Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Judge Orders God to Break Up into Smaller Deities

From The Onion (some 12 years ago, but still timeless -- and especially appropriate on this day, with only a few minor changes to protect the innocent):
WASHINGTON, DC—Calling the theological giant's stranglehold on the religion industry "blatantly anti-competitive," a U.S. district judge ruled Monday that God is in violation of anti-monopoly laws and ordered Him to be broken up into several less powerful deities.

"The evidence introduced in this trial has convinced me that the deity known as God has willfully and actively thwarted competition from other deities and demigods, promoting His worship with such unfair scare tactics as threatening non-believers with eternal damnation," wrote District Judge John Shelby Sprong in his decision. "In the process, He has carved out for Himself an illegal monotheopoly." 
The suit, brought against God by the Obama Justice Department on behalf of a coalition of Democratic, polytheistic "lesser deities," mayors and governors, alleged that He violated antitrust laws by claiming in the Holy Bible that He was the sole creator of the universe, and by strictly prohibiting the worship of what He termed "false idols." 
"God clearly commands that there shall be no other gods before Him, and He frequently employs the phrase 'I AM The Lord' to intimidate potential deserters," prosecuting attorney general Eric Holder said in his argument to the court. "God uses other questionable strong-arm tactics to secure and maintain humanity's devotion, demanding, among other things, that people sanctify their firstborn to Him and obtain circumcisions as a show of faith. There have also been documented examples of Him smiting those caught worshipping graven images, and vehemently opposing same-sex marriages."
OK, up to this point, The Onion gets its theology more or less correct -- at least from an Old Testament point of view. But then, as is inevitable with too-clever humorists, they stray from well-established Christian doctrine, and veer off into unnecessary stereotypes and parodies of Christianity, after they have already made their point. For the rest, therefore, your Anglican Curmudgeon has judiciously edited the original content to bring it into line with traditional Anglican and current Episcopalian views (you can compare what follows with the original here), with his own particular inventions to suit the occasion:
Attorneys for God did not deny such charges. They did, however, note that God offers followers "unbeatable incentives" in return for their acceptance of His revealed Word, including salvation from sin and hell, eternal life, and "fruitfulness on Earth" (for those who can learn to multiply). 
"God was the first to approach the Jewish people with an exclusive 'covenant' contract that guaranteed they would be the most favored in His eyes, and He handed down standards of morality, cleanliness, and personal conduct that exceeded anything else practiced at the time," lead defense attorney Hugh Blankenship said. 
"He readily admits to being a 'jealous' God, not because He is threatened by the prospect of competition from other gods, but because He is unmovable in the righteousness of His cause and declares that He, not the wretched mortal sinners whom He created 'in His image', already knows which of them will choose Him, and which of them will worship lesser gods. Many of these so-called 'lesser' gods could care less if somebody bears false witness, or covets thy neighbor's wife. Our client, on the other hand, is truly a 'People's God,' and wants no man to forfeit salvation except by his own pre-ordained choice." 
In the end, however, God was unable to convince Sprong over the arguments advanced by attorneys for The Episcopal Church (USA) that He deliberately sought to create a marketplace hostile to rival deities, which at the same time interfered with the Church's plans to devolve into a composite of society at large. 
God's attorneys attempted to convince the judge of His openness to partners, pointing to His longtime participation in the "Holy Trinity," but the effort failed when Sprong, following a suggestion by ECUSA attorney Bart "Beers" Ehrman, determined that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are "more God subsidiaries than competitors." 
To comply with federal antitrust statutes, God will be required to divide Himself into a pantheon of specialized gods and goddesses, each representing a force of nature or a specific human custom, occupation, or state of mind. 
"There will most likely be a sun god, a moon goddess, a sea god, and a rain goddess," said religion-industry watcher and  prominent Episcopalian Rachel Herald Evans. "Then there will be some second-tier deities, like a god of wine, a goddess of the harvest, and perhaps a few who symbolize human love, beauty, art and/or blacksmithing. Stay tuned as we coordinate with the Standing Commission on Liturgy, the sponsors of 'Holy Women, Holy Men', to give equal representation in the Church liturgy to all the other deities deserving of Episcopalians' worship." 
Leading theologians, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA), the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, are applauding the God breakup, saying that it will usher in a new era of greater worshipping options, increased efficiency, and more personalized service. 
"Before this decision," she said in an official statement from her headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in New York City, "we Episcopalians were faced with an unacceptable alternative of having to confine God to a very small box. Now that Judge Schofield has ordered Him to break up His monotheopoly, we will have a whole range of boxes at our disposal, and we can get on with the business of promoting our Church as open to all. After all, there is no Church that can beat us at inclusivity, and this decision vindicates our individualized approach to faith tailored to the needs of society as we recognize it." 
"God's prayer-response system has been plagued by massive, chronic backlogs, and many prayers have gone unanswered in the process," said Gene Suozzi, a Phoenix-area Wiccan. "With polytheism, you pray to the deity specifically devoted to your concern. If you wish to have children, you pray to the fertility goddess. If you want to do well on an exam, you pray to the god of wisdom, and so on. This decentralization will result in more individualized service and swifter response times." Suozzi denied that his views on the case had been influenced by an invitation from Dr. Jefferts Schori to lead the worship service at the 2015 installation of ECUSA's Presiding Bishop at National Cathedral.
Other religious experts were not so confident that the breakup is for the best, pointing to the chaotic nature of polytheistic worship and noting that multiple gods demand an elaborate regimen of devotion that today's average worshipper may find arduous and inconvenient. 
"If people want a world in which they must lay burnt offerings before an earthenware household god to ensure that their car will start on a cold winter morning, I suppose Judge Sprong means they can have it," said Father Thomas Reinholdt, theology professor at Chicago's Loyola University. 
"But don't forget their track record -- lesser deities are infamous for their mercurial nature. They often meddle directly in diplomatic affairs, abduct comely young women for their concubines, and are not above demanding an infant or two for sacrifice. Monotheism, for all its faults, at least means convenience, stability, and a consistent moral code -- not to mention a common lectionary."
 The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church begged to differ. Said she: "Monotheism was fast succumbing to the Great Western Heresy, according to which only Westerners can know the path to salvation. Indeed, Western faith in the 21st century was on its last legs, until there came this invigorating decision to eliminate monotheopoly. We thank Gaia, the Mother Jesus, Sophia and all her faithful attendants, from the beginning of the world until today, for their faithful perseverance in prevailing against patriarchy and its feminine-degrading paternalism. Today is the beginning of the new freedom from superannuated Western monotheism!"   
Aides to the Presiding Bishop said that she would soon issue pastoral directives to all diocesan bishops in the Church concerning whom, and specifically which categories of canonically-recognized sexual orientations and identities, they could put forward as their successors in their dioceses. 
Meanwhile, one deity who, along with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, is welcoming the verdict is the ancient Greek god Zeus, who described himself as "jubilant" and "absolutely vindicated." 
"For thousands of years, I've been screaming that this third-rate sky deity ripped me off wholesale," said Zeus, speaking from his Mt. Olympus residence. "Every good idea He ever had He took from me: Who first created men just like himself? Who punished mankind -- well, okay, not regularly -- for its transgressions and disrespectful sacrifices? Who lived eternally up in the clouds? And the whole fearsome, patriarchal, white-beard, thunderbolt thing? I was doing that eons before this two-bit hustler started horning in on the action." 
Lawyers for God say they plan to appeal Sprong's ruling and are prepared to go all the way to the "Supreme Court" if necessary -- only they indicated that Judge Sprong might have to answer to a higher power than nine mere black-robed mortals. 
"This decision is a crushing blow to God worshippers everywhere, and we refuse to submit to a breakup until every possible avenue of argument is pursued," Blankenship  said. "I have every confidence that God will ultimately win, as He and His lawyers are all-powerful, and -- after all -- there is no higher court than God's."

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