The Secular Humanist Court

by Bill Schmalfeldt


(All words printed in bold italic are lifted from the Old Testament “Book of Job.”)

(The scene is a courtroom. There are two podiums, one marked PLAINTIFF, the other marked DEFENDANT. A Judge's bench is to Stage Left. Announcer stands next to a microphone near the apron Stage Right.)

Announcer: And now, meet the defendants, Alex and Dorothy Kobecky from Fishkill, New York. (They enter Stage Right.) They claim to have suffered extensive physical, emotional and property damage as a result of what they claim to be the negligent actions of the defendant. (The plaintiffs move to their podium. He is a squat, stubby, balding, middle-aged man with glasses. She is also middle-aged but is wearing her black hair in pigtails, a checkered print dress and white apron. He has one arm in a cast and a bandaged head. She is walking on crutches.) Now meet the defendant. Throughout the ages of time he has been known by many names. Some call him Allah. Yet others call him Yaweh. But to most who observe Judeo-Christian tradition, he is simply known as the Lord God Jehovah. (He enters. He looks just like Michelangelo's depiction on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Total majesty. He looks annoyed. Outside, a distant rumble of thunder.) The litigants in this case are not actors. This is a real case pending in a New York state court. The litigants have agreed to dismiss their case and have it settled here -- in the Secular Humanist Court. BALIFF All rise! The Secular Humanist Court is now in session. The Honorable Judge Joseph Wantner presiding. (The Judge enters and sits at his station.)

Judge: Please be seated. (To KOBECKYS) I know you've been sworn and I've read your complaint. Please tell me what happened.

Alex: Well, Your Honor, the wife and I were out for a little drive along the shore. We had decided to head back to town to the Dairy Queen to get one of those Blizzard deals. Dorothy here, she likes the ones with the bits of Oreo cookies. I'm sorta partial to the banana split ones. The Oreo hunks, I dunno. It looks like chewed up cookies to me.

Judge: Please get to the point, sir.

Alex: Yeah. Sorry. Like I was saying. We had decided to head to the Dairy Queen, when all of a sudden this squirrel darted right out into the road, right smack dab in front of the car. It was being chased by a dog.

Judge: What kind of dog was it?

Alex: (Shrugging his shoulders.) How should I know what kind of dog it was. It was just a dog. A big dog. The brown kind.

Dorothy: I think it was an Irish Setter, dear.

Judge: And are you a dog expert, ma'am?

Dorothy: No, your honor. I'm a receptionist.

Judge: Then how do you know what kind of dog it was?

God: It was a Chocolate Lab. Can we move along?

Judge: (To God) I wasn't addressing you, sir. I was talking to the plaintiff.

Dorothy: It could have been a Chocolate Lab, your honor.

Judge: I'm sorry I asked. Please continue.

Alex: Anyway, this squirrel is being chased by this dog -- whatever kind of dog it was -- and it's heading right for my front tires. I didn't want to hit the poor thing and there was no time to hit the brakes, so I swerved the car. Right into a tree.

Judge: And is that how you were injured?

Alex: Well, a little bit. Got a bump on the forehead and Dorothy skinned her shins under the dashboard. But the car was a total loss. Front end all crumpled up and steam coming out of the radiator. We just made the final payment a week earlier. And we just happened to be a week late with the insurance payment. (Shoots an evil glance towards God.) It's as if he knew!

God: (Thundering...) Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!

Judge: Look, sir. You will have your opportunity to answer the charges. In the meantime, keep your pie hole shut. Are we clear on that? (God scowls, crosses His arms and looks away.)

Judge: (To Alex) Go on with your story, sir.

Alex: (Glowering at God) Well, if I am to be permitted! Anyway, there we were, me with my bump and Dorothy with her skinned shins and ruined pantyhose, not a telephone around for miles.

Dorothy: And I was wearing my good Sunday hat, too, Your Honor. The one with the paper flowers.

God: It was an abomination and an affront in My sight.

Dorothy: Your HONOR!!!

Judge: Just keep it up, Mister, and you'll be cited for contempt. (God shrugs His shoulders, recrosses His arms and looks away.)

Alex: So, anyway... Dorothy and I figure the only thing to do is start walking back to town. Then the thunder and lightning started.

Dorothy: And I've always been afraid of stormy weather, Your Honor. Ever since I was a little girl in Kansas and that tornado whipped up out of nowhere, and I couldn't find my Auntie Em of my Uncle Henry, so my little dog Toto and I had to...

Judge: Please stick to the facts of this case, if you don't mind.

God: Idiot.

Judge: Look! I've had it up to here with the attitude. And if it doesn't stop VERY soon, I'll find in favor of the plaintiffs without even hearing your side of the case.! (

God: throws up His hands in disgust, rolls His eyes. Outside, another roll of thunder. Closer than before.)

Alex: So there we are, walking along the highway in a soaking rain. I'm dizzy from the bump on my head. Dorothy's limping with her skinned shins and the rain is soaking the paper flowers on her hat, turning her hair into a mushy pulp. And besides, she's just about gone into conniptions because of all the thunder and lightning.

Dorothy: And just then, lightning hits a tree.

Alex: And a branch falls off, striking me on the head.

Dorothy: He wasn't wearing a hat, Your Honor. He got a bruise!

Alex: Knocked me kinda silly, Your Honor.

Dorothy: So I tried to help him back onto his feet. As you can see, he's not a small man. I just about had him up when my feet slipped in the mud and I threw out my back.

Alex: She dropped me. That's how I broke my elbow.

Dorothy: We had to crawl 15 miles to the nearest service station.

Alex: And it was closed.

Dorothy: It was GOOD FRIDAY! (She shoots an evil glare at God)

Alex: A religious holiday! (He does likewise.)

Dorothy: With our combined injuries, we were both off work for two weeks. Our sick leave was used up from the flu epidemic and the disability insurance wouldn't pay.

Alex: “Act of God,” the policy said. It cost us $4,500 to repair the car, and our combined lost wages were $2,750 for the two weeks.

Dorothy: (Very upset. Points at God) AND IT'S ALL HIS FAULT! Make HIM pay! Would a kind and loving God treat his creations this way? (Buries her face in her hands and sobs.

Alex: tries to comfort her. God looks disgusted.)

Judge: (To God) You've heard their story. What do you have to say in Your defense? (God is silent. His arms crossed. His face a scowl. One eyebrow begins to twitch. Offstage, thunder. Closer. A flash or two of lightning.) You had a lot to say earlier. You'd better start talking now or I'll go ahead and render my decision.

God: (In a low, ominous, threatening tone.) Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?

Judge: Where I was on any given day or date is not the issue, sir. How do YOU answer these charges?

God: (Thunder even closer now. Lightning flashing more frequently.) Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick garment ... (Almost a constant thundering, flashes of lightning, His garments begin to flutter in a quickening wind.) Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this!

Alex: (Shouting to be heard above the wind and thunder.) He thinks that just because He's the Supreme Being, He can do whatever He wants to whomever!

Dorothy: (Also shouting.) Just because he created us, he thinks we're nothing but toys for his amusement. To be played with until we're broken and thrown away. No regard for our hopes, our aspirations, our feelings...

Alex: Our VERY EXPENSIVE personal property!

God: (A really dark, angry “Old Testament” God now.) Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you “Here we are”? (He raises His arms and the courtroom lights go out. The stage is illuminated with a strobe-like lightning barrage and a constant crash of thunder. Suddenly all is dark and quiet. The lights come back on. No one seems impressed.)

Alex: (After a pause.) Oh, sure. Question the Almighty and He throws a tantrum!

God: (Points at Judge, speaks calmly, quietly.) Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let he who accuses God answer him. (It is utterly quiet in the courtroom for a few seconds.)

Judge: (Very matter-of-factly) I'm ready to render my decision right now. (He reaches under the desk and produces a copy of The Bible. He addresses God) Are you familiar with this book, sir?

God: Of course. It's the Holy Bible. The unerring, complete, inspired scriptural rendering of My Eternal Word.

Judge: (Opens the Bible to a bookmarked page.) Then you must be familiar with a fellow named Job.

God: (Obviously recognizing the name but not wanting to admit it.) Job? Job. No, no can't say as I remember anyone named Job.

Judge: Then let me refresh your memory. He lived in the Old Testament land of Uz. (Reading from the Bible.) This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil...

God: (Somewhat flustered. He knows what's coming!) Oh, THAT Job! Look, I've created a lot of people since time began. You can't expect me to remember them all at a brief mention of a name...

Judge: (Has God on the hook now.) Like I said, I've read the plaintiff's complaint and I've done a bit of research. You've pulled stunts like this before. Seems that according to what You Yourself have admitted to being the complete, unerring, inspired scriptural rendering of Your Eternal Word, you and Satan made a little wager over this fellow Job. Satan said that the only reason Job was happy was because you had blessed him with a large family, material possessions and wealth. Satan went on to say that if you were to remove all those blessings then Job would curse You to Your face! So, for no other reason than to prove a point, you killed Job's family, destroyed Job's livestock, and afflicted him with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

God: (Clearly embarrassed at being reminded of this.) Look, that was ages ago. I had a headache. And that Satan can be such a nudge...

Judge: The point is, you were responsible for taking a perfectly happy Old Testament patriarch and ruining his life just to win a bet with the Devil. And this wasn't the first -- or last -- time you've done something like this. You ordered Abraham to slaughter his only son, stopping him right before he intended to plunge a knife into his son's heart. “I was just kidding,” you said, or something to that effect. You directed Moses to lead the Israelites from bondage in Egypt but then killed him before he could step foot in the Promised Land. You were mad at him for striking a rock twice to draw water from it instead of just once as You had ordered. You led your servant Samson into temptation in the arms of a woman who weakened him by cutting his hair. You allowed him to be blinded and enslaved by his enemies and then made him kill himself in order to kill his enemies. And if that wasn't enough, you caused your only begotten Son to be nailed to a tree until he bled to death JUST because you were angry with Adam and Eve for eating fruit from a tree You told them to stay away from. Your whole history shows You to be a bitter, vindictive, vengeful, spiteful, hateful creator who holds nothing but hatred and contempt for His creations. Every day, childless couples pray for children while drug-addicted mothers give birth to unwanted babies in the squalor of the inner cities. Young people with a wealth of promise and potential are gunned down in cold blood while miserable wretches languishing in lonely old age pray for the release of a death that has kept them waiting for years. Plane crash into swamps killing the wicked and the just alike. Across the world, throughout the ages, otherwise rational people have taken up arms and slaughtered each other just because some pray to you one way, others pray to you a different way and call you by a different name while doing so. And the whole time you do nothing, except maybe for laughing at our pitiful, puny attempts to “know” your will and serve you better. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” is what the clergy people say when we wonder why You are so hurtful to the very creatures that are supposedly the most important to You. “Mysterious ways?” Psychotic is what I'd call it. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about those other cases. I can only render my own form of justice in the case at hand. Therefore, it is my ruling that You are responsible for the pain and suffering of the Kobecky's. The court orders you to pay them the same thing you paid Job -- 14-thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, a thousand donkeys, plus seven sons and three daughters. Court is adjourned.

Bailiff: All rise! (The Judge exits.)

God: stares at the floor. KOBECKYS stare with open mouths. They are horrified!)

Announcer: Let's see if we can get a word with the plaintiffs. (He moves toward KOBECKYS) It would seem that justice has triumphed in this case.

Alex: Justice my KEESTER! We lose a car and two weeks salary, and now we've got to raise 10 children and tend livestock! Our condo is zoned residential! Single family dwellings! The neighborhood committee is gonna crap, that's what! They're gonna crap! (They exit, stunned.)

Announcer: Now let's see if we can get a word with the defendant. (He moves toward God) The judge went pretty hard on you, didn't he?

God: Feh. Nothing I can't handle. Nothing I haven't heard before.

Announcer: Does this convince you that you can't go around messing up people's lives and not being held responsible?

God: How can I possibly explain my actions to mortal beings? It would be like you trying to explain quantum physics to a puppy. No insult intended, but you're simply not capable of understanding. Moreover, I really dispute whether it's even your right to demand answers. You had nothing to do with anything! So how can you possibly hope to comprehend the reasons for it all? I'll tell you what. Things have really changed since Job's day. All I did to that guy and he still couldn't bring himself to badmouth Me. That kid knew how to worship! These days someone stubs his toe and it's “God Damn Coffee Table” or “Why Me, God!” Like it's MY fault they went stumbling around the living room without turning on a light. Everyone's a whiner these days. No one has any respect. Billions of inhabited planets in the universe and this is the only one that gives me headaches. (He exits.)

Announcer: Well, there you have it. Join us again next week on the Secular Humanist Court when the Sierra Club files suit against the Islamic prophet Mohammed for moving a mountain without considering the environmental impact. Until then, if you feel ill used by the cosmic forces of the universe, don't take matters into your own hands. You take them to court!