Early Retirement

Divine Incredulity

But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 18:20)

Back in the old days, being a prophet involved serious risks. First off, most everybody hated your guts. And for good reason. You rarely had anything good to say. It was all about sin and rebellion and how the people were acting like a bunch of imbeciles and were heading for a showdown with the Supreme Being who was more than a little miffed that they were ignoring all his great ideas about sacrifices and loving your enemy and all that kind of junk. So you had to stand there on the corner and shout your lungs out about judgment and fire and armies coming from the north or east or wherever God was able to find one available during the off-season. You would tell the people to stop doing all the fun stuff they were doing and start getting depressed so that God would like them again. But most of the time the people ignored your speeches and sometimes they even threw you into deep holes or stoned you to death (which is hard to make a comeback from, let me tell you). As a prophet you were never going to win the People’s Choice Award.

But that was only part of the problem. Sometimes God would make you do really really really weird stuff to illustrate his point. Sometimes he would have you run around buck naked. Sometimes he would have you build little models of cities and smash them (which actually sounds kind of fun, especially if you could use firecrackers like when I was a kid). Sometimes you had to lie on your side for, like, months and months. And if you were a total wimp, God might even make you cook your food over human excrement (I’m being polite for once). Being a prophet for a God who takes a lot of creative license can be a major pain in the butt, but you generally don’t want to argue with somebody who’s infinitely powerful and has anger management issues. Bingo, bango, bongo—and you’re so history.

But even with all that pressure, that’s not the worst part of it. The absolute worst part of it happens if you, the prophet dude, decide to exercise a little creative license of your own. There’s a couple of ways that you could do that. One is to decide that you have something you’d like to say for yourself for a change. Maybe you’re tired of all the crap you’re getting from the people. So you stand up and tell them to shove it. Well, if God is telling you to tell them to shove it you’re probably safe. But if you’re saying it just because you’re ticked and God didn’t tell you to say that, you are in big trouble. In fact, you’re pretty much dead.

But there’s another way you can get dead fast too. Say you’re fed up with working for the same God after a while. So you start looking around to see which other gods are hiring. Say Baal offers you a position as his prophet. He tells you that you don’t have to do the doom and gloom crapola; instead, you get to run around and invite all the folks to the temple for the orgies which are held every second Thursday evening of the month. That’s it. For once you get to be the guy with good news. People start looking forward to your visits, invite you over for a beer, even ask you to join their bowling teams. You start to have a good time for once in your life. But then somebody working for your old Boss notices and rats on you. Soon a mob of fundamentalists are at your door with huge rocks and a bad attitude. So you’re pretty much dead then too.

These days God has backed off a lot. For one thing, there are way too many jerks running off at the mouth these days than back then. These days congregations expect to hear stuff the preacher’s just made up. These days if you don’t invent something new nobody’s going to take you seriously enough to pay their tithes, which would sink your boat before you were able to float it. And who can keep track of all the religious books now? God sure as hell doesn’t have time to read everything any more than you or I do. He’s got to pick and chose whom he’s going to kill these days. It’s gotten so bad that he’s pretty much given up on it. Shoot, if he decided to pull rank like he did back in the old days, there’d hardly be any preachers or prophets left. We’d probably be down to a couple boring guys with skin problems reading from the Beginner’s Bible.

I’m sure glad that God has loosened up his standards. I’m too young to retire.


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