“Abraham and Isaac” by Titian

The world is thick with gods. In every room, under every rock, behind every tree, a deity lurks. In every grain of sand, every strand of hair, every drop of water, every pulsing cell, every mote of dust, in every snowflake. Bounded in each nutshell is a king of infinite space, a ruler of worlds unutterably vast, a singularity, unknowable and unknown.

We can never say what they are like. We speak instead of the ways they came to us and of the things we saw.

The ancients who spoke of God’s face, they saw only masks. Because they were spared, they thought their gods were merciful. Wiser than our fathers, we know gods are neither merciful nor cruel. They are just. But we are not deceived: theirs is not our justice. When our armies triumph we do not give thanks. When our crops fail we offer no sacrifices. We have no priests or holy days, yet we fare better than our neighbours, they who offer up their children on stone altars, they whose shamans wail nightly on the holy mountain.

In the eyes of the gods there is but a hair’s breadth between piety and indifference. Prayers do not move them. Sacrifices do not appease them. Divine plans are never altered by human desires.