Donald R. Burleson, Ph.D.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Donald R. Burleson.
This essay may be reproduced provided original authorship is expressly acknowledged.
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Arguably, the various gods worshipped in modern times could be called
the most offensive in human history. Whether they parade their behavioral excesses
under the name of Jehovah or Allah or whatever, one has to reflect, in all honesty,
that torturing people nearly to death on dungheaps, chucking unbelievers into lakes
of fire for eternal torment, ordering that airplanes be flown into skyscrapers, or
just exhorting the faithful to send brimming buckets of money to television evangelists,
scarcely qualifies any of them to receive a Nobel Prize in divinity. (Then again, maybe
that sort of heavenly deportment is precisely what the Prize in divinity would require.)
Not, of course, that the gods are likely to worry all that much about competing among
themselves for accolades, since, after all, each of them in turn is said to be the
One True God, depending on where you live or what political faction is in power at the moment.

How did they get this way, the gods we're supposed to adore? The humblest schoolchild would
have the snot slapped out of him for behaving the way they do, so what gives here? We humans
have shown ourselves quite capable of making good stuff, whether it be skyscrapers, computers,
or chocolate ice cream. So good God, shouldn't we be able to make good gods?

Well, we did it, once upon a time. The problem is that the gods, once we invented them
in olden days, have since evolved into forms no one could reasonably have expected
or desired. Darwinian natural selection on the divine level has produced god-types
remarkably well equipped to survive in the meme pool of the human mind (which, by the way,
doesn't say much for the human mind), but this doesn't make them anyone you could want to
hang out with at the bar or the beach, unless you have a special appetite for seedy company.

For a long time, humankind made up whole raving gangs of gods and marooned them on mountaintops
where they would be conveniently out from under foot and not well positioned to watch us too
closely. But these were pretty nifty deities, as deities go-- hard-drinking, loud-laughing,
and, by all accounts, smokingly good in bed. The Greek gods in particular would have been
a riot at anybody's graduation party, board meeting, prayer breakfast, or orgy. If you could
call Rent-a-God and get a few of these characters sent over, trust me, you wouldn't hesitate
to call.

It can be a bit of a trick, though, trying to sort out the family tree of these polytheistic
party animals. Right away we run into some curious things. Zeus and Hera were husband and
wife, but-- oops-- also brother and sister. In most places this would be illegal, or at least
somewhat discouraged. But Zeus, in crawling into the sack with good old Sis, was only following
the sterling example of his (and his wife-sister's) own parents, the Titans known as
Cronus and Rhea, another sizzling brother-and-sister act, pretty much the norm for those kinky
Titans. (It's always nice when kids emulate their parents. As someone has said: Incest,
like charity, begins at home.) There was solid tradition for all this; the Egyptian gods
Osiris and Isis were not only husband and wife but also brother and sister, and indeed the
cup of classical mythology runneth over with such doings, almost more family coziness than
the mind can grasp.

My point, though, is not to frown upon the ancient gods, however wayward, for getting it on
with their siblings. My point, rather, is that such fooling around, over time, must lead
to genetic aberrations in the divine generations that follow.

Indeed my claim is that in the evolution of the gods from polytheism to monotheism (where,
in practice, mono- means not "one god" but "one god at a time"), the thing that has
produced such appallingly degenerate gods as those we have nowadays is-- you guessed it--

Mate brother with sister, daughter with father, mother with son, over and over, and see
what happens.

After all, the gods do evolve. We must not regard them as being exempt from the laws
of genetics. Evolution happens due to the gradual mututional modification of DNA, and
nothing makes for mutation like close relatives going in for a good thrashing romp in
the hay as often as these guys did.

It comes as a surprise to a lot of people that the gods, too, have DNA. Of course
humans are humans and gods are gods, and there are some differences. For the gods,
DNA stands not for deoxyribonucleic acid but rather de-orthodoxy-ribo-nu-cleric acid.
(Some etymologists, as well as some entomologists, speculate that the prefix de- in
this form is a contraction of the Latin Deus. God only knows.)

For deities, DNA is composed of four nucleotide bases called adamine(A), theomine (T),
goddine (G), and cynicine (C). A bonds with T, G bonds with C, in base-pairs like rungs
on a ladder, to form tediously long strands of DNA, each twisted into a helix or, in the
case of goddesses, a shelix. The God-DNA organizes itself into bundles called Cronus-somes
and forms a complex genome that replicates indefinitely to transmit the gods' characteristics
down through the ages, though sometimes with mutations. Things like Zeus boffing his sister
can really play hell with those base-pairs, sooner or later, so all bets are off when you
start that way, breeding gods.

Obviously those ill-advised encounters enjoyed by the older families of gods eventually
had disastrous consequences for the genes that were to spell out the nature of such later
gods (the new kids on the block) as Allah and Jehovah. The simple fact is, sad to say,
they were born deformed, myth-begotten, the victims of inbreeding by their sacred
ancestors. We can essentially thank those horny siblings of yore for producing the gods
of the Bible and the Koran. So now we're stuck with a new breed of skydwellers who, let's
face it, just aren't the fun chaps their forebears were.

It's a pity, heaven knows, these dreary new gods. But maybe if we just ignore them,
they'll go away.