1. The chairgod said the next item on the agenda was unexpectedly cheerful, as it concerned what seemed to be a renaissance of religion on Earth.
2. Odin, chief Norse god, said he hadn't noticed much of a revival in his worship recently. The last time anyone had prayed to him was a hundred years ago. Some German composer named Wagner, as far as he remembered.
3. The chairgod asked him, as a matter of interest, what Herr Wagner had been praying for.
4. Odin said he did not know. Wagner's prayer had gone on at such length that he had lost patience and got on with something else.
5. The chairgod said that, nevertheless, there seemed to be something of a religious revival on Earth. Islam was flourishing as never before, and the people of America were turning to Christianity in a big way.
6. Allah said that it might have something to do with fear. When people were in trouble, they tended to turn to the gods. When everything was hunky dory, it all slackened off. Churches and mosques were fullest in wartime. Fear created worship. They all knew that.
7. Zeus asked Allah what people were afraid of these days.
8. Allah said they were afraid of the end of the world. They had been told so often that the oil was running out, that the forests were running out, that the ozone layer was running out - that time was running out, in short - that people were coming to believe it, and therefore people were turning to the gods again.
9. Baloney, said the Jewish god. The god-fearing American president did not believe it. The bulk of people did not believe all that talk about global warming. It was only the intellectuals who believed it. And it was precisely the intellectuals who tended NOT to believe in the gods.
10. The only way to get ordinary people to believe in the end of the world was to get some mad preacher to persuade them it was coming.
11. Actually, said the Jewish god, there was nothing so mad about it, at that. The end of the world WAS coming, was it not? They had all been told the date, and he had made a note of it, but he could not remember it off-hand.
12. What he wanted to know was if any decision had been made as to what was to happen to the gods when there were no humans left.
13. The chairgod said that the end of the Earth did not necessarily mean the end of humanity. Perhaps by then humans would have colonised other planets and religion would flourish elsewhere, away from its birthplace.
14. The chief Chinese god, the Jade-Emperor, said he could vouch for that. In the years of Communism, worship of himself and the old Chinese gods had almost died away in China, and had only flourished abroad in places like Taiwan and Hong Kong.
15. The Jewish god said it was nice to hear from a Chinese god, who on the whole tended to keep their own counsel.
16. That, said the Jade-Emperor, is because, with respect, Chinese gods tended to look on other gods as barbarian gods, much as Chinese mortals looked on other mortals.
17. Ah, said the Jewish god, but if his reading of history was right, most Chinese gods had started life as humans anyway. How did that square with their divine status?
18. It was certainly true that many Chinese gods were mortals raised to divine status, said the Jade-Emperor, but at least they had the grace to wait till they were dead. What of all those Roman emperors who claimed to be living gods while still on Earth? What of the late Emperor Hirohito? What, without being controversial, of Jesus Christ?
19. The chairgod said they were walking on dangerous waters here, and could they move on to the next item on the agenda, namely whether any evidence of intelligent design could be perceived in the way America ran the world.
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