Tag: eater of socks

How Gods Are Made

 

The late, great Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. In his fantasy universe known as the Discworld (so named because the world is a disc resting on the backs of four giant elephants standing on a turtle swimming through space) he explored nearly every facet of humanity: war, peace, family, crime, politics, time travel, magic, and even religion. A concept running through a number of his books is the notion that believing in something causes it to exist and grow strong.

In Small Gods, a satire on the Reformation, he describes the origin of the gods thus: just as the physical universe was formed of the collation of dust from the origin of the universe, there was a great cloud of gods spread evenly over the universe. As humans believed in a god, it became stronger and better able to answer prayers. Moreover, the gods took on the characteristics of the humans who believed in it — a god of shepherds had a different personality than a god of goatherds, as their followers had different views of how one controls livestock — and the god took its physical characteristics from the sculptures and icons of the followers. e.g. Patina, the goddess of wisdom, was supposed to be associated with an owl; because her most famous sculptor was terrible at sculpting birds, she now has a penguin.