I own nothing but my dreams.
"It's an outrage, Crowley," said Aziraphale, frowning.
"Hm. I don't know," replied the demon, and picked up his wineglass.
They were sitting in the backroom of the bookshop upon this rainy Thursday, drinking merlot that had been raw firmament half-an-hour earlier, when Crowley had been at the door and realised he should have brought something. Which, of course, means he shouldn't have, but alcohol was a sin, so it'd be fine. Aziraphale had accepted it distractedly, and had- after getting some glasses out, of course- told his companion about the latest tragedy: the closing of .a local church. And from there, to the role of religion in the twenty-first century. Which meant a discussion of atheism. Ah, Crowley had thought when the subject came up, this won't be fun. But he had known it was coming, for a long time
"Well, you wouldn't. I imagine your people are all over this. Ha, you probably thought it up!" said Aziraphale, only half-joking.
"Atheism?" laughed Crowley, "no, no, this is very human. Official opinion's in favour, because if they don't care about hell, they're more likely to sin- well." He added, "They're more likely to sin when sins are fun. Lust, gluttony, sloth, that lot, sure. No threat of eternal suffering to stop them, you know? But, personally, I think there's going to be less of the serious sinning; and I think they're going to end up with fewer souls in all."
"Oh? Don't you get all the disbelievers? That's certainly what used to happen..."
"Mm, yeah. But atheists aren't disbelievers, as such. Back in the day, God'd stick His head down every so often, providing proof. Or there'd be a prophet to back Him up, or Jesus or a miracle or some such proof. But now, we're the only ones miracling around here, and I'm not sure the odd bottle of wine counts," said Crowley, matter-of-factly.
"Faith needs no proof," Aziraphale said uncertainly.
"Hah. That's one of the reasons I started hanging around with Lucifer's lot, actually. Why shouldn't there be proof? Why make the humans capable of logic-"
"You're the one who gave them logic," pointed out Aziraphale, cutting Crowley off.
"Yeah, but we've talked about that. Upstairs made the bloody tree."
"You were saying? About faith?"
"Yeah- this isn't about all that. Back when the Bible was written, it offered the only source of morality and ethical code- not that I agree with it, of course," said the demon. "Goes without saying, really."
"Anyway?" asked Aziraphale, impatiently.
"Anyway, now, that's not true. Everyone's taught morality from birth. Don't steal. Don't fuck too many people, or the wrong people. Don't bloody worship graven images."
"And you're saying that so long as this moral code is close enough to God's, then His purpose is served in these people, and they're saved by what they would call their own humanity?"asked Aziraphale, thoughtfully.
"Yeah, somethn' like that. And so hell loses out, because they aren't getting the atheists' souls automatically, and there're fewer people looking out to "serve hell" by sinning, and hardly anyone sells their souls these days."
"It's a nice theory, now, dear, but I still can't exactly see heaven supporting it."
"Why not? God works in mysterious ways, right?"
"Hm, but you saw the lengths he used to go to test people's faith."
"So the Guy's ego problem's sorted out."
"Please, I hardly think the Lord-" said Aziraphale, sounding mildly offended. No matter how long he spent with the demon, he could never quite get used to his casually heretical comments.
"Sor-ry," said Crowley, rolling his eyes towards the heavens.
"Anyway, is the point of Christianity really to just get people behaving themselves? Shouldn't, really, they do that anyway?"
"They are doing it anyway-that's my point. And, can I also point out, they are only doing it themselves, as such, because of me?" said the demon, smugly.
"Not everything's up to you, you know."
"Pretty close, though. Seriously, I'd say I was better than old Lucy if I didn't know he was listening."
"Oh, do come on, Crowley dear. And, anyway, we were talking about atheism?" anything, thought Aziraphale, if it means I don't have to listen to you talk about your accomplishments. He'd never forget the time he'd let the demon talk and had heard him, an hour later, comparing himself to God. "True humanity," he had been saying, "isn't about the empty shells your God created. It's about what was in the apple. And that's me, see?" Aziraphale had refrained from arguing. He knew he couldn't win when it came to the demonic ego.
"Yeah," said Crowley now," Guess we were." The angel could hear the disappointment in his voice.
The argument didn't end until they were finally too drunk to bother, reasoning going around in circles, becoming less and less coherent as time went on. And they left atheism at that, for a long time.
Until a Sunday, in fact. A rather odd Sunday.