Miles Kington: Nowadays, acts of god are best left to mankind

Man was at last learning to blame himself for global warming, not that they were doing anything about it
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The Independent Online

It's time to visit the United Deities again, that august gathering of gods in the sky, to see what they have been talking about since we last eavesdropped on them. So let's dip straight into the minutes of their most recent meeting...

It's time to visit the United Deities again, that august gathering of gods in the sky, to see what they have been talking about since we last eavesdropped on them. So let's dip straight into the minutes of their most recent meeting...

1. The chairgod said that under Any Other Business, an anonymous Mexican goddess had tabled a motion to ask if there was another cataclysm coming soon.

2. Jupiter said he thought it wasn't allowed for gods to be anonymous, whether they were Mexican, Mesopotamian or Mercian. He thought they had to announce their name, number and rank. And sex. He himself had at least two names, Jove and Jupiter, for people to choose from.

3. The Mexican goddess in question said that she did not wish to be anonymous. It was just that nobody ever seemed able to pronounce her name, so she preferred to stay anonymous.

4. The chairgod said that as they were all to a certain extent omnipotent, it should not be too hard for one god to pronounce another's name.

5. The Mexican goddess said that might be true, unless you happened to be called Centzonhuitznahuac or Huitzilopochtli.

6. There was a respectful silence.

7. The chairgod asked if one of those was in fact her name.

8. The Mexican goddess said it was not. It was far more difficult than that.

9. The chairgod said he thought she had made her point well, and asked her what she wanted to know about coming cataclysms.

10. Well, said the unpronounceable Mexican goddess, it seemed to her that humanity became more focused and reverent whenever there was a big disaster. It had happened like that when the tsunami of 2004 had struck. It had happened with 9/11. She wondered if there were any more plans for similar cataclysms, which would test the faith of humanity or at least get them to think things through.

11. The chairgod said that he saw the point she was making, but that things didn't work like that. The days when gods caused terrestrial mayhem were long past. No longer did Neptune send storms or Jove cast thunderbolts.

12. More is the pity, commented Jove.

13. Not necessarily, said the chairgod. It had been decided at one momentous United Deities session that man would never progress while he could blame the gods for everything. If all the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and rather nasty cold snaps could be seen as God-given, then man would never take responsibility for his own actions.

14. So it had been decided that from then on, all disasters would be left to nature to provide, and man would be left to blame himself. For a long time this had not worked, and things like the great Lisbon Earthquake and the eruption of Krakatoa had still been thought of as acts of God.

15. But nowadays man was at last beginning to blame himself, and to think everything was the result of man-induced global warming. Not that they were doing anything about it. But, still...

16. Incidentally, said Thor, the Norse god of thunder, incidentally, had anyone been following the blasphemy trial in North Carolina, where a man was accused of taking the name of Roman gods in vain?

17. The Roman gods? said Jove. People have been accused of blaspheming against his divinities?

18. Sure, said Thor. A visiting Englishman had been heard saying "By Jove" and this was construed as blasphemy, even if only against the Roman gods. And he had been arrested and charged.

19. Jove said this was wonderful news. He had never taken the Americans seriously before but they were suddenly showing signs of maturity. If this were really true...

20. It wasn't, said Thor. He was just trying to wind Jove up.

21. In that case, said Jove, if Thor cared to come outside and say that again.

22. Thor said he was delighted to say it again any time, and was not afraid of any sun-tanned sybaritic Mediterranean deity...

23. Jove and Thor having gone outside, the Mexican deity said she would still like to know what cataclysms were coming to Earth in the next few months...

More of this soon.

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