"ODDLY ENOUGH," THE FIGURE SAID, "I'm pleased to hear that. But let me clarify a couple of points:
"To begin with, I am not what you see here. I know it's trite to say so, but this really is just a form that you can understand.
"'Ground of your being' comes a little closer to what I really am, but what kind of image does that suggest? And what room does it leave for the kind of relationship your friend just spoke of?
"The relationship is, of course, the key to the whole of your creation. It was designed to produce creatures that could really relate to me. That required separateness, which required free will, a rational nature, the ability to choose, but, most importantly, independence.
"Even in my present guise—Do you like it? I call it therapist/friend.—Even in this guise, I'm a pretty imposing figure. It's just who I am. So, if I were to have a real relationship with any of my creatures, they would have to be extraordinarily independent.
"They would have to be able to be themselves, even in the face of all my charisma.
"To put it in a sort of metaphor, I didn't want to surround myself with a bunch of yes-men for all eternity.
"So, I created a world which allowed choice, and reason, to develop. I planted certain ideas about myself in that world, as well.
"Did it ever occur to you, Daniel, that the stories about me were a little distasteful? That at least half of my supposed interventions in human history were rather nasty, and unfeeling? That the picture they painted of me were designed to attract a certain justification of power, a certain willingness to even embrace evil, if authority was behind it?
"The kind of personality that was willing, even eager, to escape free will?
"Didn't you find it a little bit difficult to justify my demand that Abraham be willing to kill his own son? Or my demand for the wholesale slaying of entire populaces after a battle? Or some of that horrible business in the book of Revelation? What about the idea that I was so narcissistic that I wanted to be worshiped for all eternity?
"It never bothered you?"
Daniel was silent.
Peter cleared his throat, and interrupted.
"I'm not going along with this, you know. I may or may not be the kind of "independent" creature you could relate to, but if you send Daniel to Hell, you're going to spend eternity without me, as well."