Monday 5 September 2005
Miles Kington: It's unfair to call a disaster an 'act of God'
If humans learnt from experience they would not have built New Orleans there in the first place
1. The chairgod said that as they had a busy agenda to get through, it would help if all gods present could keep each discussion short.
2. The Roman god Mercury said he didn't quite understand that. Surely, for gods, time had no meaning ? Did they not have infinite time at their disposal ?
3. That was true, in a way, said the chairgod. On the other hand, they could not discuss events on Earth without taking into account the way time operated on Earth, so to a certain extent they had to think on Earth's time scale.
4. Allah said he didn't quite see that either. The whole point of being a god was that time could expand or contract to fit the available workload.
5. The Anglican god said that that sounded suspiciously like Parkinson's Law to him.
6. The chairgod said that in response to his plea for brevity, the gods were already launching on a time-wasting discussion even before the first item on the agenda had been announced.
7. Allah said that he didn't understand the concept of time-wasting. How could time, of which there was an infinite supply, be wasted?
8. The chairgod said that he could not take a lot more of this, and if some other god liked to chair the meeting, he would happily hand over.
9. The Greek god Zeus said he thought he spoke for everyone when he said that the chairgod had always been a model of fairness and tact, and he could not imagine anyone doing it better.
10. This was seconded by the Catholic god.
11. The chairgod said, well, all right, but please could they keep it brief as he very much hoped to attend the Ambrosia party being given by the Greek gods right after this meeting.
12. He said that the first item on the agenda was the coincidence of two great disasters, namely, the deaths of so many people in Baghdad following a stampede after a religious festival, and the awful catastrophe in Louisiana following a hurricane. He wondered if anyone had any comments.
13. The Catholic god said that in the old days these would have been viewed as acts of god. He had always slightly resented that, because it was only disasters that were seen as acts of God. When something nice happened, did people ever say: "Ah, it's an act of God!"? He thought not.
14. A North American rain god said that when he had brought rain in answer to prayers, his worshippers had always danced and sung like crazy. That was gratitude, surely.
15. Ah, asked the Catholic god, but what if he did not bring rain? What if there was drought?
16. The North American rain god said that in that case he got a complete bollocking, they should excuse the expression.
17. As a matter of interest, said the Roman god Mercury, the North American rain god was not by any chance responsible for the recent devastation of Louisiana, was he? Had he perchance arranged for some rain and forgotten to switch off, as it were?
18. The rain god said that it didn't work like that.
19. Mercury asked how it did work, then.
20. The rain god said it had all been very difficult, because the many peoples of North America had all had different gods, so you often found one god being prayed to for rain in an area where other gods were also being prayed to for good weather. This explained why weather in America had always been so variable...
21. The chairgod said that perhaps they could restrict the discussion to the current disasters. Did the gods think that humans would learn from them?
22. Allah said he did not think so. If humans ever learnt from experience, they would not have built New Orleans there in the first place, or California on the San Andreas Fault, or St Petersburg on a swamp...
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