Miles Kington: Religious gags are not just for us mortals

When people talk about religious tolerance, it is always as a prelude to banning something
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The Independent Online

Yesterday, we paid a visit to the United Deities, the all-god discussion group which sits in semi-permanent session in the heavens, surveying our efforts to run the planet. Yesterday's topic was the pros and cons of religious toleration, which it might be fun to let them pursue a bit further today.

Yesterday, we paid a visit to the United Deities, the all-god discussion group which sits in semi-permanent session in the heavens, surveying our efforts to run the planet. Yesterday's topic was the pros and cons of religious toleration, which it might be fun to let them pursue a bit further today.

1. The Jewish God said that, as it was written in the Bible, he was a proud and a jealous god, and sometimes a wrathful god, but that that did not stop him having a sense of humour, he hoped.

2. The Catholic God asked if this meant he was going to tell another of his interminable stories about a rabbi, or a tailor, or a Jewish mother.

3. The Jewish God said his stories were not interminable. Their endings were all finely judged.

4. The Catholic God said that he had sometimes dozed off before the finely judged ending. In his experience, the Jewish God's stories sometimes became interminable before they had terminated. That was all.

5. The Jewish God said he would ignore that. He was merely worried that political correctness, which had addled the minds of men on Earth, might spread to the gods. It would be worrying if so-called religious tolerance should have to apply to the gods as well. In his experience, when people talked about religious tolerance, it was always as a prelude to banning something.

6. The Catholic God said that if the Jewish God had a story to tell, would he please get a move on and tell it, and put them all out of their misery.

7. Well, said the Jewish God, he did have a story to tell, but it was not a Jewish story. It was an old French story which he had first heard in the 19th century. It was about a Muslim peasant working in the field...

8. Allah wanted to know if this was going to be an anti-Muslim story.

9. The Jewish God said that it was, sort of.

10. Allah said to carry on. He always liked anti-Muslim stories. At least, he liked to appear to like them. It gave him a reputation for tolerance.

11. The Catholic God said that even though the story hadn't started yet, it seemed interminable already.

12. So anyway, said the Jewish God, this evil spirit appeared to the poor Mahomedan in the field and said he must die unless he did one of three things. He must drink alcohol, or he must kill his father, or he must sleep with his sister.

13. Allah said that he had heard this story before. It was not bad.

14. So (continued the Jewish God) the peasant said that all three things were abhorrent to him, and to all good Muslims. Slaying his father was perhaps the worst. Sleeping with his sister was almost as bad. But the tasting of alcohol, although very bad, was not as bad as the others, so he would choose that option.

15. And hearing this, said the Jewish God, the evil spirit produced a big flagon of wine. And the peasant drank it down, every drop, till he was very drunk. Then he slew his father and slept with his sister.

16. Loki, Norse god of mischief, laughed and said that it was a delightful and charming story. Some other gods expressed disapproval and said it was an impious and wicked story.

17. Allah said that although on the record he had to disapprove, off the record he thought it was a good fable about human weakness and how religion had to protect people from their own instincts.

18. The Catholic God said that he, personally, was delighted. It had taken less than a minute to tell. He congratulated the Jewish God.

19. The chairgod said he was glad religious tolerance was alive and well in heaven, if not anywhere else. He said it was time to move on to the next item, which was to fix the time and place of the next all-god reading group meeting.

20. The book under discussion was the Bhagavad Gita, and he hoped as many as possible could make it, as the turnout for the previous choice, Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra, had been slightly disappointing. All right, very disappointing.

More of this high-level stuff in due course.

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