It's a month or two since we had a report on the proceedings of the United Deities, the divine summit meeting in which gods past and present get together to take a look at how we humans are getting on on our planet. So I am pleased to bring you a press release covering the minutes of the most recent general meeting of the gods.
1. The chairgod said that as usual he might as well open by asking if the Jewish God and the Christian God were any nearer to a merger of their adjacent creeds.
2. The Christian God said he was sick and tired of this pressure to amalgamate. Yes, Christianity and Judaism did overlap slightly, but they were quite independent religions. Christianity could exist by itself quite happily. So could Judaism. What was the point of a business rapprochement ? He resented the sort of mergermania which pretended that two-in-one was more efficient. Christianity was a wholly independent enterprise, thank you very much.
3. Oh, yes? said the Jewish God. In that case, why was the holy book of Christianity, the Bible, an 80% Jewish product? If you took away the Jewish element from the Bible, you would be left with hardly anything - four gospels and a few paltry sets of letters. That was all. Nothing very enterprising or free standing about that, he thought.
4. That was because Christianity was the logical culmination of Judaism, said the Christian God. It was necessary to have the Old Testament along with the New Testament, so that the arrival of the Messiah could be contextualised.
5. Oh, blimey, contextualised, was it ? said the Jewish God. Next thing he would be saying it was a conceptual creed. Would it not be possible for gods to talk without picking up jargon from human art critics ? Or was it something to do with having a celebrity-based, personality-driven religion that made him talk like that?
6. I'm sorry, said the Christian God. But was the Jewish God suggesting that Christianity was somehow personality-led?
7. The Jewish God said that the Christian God should lighten up a bit. Of course Christianity was a personality-based religion. It was named after a personality, wasn't it? It wasn't the only one, granted - there was also Buddhism, and Mahomedanism, and Confucianism, not to mention old beliefs like Mithraism - but the Christian God should come to terms with the fact that without the personality cult fostered by his son, he would be out of business.
8. While the Christian God tried to formulate an answer, the god Mithras said it was nice to be mentioned occasionally. As he had the floor for a moment, had he ever told them the story about the Ten Unwise Virgins of Samothrace ?
9. The chairgod said, Yes, he had, often, and proposed they should move on to the next item on the agenda, which was the subject of tornadoes in the United States of America. These had been very severe recently. He was sorry about that. But he was even sorrier that they were always described in newspapers, and by insurance companies, as an Act of God. In common with all other gods, the chairgod objected strongly to an act of nature being misdescribed as an Act of God.
10. Before he went any further, he would like to have the assurance of all gods present that none of them had, in fact, caused the tornadoes in America.
11. There was a general denial of complicity in the tornadoes. Even Loki, Norse god of mischief, looked pained at the suggestion. He said that at the time complained of, he had been seriously thinking about causing snow to fall in the Mediterranean, which was always good for a laugh in early summer, but he had nothing to do with any tornadoes.
12. Come to that, said Allah, he was sure that his fellow gods had heard about the recent murder case in America where a mother who had slain her children claimed she had heard the voice of God telling her to do it. Allah wanted to have it placed on record that he strongly disapproved of the tendency to blame the gods for all the bad things that happened and none of the good.
13. All the gods assented. The Catholic God said you never heard a sunny day being called an Act of God. But as sure as eggs is eggs, when the San Andreas Fault finally did the dirty on California, it would be called an Act of God. Incidentally, was there any news as to when the San Andreas Fault was due to be activated?
More of this tomorrow, I hope.
Yesterday I brought you some of the minutes of the most recent meeting of the United Deities, i.e. the convocation of all gods past and present to discuss the planet's progress. We had just got to the point where they were about to discuss the possibility of the San Andreas Fault obliterating California, so it might be interesting to pursue the matter a bit further.
1. In answer to a question from the Catholic God, the chairgod said that nobody was quite sure when the San Andreas Fault would next cause earthquakes, etc, etc.
2. A Mayan deity said, so much for divine omniscience. Laughter.
3. The chairgod said he was sick and tired of explaining the divine policy on omniscience, but he would do it once again, if everyone promised to listen. Briefly, although in the old days gods had been able to cause all kinds of storms and disasters off their own bat, it had been decided some while back that natural disasters should now be allowed to occur naturally, so that gods could not be accused of wreaking private revenge, or merely testing people's faith.
4. Therefore all gods had agreed to curtail their powers, or at least to pool them. They could still apply to a special committee if they wanted exceptional permission for an exception disaster, but this was rarely granted. Gods had also agreed to give up personal visits to the planet, such as had been very popular in Latin and Greek times.
5. The Greek king of the gods, Zeus, said he bitterly regretted not being able to get down to Earth and seduce young maidens.
6. His wife, Hera, said she was quite happy with the situation. She thought the young maidens on Earth would be quite happy about it, too.
7. Zeus said, That was how little she knew.
8. The chairgod said that perhaps gods could pursue family business in their own time. He wanted to pass on to a another matter, which was a moral experiment being carried out by a subcommittee of the gods in Britain.
9. Zeus said, Surely he wasn't thinking of proposing a new game called "Help - I'm a God - Get Me Out Of Heaven !". Laughter.
10. The chairgod said that what was happening in Britain was more interesting than that. The present government had been induced to pass legislation which protected burglars against the attacks of outraged householders. In other words, it was instituionalising compassion.
11. In Christian terms, in fact, it was almost making it mandatory to turn the other cheek when attacked. It would be very interesting to see how ordinary mortals coped with this. Already there were signs that people were very confused indeed, and thought the government had gone mad.
12. The Christian God said he had been made fun of in the past for supposedly telling people to turn the other cheek, but he couldn't remember having said such a thing.
13. The chairgod pointed out that it was in the Bible.
14. The Christian God said that didn't prove anything. There were lots of things in the Bible that had never happened and hadn't been said. There had been a lot of editorial problems with producing that book. People who had made excellent disciples had not really proved up to the task of writing gospels. It was not an experience he cared to repeat.
15. An old Welsh god said that, coming back to news from Britain, he was interested to note that in the last day or so a wild badger had attacked humans in Britain, and been shot dead for his pains. Could the British government be induced to pass laws which protected badgers' rights? They were already protecting foxes. Was there nothing this government might not be induced to do in the way of political correctness?
16. A pox on political correctness, said Zeus. After all, if he was politically correct, he would never have married his dear wife Hera.
17. A Hindu god inquired why not. Because, explained the chairgod, Hera was Zeus's sister. Oh, said the Hindu god.
More of this some other time, I hope.
The Independent May 15th and 16th 2003