Out of the Pool

One of the big tenets of Western religion is monotheism. There is only one god. Now the pagans that the Christians were trying to convert were into many gods. They had a god of the trees and a god of the lake and a god of the mountain and on and on. The Christians countered with the holy trinity, god the father, god the son, and god the holy spirit, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the pagans happy. So the Christians added saints, and saints you can find for every little thing.

For instance, right now I could be spending my days praying to Saint Isidore of Seville, the Patron Saint of Computer Programmers. Or Saint Cajetan, the Patron Saint of Job Seekers. Or Saint Frances de Sales, the Patron Saint of Writers. So many saints, so little time.

Now I can see two probable reasons for the Christians switching the game from a multitude of gods to one god and a plethora of saints. The first is simple oneupmanship. They wanted to be able to say, “my God is better than your God,” or more directly, “my God can beat up your God.” The second reason is one of control. When there’s a different god for each little aspect of our lives, it’s pretty easy for people to slip in new gods whenever they need it. Invent a new alloy and need a god to pray to so that your new batch will come out pure? Invent a new god and spread the word. Nobody will know that you made it up and, hey, it may catch on. But the Catholics are big on centralized control; I think it’s the early Roman influence. They want an official list of saints and only they get to add new ones. Sure there’s a process for nominating and vetting and all that, but they get the final word.

So let me state those two reasons again, but a little more baldly. The first reason is that they want God to be all powerful, the be all and end all, quite literally. The second is that they want to keep power vested in their own bureaucracy. They want job security and control, like all bureaucrats everywhere.

Now let me switch directions for a moment. One of the big arguments against the whole notion of a “created” universe, in general, and against an “intelligent designer” is the old “turtles all the way down” problem. If the universe was created by God, who or what created God? But I’m not going to go there today. What I want you to think about today is a simple combination of the notion of an all-powerful god and the notion that there are many gods. Not many gods in our “universe” but many gods somewhere else. Can you imagine living in a place where everyone around you is omnipotent, where every need and desire is fulfilled with just a thought, where gossip is pointless because everybody already knows, literally, everything? How boring would it be when the mainstays of conversation are “I know that,” and “yes, you’re right.”

So maybe God created our universe as a way to get away from that. It’s a place for him/her to get away from it all, to go and relax, to see the unpredictable. Maybe we used to have lots of gods because his friends dropped by to see what he was working on. Maybe we’re down to one because they weren’t impressed, or maybe he got selfish and wouldn’t let them in anymore.

Now that I can believe. The Old Testament God is petty, vindictive, jealous, and all around a jerk. I can see him having a friend over, letting that friend work on, say, trees and then getting all miffed when the guy also does some work on bushes, because the dividing line between bushes and trees is pretty ill-defined. “That’s it,” God would scream, “everybody out.” It’s his universe and no else is allowed to touch it, they’re not even allowed to see it. And then, well, here we are.

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