College students who recently graduated from high school often dropped into Gilmore Hilton’s store to speak with its owner. “The Sage of Simplex Pond” welcomed them, offered a Moxie, sold a burger and answered their questions with both knowledge and wisdom. Although Mr. Hilton never attended a post-secondary school, his intellect often eclipsed that of the most learned professors. His guidance was respected and admired.

Edith Elk wanted help. “My professor of philosophy gave the class a quotation he found from an ancient Roman author. It reads: ‘Sine deo, animus non potest esse bonus.’ Translating is not difficult: ‘Without God, the mind is not able to be good.’ Professor Maeterlinck asked the class if the God was literally the God whom people worship. He then suggested that it could be some other entity which offers guidance. He then said, ‘Think about it and react in writing.’ Of course, it’s the God whom mankind praises. Maeterlinck is nuts.”

Gilmore leaned back in his chair, stroked his three-day facial hair, viewed the ceiling, shut his eyes, cleared his throat, and began. “Do you know atheists who are good people? Of course, you do. They work hard, pay their taxes, are good parents and spouses, obey the law and have high moral principles. Who or what then is their ‘deo’ in the quotation? It could be a sound mind, a healthy conscience, a kind heart, an understanding of right and wrong, and moral compass toward good and not evil. Do you understand?”

Edith answered, “Yes, I think so. I know atheists who are good people, but what is a good atheist?”

Hilton smiled, “A good atheist has probably read this quotation from Voltaire, ‘If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.’ The key word is ‘necessary.’ With all the insecurities, questions and gray areas; people turn to God for explanations. He provides an easy answer.”

Two weeks later, Mr. Hilton received a letter from Edith Elk. “You’re so smart. I received an ‘A’ on my paper. Do I owe you some money?”

He dropped her a not that took a quotation from “The Merchant of Venice:” “He is well paid who is well satisfied.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.