The multitude chattered animatedly as it waited for something to happen. Then, from the mist, a stranger appeared. He was dressed in formal evening wear, his bow tie having that slightly less than perfect quality that real ones possess. He said nothing as the crowd hushed. The silence was broken by a lone voice.
“Who are you?”
“God,” replied the stranger.
A low murmur rippled through the crowd.
“Yeah, I know. You thought I’d have a long beard, flowing hair, one of those dress things that your priests like to wear. I’ve read your stories. Nope, not me. I prefer to dress appropriately for the occasion and the occasion is... Judgement Day.”
There was another murmur amongst the throng, but this time tinged with some apprehension.
God smiled. “Yes, Judgement Day. Don’t look so surprised. I know you’ve been expecting it. You’ve been banging on about it in your stories for centuries. So today’s the day.” He turned to his right and indicated a tall, young woman who appeared to be dressed for the occasion too, in a fine gold trimmed red dress. “This is Gaby... Gabriel’s her proper name. I guess you were all expecting a bloke but blokes don’t get called Gabr -“
There was yet another murmur.
“What?” God said. “Oh, yeah. I get it. That angel stuff you made up. You were expecting some weird looking bloke with wings!” He laughed. “Wings! That’s funny. Actually, one of the bits you did get right in your books was the God made man in his own image thing. Take a look at yourselves. I didn’t give any of you guys wings did I? I mean, that’s why you invented airplanes, wasn’t it? Anyway, we’re wasting time here... uh, not that it matters as we have plenty of it, eternity in fact... whatever that is. I don’t do time. So, yeah, Judgement Day. Gaby here is helping out with the processing. She’ll direct you to the appropriate place for judgement.” God noticed some of the crowd shuffling and getting agitated. “Hey, don’t look so worried. It’s straightforward, simple even. I like to keep things simple, unlike some of you lot.” He smiled and then raised a hand. “Okay, step forward all you who have... let’s see, given up things for Lent. Like... say, chocolate. Or, I dunno... fasted.”
A whole host of people stepped forward. Gabriel led them to one side. A voice came from the crowd. “What about semolina?”
“Semolina?” God said. “What about it?”
“I gave up semolina for lent, not chocolate.”
“Blimey, that must’ve been a hardship. Come and join these guys. I didn’t mean just chocolate.” God then turned back to the rest. “Okay, step forward all you who went to church on a Sunday or your other places of worship on whatever day of the week you decided was good.”
A whole raft of people moved forward so that the crowd diminished dramatically. Gabriel moved them to one side.
God turned to them and said. “Good. Now, we need to sub-divide you all further. So... step forward if you prayed to me and kept asking me for ‘stuff.’”
A bunch of people did so.
God continued. “Now, go over there to the right if you declared undying love for me in your prayers.” Gabriel beckoned and another bunch of people went towards her.
“Great. Right, now go over there to the left if you regularly sang those dreary... sorry, those tuneless... I mean... if you regularly sang all those hymns in church that said how fabulously wonderful I am and used words like ‘ye’ and ‘triumphant’ and ‘adore’ and the like.” Nearly all of the remaining crowd in that section moved forward but Gabriel singled out a whole bunch of them and directed them to stand to one side.
God addressed them. “You guys, you go through that door over there. It’s marked ‘priests, vicars, evangelists, born agains, holy men’ ... and a whole lot of other titles too.”
There were barely a few people left by then and God looked at them. “I know who you guys are. You’re the ones who declared war, destruction and damnation in my name. Cool. Gabriel will show you where to go.”
When everyone had gone, God turned to the small group that was left, the group that hadn’t been able to step forward with any of the others. They were all silent, a look of trepidation on many faces. One of them, an older man, raised his hand. God spotted him and said. “Yes, what can I do for you?”
In a shaky voice he said, “What’s to become of us?” He indicated the group around him. “It seems none us has given up chocolate or semolina for Lent or fasted. None of us worshipped you at churches and things or praised you. We don’t seem to have sung a single hymn between us and I can see none of us are priests or holy men. And we don’t seem to have promoted you much... err, well, at all. And none of us went to war for you. We’re just... ordinary people. I guess we’re for the... the chop... the everlasting flame thing that we didn’t believe existed. Is that what’s to become of us?”
God laughed. “Relax my friend. The ‘everlasting flame’ thing doesn’t exist. Do you think a God who made mankind would think up such an evil punishment?”
“Well, no, I didn’t,” the man replied, “but Gabriel has taken all those people away who did all that good stuff and we’re left here.”
“Good stuff? Those people have been taken away to be judged. Judged on their deeds, not their religions. You guys get a straight pass into the place they called ‘heaven.’ And you know why?”
The man looked puzzled but relieved, as did many of the remaining crowd. “No... why?”
“I’ll tell you why. Because you are good people. You led good lives. You looked out for other people. You didn’t go larging it up with all that charity stuff but when a helping hand was needed, you offered it; when a word or two of comfort was required, you said it; and sometimes you went out of your way to help; sometimes you just smiled at your fellow human and made them smile too; you made them laugh and you helped when they had a tear. And best of all... you used the brain I gave you to think for yourself; you didn’t blindly, unquestioningly follow all that man-made religion nonsense that the deluded created to keep you in check. And you certainly didn’t try to impose beliefs on others. You were free spirits, giving rein to that spirit whilst remembering your place in the big scheme. Sure, you you all screwed up a few times - Gaby’s got your rap sheets - but then I never intended to make robots. I gave you humanity and I applied a heavy dose of nature that allows your humanity to flourish, not be controlled. And because you used all of that in the right way you’re A-list up here. Come in, grab a drink.”