Losing My Religion
Disclaimer: If it's familiar, it's not mine
A/N: I've posted this before but I've changed it quite a bit so I decided to repost it rather then just editing. Kudos to anyone who spots and correctly identifies the references.
Losing My Religion
by Noelle L. Fields
Way back when a sizable chunk of human thought was occupied by the question; ‘is there a god?’ These days no one so much as considers that question, we know there is, more than one of them at that. In fact there’s so many out there that there’s quite a few places where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a deity (not that I advise doing so, pissing off a higher power is generally a very bad idea). Not surprising really, everything that happened after 10/31 was to some extent influenced by human belief and perspective, not to mention that when faced with a major threat to their long term survival people have a tendency to come over all religious, so having the many and varied gods that have been worshiped throughout the world suddenly become very real was probably pretty much inevitable. Add in the various different versions of the same deities that were created by different perceptions and interpretations, not to mention all the previously outright fictional ones that came into being when those that worshiped them did, and you’ve got one very large, probably rather messy extended pantheon. Said pantheon is something like forty percent death gods, which I’m sure says a lot about how things are these days but I’ve already covered that side of things in last month’s column and I’m not going over it again (although seeing one of the aforementioned death gods sprawled on the ground having a rather epic meltdown did go a rather long way to undermining any awe and reverence on my part).
Ironically, one outcome of this is that people are on the whole a lot less religious. Religion after all is based on faith and when it’s common knowledge that something is as real as you are, there isn’t really that much faith required. People still keep all the procedures and trappings of religion of course, but these days it’s probably more like a business arrangement. After all, everyone knows that the majority of gods depend on human belief and worship in order to continue existing and this has had a fairly major impact in human/divine relations. The prevailing status quo is something along the lines of ‘I worship you, you help me out when necessary,’ and in a few cases there’s an implicit threat that if it doesn’t work out, the human is going to take their worship elsewhere, because less face it, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other options, although this tactic has been known to backfire, often rather spectacularly. Bolts of lightning aren’t even the start of it.
Of course, there are still plenty of people who are loyal to one deity or pantheon, sometimes because they’d rather stick with what they know, sometimes because that god or group thereof holds a particular amount of influence over the area where they live, and sometimes because they’ve actually met the deity in question and found them to be worth their loyalty. At the extreme end of this side of the scale you’ve got those who’ve pledged themselves to the service of a particular god or goddess. I don’t mean the various priests and priestesses, although some of them do fall into this category, I’m referring to the servitors, those that follow the deity in questions orders directly, doing their bidding and often acting as a extension of the deity themselves. They get divine protection and usually some sort of power-up but give up quite a bit of their free will in the process. I personally find the whole idea pretty damn creepy along with a fair few (but not all) of the servitors themselves, but I can’t really blame them for making the choice they did. After all, we all do what we have to in order to survive, plus the servitors of some of the nicer deities (i.e. the ones who don’t shove their minions around for the hell of it) don’t get that bad a deal all things considered. Lord knows (pun completely unintended) that people have done worse, although I won’t go into details for the sake of everyone’s sanity and/or digestion.
Personally, I’m not the religious type. Like most people I’m respectful of the assorted higher powers, mainly I’ve got enough to worry about without the possibility of some pissed off deity getting into a smiting mood with me as the smitee, but I’m not what I’d consider an active follower and I flat out refuse to follow the more arbitrary rules that the various religions have come up with since I’m lazy and truth be told it doesn’t seem like the deities in question are actually all that bothered, making me suspect that they’re actually something that humans have come up with on their own. I’ve actually met a fair few gods over the years and most of them seemed nice enough (there was this one goddess who, in my humble opinion, was a serious contender for the title of Nicest Person Ever), and utterly unconcerned about who you married / what you eat / what you do on Sundays. I also don’t do religion since to be religious you have to ‘believe’ in god(s) and I don’t. I know they’re there; it’d be like ‘believing’ in my next door neighbour (who, incidentally, is not a god, at least not as far as I know). It’s also neigh impossibly to develop an appropriately worshipful attitude to anyone when you’ve had coffee with someone of a similar, or possibly greater, power level.
Oddly enough, in many ways we’ve gone back to the way the Ancients did things, and I’m not referring to the casual, mix-and-match approach to worship. The gods in Homer’s heroic age walked among men, the gods of the new world do the same, there’s just more of them. Here’s to hoping that the ones on our side outnumber the ones that aren’t.(Noelle Fields lives in Albion and is a regular columnist in New World and an occasional contributor to What If? Magazine. She is currently slightly worried about impending lightning bolts.)