God's Purpose

by Miriam English

I was writing an article about the nature of god, based on the fact that in strongly religious populations murder, poverty, disease, illiteracy, and unhappiness are much greater than in non-religious populations.

The main argument in my article was that this becomes easy to understand if religion is intended to disadvantage those who believe in it. This works the same way as people who love war and violence tend to be killed off by those very things, and as a result, our species gradually shifts toward greater intelligence, peacefulness, and the desire for genuine understanding of the universe.

Suddenly a woman's voice came from behind me, "Hey."

I jumped out of my seat and turned. Standing about an arm's reach away was a breathtakingly beautiful woman. Her skin was the color of dark chocolate, she had long, black hair and wore jeans and a white shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbows. When I'm working I lock the house so I'm not disturbed. My heart in my mouth, I demanded, "Who are you? How did you get in here?"

"I'm the god," she said, indicating the article on my computer's screen.

I tried to frown, attempting to look serious at the heart-meltingly gorgeous woman before me. "Who are--" My mouth dropped open as she disappeared and instantly reappeared a meter to my right.

"I'm god," she repeated, then after a moment of me standing there gaping she stepped forward and pinched me on the arm — hard.

"Yeow!" I jumped backward, banging my desk, scattering pens, USB drives, and my stupid little ornaments. "What'd you do that for?"

She shrugged, "You were wondering if you were dreaming."

I sat down heavily in my chair. Either I was going mad...

"No," she said.

Or I'd taken some weird drug...

"No," she said.

Or I was in a very realistic dream.

"Want me to pinch you again?"

I put my hand over the spot on my arm. It still hurt. "You can hear my thoughts?"

"Not exactly, but I see what you're thinking if I decide to."

"Why are you here?"

She sighed, "There's something I probably have to do and I want to talk about your article for a little while first."

"Wow! Yeah. Wow!" My mind stumbled and I tried to pull myself together. "Actually there are some things I'd like to ask you."

"Sure. Why the hell not?" She gave a dazzling smile. "Why don't you go first."

I took a deep breath, "Childhood cancer, millions dying of starvation, animals having to kill each other to survive... what's the deal with making a world like that?"

"You'll solve cancer soon, and you're working toward fixing starvation. These things drive you to do better and learn more. Balancing ecologies requires death. Evolution doesn't work without death."

I took another deep breath and tried again, "The problem of evil, crooked preachers, the holocaust, pedophile priests, wars driven by religion?"

"Evil, genocide, the insanity of the church? You've already explained those in your article. Humans do those, not me. I've arranged it so they gradually remove themselves from humanity."

"But I know many good and kind who people are sucked into religion. Many don't have a choice because they're indoctrinated into it, or are pushed into it by other things. I mean, it's not targeted very well, is it."

She shrugged again, "I never said it was perfect, but it does work. It's a slow filter, doing its thing gradually, over centuries, not instantly. Humanity is becoming more peaceful and more moral and all religion is dying."

"But couldn't you have arranged it so only the nasty ones get caught up in it? I mean, you're all-powerful, omnipotent, able to do anything, right?"

"Yes, I'm able to do anything... within limits."

"Within limits? But limits don't apply to omnipotence."

"You don't get it. There are limits to everything. When I created this universe I set up the physical laws. I work within those laws... mostly. I can break them, but it's a hassle. I have to fix lots of little broken things. It makes more sense to work within the way I set up the world."

"So... miracles?"

She laughed, "Nah. Why would I turn water into wine? Or bring someone back from the dead? Or have Jesus walk on water? Just stupid legends."

"Jesus? He existed?"

She nodded. "Yeshua. He was a nice guy, but just another deluded preacher. What made him different was his message of peace and love, instead of preaching killing and revenge as all the other, more popular messiahs at that time were, and there were lots of them. He didn't have many followers. The nasty ones were always far more successful. I didn't really mind him spreading good morality, but the church at the time hated him passionately. They had him killed."

"Why didn't you stop them?"

"Don't be ridiculous. You know why. Hate, violence, and immoral behavior — those are really the whole point of religion. He actually became a bit of a problem later, when interest in his message began to grow. Marcion of Sinope compiled the first Bible and completely omitted the entire crazy, violent Old Testament. That was a bit annoying. I'd put a lot of time and effort into getting idiots to write that lunacy. Even worse, Marcion only had a select few bits of what's now the New Testament, mostly avoiding contradictions, and just preaching that people should be good to each other. I was going to delete him, which would have been a lot of bother — so many loose ends to fix — but the early Christian church leaders saved me the trouble." She laughed. "Those clowns declared him a heretic and had all copies of his Bible destroyed. Saved me a lot of problems." She laughed again. "Something similar happened again later when Pelagius started speading the idea that Jesus just wanted people to be good to one another, that they didn't need to believe in me. I can't have religion making sense. That'd be a real headache. He became a bit of a pest. I had a whisper in the ear of creepy Augustine of Hippo so that he called Pelagius a heretic, and had him imprisoned. He was going to have him executed too, but he escaped with the help of friends. But that's okay. His teachings mostly died out."

I was appalled. "Excuse me for saying, but all this sounds like you're trying to foster evil."

She frowned at me. "Religion is your creation, not mine. I'm just using it to improve your stupid species by removing some of the worst elements."

It occurred to me it's probably not a good idea to antagonise the god in front of me. "Okay," I tried to think of more neutral topics. "Worship, souls, heaven and hell, satan, an afterlife?"

She rolled her eyes. "It amazes me that religious people never seem to realise how insulting it is to think I'm so needy and insecure as to require worship. Yeah, all nonsense and myth. But you already know this. It's all explained in your article. I thought you'd have better questions. I'm a little disappointed."

I sat back and pondered for a moment, then remembered some things said online recently by a guy named Stephen, "What's dark matter? What's the deal with 1/137 popping up all over? Where did all the antimatter go from the Big Bang? How can we fit general relativity and quantum mechanics together?"

Her face lit up with that amazing smile again and she rubbed her hands together. "That's more like it. There is no dark matter; you misunderstand gravity. The number 1/137 is just a number, just like pi is merely a number (I prefer Tau). The Big Bang is simply your era's version of epicycles. The JWST will help, but when you build the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope on the far side it will explain much, much more, trust me. Exciting times ahead. Relativity is mostly right, however quantum mechanics is really statistics, like the gas laws. You know — Boyle's law, ‎Charles's law, ‎Gay-Lussac's law. But you're almost there. You'll love it. You just need better tools to give you a proper understanding. And you need to get rid of mysticism in quantum physics. Collapsing wave function?" She laughed. "Schrödinger's cat should have been the end of that silliness."

I nodded. "What about life elsewhere in the universe?"

"Yep. Heaps of it."

"Intelligent life?"

"Yes, lots of that too."


"That depends on what you mean. Termites, bees, ants, wasps all have civilisations. But I know what you mean, of course. No, not many technological civilisations like humans have. They're extremely rare. They depend upon a very unlikely set of circumstances. You have to be intelligent, yet very unfit to survive. Most species that are unfit don't survive long. I have to admit I gave you a little bit of help in the early days." She shook her head, "No, not the early days you're thinking. I occasionally dabbled between about 3 million years ago up until about six thousand years ago, but I didn't really do much. Just protected a few smarter individuals. Taught them some things, helped with language. That kind of crap."

That was uplifting. "So we humans really are special?"

"If by 'special' you mean intellectually and emotionally stunted, then yeah. Most other civilised species are much nicer and smarter. Still, you're an interesting side-project."

I wasn't sure how to take that. I leaned back in my chair and indicated her with a wave of my hand, "So god is actually a gorgeous black woman?" A stunningly beautiful woman. I could feel my pulse thumping in my ears. She was unbelieveably attractive.

She smiled again, "This is probably my favorite avatar."

"So you don't look like this? Are you really female?"

"Of course I don't look like this. We're not human. We're gods. But yes, I'm female."

"Wait... what? We?"

"Well yeah. Of course. What? You thought there'd just be one god?"

I was stuck for an answer.

She said, "There are millions of us, Babe. Some of us make toy universes like this one, some have other hobbies."

"Hang on, where are you really then?"

"The answer to that won't make much sense to you. Think of it this way: if you program a virtual world on a computer how do you explain to an inhabitant of that world where you really are? Their world is infinite, but you're outside it. I'm not in any direction; I'm just outside. I'm finite in size, but I'm bigger than your entire universe, even though your universe is infinite."

My mind was trying to grapple with this.

She dismissed it, "Don't worry about it. It's completely unimportant."

Then what she said a moment ago suddenly struck me, "Wait. This is all just a toy, a hobby to you? All the death and suffering? What the fuck?"

She narrowed her eyes at me, "I already told you. Those things you hate? You do them. Not me. All those insane religions? The political fanatics? The absurd wars over petty things? They're your work. Other civilised species don't have them. They're a human special. I've just ensured they gradually improve your species. And of course, death is required by evolution."

"But surely there's a way to evolve living things without death?"

She gave me a condescending look, "Don't be stupid. Think about it for a moment. A planet full of immortals will never evolve. Many worlds with life are like that, where life is stuck at only single-celled plants. They might never progress much. But even there they have accidental death, which produces very slow evolution."

She sighed. "Look... the suffering bothers me too, that's why I've tried to set things up so religion and politics and the hateful and violent people all gradually eliminate themselves. I can't do anything dramatic to quickly fix things because that'd leave indisputable evidence of me. That'd undermine the nicely self-correcting system I've established. It's worked pretty well over thousands of years. Not much longer now and religion and most other irrational beliefs will be gone forever, leaving humanity mostly good and able to work together altruistically, like most of the incredibly rare intelligent civilised species in the universe. If I left real evidence that I existed, it would mess badly with that. I'd probably have to wipe humans out with a 100% deadly pandemic — I might still do that if you idiots don't start fixing your climate, biodiversity, and pollution messes soon — then I'd start working on perhaps the crows or some parrots... elephants are pretty good candidates... octopus show a lot of promise. Just a tiny change to increase their lifespan..."

She shook her head, "Anyway, that's not why I came here to see you."

"Oh?" I perked up, very interested to know why she'd chosen me, out of all humanity to reveal herself to. I felt pleased and rather flattered.

"I wanted to congratulate you on working out my purpose. I'm impressed. I like you, so it's a pity I have to delete you."


"I can't afford to let people know I really do exist. You understand."

I was horrified. "But... but won't that upset things if I just disappear? There'll be an investigation and it will stir up interest."

She laughed, "No, not really. I could make it so you'd never actually been born, but that's more trouble than it's worth, fixing all the tiny ripple effects. They're a real pain. Your landlord is the only one who will really be interested, and he'll assume you just skipped out on the rent, so he'll keep the bond. He was going to keep it anyway. Nobody will really miss you."


She shrugged, "Just telling you like it is."

Desperate now, an idea occured to me, "Wait," I held up my hand, "wait. The piece I've written... I'll make it a short story. That will amuse atheists, continuing to suit your purpose and you won't need to delete me. Yeah?"

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