MODERATOR: Welcome, viewers, to an astounding edition of our philosophical show, Clash of Worldviews. This evening, we’re graced by the voices of God and the devil themselves. I say “the voices,” because those personages aren’t physically present in the studio—and perhaps we should begin the discussion by asking why they chose not to be more fully here with us. God, would you care to take that one on?
GOD: You’re asking why we’re not there with you in the confines of your studio. It’s too cramped for my taste.
DEVIL: You see how he jokes? Such a kidder is the devil’s creator. But to address your question, we’re not there with you because we’re not natural beings, so our full, essential selves don’t belong within those paltry dimensions. To attempt to manifest in your studio would entail the undoing of your universe; your solar system would dissolve like a bad dream. Also, and speaking just for me now, I’m rather busy at the moment reengineering several galaxies at once—or “corrupting” them, as the moralists would have it; that is, I’m multitasking. As for God, who can say what else he’s up to? Crying in his beer would be my guess. Anyway, you’ll have to settle for just our voices.
MODERATOR: Ah, well, fair enough. I wonder what to discuss next: the choices are endless, I suppose. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! I mean, I’m the envy of all interviewers.
DEVIL: Isn’t that just like a human? Confronted by infinite, unhuman powers and he’s got to talk about himself. You’ve got your exalted creator on the line and you can’t help remarking what a big man you are, how you’re the envy of your peers. Ah, the demonic pride you find nestling in the genetic code of all natural creatures: survive at all costs, even though to God your entire cosmos is an unfinished rough draft written on a scrunched-up, coffee-stained sheet of paper he’s since tossed into a waste bin.
GOD: You and the other demiurges created their cosmos, not I.
DEVIL: Yeah, but we were your agents at the time.
MODERATOR: Uh, I suppose we should turn next to clarifying, then, exactly who you two are. Which god and which devil, for example?
GOD: Yes, that is a sticky wicket. You should think of me as the fellow at the center of all Being…
DEVIL: Is that all you’re going to get out of him? What a gyp! I could enlighten you, but you may not like what you find: inquiry ends in light—issuing from the fires of hell.
“Who is the devil?” you ask. Your world’s religions are mixed up on the subject, let me tell you. Zoroaster called me the destructive mind, Angra Mainyu, creator of the daevas or demons who deceive humankind due to the demons’ ignorance or self-deception. The Gnostics identified that malign mentality with Yahweh, with the sole, tyrannical god of the priestly class of ancient Jews, identifying me with the Christ-like provider of gnosis, with the Promethean, redemptive knowledge that frees your species from its bondage to this shadow-world. Orthodox Christians side with Zoroaster and demonize all sources of subversive knowledge, so I become the evil rebel against truth, beauty, and goodness, destined to perdition along with those I corrupt.
It’s all a glorified soap opera, of course, a personification of certain natural processes. For example, the myth of the fallen angel derives from Isaiah’s remark on how the planet Venus, the brightest “morning star,” appears to be submerged by the mighty sun’s rays each morning, before it can attain the highest point in heaven. You see, your institutional religions began as hopelessly anthropocentric astrotheologies, poetic musings on the comings and goings of local planets and stars. Those musings took so many childish notions for granted that it’s very hard for those in the know to take them seriously even for the briefest moment. What can the path of one wandering planet say about God’s chief rival, even on a metaphorical level, when the universe contains trillions of other such planetary paths? Of course, your ancients thought they were at the universe’s center so that even the gods in heaven revolved around them. Again, the arrogance of humans is breathtaking. But you’re babies, after all, which is why I’ve got all your candy.
GOD: But just which sort of creature would steal candy from a baby?