Civic Geek: When The Gods Speak

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A bit of a change from my usual monthly civic geek posts, in this one I want to talk about religion and politics. It just won’t be in the way you expect.

My latest novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet is set in a a post-post apocalyptic techno-fantasy setting/ This was a world that suffered genocidal war, disagreeing gods, and unleashed weapons fusing science and sorcery. However, in the current setting, it seemed shockingly “together,” with a very stable society – and I began analyzing just why my imagination had made it such.

What I narrowed in on surprised me – and taught me a lesson.

In this setting, the gods are real and communicate with people. Now it’s a good three hundred gods, each of them an eccentric by human standards. However when someone speaks for a god, you’re pretty sure they’re actually speaking for that god – and if someone lies about a god’s intention, there’s a good chance said god is going to clear it up.

So you have a planet intertwined with oddball superintelligences, but at least everyone is pretty sure what they want and mean, or if they don’t everyone is equally confused. When there are conflicting messages, no one assumes that any one is right, but they ask the gods themselves.

That made me realize what had happened with our politics in America and in other countries and other histories; people who claimed to speak for the gods or gods cause a lot of issues.

When you believe someone has divine authority, that they speak for a powerful supernatural entity that controls your fate, you listen to them. You assume that person has some kind of direct communication to that god – which is probably a terrible assumption.

But it’s apparent on our world that a lot of people are saying damned different things about what their gods say. This disagreement should lead people to ask “hey, why are we getting different signals here?” This disagreement should lead us to ask various theological questions, from “how to talk to X god” to “hey is anyone here actually speaking for a god or is this bullshit.”

Caught up in tribalism, assuming all the time , too many humans think they have a direct line to a god or gods and everyone else is wrong. Not enough ask “well, where is this god to show up and clear up this shit?” People don’t want that – they want tribalism.

In theory if you thought a god was really out there, and you wished to know it’s will, you should embark on a spiritual journey yourself. You should try to be open to it telling you what’s going on – treat it like a person and assume that it will tell you. The last thing you should do is assume someone yelling about things is some direct conduit to the divine.

How many of our problems are caused by A) assuming that someone is speaking for a god, and B) not asking questions or even giving the god the respect to ask them.

This kind of tells me how many people really don’t take their god or gods seriously. They’ll gladly listen t someone say what they want to hear, but don’t deal with the theological discomfort of reconciling conflicting messages. They don’t really respect their god or gods enough to treat them as people and ask them.

It’s a peculiar kind of blasphemy, not giving your god credit enough to clear things up. It leads to blasphemous actions as people uncritically carry out the orders of men thinking they’re from a god. It leads to a kind of disrespect to attribute the voice of a great supernatural being to be reflected in the rantings of many grifters and criminals.

Our problem isn’t that we listen to gods – it’s that we listen to humans.

– Steve