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The Game: I return to the amphitheater and continue my discussion with my nemesis
Posted by Douglas, Jun 20, 2008. 2238 views. ID = 1397

The Game

Posted by Douglas, Jun 20, 2008. 2238 views. ID = 1397
This post was written in 11 minutes.
This is a challenge, tying together all the threads of my ideas from the first five or six installments, and doing it in a way that flows well from one idea to the next.

I'm still not finished...stay tuned!
This post has been awarded 30 stars by 7 readers.
This post is Part 9 of a writing series titled The Bovine Man.

Perhaps it will seem strange to you that I did not run screaming from the necropolis and book the next available flight back home. Maybe you will think it odd that I didn't second guess the strange things I'd seen, imagine myself to be delusional, and check into the nearest clinic for evaluation.

To be honest, I sometimes wonder at that as well. Yet, as I wandered the streets of Carthage, aimless and lost, I realized that all my life I had prepared for this encounter. I grew up with science and spirituality side by side, with no assumption that one ought to exclude the other. I didn't doubt the existence of angels and demons any more than I doubted electromagnetism and gravitational forces. In short, I wasn't much like Horatio. The problem with Horatio was not that there were more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in his philosophy, but that he rejected the possibility of things in heaven and earth that were not spelled out in detail by his philosophy. So instead of running, instead of doubting, I simply looked for a place that was familiar and comfortable. Here in this foreign city, that could mean only one place.

I sat on a mossy rock at the edge of a meadow and stared blankly at a limestone pillar with a misshapen heart scrawled on its surface - a lone pillar of support for ancient ruins long destroyed. One by one, the visions of past encounters with the bovine man passed through my mind, like specters haunting my memory. As I replayed each memory, I tried to understand what I had seen, and what it might mean. I understood easily why the bovine man had felt at home at Masada, Bethlehem, and the Necropolis; in each of these places the lives of innocent children had been cruelly shortened. What I did not understand was why Molech felt so distinctly out of place here at the amphitheater. Like all the other ruins, this amphitheater had been the site of a horrid and violent death. True, there were no children involved, but at worst that should make the place neutral to him. I looked around at the broken walls, the stumpy pillars, the absurd graffiti, and wondered what was I was missing. Somewhere in this place, I was sure, I could find the answer to the mystery of Molech.

"I knew you'd come back here," a voice behind me said. Tired. So tired sounding.

"Yes, well, you're the god, you know all."

He sat on the rock next to me. He no longer looked as powerful and bestial as he had at the shrine. Here he looked just like another man - a little dumpy looking, but just a man. "Just because your god claims to be omniscient," he said, "doesn't mean the rest of us do. There's too much headache and hassle with all that omni-stuff. Your worshipers start complaining that their goat fell in the well, and you didn't see it coming, and didn't make the goat just fly on out of there. If they don't expect omniscience and omnipotence from you, life is much simpler."

"So," I said. "I want a straight answer from you. Why are you following me around? And don't tell me you don't know. You may not be omniscient, but you know that much, at least."

He didn't say anything for a long space of time. I wondered if he was stalling to make up a lie, or was simply ignoring me. Finally he said, "I'm tired of accidental worshipers."


"Mm. The Punics, they were intentional worshipers. Put their children to the fire as a deliberate act of worship. There's real power in that. But there've never been people like them since. Those Jews at Masada, they had no idea they were offering up their children to me, and would have been horrified if they'd known. Herod was the same, except if he had known he was offering those children to me he wouldn't have cared a speck one way or the other. Thing is, that kind of sacrifice, there's some power in it, but not as much."

"And you think...what? That you can convince me to become an intentional worshiper? In case you'd missed it, I've already got a God."

He just smiled and shrugged.

"So why me? Maybe you should do a bit of telemarketing; that seems a bit more efficient than traipsing all over the Mediterranean after one possible customer."

"You're the one who saw me," he said simply.

"What?" I said. "Are you telling me no one else can see you?"

"Can't see me, won't see me. Most people never notice me sitting there unless I want them to. Americans never see me, even if I want them to. That's why I followed you, and that's the truth."

"Why don't Americans see you?" I demanded.

"Hello! Did you forget that whole not omniscient thing? I don't know why they don't see me. But if I had to guess, I'd say that it's because your Americans have so completely deluded themselves with their science and technology that if they ever saw something that didn't fit their view of things, their brains would short circuit. If you'll pardon my use of a science and technology idiom to describe the situation."

"Whatever," I said. "So let me save you some hassle and headache here. I have no intention of starting a child sacrifice cult. So you can just move along."

"Silly boy," he said, "You think child sacrifice is a requirement to be one of my worshipers? You just don't get it, do you? Your god is the one who's got the fascination with innocence. I really couldn't care less how innocent or guilty my sacrifices are. You know what really gets my heart to racing? Helplessness. A ninety-five year old man works just as well for me as ninety-five hour old infant." He cackled, and for just a moment the bull took on the appearance of a ravenous wolf. "And, just for the record," he added, "I don't require death, either. Death is a nice bonus, of course, but I'll take as well."


"Meaning, tell your boss a lie about a co-worker, so he loses his job. It ain't as good as killing him, but the great thing is, he's still alive, so you can hit him when he's down all over again."

"That's sick."

"Not sick. Just human nature. That's what kills me about your Judeo-Christian god - he says he made humans out of the dust of the earth, and then he puts these unrealistic expectations on them about how they ought to behave. Not me. I just ask 'em to do what comes naturally to them. I gain power from it. They gain power from it. Everyone wins."

"Except the fellow that loses his job," I countered.

"Sure. Except him. But don't you see? He's got the same chance as everyone else does to join the game." He leaned in close to me and said, "That's why I've got so many temples in your country, even though none of your people can even see me."

"Temples?" I said.

"Oh yes. Every board room in every major corporation where the wealthy increase their wealth on the backs of the poor. Every D.C. office where the powerful increase their own power through lies and treachery and blackmail. Every school playground where a bully increases his own prestige at the expense of the class nerd. Every church where 'god fearing' people think they can improve their own status and self-image through gossip and back-biting." He winked at me. "I've even got a corner of your church set up as a little shrine. And don't even think about what it's going to take to get me out of there, because it's not going to happen."

He stood and stretched his short arms over his head, like someone waking up from a long nap. "So," he said through a yawn, "now you know the rules of the game. The question is: you've been playing my game unwittingly your whole life; you want to sign onto the team and really play?"

I stayed seated on the rock and continued staring at the lone, graffiti-covered pillar at the center of the amphitheater. It occurred to me that the pillar was not unlike Molech himself; it was only a shadow of what it once was, just a glimmer of its former glory - yet it still stood. And there too was Molech, who barely seemed more than a man any more, yet even through all these centuries, he still stood, he still retained his power and his audacity and his pride.

I imagined then what it would be like to be one of his intentional worshipers: to serve a god who promises wealth and power and prestige instead of persecution; to follow in a way of life that allows me to strike back at those who injure me instead of forgiving and turning the other cheek so they can strike again; to worship a god who allows me to engage and celebrate my basest, most natural inclinations, instead of a god who requires me to reject and turn from those qualities that are so distinctly human; to be allowed the privilege of hating my enemies instead of submitting to that absurdly impossible task of loving them. I imagined what it would be like to serve a god who not only says he accepts me as I am, but doesn't then turn around and demand that I change.

And I liked what I was imagining.

Copyright 2008 Douglas. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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This post has been awarded 30 stars by 7 readers.
This post is Part 9 of a writing series titled The Bovine Man. The next part of this series can be found here: Afflicted and Forsaken.
This is a revised version of a post. Click here to view the original version

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