Was tsunami the work of renegade gods?

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The Independent Online

I think it is about time we paid a return visit to the United Deities, that celestial gathering of gods past and present who sit in democratic congress on high and watch our goings on in an ecumenical sort of way.

I think it is about time we paid a return visit to the United Deities, that celestial gathering of gods past and present who sit in democratic congress on high and watch our goings on in an ecumenical sort of way.

Here are minutes of the most recent meeting, which took place just after the disastrous tsunami of recent days.

1. The chairgod called the meeting to order and wished everyone a happy new year, if their religion was just starting a year, and a happy eternity to everyone else.

2. The Jewish God said he hoped he was being ironic. Time meant nothing up here. Even the use of the word "eternity" implied that things could also not be eternal. But everything here was eternal. So what was time? It reminded him of the story of the lonely traveller who comes across a farm late at night and asks the farmer's wife ...

3. Some other time, perhaps, said the chairgod. Now, the chief item on the agenda was the disastrous tsunami in the Indian Ocean which they had all witnessed. Did anyone have any thoughts on it, apart from being awestruck by how much misery can be caused by so little?

4. Yes, said Allah. He had been struck by one thing. In the old days, when such a disaster occurred, it was always construed as a warning from the gods. "The gods are angry!" was what people said.

5. The Catholic God said this was true. He could remember as if it were yesterday the fall-out from the great Lisbon earthquake of 1752, which was commemorated in Voltaire's book Candide as divine retribution on a great scale.

6. That was not quite true, said the chairgod. For one thing, it was 1755. For another, as he remembered, Voltaire saw it as an example of divine callousness and a proof of our indifference to suffering. Was not Voltaire a leading atheist? An atheist did not think the gods were angry. He thought they were asleep, or even dead.

7. That is what he was getting at, said Allah. In the old days people thought a disaster was caused by the anger of the gods. Now, they thought a disaster meant they were not even there.

8. That was true, said the Anglican God. With his own ears he had heard the Archbishop of Canterbury say that the tsunami made you wonder if God even existed. Did the Archbishop think that God was a 999 service, ready to be called to the scene of a disaster?

9. And even atheists blamed things on the gods they didn't believe in, said the chairgod. When faced with disasters, someone like Jonathan Miller would say, "Well, if there was a god, would he let that happen?". The fact is that it had happened, and there were hundreds of gods, but as it was a natural event, they were powerless.

10. Unless, said Mars.

11. Unless what ? said the chairgod.

12. Well, said Mars, it was a far-fetched thought, but it had increasingly occurred to him as he watched the outbreak of terrorism on earth, and quite unprincipled acts of violence as in Beslan and Baghdad, that it was just possible that there might be rogue gods as well.

13. Was it not possible among so many hundreds of gods, there could be a small fanatical sect of gods who had abandoned divine codes of behaviour and thought fit to declare war on the divine mainstream?

14. We all of us, he said, laughed at the mischievous behaviour of gods like Loki,who for a bet or a prank, would try to influence human destiny even though they had all agreed not to.

15. But what if more sinister currents prevailed? What if there were unprincipled gods who were not above planning and provoking disasters for their own ends?

16. The chairgod asked Mars if he had any proof of this.

Terrorist gods? The provisional wing of Heaven? What is this all about? Let's find out tomorrow.

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