Fetch Me That Stick, God!
Feeling a touch surly today, and the kids weren't behaving, so I killed them. But it's not like I didn't give them plenty of warning! After the eldest kept refusing to eat his vegetables, I filled his bed with cockroaches for three nights in a row, and he STILL didn't figure it out! Lovely child, but not too bright...
If that sounds normal to you, then congratulations! You have what it takes to be a globe-spanning diety! At least, that's what the local god-botherers explained to me the other day.
Evil, you see, is simply God's warning to his children that they aren't living their lives as they should be. Pain, sorrow, pens that leak... All these things are signs from Heaven, gentle reprimands to us and reminders of His eternal love.
Because we, apparently, are His children; and as all children everywhere, we have to be beaten from time to time to make sure we live in the right way and obey the right rules and eat the right things.
Then, if even after tsunamis, earthquakes, drought, murder, paper cuts, that funny smell you can never track down in your car, and terrorist bombings we still haven't gotten the message, He doesn't actually leave us to burn in Hell for all eternity (or so says my personal god-botherer): that's just a big misunderstanding.
Instead, the soul of the damned is given one more chance to obey God's every whim, or it's simply snuffed out of existence. See? No suffering, no torment... just "nothing" ever again. That being what eternity means and all that. Isn't that the sign of a loving and just God? That if you don't want to play by His Rules, he's taking his ball and going home?
It's just the thoroughly unintimidating stick half of the argument, and the carrot's not looking much better either.
Update: If you're not familiar with the game Portal or with the Half-Life world generally, you may not quite get the joke; but if you have headphones, you can hear the Song of Cake. Any song that has the line:
"I've experiments to run, there is research to be done on the people who are still alive"
is well worth adding to the old iPod.