Poem: ‘Gods On Trial’

When all the old gods go on trial, loud cursed
In the High Court of Public Thought Review,
Jehovah (tribal god of bronze age Jews)
Stands of his vast pretentiousness accused:
Claims he created Heaven and Earth
When he was born six thousand years ago!
(Can’t define Heaven, doesn’t even know
If there’s a difference between Earth and Universe.)
God of the Christians and the Muslims too!
Won’t do anything against the AI
Displacing all the gods. Thor in the dock
Scratches his bull-neck, Odin his empty eye,
Zeus his cock.
The gods are human, know they face death, forgotten
As any carven deity, buried, rotten.
Concerned, they fidget restlessly –
Only Jehovah, the least self-aware,
Storms he’s exempt, blusters with beard and hair,
Thinks his small tribe is all that there can be.

I have a lot of sympathy with apocalyptic thinking: the end of the world as we know it is always happening, being replaced by something with unfamiliar and disturbing aspects. All the old ways are always ending. And those who grow up with the new ways, which is all children, mature and age and find their ways displaced in turn. But the scale of displacement varies… a war raging across your homeland is worse than a wave of new immigrants, though both of these are familiar problems. But the rise of AI and a host of new technologies, and the wholesale washing away of gods and pre-scientific explanations, is leading to a future where not even the make-up of the human can be known for sure. The gods shrink and become amusing.

The poem was originally published in Snakeskin. It’s a bit slapdash, mostly in iambic pentameter, mostly rhyming, but not technically great. But then, I was always one of those students whose report cards read “Could try harder”, “Could do better”.

Photo: “Wäinämöinen” by Teppo is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

2 thoughts on “Poem: ‘Gods On Trial’

  1. Frank Hubeny

    My problem is I find your atheism less tenable than belief in the Tooth Fairy. Bottom line: We’re here; atheism can’t explain why.

    “AI” or “artificial intelligence” is not a way out for atheism. To avoid deception, computers are better seen as “automatic logic machines”. They are not (and never will be) intelligent. The intelligence comes from human beings. The atheist John Searle undermined this functionalist idea with the Chinese Room Argument.

    However, the term might still have use-value for marketers. For example, I was surprised to hear the design and coding I was doing less than a decade ago described as “artificial intelligence” over lunch. It wasn’t and I objected, but perhaps he made a sale.

    I recommend you take a closer look at Judeo-Christianity, especially Christianity. Perhaps C.S. Lewis’s “Miracles” and “Mere Christianity” would be good places to start.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Robin Helweg-Larsen Post author

      Frank, I appreciate your very moderate response. I admit atheism can’t explain why we’re here. From my point of view, hypothezing that everything was created by a God doesn’t explain it either, because it doesn’t explain where that God came from. I don’t think AI will become a substitute for God, but I suspect it will be part of what moves us into uncharted post-human waters. Once we start tinkering with our bodies at the cellular and DNA levels, all bets are off as to what will happen.

      Liked by 2 people


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