Job: A Comedy of Justice

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There is nothing wrong with being scared... as long as you don't let it affect you until the danger is over.

Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) is a novel by Robert A. Heinlein, satirizing various notions of Heaven, Hell, deities and the destiny of Humanity. The novel's name invokes the biblical story of Job, and the satire Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice by James Branch Cabell.

Quotes[edit]

Did something happen to me like that which Mr. Wells described in Men Like Gods?
I was utterly confused. A stranger in a strange land, I was overcome by customs new and shocking.
I do not think, in retrospect, that I would have made my condition worse had I simply blurted out my predicament. I would not have been believed.
At Ragnarok the world as we know it will be destroyed. But that is not the end...
Nothing is ever finished, nothing is ever perfect, but over and over again the race of men gets another chance to do better than last time, ever and again without end.
I am sorry... but I do believe that Loki is loose. The signs show it. Now anything can happen...
I have never lied to you. I've had to hold back some things until I was free to speak, that's all...
I have powers that you can't imagine. I have limitations that you cannot imagine, too...
Somebody should tell all of Yahweh's followers, Jews and Christians, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
I am about to take you in to see — no, for you to be seen by — an Entity who is to me, and to my brother your god Yahweh, as Yahweh is to you...
The Chairman, whatever He or It or She may be, had reached into my mind with some sort of hypnosis to create an ambience in which I could relax.
Oy! Every prophecy I fulfilled! And now He tells me consistent I am not! This is justice?
  • The Authority — his name was Cheevers — had been annoying me ever since I had joined the ship. I leaned forward and said quietly into his ear, "If those children walk through the fire, do you have the guts to do likewise?"
    Let this be a lesson to you. Learn by my bad example. Never let an oaf cause you to lose your judgement. Some seconds later I found that my challenge had been turned against me and. — somehow! — all three, the Authority, the Skeptic, and the Well-Traveled Man, had each bet me a hundred that I would not dare walk the fire pit, stipulating that the children walked first.
    • Alexander Hergensheimer (aka Alec Graham), Ch. 1
  • I felt smothered and discovered that I had been holding my breath. So I gasped — and regretted it. Over a fire pit that vast there is blistering gas and smoke and carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and something that may be Satan's halitosis, but not enough oxygen to matter.
    • Alex, Ch. 1
  • There is nothing wrong with being scared... as long as you don't let it affect you until the danger is over. Being hysterical is okay, too... afterwards and in private. Tears are not unmanly... in the bathroom with the door locked. The difference between a coward and a brave man is mostly a matter of timing.
    • Alex, Ch. 2
  • Hypotheses:
a) Something preposterous has happened to the world around me, or
b) Something preposterous has happened to Alex Hergensheimer's mind; he should be locked up and sedated.
I could not think of a third hypothesis; those two seemed to cover all bases. The second hypothesis I need not waste time on. If, I were raising snakes in my hat, eventually other people would notice and come around with a straitjacket and put me in a nice padded room.
So let's assume that I am sane (or nearly so; being a little bit crazy is helpful). If I am okay, then the world is out of joint. Let's take stock.
  • Alex, Ch. 2
  • Did something happen to me like that which Mr. Wells described in Men Like Gods? Did Mr. Wells have the holy gift of prophecy? For example, would men someday actually fly to the moon? Preposterous!
    • Alex, Ch. 2
  • I was utterly confused. A stranger in a strange land, I was overcome by customs new and shocking. But through it all I clung to the conviction that I must appear to be sophisticated, at home, unsurprised. I must not let anyone suspect that I was not Alec Graham, shipmate, but instead Alexander Hergensheimer, total stranger... or something terrible might happen.
    Of course I was wrong; something terrible had already happened. I was indeed a total stranger in an utterly strange and confusing land... but I do not think, in retrospect, that I would have made my condition worse had I simply blurted out my predicament.
    I would not have been believed.
    • Alex, Ch. 3
  • I knew that flying machines were impossible; in engineering school I had studied Professor Simon Newcomb's well-known mathematical proof that the efforts of Professor Langley and others to build an aerodyne capable of carrying a man were doomed, useless, because scale theory proved that no such contraption large enough to carry a man could carry a heat-energy plant large enough to lift it off the ground — much less a passenger.
    That was science's final word on a folly and it put a stop to wasting public monies on a will-o'-the-wisp. Research and development money went into airships, where it belonged, with enormous success.
    However, in the past few days I had gained a new angle on the idea of "impossible". When a veritable flying machine showed up in our sky, I was not greatly surprised.
    • Alex, Ch. 8
  • Margrethe said nothing — characteristically. If she disagreed, she usually said nothing. She seemed to have no interest in winning arguments, in which she must differ from 99 percent of the human race... many of whom appear willing to suffer any disaster rather than lose an argument.
    • Alex, Ch. 11
  • At Ragnarok the world as we know it will be destroyed. But that is not the end. After a long time, a time of healing, a new universe will be created, one better and cleaner and free from the evils of this world. It too will last for countless millennia... until again the forces of evil and cold contend against the forces of goodness and light... and again there is a time of rest, followed by a new creation and another chance for men. Nothing is ever finished, nothing is ever perfect, but over and over again the race of men gets another chance to do better than last time, ever and again without end.
    • Margrethe Svensdatter Gunderson, Ch. 11
  • Alec, do you believe in your heart that your God caused bears to tear up little children merely because they made fun of an old man's bald head?
    • Margrethe, Ch. 11
  • Jehovah destroyed city after city, every man, woman, and child, down to the youngest baby. Odin killed only in combat against opponents his own size. But, most important difference of all, Father Odin is not all–powerful and does not claim to be all–wise.
    • Margrethe, Ch. 11
  • I am sorry... but I do believe that Loki is loose. The signs show it. Now anything can happen. We enter the Twilight of the Gods. Ragnarok comes. Our world ends.
    • Margrethe, Ch. 11
  • Did I believe her theory about Loki and Ragnarok? Of course not! Oh, I had no objection to calling Armageddon by the name 'Ragnarok'. Jesus or Joshua or Jesu; Mary or Miriam or Maryam or Maria, Jehovah or Yahweh — any verbal symbol will do as long as speaker and listener agree on meaning. But Loki? Ask me to believe that a mythical demigod of an ignorant, barbarian race has wrought changes in the whole universe? Now, really!
    • Alex, Ch. 12
  • I have never been a Millenarianist. I am aware how often the number one thousand appears in the Bible, especially in prophecy — but I have never believed that the Almighty was constrained to work in even millennia — or any other numbering patterns — just to please numerologists.
    • Alex, Ch. 12
  • Wisdom includes not getting angry unnecessarily. The Law ignores trifles and the wise man does, too.
    • Lucifer (as Jerry Farnsworth) to Roderick Lyman Culverson III (aka Israfel), Ch. 18
  • Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything. Oh, my church, too — but at least mine is honestly pantheistic. Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything just give him time to rationalize it. Forgive me for being blunt.
    • Lucifer (as Jerry Farnsworth) to Alex, Ch. 18
  • Saint Peter was up and striding toward the door with his hand out as I was ushered in. I was taught in church history that he was believed to have been about ninety when he died. Or when he was executed (crucified?) by the, Romans, if he was. (Preaching has always been a chancy vocation, but in the days of Peter's ministry it was as chancy as that of a Marine platoon sergeant.)
    This man looked to be a strong and hearty sixty, or possibly seventy — an outdoor man, with a permanent' suntan and the scars that come from sun damage. His hair and beard were full and seemed never to have been cut, streaked with grey but not white, and (to my surprise) he appeared to have been at one time a redhead. He was well muscled and broad shouldered, and his hands were calloused, as I learned when he gripped my hand. He was dressed in sandals, a brown robe of coarse wool, a halo like mine, and a dinky little skullcap resting in the middle of that fine head of hair.
    I liked him on sight.
    • Ch. 23; Alex meeting St. Peter in Heaven
  • For modern man one of the most troubling aspects of eternity lies in getting used to the slippery quality of time. With no clocks and no calendars and lacking even the alternation of day and night, or the phases of the moon, or the pageant of seasons, duration becomes subjective and "What time is it?" is a matter of opinion, not of fact.
    • Alex, Ch. 24
  • I think I fell longer than twenty minutes; I do not think that I fell as long as twenty years.
    But don't risk any money on it either way.
    • Alex on his fall from Heaven to Hell, Ch. 24
  • My first intimation that I was getting close to Hell was the stink. Rotten eggs. H2S. Hydrogen sulfide. The stench of burning brimstone.
    • Alex, Ch. 24
  • If he's a saint, I'm a pink monkey —
    • Bert Kinsey, about Alex, just before he is transformed into a pink monkey, Ch. 24
  • I have never lied to you. I've had to hold back some things until I was free to speak, that's all.
    • Pat (aka Sister Mary Patricia) to Alex, Ch. 25
  • Alec, you've got to remember that you are human... and I am not. I have powers that you can't imagine. I have limitations that you cannot imagine, too. So hold your peace and listen.
    • Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 27
  • Trust Jerry. If He is to help you, He must do things beyond your ken. Would you try to direct a brain surgeon? Or attempt to hurry one?
    • Katie (aka Rahab) to Alex, Ch. 27
  • Behind every mystery lies another mystery. Infinite recession. But you don't need to know final answers — if there be such — and neither do I.
    • Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 27
  • Pete is a good old Joe, the most perfect Christian in Heaven or on earth. Denied his Boss thrice, been making up for it ever since. Utterly delighted to be on nickname terms with his Master in all three of His conventional Aspects. I like Pete. If he ever has a falling out with My Brother, he's got a job here.
    • Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 27
  • The very basis of the Judeo-Christian code is injustice, the scapegoat system. The scapegoat sacrifice runs all through the Old Testament, then it reaches its height in the New Testament with the notion of the Martyred Redeemer. How can justice possibly be served by loading your sins on another? Whether it be a lamb having its throat cut ritually, or a Messiah nailed to a cross and "dying for your sins". Somebody should tell all of Yahweh's followers, Jews and Christians, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
    • Lucifer to Alex
  • I suppose every man has doubts at times about God's justice. I admit that I had been much troubled lately and had been forced to remind myself again and again that God's ways are not man's ways, and that I could not expect always to understand the purposes of the Lord.
    But I could not speak my misgivings aloud, and least of all to the Lord's Ancient Adversary. It was especially upsetting that Satan chose at this moment to have the shape and the voice of my only friend.
    Debating with the Devil is a mug's game at best.
    • Alex, Ch. 28
  • Lucifer always has reasons for what He does. He rarely explains. His intentions are malevolent only toward malicious people which you are not.
    • Katie to Alex, Ch. 28
  • Time is never a problem on the God level. Or space. Whatever needed to deceive you was provided. But no more than that. That is the conservative principle in art at the God level. While I can't do it, not being at that level, I have seen a lot of it done. A skillful Artist in shapes and appearances does no more than necessary to create His effect.
    • Katie to Alex, Ch. 28
  • Listen carefully. I am about to take you in to see — no, for you to be seen by — an Entity who is to me, and to my brother your god Yahweh, as Yahweh is to you. Understand me? … To this Entity your lord god Jehovah is equivalent to a child building sand castles at a beach, then destroying them in childish tantrums. To Him, I am a child, too. I look up to Him as you look up to your triple deity — father, son, and holy ghost. I don't worship this Entity as God; He does not demand, does not expect, does not want, that sort of bootlicking. Yahweh may be the only god who ever thought up that curious vice — at least I do not know of another planet or place in any universe where god-worship is practiced. But I am young and not much traveled.
    • Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 28
  • You are in great danger. And so am I, although I think your danger is much greater than mine. But, Alec, I can assure you of this: If It decided to extinguish you, you will never know it. It is not a sadistic God.
    • Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 28
  • If It embodies, It will probably use a human appearance. If so, you can address Him as "Mr. Chairman" or "Mr. Koshchei". Treat Him as you would a man much older than you are and one you respect highly. Don't bow down or offer worship. Just stand your ground and tell the truth. If you die, die with dignity.
    • Lucifer to Alex, Ch. 28
  • I realized (being cold sober and rested) that this was not Dr. Simmons and that the semblance was intentional but not intended to deceive. The Chairman, whatever He or It or She may be, had reached into my mind with some sort of hypnosis to create an ambience in which I could relax. Dr. Simmons used to pet an animal and talk to it, before he got down to the uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and often painful things that he had to do to that animal.
    It had worked. It worked with me, too. I knew that Mr. Koshchei was not the old veterinary surgeon of my childhood... but this simulacrum brought out in me the same feeling of trust.
    • Alex, Ch. 28
  • Mr. Chairman, almost everything about a human creature is ridiculous, except its ability to suffer bravely and die gallantly for whatever it loves and believes in. The validity of that belief, the appropriateness of that love, is irrelevant; it is the bravery and the gallantry that count. These are uniquely human qualities, independent of mankind's creator, who has none of them himself — as I know, since he is my brother... and I lack them, too.
    • Lucifer to Koshchei, Ch. 28
  • There is an artistic principle — not a rule — that volitionals should be treated consistently. But to insist on kindness would be to eliminate that degree of freedom for which volition in creatures was invented. Without the possibility of tragedy the volitionals might as well be golems.
    • Koschei to Lucifer, Ch. 28
  • For a creature to act out its own minor part, the rules under which it acts must be either known to it or be such that the rules can become known through trial and error — with error not always fatal. In short the creature must be able to learn and to benefit by its experience.
    • Koschei to Lucifer, Ch. 28
  • Mr. Chairman, my warriors, male and female, dead in honorable combat, are my equals, not my slaves — I am to be first among such equals.
    • Odin to Koshchei, Ch. 28
  • Oy! Every prophecy I fulfilled! And now He tells me consistent I am not! This is justice?
    • Yahweh to Koshchei, Ch. 28
  • I have what I want. I would not want to be a saint in Heaven if Margrethe was not with me; I wouldn't fear going to Hell if she was there — not that I believe in Hell or ever stood a chance of being a saint in Heaven.
    Samuel Clemens put it: "Where she was, there was Eden." Omar phrased it: "thou beside me in the wilderness, ah wilderness were paradise enow." Browning termed it: Summum Bonum. All were asserting the same great truth, which is for me:
    Heaven is where Margrethe is.
    • Alex, Ch. 29

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