Because even great gods do not all think alike

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The Independent Online

It has been two months at least since we last had a progress report on the deliberations of the United Deities. This, as you will remember, is the get-together of gods past and present, a sort of All-God Steering Group, which meets regularly to monitor the way we humans are looking after the planet.

Here are the minutes of the last all-god meeting for which I have been able to obtain records:

1. The chairgod said that before they began, he was sure that all present would like to congratulate the Catholic God on the continuing survival of the Pope, who had recently travelled to Slovakia, and that, for his age, he was a marvel.

2. Laughter and cheering.

3. Ha, ha, bloody ha, said the Catholic God. As they well knew, he had never been entirely happy with a long succession of elderly popes. But then, it had nothing to do with him who was or was not elected pope. The Catholic Church was not specifically a religious organisation; it was the business wing of the Catholic religion; and if they wanted to choose a managing director who was well into his eighties, that was their business. And if they wanted to make it a job for life, that was also their business. Now, could they discuss something else, please?

4. Well, said the chairgod, moving swiftly on, they had also been asked to look at the current crop of films on Earth that took God's name in vain. There was a new film called Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, in which the actor swapped places with God for a while. There was another film with Billy Connolly called Act of God, in which the actor sued God for letting disastrous accidents happen. What did anyone think about this trend?

5. Well, said the Roman messenger god, Mercury, who said he was a bit of a film buff, he found it quite encouraging. At a time when sincere belief in gods was shrinking, except among the Muslim masses and the American poor, it was nice to find a shrine to capitalism such as Hollywood taking the idea of God seriously enough to make films about it.

6. Oh, for Pete's sake, said Odin, the chief Norse god, how could anyone say that the film industry was taking the idea of God seriously? Both these films featured comedians! Hollywood clearly did not take anything very seriously if it used comedians to personify God.

7. Loki, the Norse god of mischief, said that, on the contrary, he had devoted his whole immortal life to promoting humour. He was all in favour of comedians being gods, and vice versa. Had he ever told them of the time he had tricked a party of giants into eating their own horses?

8. Yes, often, said the chairgod. Getting back to films, he himself felt that more danger was posed by movies such as The Lord of the Rings, which featured an entirely imaginary cosmogony. When humans started making up their own worlds of good and evil, gods would be out of business.

9. Many gods were out of business already, said Thoth, the ancient Egyptian Moon God. Nobody had seriously believed in him for centuries. He sometimes felt a twinge of regret over this, but more often a sense of overwhelming relief. Being a full-time god had been a highly stressful activity. By contrast, since belief in him had faded away he had felt much better: he had not had back pain for over 1,500 years, and his migraines were quite cleared up.

10. Jove said that he couldn't remember having had much stress in his job as top Roman god. It had been party time most of the time, as he remembered, except when Mars had come in and pooped the party by announcing another war. But even wars had been great fun.

11. The chairgod said that that reminded him that they should congratulate Mars on the planet named after him coming so close to Earth.

12. Mars, Roman god of war, said that it could collide with Earth for all he cared. He despaired of there ever being a good war on Earth again. Now that America was a superpower, all wars were like a rigged boxing match. Don't talk to him about war. What was so good about a one-sided war?

13. The chairgod said that, in this respect, he couldn't see much difference between modern America and ancient Rome. Mars said that there was one vital difference.

Oh? What is it? More of this very soon!