(Excerpt from “Religion in the 21st and 22nd century” written by Louis B. Dipthong VII, and ‘borrowed’ by this blogger from the TARDIS glovebox whilst valeting it.)
By the middle of the twenty-first century, conventional religion had been abandoned by the majority of society. Perceived as irrelevant and judgemental, it did not mix with a people that considered itself too enlightened by science to require a deity and too permissive to hear condemnation of any individual’s lifestyle choices.
And so – for a while – people did what they believed right in their own eyes. They rejoiced in their enlightenment, and celebrated freedom from what they dismissed as merely an emotional crutch.
But it left a hole. The zealotry remained, and now there was no god to blame it on. People hadn’t changed – they had just lost their best excuse. The void left by preachers was filled by television presenters and talk-show hosts. For a time, the people followed the recorded wisdom of Springer and Oprah and Clarkson. Crowds of thousands followed stand-up comedians around, hoping to see the sick healed … or failing that, hear a catchphrase-laden anecdote about the warning labels on mattresses.
It seemed that the people did need a god … but on their own terms. A culture that would let you drive a car that was any colour you wanted, eat a pizza with any toppings on it you wanted, have a sexual relationship with any species you wanted – suddenly wanted their own designer god. Or rather: gods.
Thus heralded the era of a new breed of made-to-measure deity: the e-god. The consumer polytheist browsed through an extensive online catalogue of precreated gods, or opted to pay extra for a bespoke model. A quick-but-fun online questionnaire was only a click away – the final recommendation automatically uploaded to Facebook so that all could marvel.
It only took a simple credit-card transaction to ensure delivery of your own church welcome-pack of T-shirts, bumper-stickers, colouring books for the children, and bundle of leaflets with which to proselytise the neighbours. Not that the neighbours would have any time to read them – they’d be too busy delivering leaflets of their own.
For a while, e-gods numbered in the thousands – plastic messiahs that needed no worshippers, and yet their followers fought over them with renewed vigor. Each god so equally “special” that none were. Fragmented spirituality, reduced to incoherent background noise.
It is widely believed amongst historians that the use of Internet memes as a god started out as a student joke. Someone created an e-god whose chief tenat was the “thou shalt exalt bacon over all other meats” … and soon everyone latched onto it. Many cited their moorish communal wafers as key to early success.
Other Internet memes soonfollowed. Worshippers abandoned their own custom gods, flocking to instantly-recognisable images overlaid with poorly-spelt slogans. Everyone, it seemed, could find a Lolcat with which they spiritually identified.
Over time, gods were whittled down from their thousands to just a handful. Culled by market forces, endorsements from TV-celebrities, and the occasional hovercarbomb – though these were classed as “natural selection” by the seventh-day-millitant-Dawkinists, and “part of our commandments” by the “where was the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!” unitarians.
Eventually, churches were whittled down to “The Big Three” – the Masonic Lodge of Aint Nobody Got Time For That, the Brethren of the Sacred Lolcat, and the Cathedral of Latter-Day I Can Haz Cheeseburger. The Welsh, meanwhile, stuck with Methodism.
This lasted until the beginning of the 23rd century, when someone rediscovered The One True Bible we all read and follow today, in the remains of an abandoned charity shop. Blessings Be to those who Follow the Enlightened Wisdom of Monty Python. May your parrot’s plumage always be beautiful, and your spam always salty. Amen.