GARY SLOAN

 

Zod's Version

Zod was distraught. On his burnished throne he drooped, raiment disheveled and crown askew, as winged ministers fluttered about. No one had ever seen him like this. For an eon, he had radiated empyreal serenity, unalloyed by sublunary emotions. While the ministers dispatched the affairs of the kingdom, he had sat erect, silent, and still-musing, with imperturbable mien, on infinity. No one disturbed him.

He had last spoken some 15 billion years ago. Informed that spacetime was ready to undergo a phase transition to trigger rapid expansion of the universe, he said: "Close the pearly gates and activate the kaon shield. Then switch to automatic pilot."

Now, with a formal cluck, Zod summoned his prime minister, Yod, who alit by the throne. After a sotto voce exchange with the distressed monarch and a bustling round of whispers with technicians, Yod addressed his cohorts - now, wings folded, perched on golden bars: "Our flux capacitor malfunctioned. It discharged a pristine batch of brain waves from planet #3182551728 - in the local vernacular, earth. When the waves struck the king, he instantaneously decoded them. Regrettably, his majesty now knows earthlings believe in deities."

A crescendo of susurrations whooshed through the vaulted chamber fretted with incandescent quasars. Silence fell when Zod stood up and hopped forward. Fixing his pink eyes on a quasar, he spoke with pensive restraint.

"When I set the initial conditions for the universe, I included a parameter designed to prevent brains from conceiving of supernatural beings. Since all phenomena have natural causes, the conception seemed a pernicious superfluity. The late evidence from earth corroborates the assumption."

"As you may recall, my intent was to maximize autonomy, lucidity, courage, knowledge, wonder, and joy. Instead of frittering away their lives on bootless illusions, these intelligent beings would unravel the subtle intricacies of nature. The quest for understanding would be inexhaustibly gratifying. New discoveries would perpetually delight. Disease, pain, injustice, labor, even death would be vanquished. Eventually, these creatures would learn to seed their own universes." With faint irony, he added: "In short, they would be like us."

Suddenly, his voice quivered: "Oh, what a falling off was there! These earthlings. . . ."

Shifting his gaze toward the ministers, he gathered himself and continued: "They are obsessed with a deity many call God. They think he both created the laws of nature and contravenes the laws. They think he watches them and listens to them, rewards them and punishes them. They try to get on his good side by obeying his orders and observing primitive rites. Though no prayer has ever been answered, they doggedly beseech him. Rain or shine, they bow their heads or drop to their knees. Even their leaders pray. All their lives, these wretched creatures attend meetings where speakers expatiate on the imaginary deity. They study ancient books, laced with barbarous fancies, which they call his Word."

Zod took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "They have specialists - they call them theologians - who pontificate on God's attributes. They say he is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnific, omnibenevolent, immutable, eternal, incorporeal spirit."

When Zod paused, the prime minister ventured: "Why, that's absurd."

"And then some. A fetid stew of non sequiturs and rank antinomies. Some compound the offense by asserting they believe God exists because the belief is absurd. To us, that is insanity. They call it wisdom."

The minister of revels, Kod, piped: "Take heed, your majesty. These Godmongers may try to deify you."

Zod nodded. "No doubt - a mere astrophysicist, with a penchant for antiquated polity and contemplative silence. I do have at present one omni attribute: omniconfusion. Fifteen billion years ago, I carefully rechecked my figures before the head technician fed them into the Universe Seeding Accelerator, USA. Every particle, virtual and real, was plotted, every wiggle of every superstring - in all twenty-three dimensions - calibrated, every neural configuration mapped. Everything looked go. Each galaxy would evolve a species of rational beings, scornful of superstition, hocus-pocus, and humbuggery of every ilk."

He sighed. "My equations were flawless."

On his perch, the minister of internal security, Wod, flapped. When Zod looked his way, the minister said: "Your highness, can it be coincidence our former head technician was named God? After he programmed your equations into the USA computers, he vanished. He could have fiddled with your figures."

Zod hopped sideways. "Of course! He could invert the no-deity parameter and specify appellations for the imaginary deity along with other particulars."

"God was vainglorious, vindictive, and resentful of your authority," said Wod, "yet an accomplished mathematician." The ministers all flapped to signify agreement.

"Ah," said Zod, "I now understand why the earthlings' heaven has winged messengers, streets of gold, and pearly gates. God's way of twitting us."

"His cockiness may be premature," said the prime minister. "The technicians have examined a new tide of earthling brain waves. They reveal a statistically significant spike on the axis for atheism. Our good God, it seems, should have rechecked his figures."

Zod brightened. "In any case, we shall seed other universes."