The Word of God
When I was a small child I believed in the omnipotence of God, and was terrified. My parents weren’t particularly religious, but a girl in my class told me that if I misbehaved Jesus would know, and said it with sufficient conviction that it had to be true. The thought that everything I did was being scrutinised by some invisible, all-potent deity was cause enough to make me petrified of ill-behaving. So instead I became introverted, studious and shy. I would, however, read voraciously, and once I had got beyond the Bible, I started on everything else I could find.
I think I was about 17 when I realised that most of the religious tracts didn’t make logical or consistent sense. By 22 I’d studied evolution, physics and chemistry to degree level and it was obvious that there was no divine intervention in the creation of the Universe and that it certainly hadn’t happened in 6 days. I felt weirdly torn, knowing the facts on one hand, yet still unable to cast aside my belief in the Almighty. It was, I imagined, never having even had a relationship, a bit like having an affair. There was loyalty on one side, and the years of faithfulness, but then there was an illicit joy to be had in the secret of my new found knowledge. I felt I had to make a decision between what I wanted and what I had, and with a sudden insight I realised that if God was omnipotent, He would already know what I was thinking my decision and the outcome. This scared me even more, because I didn’t want Him to know that I had any doubts. It came to me that if I filled my mind with enough stuff even God would be confused about what I was thinking; if I didn’t know myself, then how could the Lord know?
I had already read everything that came my way, but now I started to think that if I read everything that had ever been written, I would have so much knowledge that no-one, even God, could see through it to my own personal thoughts. I set up camp in the University library, and began with A. The staff didn’t take lightly to this, and by the close of the first day I had only read about four books before I was ejected. I withdrew a dozen more to keep myself going until they re-opened in the morning, but even then I was beginning to wonder how I would keep up this task. I would have to sleep at some point and then my dreams would be open to interpretation. I sought out The Doc, a character that hung around the Uni, selling drugs to students. Although I’d never used them, I was reliably informed that The Doc could supply substances that would keep me awake as well as ‘smart drugs’, although I had no idea what this meant.
The Doc was as seedy looking as he sounded; gaunt and unhealthy looking but wearing what appeared to be expensive clothes. I explained what I wanted and he laughed. “I’ve just the thing,” he said, withdrawing a small pack from his inside jacket pocket, “this is a new drug, it’s called ‘Bon Mot’. The effects are a bit like speed and a bit like LSD, it makes your brain process stuff faster and make new connections.”
“How much is it?” I asked, wondering if I could afford this minor miracle.
“The first hit is on me,” The Doc said, “after that I only want your soul!”
I took the packet of pills, inconspicuous white things with a cross in the centre, thanking him profusely. As soon as I got back to my digs I took one pill and within minutes I had settled down to read the first of my pile of books. It seemed like about an hour later when I felt I was flagging, so I popped another pill and reached for the next book only to realise I had read it. I had read all twelve. I looked at my watch, and realised more time had passed than I had thought, but I had still read all of them in a very short duration. What was more I remembered all the details and I was hungry for more. Although it was still not midnight and the library wouldn’t be open until morning, I made my way back there. Because I had studied physics and yet believed in the presence of an omniscient being, I now saw clearly that there was an easy way in. Both I and the bricks were made of atoms, so all I had to do was to pass the atoms of myself between the spaces of the atoms of the walls. Once I was inside I started reading almost at once, but I soon discovered that it was actually easier to read several books simultaneously rather than one at a time. I spread them out on the floor in front of me and scanned my eyes over the pages as they lay before me like a carpet. Within hours I knew all the plants of the Earth, the secrets of the stars and every murderer that Hercule Poirrot would ever reveal. By morning I had read every book in the library and I had run out of pills.
I left by the front door as the staff came in, hoping to track down The Doc, but instead I found myself mesmerised by words. Everywhere I looked there were words – on hoardings, buses, on packets in supermarkets, on peoples’ skin. Every two steps I took I stopped to read something. I became confused about what I was reading and why. I no longer remembered all of it, or what I had read during the night before. And it no longer made sense either. The ingredients of a cornflake packet were as significant as a religious tract; physics texts seemed like a shopping list. And that was when I realised the Word of God was just meaningless scribbles.
J E Rudd