The good old days, when a war was a war

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The Independent Online

It is time for another look at the workings of the United Deities, the all-god monitoring group which looks down from above on our confused human world. At their most recent meeting, the gods ancient and modern discussed everything from Iraq to the Olympic Games and as I have a copy of the minutes, you might be interested to see how our world looks to them...

1. The chairgod asked if any of the gods present had any comments to make on the current war in Iraq, which many present might remember better as Mesopotamia.

2. Call that a war, said Mars, the Roman god of war. A war was what you got when two good armies met each other. This was an invasion, pure and simple. Of course, there was never anything pure and simple about an invasion, because sooner or later the invader had to decide what to do about the blasted occupied country.

3. Well, said the chairgod, the Americans seemed to have decided to give the country back to the inhabitants.

4. What was the point of that, Mars wanted to know. In the good old days of the Roman Empire, the Roman army went into a country, knocked everyone's heads together and then stayed for ever and ever, laying down the law and getting taxes. If you give people democracy, you might as well go home again. Personally, he blamed the advent of Christianity. It made people soft. When the Roman Empire went Christian, it went down the drain.

5. Mithras, the Persian-based god, said he wished to make one thing clear. From the way Mars talked, you might get the impression it was the Roman gods who had been swept aside by Christianity. Excuse me, but the Roman gods had been in retirement for hundreds of years before the Christian god got the franchise.

6. It was Mithraism which had been the Roman state religion from AD up to whenever it was that the accursed Emperor Constantine had given the Christians the thumbs up. Three hundred years of progress under Mithras. Let that not be forgotten.

7. The chairgod said they were all conscious of the great days of Mithras, who he knew was still being worshipped within living memory in Persia, which was more than you could say for some deities, but it seemed a bit late to refight all those battles now.

8. Hold on, hold on, said Zeus, chief of the ancient Greek gods. What did he mean by "which was more than you could say for some deities"? Was he having a go at anyone special? Like the Greek gods perhaps?

9. The chairgod said that Zeus could waggle his thunderbolts all he liked, but that he knew like everyone else that most gods were no longer worshipped or believed in. But just because a god was outmoded and his cult fallen into neglect, it didn't mean he was a failure. The fabulous doings of the Roman and Greek gods were as popular as ever on Earth, even though they were not believed in.

10. Zeus said, would it be possible to ask the Christian god to stop doing that?

11. The Christian god asked what he was doing that Zeus objected to.

12. Zeus said he was humming that tune again. The one with the words about soldiers. He thought it was something about Christian soldiers going onwards.

13. The chairgod said he had to take Zeus's side in this one. It had long been agreed that no gods should whistle, hum or sing commercials written by their own faith, as it constituted subliminal advertising.

14. The Christian god said that he was not aware that he had been humming it and would desist. He thanked Zeus for bringing it to his attention. Incidentally, could he ask Zeus, as an ancient Greek god, what he thought of the prospects of the Athenians getting ready for the Olympic games on time?

More of this top level stuff tomorrow, I hope.