Miles Kington: They should have learned from Atlantis

At least, as it was a natural disaster, al-Qa'ida could not take credit for it, though they must be delighted
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The Independent Online

1. The chairgod said that everyone seemed more interested in the hurricane in Louisiana than the terrible loss of life in the outbreak of religious panic in Baghdad. Would anyone like to comment on that disaster?

2. The Anglican god said it was all rather outside his experience. He said ruefully that religious fervour was so lukewarm in the Anglo-Saxon parts of the world that he could not imagine anyone getting trampled before, during or after an Anglican ceremony.

3. The Catholic god said that that was perhaps because Christianity was no longer the religion of Protestant countries. It had been replaced by football. Were there not many examples of great loss of life at football ceremonies in those parts?

4. The chairgod said it might be useful to restrict the argument to the disaster in Baghdad.

5. Allah said that it was no use looking at him. He was not responsible for it. He had not asked the Muslims to split into two halves, the Sunnis and Shias.

6. The Anglican god said that it was a curious thing, the way all major religions seemed to split into two. Sunnis and Shias, Protestants and Catholics...

7. It was just human nature, said the Jewish god. There was no such thing as a one-fits-all religion. As with all other people, some Jews were reactionary, some were progressive. That was why, in Judaism, you got the split between orthodox belief and liberal belief.

8. The Catholic god asked what the difference was.

9. The Jewish god said that the orthodox Jews had much worse dress sense.

10. It reminded him of the story of the Jewish tailor who was asked to make two suits, but only had enough material for one, so...

11. The chairgod said he, personally, always enjoyed the Jewish god's stories, but perhaps this was not the best time.

12. Allah said he would like to make a suggestion. Were the gods not in danger of taking the scale of a disaster at human valuation? Everything that seemed so awful to humans looked rather different to the gods.

13. For instance, whenever plagues occurred, people had wailed and gnashed their teeth, whereas they were only a divine attempt at population control.

14. And scale made a difference to perception. If one person is crushed to death, that is an accident. If it happens to a thousand, that is immediately called a disaster, yet it is really only a thousand accidents happening simultaneously.

15. His point being? asked the chairgod.

16. Allah said he was not sure what his point was, but he felt he had a valid one.

17. The Jewish god said that the difference between an accident and a disaster was that everyone shrugged over an accident but everyone blamed each other for a disaster.

18. Zeus, chief Greek god, said he would endorse this. He could well remember the headlines the day after the city of Atlantis had disappeared. "Atlantean Authorities Blamed For Cutting Earthquake And Flood Defence Budget."

19. The Jewish god said he did not think they had headlines in those days.

20. Zeus said, not exactly, but he knew what he meant.

19. This outbreak of blaming was already happening in America, said Zeus. At least, as it was a natural disaster, it meant that al-Qa'ida could not take credit for it, though they must be delighted.

20. The Jewish god said that he would be very interested to see if the Americans rebuilt New Orleans in the same place. All experience showed it was a bad place to build a town. Now was their chance to rebuild elsewhere. But would pride permit them to do so? Or wisdom, come to that?

21. Mercury said he was prepared to take wagers on the outcome, as per usual.

More of this some other time