The poor, sweating bastard had no idea why he had been unceremoniously grabbed off the street. “But why? What did I do?” He’d yelled this repeatedly, but all the two cops would say is, “If you weren’t an evil doer, we wouldn’t be arresting you. Now come along quietly, buddy.” Both men were businesslike, both bearded, which seemed a little strange for police officers. One was visibly older, with snow-white hair. His expression suggested a habit of fierceness. The younger man’s brow betrayed a note of discomfort with what they were doing.
Now the nondescript man, sitting alone at what must be an interrogation table, unadorned except for a few nicks and coffee cup circles here and there, took stock of his Kafka-esque situation, wondering what might happen next. Wasn’t he owed a lawyer? He didn’t know any, and he suspected that any provided for him would really be on the side of the authorities, not him.
But now the door swung open, and the two policemen walked in, sat down across from him. Both held coffee cups. Neither offered any to him. For a moment, they stared at him in silence. Then the older man spoke.
“You’re some poor excuse for a good citizen, and you know how I know? It’s your atheism. You don’t make any secret of it, do you? And atheists have no moral code. They can’t. You might do anything. You might have done anything already. Isn’t that so?”
Stunned, the man replied: “Uh, look, it’s true I’m not religious, I’ll admit, but I’ve never hurt anybody. I’ve never broken any law. What’s more, I don’t plan to! You can’t arrest me for not believing in God…”
He recoiled from the blow, feeling the blood trickling from his mouth.
“What the hell was that for? Look, I know my rights, and you…”
Smack again. His nose was bleeding this time.
“Yeah, smart guy? And who gave you those rights? You got no God? You got no rights.”
Blinking the pain away, the prisoner began calculating his chances if he tried to defend himself. As if they’d read his mind, the older cop nodded to his younger partner, who stood up, produced a pair of cuffs, and bound his captive’s wrists. Sitting back down, he leaned over and addressed the other.
“Sarge, are you sure this is necessary? Look at the poor sad-sack! He doesn’t even understand what he’s doing here!”
The senior officer sat back and gave the younger man a look that was hard to interpret: was he annoyed? Impatient? Was there even a note of contempt?
“Okay, sonny boy, you take a crack at him. I’ll give you some room and go for a smoke break.”
Both the prisoner and his remaining interrogator watched the big man leave. Then they turned to look one another in the face.
“I’m sorry about that. I really am. And I’m gonna be even sorrier for what he’s probably going to do when he comes back if I can’t get anywhere with you.”
“Uh, wh… what do you mean?”
The policeman rubbed his brow with eyes momentarily closed.
“Ah, he’s liable to get pretty rough, and I mean rough, as in ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’”
“But how does he get away with this crap? You guys haven’t even read me my rights!”
“There you go, talking about ‘rights’ again. You know, he’s got a point. Without a theistic frame of reference, you don’t even have any rights. Nobody does. Why don’t you reconsider your position, my friend? It would go a lot easier for you if you did. And I’m not just talking about avoiding some missing teeth and broken bones here today. Think of the ways your life could improve if you became a believer! You’d have a spring in your step every day, knowing you’re doing God’s work, obeying his will. And you’d have a whole new family of fellow Christians to love and support you. It’s great! Really. That’s the way you should look at it: the benefits are great! And he,” thumbing in the direction of the door, “wouldn’t have to spill any more of your blood. Won’t you think about it, my friend?”
The man hand-cuffed to the metal chair lowered his head to his chest to think.
“That’s it, pray. Pray and God will hear.”
But the head came back up to eye-level, and the prisoner spoke unwaveringly. “I’m sorry, officer, but it just doesn’t work like that. Any decision I made would be phony, don’t you see? It’s not like buying a new car. I can’t suddenly start believing things because I’d probably feel better if I did. And if I tried to believe just to save my skin, well, I’d know I was kidding myself and so would you. Don’t you see that? You seem like an intelligent guy…”
The policeman slowly shook his head.
“I’m so sorry to hear you say that, my friend. So, so sorry. Because now I’m going to have to do this.”
The blow connected with blinding force, all the more shocking because it came as a total surprise. When the prisoner’s sight cleared, he could see the other cop, the white-bearded one, coming back into the interrogation room, rolling up his sleeves. The younger one was fitting a pair of brass knuckles onto his hand. Worse yet, a third cop was wheeling in a metal cart on which the captive thought he could see a collection of scalpels, pliers, hammers and bone saws. Just before he fainted, he heard one of the cops say, with a harsh chuckle, “Just remember, buddy boy, God loves you, and this is gonna hurt him more than it does you.”
Oh, dear reader, did I forget to tell you the characters’ names? The older policeman was Sergeant Jehovah. His younger partner was Officer Jesus. And the prisoner? Well, what’s your name?
If you’d like to read more about this nasty theological scenario, may I invite you to purchase a copy of my new book, Blaming Jesus for Jehovah: Rethinking the Righteousness of Christianity, published by Tellectual Press and available from Amazon.com.
So says Zarathustra.