I get into trouble talking about religion. Donít know why. Iím certainly happy to entertain whatever ideas anybody else might have, however screwy, since itís the nature of religion to be somewhat hard to establish. And so we have prophets and celestial signs and flying squirrels.

I think I get into trouble because I have a somewhat unconventional attitude toward various seminal events on the calendars of true believers, and if your religious persuasion depends to a great extent on irrational certainty or a studied ignorance, unconventional must be the work of satan.

I was raised to think that I was entitled to my own opinion, and by the time I learned that society in general took a dim view of such frolicking it was too late. Consequently, Iíve got my own notions about a lot of things, and that includes religion.

For example, that story about Adam and Eve? Imagine what it would read like from the pen of Stephen King. Weíve got the Ďbelieversí, many of whom apparently think that there was this literal event, Adam and Eve sitting around, virgins in paradise, and some snake comes along and pretty soon Adam is bobbing for apples.

Itís easy to sneeze at that one. I mean, itís based on what? The only being which mightíve documented it was the snake, and it had no hands to write anything nor a camcorder.

But I am not one who sneezes at the Adam and Eve fable because, of course, it comes from somewhere and it has sure taken hold. How come? Who dreamed this one up?

Granted, my ideas in this area were somewhat influenced many years ago by the systematic ingestion of windowpane and California Sunshine, but that does not invalidate them as far as I am concerned. So, what I think: we were sitting around in some sort of pure energy form when we began wondering what it would be like to be material beings. Once asked, the question manifested the reality, and here we are, learning about it.

Itís a point of view unpopular with everybody, believers and non-believers. My loosened screws are quite ecumenical.

And thereís Moses and the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt nots all over the place.

The real story, as I see it, is not quite the way itís ordinarily told. My version runs this way: there was this fellow Moses who was trying to lead his people to the promised land. Itís a long journey and, predictably, thereís a lot of grumbling and screwing around. So Moses ascends a local mountain or hillock or something and gets a message from God.

So far, I buy it. Visions? Sure, Iíve had a few myself, not to mention paranormal experiences which remain unexplained by the scientists, so okay. He probably hadnít eaten much and in the hot sunshine, and no doubt crazy-pissed off about circumstances, here come the hallucinations.

But what was God saying? My bet is that what Moses received were promises, not commandments. Hereís what youíll find in the promised land, once you get there and not before: no murderers, no liars, nobody coveting anotherís spouse, and so forth.

But Moses is not in the mood for a pep talk, even one which strikes him as divine correspondence. Heís nervous. Heís a political leader beginning to lose his supporters due to rough conditions, maybe somebodyís running against him in the next primary, and promises arenít going to cut it electorally.

And so he coverts the vision into a threat. Shape up or else, and you donít want to find out what Ďor elseí turns out to be.

Theyíre not commandments and never were. This is not some anthropomorphic God, created out of our own image. What an ego has the human race! Yeah, I know, the ďHis own imageĒ stuff, but give me a break.

The universe, or whatever it is weíre swimming around in, is not operating with human consciousness. God is not trying to threaten you with anything; in a significant sense, Iíd say that God doesnít actually care. You want to kill each other? Okay, keep killing each other until you figure out how stupid that is. Itís up to you. Iím God and Iíve got all the time in the world. You want to lie? Go ahead. Youíre not fooling Me.

The only evidence Iíve ever seen which might suggest an interventionist force ĖĖ apart from the various rules about physical items in this particular world, such as gravity ĖĖ is the fact that given the intelligence level of the human race itís otherwise hard to believe that we havenít utterly destroyed ourselves and the earth by now. Itís possible that we wonít be permitted to do that until weíve completed our education. I might be wrong about this.

Iím not at all familiar with any religions outside of the Judeo-Christian deal, and I donít know much about them, either, but from my limited observations it strikes me that the Ďorganizedí religions depend on scaring people. As the late, great Bill Hicks pointed out, thereís something pretty weird about any religion which tells you simultaneously that God loves you and that if you fuck up youíre going to twist in hell forever. Wow, talk about tough love!

It seems to be part of the human condition to ask questions about our presence here, and over time weíve nailed up declarations and prophets, and argued and bludgeoned, and tried various portals to revelation, and weíre guessing as much as ever and as far from knowing. Thatís what makes it fun.

I am aware of the point of view which thinks the entire God matter is nonsense. I recently read a couple of cogent and eloquent expressions of this viewpoint in e-mail exchanges with a woman possessing the argumentative edge of a fairly sharp razor. Iíd have to dig out her e-mail to give you an exact quote, which she might not appreciate anyhow, so Iíll paraphrase. In short, look out the window. You call this a just universe? Decent people screwed and the screwers going right to the top. Dead bodies of the innocent and Sarah Palin on a speaking tour. So, donít talk to me about God.

Naturally, I agree with her. On the other hand...

Perhaps what I choose is simply an alternative that I like. I get a kick out of recreating various biblical stories because many are open to surprising interpretations. Obviously, at least to me, most religious tales are written for political reasons, yet they derive from something real, some event or observation or experience. Puzzles have always interested me and the God puzzle is one of the best. After all, it can never be solved