AS THE END OF THE YEAR approaches, it’s important to recall that the end of the world is not near. This assumption has less to do with the severity of our planet’s problems, and more with the congeniality of today’s deities. Instead of thoroughly smiting any wrongdoing the moment it occurs, contemporary immortal beings seem far more lenient with us blundering humans.
That is not to say that we, as a species, don’t bear some responsibility for the messes in which we continue to find ourselves. But today’s gods have to take their share of the blame as well. Perhaps if we had some of those Old Testament and mythological creators, with their floods and carnage and hair-trigger tempers, then we might not have ended up with polluted oceans, or competitive eating contests, or retail mayhem that continues right up until Christmas.
Take the Book of Genesis. This begins innocently enough with the god of these passages inventing heaven and earth in seven days; note the obsessive-compulsive habits early on. Then after a rest he creates Adam and Eve, and from there he turns into a homicidal maniac. Pretty much anything that happens – if he suspects someone is just thinking about sin, if he doesn’t like a particular sacrifice in his honor, if the first-born seems a bit dodgy – he starts slaughtering animals, flooding villages, inventing plagues and turning women into salt. In some instances, this god could probably just punish a few sinners and get his point across. But he thrives on annihilating everything – men, women, goats. He has a penchant for the goats as he’s always finding innovative ways to murder them for the smallest of infractions. It’s all quite deranged.
But he gets the job done and maybe that’s the attitude needed to run a complex planet in the Twenty-First Century. There would certainly be no environmental pollution. The first time someone even tossed a cigarette butt on the ground, entire cities would go up in flames. Populations would be kept under control by any one of the deity’s daily tantrums. As soon as this sociopath caught wind of our public storage industry, he would go on such a mass goat and first-born killing spree, we would be petrified to purchase basic necessities, much less have a need to store extra junk. Consumerism would cease.
Modern gods are more focused on our happiness, ensuring we think positively about ourselves, no matter the consistency of our asinine errors. If we commit adultery, if we’re lazy at work, if we flush garbage down our toilets, if we’ve squandered our earnings and now find ourselves in ridiculous wells of debt – the answer is not to smite us into understanding, but rather amend our thinking to attract favorable results. Positive affirmations and endless blessings have replaced mass drowning and livestock disembowelment.
A loose and untested hypothesis is that deity friendliness is not a result of the gods caring more about humanity, but rather them being over-prayed into docility for centuries. They’re like parents who have four or five kids, and the first four learn manners and ambition, but the fifth ends up spoiled and obnoxious and living rent-free in the basement because the parents are exhausted. That’s us – the obnoxious, freeloading fifth kid.
The path from polytheism to monotheism has been a positive move, mostly because it has cut down on the construction and upkeep of all those temples. But just like one username-password combination does not suffice, it’s possible that society today requires multiple gods to maintain decorum and chastise us back into acquiescence. The Greeks and Romans were kept in check by a divine bureaucracy, gods and goddesses assigned to every aspect of life. Granted, they often went into jealous rages and toppled mountains out of boredom, and could procreate with mortals on a whim.
But that’s a small price to pay if, for example, we had a god assigned to the traffic, Vehicules, who would explode with thunderbolts the texting Ford F-650 driver in the next lane. Or the god of long lines, Impatieus, who could open another kiosk, or threaten the first-born of those not immediately stepping forward. And who wouldn’t mind an encounter with a libidinous deity now and again if it meant a god ensuring everyone is recycling properly (Recycollo), politicians are being honest (Shenanigeidon) and the economy is growing, not too fast, but fast enough that everyone has a job (Yellen of Troy).
“God is Dead,” according to Friedrich Nietzsche. “God is Dead?” is also a song by Black Sabbath and lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, who went on to star in a reality television show, which is proof that there is at least some type of other-worldly forces at work. At first that may seem a lousy theological thesis – that reality television is proof of a Supreme Being – but who else could imagine such elaborate plots and characters if not divinely inspired?
Things could be better. It’s human nature to hold the supernatural forces responsible when life doesn’t work out as planned. But things are also pretty good – it’s the holidays, after all – so it’s only fair to give the deities their due. The gods of springtime and free WiFi and kindness, gods of morning coffee and old movies and finding money in a pocket. God of sweatpants. God of good manners. God of pizza.