster becomes a petty attack on humanity, because as much as we are damaging the planet, we’re not the direct cause of it all. If that is God, I have no interest in meeting it, much less talking to it.
An all powerful creator could have removed all of these factors, without in any way compromising our free will. If He was leaving them to see how we would react, then that is not a being that could in any way be described as good. What sort of deity would send a thousand prophets, each with a different message? How is depression, or Alzheimers a divine blessing? Why give us organs that try and kill us, bodies that break down painfully as we age, and an inability to empathise with others of our own species. Worse still if God really does have a plan for each of of, if that’s the case we don’t even have free will, the terrible things that happen to us that we think are within our control are just as unavoidable. That would be a dark god that exists just to make His creations suffer, a psychopathic megalomaniac that is so ancient that only sadism truly entertains it now.
Stephen Fry’s answer below.