The Atheist and God
by Jane Seaford



‘I am more feminine than masculine,’ God said.

‘So… you’re a woman?’ Nicola asked.

‘That’s not what I said. I am God, neither man nor woman, but I have more female characteristics. I prefer people to refer to me as ‘she’ rather than ‘he’.’

Nicola found this odd, since she and God had started talking to each other, she had assumed he – or rather she – was male. She wasn’t sure what she felt about him – or rather her – not being a man. She’d thought of him as sitting on cloud, wearing white robes, with long hair, brown but speckled with grey and a long beard. Nicola knew this idea came from other people’s imaginations but nonetheless the image had provided a reassuring picture to hold in her head given she couldn’t see the being talking to her.

‘Why haven’t you mentioned your gender before?’ Nicola asked.

‘I waited – hoped – for you to notice yourself. But I’ve realised that was unlikely.’ God sighed.

‘You have a deep voice, so I assumed you were male,’ Nicola said.

‘That’s just the way you heard me. Listen again. Keep listening. Now, how do I sound?’

‘More feminine.’

‘Quite,’ God said.

I suppose as a feminist your… femaleness should please me.’

‘Quite,’ God said again, the word tinged with irony.

‘I embraced feminism years ago,’ Nicola said.

‘Nonetheless you let George make all the major decisions, didn’t you?’

‘Oh do shut up.’ God was becoming as irritating as Nicola’s best friend, Erica, who had recently changed her name to Maud.

‘You know better than to speak to me so rudely, but I will shut up.’ God yawned. ‘Time to end our conversation. I need a nap.’

‘I didn’t know you slept.’

God yawned again and Nicola decided she, too, could do with a short lie down. Talking to a superbeing had exhausted her.


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Her conversations with God had started a few months ago, two weeks after George had told her he no longer wanted to live with her. Told her, took twenty minutes to pack his clothes, a few CDs and books, his power tool and his laptop. He had loaded the bigger of the cars, saying he’d arrange to come with a van for his other things. Nicola stood in the doorway. She had yelled at George as he went from room to room shoving things in bags while she followed him, alternating between demanding he stay and listing his faults. Now she opened her mouth to shout one last venomous insult as he drove away. Nothing came out. She was at a loss for words.

She also felt confused and distraught. For some time she moved around the house, touching things, looking out of the windows at the garden George had tended so lovingly, sobbing now and then, telling herself his departure hadn’t really happened. After twenty years of marriage, George couldn’t be deserting her. His leaving was the worst thing that had ever happened to her.  And made even worse because he hadn’t said why, even when she’d screamed the question, over and over.

At six she poured a glass of wine and readied herself to talk to Erica. She winced as she looked at the phone, Erica neither liked nor approved of George and rather than sympathise she might tell Nicola it was a good thing. But as her best friend, Erica should be the first to know. In addition, she prided herself on her practical qualities and might have some good advice. Nicola winced again, not sure she wanted good advice. So she had another big cry and a second glass of wine.

‘It’s me, Erica,’ Nicola said.

‘I’ve already told you. I’m called Maud now.’

‘Oh… Yes.’ Recently Erica had announced that as a feminist she no longer wanted to have a name that was an ‘a’ added to a man’s name.  When Nicola asked why she had waited so long to change, Erica snorted, said some things took time and that ‘Nicola’ was also a feminisation of a male name…

‘You don’t sound too perky,’ Erica said now.

‘No,’ Nicola said and the enormity of her husband’s behaviour hit her again and the tears came.

‘Has something dreadful happened?’ Erica sounded concerned.

‘George has left me,’ Nicola sobbed. And waited for Erica to reply. And waited.

‘Say something,’ Nicola said eventually.

‘I’m so sorry,’ Erica said. ‘But…’ (there would, of course, have to be a ‘but’) ‘…once you get over it…’

‘I’ll never get over it.’

‘Oh you will.’

Erica had offered to keep her company for the evening, but Nicola had wanted to spend time alone with her sadness. Later, going to bed, she shouted at God.

‘How could you have let George leave me?’ No reply came, but Nicola hadn’t expected one. She was, after all, an atheist.

Erica arrived the following evening with a cottage pie that she put in the oven. She frowned when Nicola filled her wine glass for the second time, but she listened and nodded while Nicola poured out her grief. When Erica gathered her things together, ready to leave, the two women hugged. She hadn’t mentioned Nicola getting over George, nor had she made any of her usual comments about him getting his own way too often, or being pompous, or having a schoolboy sense of humour.

Nicola spoke to George from time to time. Telephone calls on practical matters, discussion about selling their house, which she ignored. And eventually, when she persisted, he told her why he had left.

‘I… want… I mean… we were in a rut.’

‘Were we?’ Nicola asked.

‘Oh yes,’ George said.

‘See,’ Erica said when Nicola relayed the conversation to her. ‘He’s still…treating you as if you didn’t know your own mind.’

‘What should I do? Tell him the rut was in his imagination and so he should come home?’

‘Of course not… You’ll come to realise you’re better off without him.’

Nicola glared at her friend, realising that, after two weeks of difficult sympathy, Erica had reverted to her usual dismissal of George.

‘He was - is – the love of my life,’ Nicola said, pondering the truth of her words. When they first met they had both burned with passion, she told herself. It had lasted for years. She sighed. Maybe she had become complacent, had not – in spite of what Erica said – listened to George and given him what he wanted.

Later, in bed Nicola felt the heaviness of grief, made worse because she wondered if she’d behaved differently she could have kept George with her.

‘Oh God, what could I have done to keep him?’ she cried out.

‘You’re asking the wrong question,’ came a voice from the other side of the room.

Nicola sat up. ‘Who’s that?’ she asked.

‘Who do you think?’

‘It’s not God is it?’

‘Who else could it be?’

‘But I’m an atheist.’

‘I’m the God of everyone, even non-believers.’

‘Perhaps I’m making you up, or going mad.’

‘You’re not going mad. You’re having a tough time and I’ve come to help you.’

‘Why didn’t you come when George first left?’

‘I considered visiting you then, but you weren’t ready.’

‘Am I ready now?’

‘I think so. Now go to sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow.’

Nicola woke late the next morning, refreshed. Although still unhappy she felt now she was strong enough to cope.

‘Are you there, God?’ she asked.

‘I am. Do you want to talk about George?’

‘I do.’

‘Fire away then.’

‘I didn’t know God used that sort of expression.’

‘You’ll find I speak much like you do.’

‘Right. By the way although I’m talking to you I still call myself an atheist.’

‘That’s OK. Life is confusing, complex and contradictory, isn’t it?

‘Yes. Like what’s happening to me now. I don’t understand how George who said so often that he loved me – adored me – could leave me. Mind you, it’s been a long time since he used those words, except when I asked him.’

‘George is probably in two minds. Partly wanting a new life, partly wanting the comfort and familiarity of the old one.’

‘But the new-life part won.’ Nicola said. She and God had a long conversation about George and Nicola had to admit, reluctantly, she found certain things he did and said irritating, moreover she enjoyed some aspects of living without him.

‘Breakfast time,’ Nicola said eventually.

‘It’s a shame I can’t appreciate eating, given I created food as pleasurable,’ God said and sighed.

‘You created sex, too,’ Nicola sad.

‘True and that, too, I can’t indulge in.’

‘Poor you,’ Nicola said. She felt better than she had done since George left.


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She hadn’t intended to tell Erica about her conversations with God but the topic came up one Sunday over a visit to a restaurant for lunch.

‘You’re recovering. You’ve smiled three times and laughed twice,’ Erica said.

‘Yes. Thanks to God. I’ve found him a great help.’

‘But you’re an atheist.’

‘Yes. Just because I don’t believe in God doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. He and I talk to each other every day.’

‘Don’t be silly, it’s you imagining him to help you cope with losing George.’ Erica said and when Nicola laughed she added: ‘Does he speak English?’

‘Of course,’ Nicola said. ‘Otherwise I couldn’t understand him.’

‘If he existed, which he doesn’t, he’d speak Hebrew. Given where he was invented.’

‘I imagine he can speak every single language. I’ll ask him next time we talk.’


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‘I see your friend wants to persuade you not to believe in me,’ God said a few days later.

‘She’s a bit irritating. She never liked George. And I can’t get used to calling her Maud when her name’s Erica.’

‘I can see why you feel like that. Nonetheless you’re fond of her and you enjoy her company, even her bossiness…. Reminds you of George… Does it not?’

‘Oh,’ Nicola said. ‘I’d not considered that. But it’s true. I think. Except I answer back to Erica and I rarely did to George.’

‘So you’re coming to terms with the end of your marriage?’

‘No. If I could have George back tomorrow I would. I’m learning to live without him but I miss him dreadfully and I wish you hadn’t let him leave me.’

‘Maybe it was for the best.’

‘You’re beginning to sound like Erica. And by the way she says I shouldn’t think of you as a ‘he.’’

‘Right,’ God said and this was when he – or rather she – told Nicola she was more feminine than masculine.


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‘You’re right, Erica. God does not exist.’

‘Call me Maud. So, regarding God, you’ve come to your senses.’

‘Possibly.’ Nicola felt defensive. ‘When God said she was more feminine than masculine I saw a big problem. How could a God who identified as female let all the awful things that happen, happen? How could she have let George leave me? A female God wouldn’t have let him go; she’d have found a way of helping us sort out our issues. Also, she wouldn’t have created our world with all its horrors: war, terrorism, pandemics, children dying, men in charge everywhere.’

‘So because God told you she was more woman than man you stopped believing in her?’ Erica asked.

‘No need to raise your eyebrows.’ Nicola said. ‘My logic is impeccable… Isn’t it?’ she added quietly to God.

‘Absolutely,’ God replied.



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