(Apologies to James Chastek, who’s actually good at this. Inspired by a good question at school)
Israelite: And that’s how God gave the Law to our people.
Philistine: Wow. That’s…quite a story.
I: You sound unconvinced.
P: You are trying to convince me that there is one god supreme over all lands and peoples. That’s crazy.
I: Believe me, I get it. My people struggle with this all the time.
P: Why bother struggling? If your story is true, then how can Dagon have dominion over a land? How do you survive the cognitive dissonance?
I: Well, I already told you about the plagues and pillar of fire thing…
P: Fine, fine, you worship a real god with some good special effects. But that doesn’t support your insanely sweeping claims that he’s the only god worthy of worship or a transcendent ground of rational behavior. Or that he is Dagon’s god.
I: Didn’t he overthrow your Dagon and didn’t your people send him back to us with apologies?
P: What does that prove? Maybe he’s stronger than Dagon. Maybe we displeased Dagon. Maybe he’s Dagon’s kryptonite. You are putting down an unsupportable hypothesis about supreme dominion when there are dozens of alternative explanations out there.
I: Isn’t that what the story of the Law I just told you is supposed to support? By giving us Torah–believe me, I wish he hadn’t–he’s shown us a new level of reality.
P: On two rocks?
I: Come on, show some respect. You prostrate yourself before a statue, after all.
P: Ok, fine. Tell me what is so special about these tablets of stone. Do they glow? Do they transport you to the realm cosmic? Suffuse you with a subtle sense of the numinous when you are in their presence?
I: Oh, I’ve never seen them before.
P: Wait, what?!
I: God commanded Moses to seal them up in the ark.
P: Do you mean to tell me that no one has seen them in centuries?!
I: If anyone other than our priests touches the ark, they die.
P: We touched it!
I: Then he must have allowed it in order to teach us a lesson.
P: I…I suppose. But how do you know the stones are real? What if the ark is empty, or full of dust?
I: We preserve the story on a scroll and tell it among our people. Our priests tend the ark–
P: I heard your priests are quite fond of the women who come to worship.
I: Ahem, yes. That was regrettable. But it doesn’t invalidate their authority–
P: Are you kidding me? You want me to abandon the god of my fathers, Dagon, who actively rules over my people, and subscribe to this insane new theory that all people should abandon their gods and worship yours. But you’ve never seen him–
I: No one can. He’s invisible.
P: –and his signal miracle is in a box that no one can open, guarded by a bunch of lecherous womanizers who have been known to lose the box in battle? Fine, you beat us in battle. Fine, he can do some spooky stuff. How does that make him a totally different kind of thing than all the other gods?
I: Hmm. I’m going to have to think about this one for a second.
P: Take your time.