So, I’ve finally gone back to finish watching the last two seasons of Stargate SG-1. I’m three episodes in, and at the very least it’s given me a little food for thought. By the way, to those who have anaphylactic shock reactions to spoilers—this stuff aired five years ago.
Following the downfall of the obviously false gods of the Goa’uld—immortal aliens whose empire-building gave rise to the various mythologies* of the ancient world—the series needed a new villain. Enter “The Ori.” Apparently becoming ascended beings of pure energy doesn’t cure chronic inferiority complex. In their efforts to be worshipped by all lesser beings, they send out “Priors,” super-powered missionaries who preach the religion of “Origin,” work miracles, and smite unbelievers. Rather a lot of the latter, I’m going to guess. They claim to have created all human life, which is clearly false, but they have a certain way of making Pascal’s Wager…well, more immediate. “Hallowed are the Ori, or we’ll kill you all.”
I’ve had Christians ask me what I’d need to believe in their god—I don’t know, but let’s take it as read that if god wanted to demonstrate itself empirically, it clearly could. A trickier prospect is whether the self-aggrandizing claims of such a being could be verified, and whether it is worthy of worship. I’m not taken with Christianity’s setup—a Father who is infinitely loving but also infinitely just, and we’re all covered in sin. So, he sacrifices himself to himself, thereby providing a loophole for his fallen children to escape damnation.
I wonder, though, what could be changed that would make this more coherent? A king who spends three days himself in prison to punish a thief is not truly paying the penalty of sin. He knows he will get out again, and he knows that the guards don’t dare torture him as thoroughly. At the same time, a judge who sentences his own son to death in a murderer’s stead is perverting justice, rather than fulfilling it.
God is perfectly just, they say, he cannot fail to punish sin. What about a religion where the “king” abdicates his throne, rather than continue to mete out death in judgment? There’s a mystery for you, a God who ceases to be god, who abandons his kingdom, for love of his children.
What about the verse we all know, for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son? He didn’t, not really. When something is sacrificed, by definition, afterwards you don’t have it anymore, it’s given up, destroyed, lost. What could an all-things-Omni god actually sacrifice, even if it is the supremely silly notion of doing so to himself? This is a bit trickier, but I suppose if Jesus was roasting in hell for eternity on our behalf it would make a bit more sense. Similar myths exist—Prometheus comes to mind.
It’s all flights of fancy, of course. Religious fantasy from the likes of Stephen Brust, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have taken far more liberties with various cosmologies than I have here. It bugs me, however, that one can’t point out the inherent perversities and incoherence of the Christian model of salvation without them throwing bible verses in your face about how you need spiritual discernment, or predictions that the message will be rejected by those who cannot see. One suspects that the Apostle Paul and his contemporaries were being ridiculed even in their own lifetimes. Wasn’t it around that time when the word “faith” changed from being obedient to God’s law, and became a byword for credulity towards thirdhand claims of impossible, unattested miracles?
*Of course Yhwh would have fit right in with all the other mythical gods recast as despotic aliens–Ra, Apophis, Ba’al, Cronos, Marduk and all the other pantheons that were revealed to be alien pretenders. But the producers weren’t stupid.