“Choose Your God”. It’s a mysterious advertisement that sneaked in without invitation; a not so random combination of coloured pixels that spreads onto my laptop screen with the pretention of an ostentatious artwork of a never-to-be-discovered genius. It’s endless and tiring, how numerous commercial messages fight for our attention these days. No matter where we surf to or browse through, no matter what we listen to or look at, there are countless virtual crooks hiding in cyberspace, setting up an ambush and patiently waiting to spoil our online broth with their verbal and visual harassment.
It’s frightening also, at times, when the nature of those advertisements as if by miracle seems to match with the contents of the e-mail you just received, or the blog you are reading… ;-)
That always reminds me of a popular picture frame that left a lasting impression on me when I was a little boy. It hang at my grandma’s house, where it was strategically positioned on the living room wall: a triangle that contained a stern, human eye squeezed in between its three sides, and then the chilly sentence: “God is watching you – don’t curse here”. No doubt that scared the hell out of me back then. I hardly dared to utter a word when my grandma asked me if I wanted a glass of lemonade. I didn't trust him, that god of hers, and even when I did not nervously peek at that hollow eye from the corner of my own eye, I felt it was staring at me all the time, ever-present. I sincerely believed that there was a tiny camera hidden in there, oblivious that such cameras would only be invented two decades later. At that innocent age, our fantasy toys with us as if it’s a playful dog and we are a softball; we tend to get carried away easily by our imagination, and all scary things risk being magnified and totally blown out of proportion. Shadows become monsters; the cracking of the stairs is the sound of a thief on his way to your bedroom. Utter horror, sheer terror, a child’s demons crawl over incomprehensible paths.
But there it is, brightly lit on my screen: an ingenious sentence that teases me to click through. “Choose Your God”. As if religion is something you can pick like a dish from a restaurant menu, depending on your mood, your craving, your whim of the day. Regrettably many consider it to be this way, a product on the supermarket shelf for them to use as they please and dispose of it when it no longer serves them. They pray to their god only when they are in need, thereby asking him a favour when they are faced with an earthly problem. Then when that issue gets resolved, at most some will have the courtesy to thank him still, before going on with their lives again, as if their spiritual appetite has subsided. It’s remarkable how most religions have created different gods for different purposes, even those religions that claim there is one god only. They creatively circumvented their conceptual limitations by creating saints, for instance, mortals with exceptional qualities, almost divine, who became the symbol of certain human aspirations: a saint to protect the farmers, a saint for fertility, a saint to worship if you lost something and who’s supposed to bring that item back to you…
Clever marketing guys, those religious people, trying to increase their market share by designing custom-made saints or gods. And now they discovered the world wide web even.
“Choose Your God”. I can’t resist. After all, I am very much interested in all things spiritual; I am a searching soul wandering the worldly paths to find some truth and enlightenment. “Curiosity is the source of all knowledge”, I ponder, and I click on the banner, not worrying about the viruses I may invite into my computer by doing so, or the spam mail I will probably have to endure for some time to come. I sit up straight, focused, in upper concentration, expecting some interesting, new spiritual insight to appear on the screen. A blink, some flickering, a window pops up. “GAME LOADING”…
I sigh. Amen.