We are but a point, a single comma, and God is the literature of eternity.-HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit
“Inasmuch as no one had seen God and reported the encounter, inasmuch as no one had gone to heaven or hell and come back to report the journey, inasmuch as there is one single evil, wickedness, hatred and callousness in this world, we cannot say that GOD exists”
The hall was silent after Professor Thomas lecture’s conclusion. Then, one person clapped and another, then a swelling round of applause. Professor Zechariah Thomas stood drinking in the ovation. He looked at the filled hall, felt being washed in the exploding lights from the paparazzi camera flashes. He had come a long way. Born into a solid Christian home, his father, a Reverend and Vicar of the Anglican Church at Igbein, in Abeokuta, a town in Western Nigeria. However, unlike most priests’ children, he grew up to love the religion. He was drawn to its rituals. He loved the Choir and the hymnals were like the popular music of his childhood. In his teenage years, he had experiences confirming his believe in God. A bit slow in speech and language development, he was always picked upon in the secondary school. Two astounding bullies in his school made his schooling hell that at a time his parents were contemplating home schooling for him. This did not happen because one night; he knelt, and prayed that God should save him from Jibola and Ikechuku.
The next Monday, his prayer was on a Friday, a new student came to their school, Abeokuta Grammar School, his name: Yusitura. It was the time the Nigerian government was trying to establish a fertilizer company at Abeokuta. Yusitura’s father was the Project Engineer in charge and came with his family to stay in Abeokuta. Yusitura, tall unlike most Japanese, but not as tall as Jibola and Ikechuku came into the school an unknown cipher, an outsider and a rarity. On this Monday morning, nobody wanted Yusi as he later came to be known to sit beside him. Japanese were a rarity in the country- town that Abeokuta was then, since Asians were just coming into Nigeria .So nobody wanted to seat beside Yusi except Zechariah then called Zachy. Like one outsider to another, Zachy warmed up to Yusi and by break time they were pals. They were at the playground when the two bullies’ intent on isolating Yusi rather than welcoming him went to intimidate Zachy. Their intention was to beat him up and then warn him to desist from moving with the slant-eyed boy he has started befriending. They were kicking him when Yusitura intervened.
“Leave him alone, why were you beating him?”
“Hey, slant-face, this is not your land, keep your trap shut”, Jibola replied
“What happens if I do not keep my t-r-a-p shut?”
“We‘ll keep it shut for you”, Ikechuku replied.
The two bullies now left Zachy, advanced toward Yusi, slapping him around like a ping –pong ball. The playground became an arena, with most of the children, spectators watching a new initiate being drilled. After Jibola and Ikechuku were tired of the ping –pong game, they decided on kicking Yusi. There was a wild cry and legs were flying and kicks exchanged. Two minutes after the loud screaming shout from Yusi, Jibola and Ikechuku were on the ground with injured hands, ankles and broken knees. There was a power change at the playground. Since children hated bullies, nobody on the playground saw anything, heard anything or said anything when the case went to the school authorities. Yusi was cautioned and Jibola and Ikechuku stayed at home for two weeks receiving treatment. Later, the whole school heard that Yusi was a black belt holder in Judo.
With the school’s bullies subdued, a new pecking order came into being. Yusi however, was mild mannered and friendly to all. Zachy was left alone in his secondary school education’s remaining two years. The two bullies with a new master became quiet and malleable. It was the first prayer among others that Zechariah prayed that came to pass. Therefore, it was natural for him to decide on reading Philosophy and Theology in the University, coming across a lot of philosophers and more unsavoury aspects of Christian Church history which turned him away from his belief. His favourites were Nietzsche, Kant, Tillich, Niebuhr, Heidegger and Soren Kierkegaard. The more he becomes immersed in Kierkegaard’s philosophical ideas, the more Nietzsche appealed to him. There was a constant fight within his soul, between Kierkegaard’s arguments about God’s existence and Nietzsche’s ideas about the Superman and God’s death. At the end buoyed by the pontifications of the Agnostics and innumerable arguments from Bertrand Russell and others of his ilk, Zechariah got his PhD in record time with a thesis confirming God’s death in the post-modern era. A personal tragedy also helped him along this path.
Zachy met a young woman immediately after his Master’s degree, Professor James Chakdpur’s only daughter while in Berkeley. He had moved to US after his Bachelor’s degree and a bitter disagreement between him and his father. The Reverend gentleman had resisted his son’s heresies and gave him an option: ‘renounce your blasphemies or cease being my son’. Zachy had renounced his father rather than his newfound belief about the God’s non-existence. So they separated. Zachy got a scholarship for his PhD and went to Berkeley. His personal tragedy in Berkeley however, confirmed the rightness of his view. Samantha Chakdpur was the daughter of a Brahmin Hindu who crossed over to Christianity. One who believed in God, it was just coincidental that he became Zachy’s supervisor. He loved his only daughter and child very well that when he lost his wife, he vowed giving his attention and love to the sixteen year old girl his late wife left behind. He never remarried but became married to his daughter and work. A well-known scholar with tomes of publications in his efforts on proving existence of heaven and God through Quantum Physics and one least qualified to supervise Zechariah’s thesis disproving God. He was however intent on helping Zechariah Thomas to see the errors of his ways and arguments and that was his reason for accepting him as his candidate. Then, Zechariah met his daughter and his daughter fell in love with him.
After this, the Professor could do nothing except mentor him in his PhD, which he finished under two years of study. It was during his thesis writing that the incident that turned him into an unrepentant God’s antagonist happened. A year into his programme, Zachy and Samantha decided on getting married. The Professor blessed the union and although Zechariah’s father who had become a Bishop decided not to attend the marriage of a heretical and blasphemous son, the Professor stood in as father to his daughter and Zechariah. It however would not be a good thing for none of the bridegroom’s relations to be at the wedding, so efforts were made to invite one of Zechariah’s relation who was then studying at the University of Southern California. It was on the journey to Los Angeles that the accident happened. A truck ran through the red light swiping the taxi cab carrying Zechariah and his wife to be. Zechariah had just scratches but his bride was injured and went into coma for seven days. During these seven days, Zechariah prayed like he has never prayed. He asked God to spare her life promising to retrace his steps. On the seventh day, as if God had answered his prayers, Samantha opened her eyes, smiled at her husband, cheerfully discussed with him telling him that there is no need for them to postpone the marriage date. Zachy left with the intention of coming back later in the day to see her but as he went away, Samantha breathed her last.
Zechariah’s loss made him to pour himself into his thesis finishing it in two years while proving theoretically that there is nothing or being that is called God. After his Doctorate, he became a Lecturer and a public speaker; tearing down the veil on the superstition called God. His rise and popularity was meteoric, most especially, within a postmodern society that has thrown out all vestiges of beliefs and myths. The modern, rational and materialistic society that does not believe anything unless proved and shown to exist in the material world forgetting that “seeing is not believing but believing is seeing” since life is about seeing and belief. He became a well-known writer, a most sought after public speaker who not only graced the pages of the newspapers and magazines but also a constant figure on the television. This continued until this day that he was invited to give the magnum opus of his lectures in New York. He chose the topic “Intangibility of God”. It was this lecture he had just finished with the concluding fact that: “Inasmuch as no one had seen God and reported the encounter, inasmuch as no one had gone to heaven or hell and come back to report the journey, inasmuch as there is one single evil, wickedness, hatred and callousness in this world, we cannot say that GOD exists”. He stood at the podium smiling and swimming in the great ovation greeting his earth shaking conclusion on the inappropriateness of God as a belief for the post modern man.
Then it was time for questions. Many hands were raised up. The moderator picked on the first person asking her for her question. The lady who stood up would have not been more than twenty-five years old. She is young, svelte, nubile and an ethereal beauty with a somewhat hidden power of control. She seemed to glow and her mellifluous voice like that of a well blended harmonised melody was not only soothing to the ears but serve like a balm over pains. She was soft spoken and as if with an innate mystical power, the whole hall listened to her with a lot of respect because nobody including the moderator stopped her as she asked questions after questions though nobody suspected that was what she wanted to do when she first stood up.
“Thank you Professor Thomas for that erudite and informative and almost convincing lecture with well thought out and reasoned arguments”, she said.
“Thank you”, Professor Thomas answered.
“I am Sandra, a Doctorate student in Quantum Physics at Cornell University “
“Oh, that’s good, what is your question?” Professor Thomas asked.
“Professor Thomas, what will be your reaction if I point out to you that the lecture you have just delivered was not prepared by you or any body and that it came to be by itself through a random incident?”
Professor Thomas was livid. To him it was calling his competence and scholarly repute to question and sowing doubt about his integrity. A charge of plagiarism and the rubbishing of more than eight weeks of research, writing, rewriting and editing he had put into writing the fifty page paper with more than eight extra pages of references. Not to talk about the fact that the paper was peer reviewed by more than twelve erudite scholars spread over six continents. As a controversial lecturer whose lectures are visited with protests, he had learnt how to control his emotions, so he smiled, indulged this beautiful irritant and replied her.
“I will say you are wrong, because that will be ignoring and zeroing the efforts others and I had put in the researching, reading other authors and writing this paper which had taken me more than a month to research and write”
“So, you accept that this beautiful lecture we had just listened to was not a random creation. It was a well researched, well written and well planned paper prepared for today’s presentation”
“Yes, I could not have put better than the way you have put it now. You have put it so clearly well”, Professor Thomas agreed.
“Why then, do you think and believe that this beautiful, well planned, variety laden and diverse world that we are in is nothing but a random creation?”
“No you are getting it wrong. What I am saying is that there no entity, being or force behind the creation of this world as we know it. There is no God; the idea of God is in man’s mind and man’s creation towards deceiving and oppressing his fellow human beings. As Marx said religion is the opium of the masses”
“Yes, the same way your paper is just an idea existing in the ether that wrote and presented itself.”
The moderator at this moment wanted to stop the questioner hoping to save Professor Thomas from embarrassment but the audience’s reaction and Professor Thomas himself who does not want to create the picture of running away from controversy or alternate argument stopped him.
“No, that was not possible and you know that…”
Professor Thomas wanted to further his argument but he seemed to realise the weakness of that argument. He was preparing to find the right argument when the girl started to ask him other questions like a tennis ball machine sending one question after the other.
“Professor Thomas can you tell us where the pillars holding the earth firm were tied to?” What of the beginning and end of the oceans or the source and beginnings of the hurricanes?”
The hall was pin drop silent. Everyone was hypnotised by this exchange between the erudite Professor and the lithe young lady. Professor Thomas stood at the lectern and for the first time in his distinguished career was unable to answer questions. The lady however has not finished and threw her next series of questions.
“Professor, can you tell this distinguished audience, the exact second, minute, and hour that your father’s sperm fertilized your mother’s egg and you were conceived? As you are standing in front of us now, can you tell us the exact number of hair strands on your head? Finally Prof, will you tell us now the exact second, minute, hour, day and year that you will die?”
Professor Zechariah Thomas stood there in front of his listeners wondering how he is going to answer the questions. He stood, mouth agape!
13th October 2008