The scene is either hell or Texas (pick either or both!). Saint Alexander Hergensheimer and the devil are discussing god's will and Alex's misadventures in Robert Heinlein’s novel, Job: A Comedy of Justice. Alex is reflecting on his deity’s rules for getting into heaven and being relentlessly challenged by his adversary. The “I” in the following narrative is Alex. The devil, in the form of one Jerry Farnsworth, speaks first:
“A long and wicked life followed by five minutes of perfect grace gets you into Heaven. An equally long life of decent living and good works followed by one outburst of taking the name of the Lord in vain – then have a heart attack at that moment and be damned for eternity. Is that the system?”
I answered stiffly, “If you read the words of the Bible literally, that is the system. But the Lord moves in mysterious –”
“Not mysterious to Me, bud: I’ve known Him too long. It’s His world, His rules, His doing. His rules are exact and anyone can follow them and reap the reward. But ‘just’ they are not. What do you think of what He has done to you and your Marga? Is that justice?”
I took a deep breath. “I’ve been trying to figure that out ever since Judgment Day … and Jack Daniel’s isn’t helping. No, I don’t think it’s what I signed up for.”
“Ah, but you did!”
“My Brother Yahweh, wearing His Jesus face, said: “After this manner therefore pray ye:’ Go ahead, say it.”
“‘Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done –’”
“Stop! Stop right there. ‘Thy will be done –’ No Muslim claiming to be a ‘slave of God’ ever gave a more sweeping consent than that. In that prayer you invite Him to do His worst. The perfect masochist. That’s the test of Job, boy. Job was treated unjustly in every way day after day for years – I know, I know, I was there; I did it – and My dear Brother stood by and let Me do it. Let Me? He urged Me, He connived in it, accessory ahead of the fact.
“Now it’s your turn. Your God did it to you. Will you curse Him? Or will you come wiggling back on your belly like a whipped dog?”
Predictably, the conversation is interrupted at that juncture, but the point has been made. To be a True Christian is to be a masochist to the whim of a deity whose will you may not be privy to knowing, yet you are bound to it for good or ill because said deity wants it that way. It amounts to surrender of the first order, of one’s life and rights to self-determination as a matter of course. To any atheist, to any person who desires to be the author of their own actions and responsible for the same, such a declaration is a slap in the face, if not worse.
From the atheist's point of view, of course, there is neither devil nor god, nor heaven nor hell. We have ONE SHOT to get it right, perhaps leave some mark on the world, preferably positive, because all that will be left behind are the consequences of our actions and the memories of us in those who continue. The idea of a simplistic "Get Out of Jail Free" card is anathema to us, as surely as the idea of eternal condemnation for a trivial act is.
It occurs to me that atheists work without a net … and I find that I don’t mind that at all.