Miles Kington: An each-way bet? How perfectly divine

One sniff of a contest, like Paris and the Golden Apple, and the old gods would make bets like crazy
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The Independent Online

It's been a little while since we paid a visit to the United Deities, to see what our paltry human world looks like from the lofty perspective of the gods in heaven, so let's update the divine view with some minutes of their latest celestial meeting.

1. The chairgod called the meeting to order and asked Thor to stop doing that, as it was very annoying for everyone. He said that the first item on the agenda was the election of the new Pope. Did anyone have any comments to make on that?

2. The Catholic God said he couldn't see the point of commenting on the election of a Pope. What was a Pope ? Not a god. Not even a saint. Just the CEO of a huge corporate organisation. It was a business, not a religious matter.

3. The Anglican God said it always made him feel uneasy when the Catholic God said things like this. Was it not a good idea to have someone in charge? Of course he realised that Popes made mistakes, but at least everyone knew who was in charge and who made the decisions.

4. The Catholic God said that a religion could get on perfectly well without someone in charge. The Archbishop of Canterbury was supposed to be in charge of his church, but he seemed to spend most of his time presiding over disagreements, whereas religions without a titular head, such as Judaism and Buddhism, appeared to thrive all right.

5. The Anglican God said that when you got a religion with an all-powerful god in charge, with such a powerful personality as Jehovah, nobody on earth would be brave enough to stand up to him and be in charge.

6. Jehovah asked if someone had mentioned his name.

7. The chairgod confirmed that it had been mentioned.

8. Jehovah said in the old days it had been forbidden to mention his name on pain of death.

9. The Catholic God said he did not think it was a good idea to start killing gods, if that was what he wanted. Nor was it very practicable, as gods were immortal.

10. Jehovah said he sometimes missed slaying people, and wreaking punishment, and waxing wroth. That was all.

11. Jupiter said he wasn't the only one, because they all did. It had been years since he threw a thunderbolt in anger. It felt great to be a jealous god. He couldn't stand the modern era of creeping tolerance and divine correctness. He was getting soft and putting on weight.

12. The chairgod said they were getting away from the official subject, which was the election of the Pope, and if nobody had any other comments they could move on.

13. Jupiter said he had a point to make. He had read somewhere that the new Pope had said that he prayed to God not to be made Pope, but that God had ignored his prayer. Could he check with the Catholic God if in fact he had indeed prayed not to be made Pope, and if so, why he had ignored him.

14. The Catholic God said that Cardinal Ratzinger had in fact prayed not to be made Pope.

15. On the other hand, so had all the other cardinals.

16. But this was just a normal exercise in humility.

17. After all, many of the cardinals had also prayed to be made Pope, if it were God's will.

18. The Roman god Mercury, messenger of the gods, asked if that was what in horse-racing was called spread betting. Or perhaps an each-way bet.

19. The Catholic God said he was not familiar with the terminology of gambling. He was surprised to find that Mercury was.

20. Mercury said it was one of his chief tasks in the old days to collect bets and pay out. He was like a bookie's clerk where the old gods were concerned. As soon as there was a sniff of a sporting contest, like with Paris and the Golden Apple, or the Trojan War, the gods would be making bets like crazy. There was not a lot else to do in ancient times.

21. The chairgod said that they seemed to have slid away from the subject once again, and if nobody had anything else to say about the Pope, could they please move on.

More of this tomorrow, I hope, unless there's a general election or something.