Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Fri 13th Oct, 2006

Descending to our level

Warning: Religious Content

There was nothing unusual about this Sunday, except for the white flying saucers descending from the sky. To global surprise, the creatures that emerged where older white men with flowing beards, dressed in robes and speaking perfect English. They announced to all, in voices that seemed to effortlessly be heard everywhere, that they were the Gods, descended once again to earth to put things right. Christians around the world were greeted with paternal love; members of other religions and atheists were politely addressed but were obviously treated like children who hadn't learnt good manners yet. The news reported that every Christian official from the Pope down had been personally visited, but the Gods were everywhere and talked to everyone.

There were a few obvious struggles at first. Later tallies calculated that about four hundred radical fundamentalists of other religions had suddenly broken out in boils, coughed blood, and died. They'd been carrying bombs or other weapons and the Gods patiently explained that they'd been intending to try and attack Christians and the Gods had simply used their divine powers to intervene. The public response from the other religious heads was a restrained dissent, saying that these Gods might well have descended from the sky but nothing could gainsay their firm belief that the True Gods weren't the Christian ones.

There was a brief time of global peace. Wars ceased as the Gods simply transported the protagonists to their homes. Weapons caches disappeared, to the consternation of the USA most vocally. Anyone of Christian faith was cured of any disease and stolen property was returned to them. Around the world the more liberal Christian congregations were celebrating openly, and Christian churches were packed as millions converted to the religion. Some optimistic estimates said that this paradise-come-true lasted for more than four days.

Then reports came of slightly disturbing things happening. Almost every single TV Evangelist had disappeared, and their bank accounts were suddenly emptied. The Pope had been heard to be debating some finer point of Biblical interpretation, although the Vatican later released a short statement that said that His Holiness now deferred to the Gods' interpretation. Sellers of 'holy wares' and trinkets claiming to be blessed by the Gods briefly appeared, and less than half a day later no-one could find a trace of them. Statues and images of Jesus Christ, from the great ones at Rio De Janeiro and Monroe, Ohio down quietly crumbled to ash and were blown away. The Gods also patiently explained that various sects of Christianity were not, actually, correct and were therefore not receiving their Blessing. Anyone who disagreed with a God over anything from ownership to theology would have a complete and seemingly permanent change of heart, although they would often afterward have trouble trying to remember the exact logic used to convince them.

More disturbing was the violence. In Pakistan hundreds of Muslims tried to storm a Christian Church and instantly disappeared, never to be seen again. A violent mob of Christians in Japan set fire to a Buddhist temple; the arsonists later confessed on TV to having done wrong but having seen the errors of their ways after meeting Gods afterward. The Buddhists whose temple was now ash received no compensation and the incident quickly disappeared from the news, the site being quietly sold to build a new Christian Church within a week. Within a day thousands of non-Christian churches were smoking ruins and hundreds of thosands of 'unbelievers' were dead or dying, and the only obvious repercussion was that the culprits were found later confessing calmly and saying that they were truly sorry and wouldn't do it again. People who had converted to Christianity after the Gods had arrived often did not have their sicknesses cured and their property returned; when queried, the Gods simply replied that the sufferer had not been true in their conversion. One God was quoted as saying "Only those who have believed in Us deserve the right to receive Our grace". Everyone who read this found themselves unable to argue against it, regardless of their intellectual convictions before.

It seemed gradual at first. But even the most devoutly Christian believers seemed, somehow, to find themselves in the wrong on some point or other. They'd come back from a conversation with a God at their local church telling everyone happily how they were no longer a Protestant and now believed in Catholicism, only to have their entire family argue them back with tears and shouting. It suddenly seemed that everyone knew someone who had had a family member disappear, or (even worse) break into boils and die. The lucky ones would have a God immediately visit them and tell them that they should be happy, as the dearly departed had sinned somehow and had 'suffered appropriately'. Bibles, the older the better, became a valuable commodity; Churches were printing pamphlets on the correct ways to address the Gods and what the official beliefs were. A miasma of quiet hysteria gripped the world, as everyone feared the consequences if they disagreed with the Gods.

Then came the Great Sickness. It struck anyone not a practicing Christian but was otherwise totally non-communicable. Unbelievers simply wasted away - while they felt no pain and looked perfectly healthy, no food or medicine could give them nutrition and no water could relieve their thirst. Quickly the stigma were put together - it struck more quickly the more you'd been exposed to Christianity and the more you had believed in it but turned to another religion. Atheists seemed also to become deaf and mute. The longest death seemed to take about five days; the quickest less than half an hour. Many tried to suddenly convert to Christianity and, initially, a few seemed to survive, but quickly the symptoms came back and they died just the same. The Gods would, again patiently, explain that these people had never truly converted, only believing in Christianity for the relief from sickness that it offered and not the everlasting redemption of the soul. The people that loved them would almost seem irrational - first stating that their father, sister or partner had obviously not been a good Christian and therefore, regrettably, deserved only what they had got, but almost immediately proclaiming their many good qualities and begging the Gods for any way to have them back.

Then, suddenly, the Gods departed. The population of the globe was now a scant two hundred million, and entire areas of the globe lay barren with not a person living as far as the eye could see. The Gods' final message was heard by every person, on that final Sunday four weeks after they had arrived. The message they imparted seemed burnt on everyone's mind - no-one had any problem reciting it from memory as long as they lived. It said,

"We are your Gods, and We have failed. We created you in our image, to become a civilisation proud and free; instead, you warped and twisted Our words to justify your ends. No commandment remained unbroken, no person remained sure in their beliefs. Your fear of us outweighted your love, and your desire of personal wealth overbalanced your care for the others you share the Earth with and those generations yet to come. You must remember Us, and remember the lessons we have taught; you must keep this world safe for your children and your children's children.

"We will be back to judge you again."

Paul's footnote: I am a practicising atheist. This story is intended to make the point that no religion is 'the' answer. More evils are practiced in the name of religion than good; even those who claim the highest beliefs are still capable of the worst deeds. Human fear, ignorance and self-interest are the real enemy. Nobody of any faith can stand up to the scrutiny of their Gods; we are better off acknowledging that and living by good principles rather than arguing over who wrote them. The choice of 'Christians' and 'Catholics' in this story was merely to avoid being seen as anti-Muslim - substitute the religion you personally love to hate.

And, of course, the real question is: what would happen next?

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