Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I just saved my ass, motherfuckers.
"Based on the evidence, we see, clearly, that evolution is true, the Bible is false, and God most likely does not exist. With that, I say: Stop worrying, and enjoy your life. Good day, everybody."
The audience stood and clapped profusely, and hooted and cheered. Dr. Richard Gawkins, best-selling author and popular scientist, had just delivered another magnificent lecture on evolution and atheism.
Right in the belly of the beast, the head and heart of the Church, the Vatican, Gawkins demolished every single argument that had been put forward in favor of religion and Catholicism just hours ago by veteran bishops and cardinals. The Pope shook his head as he watched the lecture on television, certainly regretting his idea of inviting Gawkins to St. Peter's Square for a live televised all-out debate with the best theologians of the Church.
The bishops and the cardinals weren't too pleased, either. Some were on the verge of tears.
Among these disheartened men of God was Cardinal Joseph Razzing. Cardinal Razzing was the Pope's right-hand man, the greatest professor of Catholic theology of the century, and the man rumored to be the next pope. But with his arguments embarrassingly torn apart by Gawkins, Cardinal Razzing felt unsure about the security of his desired promotion. As it was, the cardinals were whispering among themselves about whether or not Razzing was credible enough in the eyes of Catholics to become the next figurehead of the Church.
Cardinal Razzing was really fuckin' pissed off. He had been pissed off with Gawkins for the longest time, and he had just reached his limit.
Meanwhile, Dr. Gawkins, feeling high and happy, mingled with his fans who showered him with praise and congratulated him on his latest success. He signed autographs and posed with them for pictures. A handful of Catholics also came to him and attempted to stump him with on-the-moment religious questions. Gawkins answered them graciously, leaving many of them with doubts about their faith.
One of the Catholics wasn't so gracious himself, though. He didn't feel like arguing with Gawkins, but just felt he had to express his anger. So, he grabbed a megaphone, ran to the stage and shouted, "Dr. Gawkins... I hope you get hit by a church van and you die slowly. Yeah, fuck you. Hell is real and you're going there, you big fat moron!" Then, before the guards could catch him, he ran away and was out of sight.
Gawkins and his supporters merely laughed, while the other religious felt embarrassed about their fellow Catholic. They shook their heads in shame.
Only one Catholic smiled with the atheists: Cardinal Joseph Razzing.
That evening, Gawkins decided to have a sightseeing walk in Vatican City. He was on his own, going around, taking pictures and occasionally writing notes about the local zoology. Sometimes, people would approach him for a chit-chat or a photo op. Gawkins happily obliged.
Suddenly, from a blind corner, a Vatican van zoomed and slammed into the sidewalk and smashed directly at Gawkins, killing the atheist scientist immediately.
News of the death of Dr. Richard Gawkins spread around the world. People were shocked and stunned. His fans, fellow skeptics and intellectuals mourned his passing. The religious were also sad, for they had failed to convert Gawkins and were sure that he had gone straight to hell. As expected, some were secretly happy.
Investigations were made by the Vatican police regarding the incident. Although there were speculations that the death of Gawkins was due to murder, no perpetrator was identified and the Vatican closed the case as an accident.
Richard opened his eyes. A bright white light, brighter than anything he had ever seen, surrounded him, but strangely, he wasn't hurt by the glare.
"Where... am I?"
"You're dead," a voice said from nowhere.
"Dead? But that's impossible. If I'm dead, why can I still see and hear and think? And you haven't answered my question yet. Where am I?"
"You were hit by a van and you died immediately. You're now in the tunnel to heaven," came the reply. "This is the afterlife."
Richard tried to recall his latest memory. He was in the streets of Vatican, taking pictures. Then, there was a screech, and people screaming, and a sharp pain from behind, and darkness... and then, he found himself here.
"What kind of madness is this?" he demanded. "Who are you?"
"I am a servant of God," said the voice. "You are being taken to heaven."
Richard tried to stand up. Despite his best efforts, he found that he couldn't. His perception of space was messed up; he couldn't find up nor down, left nor right. Everywhere, it was just white empty space, and he felt that, somehow, he was speeding forward, or backward, to somewhere.
I must be dreaming, Richard thought to himself. This is just one crazy dream, and I will soon wake up in my hotel room, alive and well.
He kept on zooming through space, like a rocket, faster and faster until, suddenly, the white light just disappeared and he found himself standing outside a grand fortress.
"Pinch me," he gasped. "This is one stupefyingly elaborate, weirdly realistic dream."
Richard felt a painful pinch at the back of his neck. "Ow! What the hell-"
"You're not dreaming, young man," said the voice behind him. Richard looked to see who it was.
An old man, with a beard as white as newly fleeced wool and a bald head as shiny as an oiled coconut, smiled at him. "Welcome to heaven," he said. "I'm Saint Peter."
Richard rubbed his eyes. He looked at the old man, and he looked at his hands, and the yellowing grasslands around them, and the large stone bricks that made the wall surrounding the fortress. He slapped his own face once, twice, thrice- "Wake up, Richard. Wake up. Wake up!" he told himself again and again.
The old man held Richard's hand and stopped him from slapping himself. "As I said, you're not dreaming," he told him calmly. "You are really dead. This is heaven. I am Saint Peter. And, yes, you were wrong: There is a life after death, and you are in it now."
Richard fell to the ground on his knees, covered his face with his hands, and cried.
Peter put his hand around Richard's shoulder. "Come now. Dry those tears. There's nothing you can do about it now. What's done is done." He handed the newly dead atheist a handkerchief with which to dry his tears. "Are you afraid?"
"Not really. Just surprised," said Richard, when had stopped crying, "that my conclusion about the improbability of the existence of God, based on a lack of evidence, turned out to be wrong. No matter how much we scientists say, that if we are proven wrong we are going to admit it and accept it, it still hurts to have a cherished notion, which I have held for practically my entire life, shattered so abruptly. That's human nature for you, I suppose. Pride hurts."
"Yes. Pride is what sends people to their downfall. That same pride is what caused Lucifer to be cast out of heaven. I wasn't expecting you would acknowledge your mistake so easily, Dr. Gawkins. Perhaps, you still have a chance. Come, Overlord Yahweh wishes to see you." Peter took a key from his pocket and opened the gate to the fortress.
They walked silently. A gigantic castle loomed in the distance. That must be where God lives, Richard thought to himself. But if He is God, all-powerful creator of the universe, what use does He have for a castle? For a fortress? Why does He need protection from the elements? A place to sleep? Does God have need for sleep? And why are we walking to Him? Isn't God everywhere? Having been freshly slapped by the reality of God's existence, Richard had so many things in his mind. So many questions. He decided that, once he's already face to face with "Overlord Yahweh," as Peter had called Him, he would barrage the Almighty with his questions. He hoped that he would get some answers, before he is sent to hell.
"Why did God not provide any evidence for His existence? He could have easily-"
Peter raised a finger to Richard's lips. "Hush." Peter's voice was barely audible. "You are not allowed to question the Lord here, in His territory, or anywhere else. Do you understand?"
Richard felt startled and indignant at the reaction. He brushed away Peter's hand. "And why not?"
"Just because," and Peter was shaking, "God says so, and we must obey."
"That is so stupid! What is wrong with asking questions? And why did God give us humans the facility for reason if we're not supposed to use it?"
"You may question anything, anything... just not God!"
"And what is wrong with questioning God? Is He that insecure, of a measly human asking questions about His nature and His decisions?"
"He doesn't want it. Therefore, it is wrong! Is that not good enough?"
"No, of course that isn't good enough. That's not good at all. And why does God get the final say on what is permitted or not? So what if He is the creator of the universe. That does not make Him automatically right! What if He said raping your children was okay? Would that make it okay?"
"Please, Richard, calm down-"
"I've heard enough! Stop this prattle!" A loud voice boomed from all around the two men. Peter fell to his hands and knees, shaking in fear. Richard stood his ground.
A flash of lightning descended from the sky, and a clap of thunder cracked through the air, and a cloud of sand swirled around and around. Richard shielded his eyes and nose as the storm whirled around him, but he refused to fall down.
Finally, the storm cleared. "You're an obstinate one, Dr. Gawkins," said the booming voice. "You're exactly the kind of human I hate."
Richard uncovered his eyes. An abnormally tall, abnormally large, old Caucasian man, about ten stories high, stood before him.
"Overlord Yahweh," Peter whimpered, not even daring to look up, "I tried to stop him, but I-"
"Silence! You are not to talk unless I will you to!" The angry words of Overlord Yahweh made Peter convulse and cry even more. And to Richard, he said, "So, now I stand before you. I am God. I created the universe. You, Richard Gawkins, dedicated your life to denying My existence. What have you to say? Do you deny My existence still? Hmm?"
"No, I don't. Not anymore," Richard replied.
Overlord Yahweh laughed. "Ah, you atheists. You are so predictable. All your lives, you laugh at My followers and satirize My decrees, and refuse to accept that I exist. And then, when you are faced with the fate of being plunged into hell, you recant your disbelief. How laughable. How pathetic!"
"You get me wrong, sir," Richard said. "I do not acknowledge your existence because of a fear of hell. In fact, I do not fear going to hell. I am actually quite curious about the nature of hell, and a part of me is eager to go there, just to find out what it is all about. I acknowledge Your existence now, after all these years of saying that You most likely do not exist, for one reason: Evidence. I've said many times before that if I find evidence of Your existence, I would let go of my atheism and admit that I was wrong. I have kept my promise; and now, I say: God does exist, and He is Yahweh."
"Finally. I knew you would come around." Yahweh sneered. "But saying that I exist is not enough for you to earn salvation, especially after you have led so many sheep astray. There is one more thing that you have to do."
"And what is that?"
"Worship Me. Bow down to Me and serve Me for all eternity, just like My angels and all the saints who have come before you."
"What? Why should I serve You?"
"Because I am God, that's why! And you are not supposed to ask Me questions!"
"You megalomaniacal, tyrannical, narcissistic bastard. You don't provide proof of Your existence, then punish those who refuse to believe blindly in the face of no evidence? And You command that no one question You? You command that no one think for themselves? I refuse to worship You! If that is what heaven is about, if heaven is an eternity of mindless servitude under a dictator a million times worse than Hitler - You! - then I will gladly go to hell."
"So be it! Goodbye forever, Richard Gawkins!" Overlord Yahweh clapped his hands. The ground from beneath them shook violently, and crumbled under Richard's feet, sending the rebellious scientist straight into hell...
(to be continued)