Recently, while on the telephone with a friend I made at guide dog school, we started wondering what happens to a God when he or she goes out of favor. Both of us describe and share in something of an ecumenical polytheist view of the spirit world. I feel that I clearly understand the Christian and Jewish belief systems the best as those surrounded me as I grew up in Northeast New Jersey.
I don’t understand Islam very well as it seems to me that every expert on the religion I hear talk on the radio, from Muhammad Ali, whose extreme pacifism landed him in jail and got him the nickname, “Buddha in Boxing Gloves,” to the really mean and violent Osama Ben Laden who, even if he chose a different enemy would still scare the poop out of me. I hear all kinds of people in between talk and each seems to have a different variant on their belief system.
I realize that there exist numerous Christian and Jewish sects that do not conform to each other and, in many cases, to any translation of the Bible that I’ve read but very rarely (excepting radicals in the Middle East and those who bomb abortion clinics and gay clubs) do they break out in collective violence and, in the vast majority of cases, religious based violence is condemned by the majority of Christian and Jewish leaders. Many Islamic leaders denounce violence but others lead their faithful in chants of “Death to America!” While others call for the killing of movie producers, cartoonists and authors. Thus, I don’t really understand the Moslem faith and will try not to comment on it until I read something more substantial on the subject.
But, we do have to acknowledge that the big three Middle Eastern Semitic religions with their variations on the same God of Abraham do a lot of praying to this individual they collectively choose to worship.
The world has nearly a billion Hindus, a very interesting belief system with lots of interesting Gods. Different Hindu sects view different Gods as more or less important as some of the other sects but they all seem to accept the whole gang of major Hindu Gods. Hinduism also permits one to add their own Gods to their pantheon so one can be a Christian Hindu by adding the divinity of Jesus to an acceptance of the divinity of Vishnu, Krishna and the other Hindu Gods. I enjoy collecting statuettes of Hindu Gods as I like the tactile sensations of all of the different ones based on animals, the monkey being my favorite.
Off on a tangent, the monkey God is very popular in the South of India. A colleague of mine and I went to Bangalore together while working on a project back in September of 2004. Monkeys, in this part of the subcontinent, seem as common as squirrels or pigeons in New York. Literally, monkeys are everywhere. So, shortly after we checked into our hotel, I called the front desk that sent the IT guy over to my room to help me get my laptop onto their wireless network. While he tinkered with the old Sony, my colleague returned to her room to get her cell phone which she had forgotten. I wondered what took her so long to return as she typically moves quite swiftly. When she finally got back, the IT guy still tinkered away as he struggled to get me online, she entered the room somewhere between terrified and laughing loudly. Apparently, when she had first gone into her room to unpack, she opened the living room door to her porch so as to get a breeze going. When she returned to the room to get her phone, a monkey had opened the screen door and wandered into her living space. She screamed and ran into the bedroom, locking the door behind her and calling the front desk to send someone to get the monkey out of her suite. Thus, I take my colleague’s fright to be a little omen that put me into direct contact with the monkey God and I find myself consulting him periodically.
There are also hundreds of millions of Buddhists who worship in their own way. There are a number of aboriginal belief systems kept alive around the world and there are still those who favor Voo Doo and other ancient spiritual arts.
So, what happens to the Gods that have few or no people left worshipping them?
Do Thor and Horace hang around talking about the good old days when they kicked up big storms and heavy winds? Or, do they consult with the currently popular and much younger Gods in sort of a mentoring system? Sometimes, I think I can still notice Pan’s antics in the world of the living as people seem to panic over a lot of things they can’t see.
Where is Odin these days? Do he, Zeus or Apollo if you prefer, teach the current Gods about warfare and being the big boss or do they act like former CEOs or guys like Rudi Giuliani wandering around the spirit world giving motivational lectures to angels and others who still respect but don’t work for them any longer?
Just listening to the nightly news reminds me that Dis, the ancient God of Chaos and the root of words like discord and disagree, still roams the Earth spreading death, dismemberment and a constant state of confusion. If Dis isn’t behind this, who? Mars? Siegfried?
So, where do the less popular Gods spend there time and what do they do?
I’ll end here and write more on this topic in the coming weeks. I just think it is interesting, how, one century, a God can be all powerful and worshiped by millions and, a mere few centuries later, nearly forgotten. God’s can be damned but, as immortal, they can’t die. Thus, they must be somewhere and doing something.