(Setting: Jefferson debates the existence of God with Pope Safari Golfer I).
"Is there really a God?" Freeman asked bluntly. He fidgeted nervously, fearing the pontiff actually knew and would banish his comfortably confused apathy. He also fidgeted to generate body heat, because the air had suddenly grown cold and damp, as if the door to an old stone cellar had been opened.
"Why ask me?" sniffed the Pope disdainfully. "I'm a priest, not a philosopher. My job is to interpret the word of God, not to doubt it."
"And two plus two equals five", boomed a confident voice from a dark corner. The Safari Golfer and Freeman whirled toward the disembodied voice. To their astonishment, Thomas Jefferson stepped out from a shadow.
Jefferson’s bizarre materialization dumbfounded the Golfer. "Pardon me?"
"Two plus two equals five", repeated Jefferson. "I believe that."
"Prove it", challenged Jefferson.
The Golfer rummaged in his desk. "Okay, here are some matches. I'll put two here and two there. Now, if I slide one pile next to the other, how many total matches are there?"
"My faith compels me to believe that there are five", Jefferson asserted.
"Then show us the fifth match!"
"It's there. You just can't see it, because you aren’t properly conditioned spiritually. You must discard your own perception of reality and rely on mine instead."
"Can you prove the fifth match is there, or must we helplessly believe your silly assertion, with no corroborating evidence?"
Jefferson’s eyes twinkled. "Can you prove it isn't there?"
"But that's insane!", Pope Safari Golfer I declared. "How can I prove that things that aren't there really aren't there? That futile dialectic obligation would end any rational debate and make the Mad Hatter happy as a lark. The burden of proof is on you."
"Okay, let's change the subject slightly. I contend your God doesn’t exist."
"Prove it!", said the Golfer.
Jefferson smiled. "According to your own rules, it’s your burden to prove God's existence, not mine to prove his non-existence."
"Okay then", conceded the Golfer reluctantly. "Who created the universe, if not God? It had to get here somehow."
"Who created this creator of the universe? By extension of the same logic, the creator had to get here somehow."
"The creator didn’t require creation. This is a special exception to my logic," bluffed the Golfer.
"I can more easily argue that the universe didn’t require creation. One incredulity is easier to swallow than two. Why add the complication of a creator who doesn't require creation, especially when there is no evidence of this notion?"
"How do you explain the miracle of life?", challenged the Golfer. "There had to be a god to make humans in his own image."
"It is far more likely that we invented god in our own imperfect image as our feeble intellects evolved, than that some invisible being concocted us out of nothing on the sixth day. There is abundant evidence of biological and spiritual evolution, and none of divine intervention."
"How do you explain the beauty of flowers and rainbows, if god didn’t create them?"
"How do you explain war, earthquakes, and Head Honchos, in a universe created by a god capable of making flowers and rainbows?", said Jefferson. "If your god created everything, then he also created evil, for which he ought to be despised, not worshipped."
"What purpose do our lives have if there is no afterlife with god?"
"What purpose do they have if there is an afterlife with god? The notion is too extravagantly redundant to be reasonable, and there is no evidence of heaven or hell, but for the quality of life and the psychological states we create for ourselves here on earth."
"The purpose of our lives", preached the Pope, "Is to earn an eternity with God."
"If your god put us on earth merely to run us through a metaphysical obstacle course or a moral maze like pavlovian rats, then I want nothing to do with him. If such a god exists, I will never bow to him and sacrifice the rationality that he presumably endowed me with."
"Aha! Your rebelliousness clearly demonstrates the need for a god to restrain people and to induce good behavior. Without religion, we would have moral anarchy."
"Religion has no monopoly on morality."
"But why would anyone do good, if not for love of Jesus or fear of an omnipotent god?"
"You cannot do good out of fear", asserted Jefferson. "Morality ends where the wrath of god begins. And there is certainly more love in the universe than that of Jesus to motivate one to do good. The love of mother for child is an example."
"But there’s no way to know good without God to define it?"
"Those who think that are the building blocks with which tyrants fashion their oppressions. If your idea of good is defined externally and imposed on you unwillingly, then you are a tool. And if the external definition of good is mystical, then you are a tool with infinitely malleable applications. Every tyrant uses secular or divine mysticism to support his rule. There is no difference between the Egyptian god-kings or the Marxian species being, between the divine right of kings or Hitler’s Aryan race, between tribal rituals or Ismism’s common good. All are different manifestations of unverifiable mysticism defining good and bad, benefiting those doing the defining and damaging the rest.
"If you can’t define good without religion", continued Jefferson, "then you are condemned to intellectual slavery, with the shackles applied by your own mind. What tyrants fear most is people discovering what good is without ever opening a religious or political text. Good is what a thinking person values. Values are personally chosen building blocks that enable a fulfilling life to flourish. Personal choice requires freedom. Freedom and mysticism, whether secular or divine, cannot coexist. They are mutually exclusive. One requires constant thought, and the other requires constant suspension of thought. This translates into the political world very directly and elementally. Political power is founded on the unthinking slavery of mysticism, since freely thinking minds will never submit to the tyranny of some humans wielding power over others. One sentence can summarize man's social experience thus far: Ignorance breeds mysticism, and mysticism breeds power. Repeat this sentence a thousand times. It’s everything you need to know about religion and politics."