I am thunder, or how we would all make terrible deities

Recently, I’ve had a lot of cause to consider what the world would be like if I were God. And so have you.

Recently, I’ve had a lot of cause to consider what the world would be like if I were God. And so have you.

All around us, we are manufacturing and consuming little nuggets of creation that are designed to get us thinking like the deities we never can be and, for that matter, don’t even exist.

For instance, I would argue that the essential function of video games is to emulate the never-ceasing power of the big, bearded dude in the sky. Sure, they have things like plot and characters, but what we really love about them is this: They give us absolute control over the worlds they create.

Don’t like the way your Fable life is going? Restart. Bored of Zelda’s wanderings? Power off. It’s that simple.

More revealing still is a game like Grand Theft Auto. Not only do we have control over whether the world is “on” or “off” (a classic God function if ever there was one) but we are free to literally do whatever we want, with no consequences. People tell me GTA has a story mode—and a terrific one at that—but whenever I turn on the game, all I do is go on killing sprees. For hours.

Given the capacity to separate myself entirely from any consequences of my actions, and given a separate plane of existence, I murder innocent people. I literally pull out a gun, aim at the back of digitally-rendered skulls and blast away.

That’s how I know I would make a terrible God.

And most people aren’t all that different. There may be moral holdouts who refuse to pick up a controller, but when push comes to shove, if they were forced into the same sick conclusion, killing people is just more fun.

Now, I hear you arguing, “But Grand Theft Auto is explicitly designed as a game where you kill people, so of course that’s what you’re going to do.” Bullshit. There isn’t a game called Find an Orphan and Give Them Candy. That game would suck. And even if there was such a title, it’s pretty clear that GTA would far outsell it.

No, given the ability to become God, most of us would murder and maim and absolve ourselves of the moral duties that come with being human.

So, do video games encourage real-life violence? Clearly, the answer is no. If anything, the joysticked simulators have the opposite effect. Given a life that has no controls, no A or B button to jump or run, the crushing reality of consequences is all the more real. Think about the most hardcore gamer you know. Chances are, they’re pretty timid. On the other hand, psychopaths who play video games are just as dangerous as psychopaths who don’t play video games.

Another thing that made me think about the nature of God, and what I would be like if I was all-powerful, is The Invention of Lying, a new Ricky Gervais movie that opened last week. In it, Gervais plays a man—the only man—who can tell a lie in a world of truth.

It’s one of those rare romantic comedies that will be a lot more interesting to think about than it is to see. (Quick review: two-thirds of the movie is shit.)

But this ability to lie turns Gervais, for all intents and purposes, into a god. It may sound strange, but in a world where truth is so absolute that there’s not even a name for it, a lie is the most powerful thing.

What bugged me about the movie, though, is that Gervais’ character mostly used his ultimate power to try and do good—like when he tells his dying mother that God and the afterlife exist.

This is unrealistic. The only way any one of us, given unlimited power, would act in a beneficial fashion is if the results of doing so were extremely entertaining to us personally.

Call this the GTA Theory of God-like Activity. Once evil becomes relative, and we rise above the need to understand, everything changes.

To go to heaven is to go to hell, and vice versa. Just be glad that I’m not God.