“STOP THE KILLING, I’M RUNNING OUT OF VIRGINS!” -God

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“God will see you now.”

The woman at the door regarded me behind her veil with eyes of smouldering kohl.

“Are you of the faith?” she asked as I stepped inside an ornate, gilded mansion that would have boggled Croesus.

“I’m willing to believe anything if I can keep company with you,” I ventured, craning my neck to scope out a place that seemed to combine home, cathedral and art museum on a gargantuan scale. But my flippant flirtation fell flat.

Brusquely gesturing for me to follow, my guide informed me over her shoulder: “It doesn’t work that way.”

Gliding ahead with a desert gait I’d admired during my service with the Gulf Environmental Emergency Response Team, she dropped one of her diaphanous veils every few meters. My breath quickened with each cast-off illusion. But the seventh and last veil stayed stubbornly in place. Obviously, I did not merit the final rewarded glimpse of… enlightenment.

More spry than I’d imagined, I found God in his office. The old codger was  seated in mid-air above a large desk covered with some 7 billion “waybills” representing every newly arriving, sojourning or departing soul on Earth. As I approached, an angel fluttered overhead, took aim like a seagull, and dropped another stack of birth certificates into an already overflowing “In” tray.

“I never imagined what a monster I was creating, inventing humans,” God sighed, waving me to a conventional chair. “Dealing with so many requests would be impossible if I hadn’t thought up the Internet and email to keep people distracted.”

I grinned. But there was little humor in his smile. God looked stressed dealing with just one paltry planet out of 17,000 parallel universes.

“How’s the birth rate doing?” I inquired.

“It’s finally dropping wherever the Internet takes hold,” God replied. “People who stay up every night staring at a monitor are too zoned to get it on.

“But it still doesn’t make my work much easier,” he went on. “The demands keep piling up from people who squander the two greatest gifts I can bestow – life itself, and free will – and still think I owe them personal round-the-clock attention. You would not believe the abuse I get from so-called religious people when I don’t drop everything to fulfill some unearned whim or desire!”

I could only mumble my sympathy. Wasn’t playing God supposed to be fun?

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THE BIGGEST COMMANDMENT OF ALL
“How did you find me?” God asked, leaning back on empty air. “Most people think I live on a cloud in the sky. And the rest are convinced I don’t even exist.”

“I remembered something about you occupying a mansion with many rooms,” I replied. “And I figured being God, it must be pretty big. So I started knocking on doors. Still, I didn’t expect to find you in D.C.”

God laughed delightedly. “Even though I’m bedeviled by rip-off real estate hucksters, it lets me keep a closer eye on the biggest liars, thieves and terrorists. How do you like my digs?”

“Well, if you don’t mind me saying, it does seem somewhat ostentatious, what with so many people going hungry and the rest wanting new cars,” I replied. “Just the art on the walls must be worth gazillions.”

“Remember, I might have to stay here until some fanatic finally triggers Armageddon,” God said. “Especially after my son let on that I’m providing free accommodation to everyone who follows my most important commandment…”

“Which is?” I blurted, whipping out my notebook. “Sorry to interrupt.”

“’Be nice,’” God said.

“And since most people are nice – at least those who love all my children, and aren’t totally hypnotized watching teevee or being owned by a lot of stuff,” he continued, “I’ve got to accommodate a lot of souls. What’s the rush to get here, anyway? Haven’t people figured out that the pleasures of the flesh are exclusive to embodiment?”

I shrugged. “Guess not.”

THE 11th COMMANDMENT
A golden beam of light shot from the fingers he pointed at me.

“Write this down,” he commanded. “The creatures I created – the birds and flowers of the field, the dolphins and whales in the sea, the big cats in the jungle – immerse themselves in each moment, without worrying about how much cash they might be making by doing things that go against their nature.

“I never thought humans would take such a big bite out of the Big Apple. Or show such ingratitude for birdsong, sunshine, or the caress of a lover or warm breeze on their skin. But no. Ever since those devilish bankers invented interest on debt, people seem hell bent on ignoring the lessons I allow them to arrange for themselves…”

God shook his head.

“I’m expecting a big influx of arrivals once climate shift, global famine, war, disease and $50 a gallon gas really kick in,” he resumed. “And don’t think housing so many souls is easy. Most people indulge such bizarre belief systems, they end up here expecting something completely different. And they usually express their disappointment at maximum volume!”

God grimaced. “You’d better warn everyone that the bedlam of all their complaining is about to see me impose an 11th commandment.”

“Which is?” I prompted.

“Stop whining!”

God was nearly shouting, “What do so many selfish souls have to complain about, after I gifted each one of them with the miracle of life itself?” he demanded.

“Lack of milk and honey,” I guessed. “And the 70 virgins supposedly assigned to each ‘successful’ suicide bomber. If that’s the right description.”

God leaned forward in mid-air. “You’ve got to tell them to stop all that killing,” he said, looking into my eyes. “I’m running out of virgins.”

STOP-LOSS VIRGINS
“That’s a big request,” I replied. “Suicide bombing’s gaining popularity among despairing and oppressed peoples everywhere, who simply don’t see any other way to stop an ignorant Hyperpower and its proxies from killing their families and destroying their homes. With the White House taken over by fundamentalists talking and acting exactly like the Taliban they once funded, a formerly democratic country armed with more weapons than all other nations combined is running amok and trashing the entire planet.”

God waved me into silence.

“I hate being beholden to mistranslators of my Word,” he admonished. “Now, they’re even discriminating against women suicide bombers, who don’t seem to merit 70 blond surfer hunks for their misguided murders. Still, for each so-called male ‘martyr’ I’m expected to pony up 70 houris. Otherwise, if I withhold, I’ll be accused of interfering in their destinies. Not to mention all the people who would still be alive if wannabe suicide bombers knew where they’re really going to end up if they push that plunger.”

“So how are you coping with all the killing?” I asked.

“I’m having to recycle all the available girls,” God admitted. “Just like all those American GIs forced by ‘stop loss’ to keep playing homemade-bomb roulette way past their contract expirations, most of my houris are on their fourth tour here.”

“But I thought they had to be virgins,” I interjected.

“They are,” God corrected me. “Islamic law stipulates that on arriving in Paradise on the wings of a green Phoenix, suicide’martyrs’ can look but not touch the 70 virgins initially assigned to feed them milk and honey, and show them around. So it isn’t long before young men deprived at home start feeling teased here. Judging by their angry frustration, I’d say most would-be terrorist’s aren’t reading the fine print before blowing themselves to a kingdom not to come.”

“I’ll try to get the word out,” I offered. “No nooky for suicide bombers in paradise.”

NO EXCUSES
“As if anyone with a beating heart and a lick of sanity can really believe they will merit any kind of heavenly reward for murdering the innocent!” God went on. “And that goes for American terror bombers, too. Usama and his followers can’t come close to the havoc raised by all the uranium-tipped missiles, bombs and cannon shells the Americans are firing into defenseless neighborhoods in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Now American GIs, bomber and gunship pilots are showing up here after dying from return fire, Gulf War Illness The Sequel, or most often, suicide. Can you believe they all expect the red carpet treatment after murdering more than one million innocent kids, moms, dads and elders just to steal oil that was already being sold to them below OPEC prices? Not to mention defiling the paradisiacal planet I gave them by blowing their radioactive waste all over the globe. And all in my name! How twisted is that?”

“They can’t really help it,” I assayed, making an involuntary calming gesture. “All that violence on TV and in the movies… those endless messages of fear and propaganda running 24-7 on the big networks. Not to mention all those anti-depressants, aspartame, fluoride, microwaves, STDs and cellphones frying what’s left of their brain cells.”

“Do people really think I’ll accept their excuses for the mass murders carried out in places like early Native America, Auschwitz, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Ēl Salvador, Chile, Vietnam, Chechnya, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq?” God came right back. “Do they think I put them on Earth just to go to Wal-Mart and get fat eating junk food watching the tube while innocent men, women and children are being abducted and tortured in foreign gulags in their name?”

KILL NOT
Catching himself, God lowered his voice. “Have you every tried carving 10 Commandments in solid stone?” he went on. “What part of ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ don’t people understand?”

“Maybe it’s the ‘Thou Shalt’ that’s throwing them,” I suggested. “Most folks who sign up to kill total strangers not much different from their own spouses and children – who never threatened their country in any way – are even dumber than their leaders, who are at least smart enough to issue illegal orders while hiding far in the rear. Maybe we should change the branding. How about simply, ‘Kill Not’?”

I snapped my fingers. “Or even better: ‘Kill. Not!’”

“That’s kickin’!” God cried, clapping his hands. “You and your colleagues in the press and on the worldwide web have to get the word out that I don’t care what flag people wave. Indiscriminate slaughter does not open any gates here. Tell anyone who thinks killing in my name is okay is in for a big surprise when they show up looking for a vacancy in my mansion of not that many rooms.”

NEWBIE BRIEFING
“So what happens to them?” I asked, scribbling fast in my notebook.

“I usually let my son handle the new arrivals,” God said. “He always asks them, ‘What about my strict Word that children are never to be harmed?’

“And they always say, ‘Christ, I forgot.’”

I laughed. “But by then it’s too late,” I guessed.

“Right,” God agreed. “Way too late.”

“So what happens to the people who blow up civilians – the pilots and artillery officers, the tank crews and suicide bombers, the quick-on-trigger sentries – and all those who pay for this carnage without protest?” I asked again.

“To hell with them,” God said with a wink.

“Whoa,” I exclaimed. “Isn’t that a bit heavy, condemning manipulated adolescents to everlasting damnation just for carrying out the lessons you put them on Earth to learn?”

“Are you trying to guilt trip me?” God asked.

“Just curious,“ I replied.

MARY MARY QUITE CONTRARY
“Look,” God said with deliberate emphasis. “I don’t like being slandered as a heavy just because some priest or mullah or minister or rabbi tells his herd, I mean flock, I mean followers, that I’m a vengeful, unforgiving, bloodthirsty old SOB. If everyone found out how loving and compassionate I really am, the whole manipulation-through-fear scam run by the major religions would end. And people would start doing what my son instructed them to do in the only set of eyewitness instructions he actually dictated.”

“The Gnostic Gospels,” I guessed.

“Right,” God said again. “Especially that recovered fragment written by Mary.”

“Christ’s respect and affection for Magdalene incurred the jealousy of the apostles, until he told them that she alone among them actually understood his teaching,” I recounted.

“Which was… ” God prompted.

“To avoid priests and similar intermediaries, who are unnecessary and even an impediment to understanding and following his example.”

“Which was… “

“Which was not his torture and crucifixion celebrated by so many cross-eyed Christians and at least one perverted, anti-Semitic movie-maker,” I answered. “Nor even a cannibalistic re-enactment of a Last Supper deliberately misrepresented to have excluded women. Jesus’ real message was his Resurrection. He was instructing us to resurrect our own souls by taking personal responsibility for seeking our own salvation.”

“And how did he say to do that?” God quizzed.

“By being quiet and really listening to where you both speak directly to each one of us – from within our hearts. And then doing what we know is right.”

“Bravo,” God said. “That’s it exactly.”

SINNERS’ FATE REVEALED
“So if you’ll excuse the question,” I kept going. “Why not finally end the manipulation of the major religions peddling hellfire and blind obedience?”

“I can’t intervene,” God replied. “That would negate free choice, and interfere with people’s need to learn for themselves – to practice right thoughts, right speech and right action. Which are the only ways anyone ever gets in here.”

“In other words, ‘Do unto others… ” I started to quote.

“Which means,” God finished for me, “that when spreading love, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry – or maiming, terrorizing, traumatizing or blowing up any sacred being – remember: ‘Whatsoever you do unto one of my creatures, you do unto me.’”

“But why send everyone who falls for such long-practiced religious scams and patriotic cons straight to hell?” I still wanted to know.

“Oh that,” God chuckled. “I don’t send anyone to hell. I send the really bad sinners next door.”

“Next door?”

“To the Goddess!” God said, laughing uproariously.

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“Why do you look so surprised?” he grinned, wiping mirth from his eyes. “Can’t you see that trying to run a universe solely as a male would be as unbalanced and unworkable as it’s proving on Earth? Look around you, dude. Do you think there might be a reason why most people on this planet are not male? Trying to accomplish anything without feminine perspective, passion and engagement is as stupid as heading off toward Jericho in a one-wheel cart.”

He was still laughing. “After all, yin-yang is a celestial symbol, you know. And while useful as a discipline, do you really think practicing eternal celibacy serves anyone but jealous priests?”

“So what does she do with all the soldiers and suicide bombers you send her?” I asked, ignoring the other obvious question.

“Why, she forgives them, of course. Just like I do,” God said. “Then she sends them back for one-thousand lifetimes of learning and community service.”

Leaning forward once again, God spoke in a voice so low I had to bend toward him like a co-conspirator. Which is what I guess reporters are.

“Given what’s coming down Earthside, I’d say that these next few lifetimes are going to be plenty busy. And not all that pleasant,” he confided. “So tell everyone you meet onboard what they’d better hurry up and figure out is an exceedingly rare, sun-orbiting spacecraft: It’s time to start hearing each other and get your ship together. Or you may find my earthly mansion in ruins. And me on an overdue holiday.”

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