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.


All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books, ISBN 0-345-31650-9, 21st printing
All italics and ellipses as in the book
Bold face has been added for emphasis
Did something happen to me like that which Mr. Wells described in Men Like Gods?
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...
Oy! Every prophecy I fulfilled! And now He tells me consistent I am not! This is justice?
  • Let this be a lesson to you. Learn by my bad example. Never let an oaf cause you to lose your judgment.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 4) - Alexander Hergensheimer (aka Alec Graham)
  • My father used to tell me, "Alex, there is nothing wrong with being 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 the bathroom with the door locked. The difference between a coward and a brave man is mostly a matter of timing."
    • Chapter 2 (p. 13) - Alec
  • 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.
  • Chapter 2 (p. 14) - Alec
  • 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!
    • Chapter 2 (p. 17) - Alec
  • Never marry a woman who prays too much.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 69) - Alec
  • “Look, do you believe me?”
    She answered slowly and carefully, “I believe that you are telling the truth as you see it. But the truth I see is very different.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 73) - Margrethe
  • The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 93) - Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 97) - Alec
  • “Paranoia is the only rational approach to a conspiracy world.”
    “But, Alec, the world ought not to be that way.”
    “There is no ‘ought’ to it, my love. The essence of philosophy is to accept the universe as it is, rather than try to force it into some preconceived shape.”
    • Chapter 9 (p. 101) - Alec and Margrethe
  • Some problems are best let be, not chewed over with words. This modern compulsion to “talk it out” is a mistake at least as often as it is a solution.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 132) - Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 135) - Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 138-139) - Margrethe
  • The logical reconciliation of Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnibenevolence is the thorniest problem in theology, one causing even Jesuits to break their teeth.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 139) - Alec
  • 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?
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 139-140) - Margrethe
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 140) - Margrethe
  • The Jehovah or Yahweh of the Old Testament seems to me to be a sadistic, bloodthirsty, genocidal villain.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 140) - Margrethe
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 141) - Margrethe
  • 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!
    • Chapter 12 (p. 142) - Alec
  • One does not persuade a butterfly to light on one’s hand by brandishing a sword.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 145)- Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 146) - Alec
  • I am never one of those back-to-nature freaks who sneer at engineering; I have more reason than most people to respect engineering. Most people who sneer at technology would starve to death if the engineering infrastructure were removed.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 196) - Alec
  • A miracle that takes place again and again and again is no longer a miracle; it’s just a nuisance.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 248) - Margrethe
  • Wisdom includes not getting angry unnecessarily. The Law ignores trifles and the wise man does, too.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 278) - Lucifer (as Jerry Farnsworth) to Roderick Lyman Culverson III (aka Israfel)
  • I can’t see proof in the dreams of long-dead prophets; you can read anything into them.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 283) - Jerry to Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 283) - Jerry to Alec
  • I learned long ago, in dealing with legislators, that anyone who tries to keep you from having a witness is bad news.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 300) - Alec
  • There were most questions, mostly silly, confirming an opinion I had kept to myself for years: Piety does not imply horse sense.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 330) - Alec
  • I don’t know how long it took to reach the Throne. In Heaven the light doesn’t vary and the weather does not change and I had no watch. It was simply a boringly long time. Boring? Yes. A gorgeous palace constructed of precious stones is a wonderful sight to see. A dozen palaces constructed of jewels can be a dozen wonderful sights, each different from the other. But a hundred miles of such palaces will put you to sleep, and six hundred miles of the same is deadly dull. I begin to long for a used-car lot, or a dump, or (best yet) the stretch of green and open countryside.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 343) - Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 367) - Alec
  • My first intimation that I was getting close to Hell was the stink. Rotten eggs. H2S. Hydrogen sulfide. The stench of burning brimstone.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 368) - Alec
  • “With patience and plenty of saliva the elephant deflowered the mosquito.”
    • Chapter 24 (p. 369)
  • I know this character. If he's a saint, I'm a pink monkey—
    • Chapter 24 (p. 371) - Bert Kinsey, about Alec, just before he is transformed into a pink monkey
  • “Mr. Ashmedai is city manager; Satan never does any work. Why should he? He owns this planet.”
    “This is a planet.”
    “You think maybe it’s a comet? Look out that window. Prettiest planet in this galaxy. And the best kept. No snakes. No cockroaches. No chiggers. No poison ivy. No tax collectors. No rats. No cancer. No preachers. Only two lawyers.”
    “You make it sound like Heaven.”
    “Never been there.”
    • Chapter 24 (pp. 372-373) - Bert
  • Hell isn’t very organized. It’s an anarchy except for a touch of absolute monarchy on some points.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 378) - Pat (aka Sister Mary Patricia) to Alec
  • I’m not an imp faking human; I’m human. You don’t think anyone could get a job like this without human experience, do you? You have to be human right down to your toes to to please a fellow human most; that stuff about the superior erotic ability of succubi is just their advertising.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 381) - Pat
  • I have never lied to you. I've had to hold back some things until I was free to speak, that's all.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 389) - Pat
  • “You are trying to make a fool of Me, in front of My gentlemen.”
    “No, Your Majesty, I cannot make a fool of You. Only You can do that.”
    • Chapter 26 (p. 392) - Satan and Alec
  • Oh, come! I don’t want your soul. There’s no market for souls today; there are far too many of them and the quality is way down. I can pick them up at a nickel a bunch, like radishes. But I don’t; I’m overstocked.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 393) - Satan
  • But plenty of money (how well I knew it!) made hard things easy and impossible things merely difficult.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 395) - Alec
  • “Uh…is this Texas? Or is it Hell?”
    “Matter of opinion,” Jerry said.
    “Is there a difference?” asked Sybil.
    “Hard to tell,” said Katie.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 399)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 401) - Lucifer to Alec
  • 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?
    • Chapter 27 (p. 402) - Katie (aka Rahab) to Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 403) - Satan (as Jerry) to Alec
  • “Alec, ‘justice’ is not a divine concept; it is a human illusion. 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.”
    • Chapter 27 (p. 411) - Satan (as Jerry) to Alec
  • “Go ahead, say it.”
    “‘Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be 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.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 412) - Satan (as Jerry) to Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 413) - Alec
  • “You see?”
    “I suppose I do. About as well as a cow understands calculus.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 417) - Alec
  • “I did not say that the world was created twenty-three billion years ago; I said that was its age. It was created old. Created with fossils in the ground and craters on the moon, all speaking of great age. Created that way by Yahweh, because it amused Him to do so. One of those scientists said, ‘God does not roll dice with the universe.’ Unfortunately not true. Yahweh rolls loaded dice with His universe…to deceive His creatures.”
    “Why would He do that?”
    “Lucifer says that it is because He is a poor Artist, the sort who is always changing His mind and scraping the canvas. And a practical joker. But I’m really not entitled to an opinion; I’m not at that level. And Lucifer is prejudiced where His Brother is concerned; I think that is obvious.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 419) - Katie to Alec
  • Alec, to be able to read and write is as wonderful as sex. Or almost.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 420) - Katie
  • Lucifer always has reasons for what He does. He rarely explains. His intentions are malevolent only toward malicious people
    ...which you are not.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 423) - Katie to Alex
  • “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?”
    “Uh…maybe. I’m not sure.”
    “A is to B as B is got C. 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, and 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.”
    • Chapter 28 (p. 425) - Jerry to Alec
  • 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 decides to extinguish you, you will never know it. It is not a sadistic God.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 426) - Jerry to Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 428) - Lucifer to Koshchei
  • 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.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 429) - Koshchei to Lucifer
  • For a creature to act out its own minor art, 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.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 429) - Koshchei to Lucifer
  • Oy! Every prophecy I fulfilled! And now He tells me consistent I am not! This is justice?
    • Chapter 28 (p. 434) - Yahweh to Koshchei
  • A man who is happy at home doesn’t lie awake nights worrying about the hereafter.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 438) - Alec
  • 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.
    • Chapter 29 (pp. 438-439) - Alec; closing words
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