The Toaster that Was Not God: On Right and Wrong, Emotion, and the Truth

In my career as a time traveler, I have visited many worlds before their death. They often go something like this:

In the largest city of the world, There is a toaster prominently on display at the center of the town square.  This toaster is widely believed by members of the world’s largest religion to be God.  This toaster is protected by armed guards. There is usually a transparent dome around the toaster, with teams of men with guns guarding the toaster. Usually they have an assortment of flags.

Of course, the toaster is not God. However, on this world, the toaster is widely believed to be responsible for the creation of the universe, all of the bad, all of the good – everything that has happened in it.  The toaster is said to speak in a mysterious language, so secret that only trained priests can interpret the Edict of The Toast. The Toaster is guarded by armed priests, all chosen after years of service from the ranks of the faithful.  The priests alone are able to translate the often-crispy wishes of this Toaster God, and use those wishes to enact edicts, missives, and messages to the faithful.

There are plenty of people on this world who do not believe the toaster is God. As their world’s grasp on technology advances, more and more people begin to deny that the toaster is God. “It’s just a toaster!” they say to each other, whispered at first, and then more loudly. “How could it have created the universe? It looks like it came from Wal Mart! It’s just a political tool to pacify the masses!”

The atheists get more power politically and socially, but they are still hated by the members of the toaster-religion, who believe the toaster commands us to love each other. The president starts each morning with two slices of toast – rye, please, with light butter – from the Holy Toaster.  When people get married, they often jump over a smaller copy of the toaster – not the real thing, of course – in order to show that they are now two sides of the same piece of toast.

One day, one of the atheists asks herself, Is it wrong to smash the toaster? She cares about Truth, with a capital T. She wants very much want to show people –  look, the world operates on fixed mechanistic principles, and nothing bad will happen if i destroy this toaster. It’s just a ridiculous prop, and the world will be better if i destroy this toaster, to show the people they have everything the need inside of themselves.

And yet, if she destroys the toaster,  what do you, dear reader, think will happen? Their sun will keep going around their world of course – or rather, their world will continue to rotate upon its axis, but you know exactly what I mean.  The mechanics of their world will continue to function as it has – and everybody in the world who believed this toaster was God will now believe their God has died. Some may lose their faith in their understanding of the world, but most will believe that this unpleasant emotion they are experiencing (cognitive dissonance? doubt it) was caused by the destruction of their god.

They’ll be too depressed to keep going on  – or to go to work. They’ll be angry at her – too angry to check box A of line 32, to subtract the result of line 3 and to put the remainder on line 12, unless it’s greater than the sum of lines 5 and 6. Why? Who cares about line 5 or 6?  God is dead. I heard they were rationing bread after a run on the grocery store, but I’m just too angry to care.

Many will accuse her of inviting evil into the world – and they’ll blame her for all the violence, all the fighting, all the wars that arise as a result of the destruction of the Toaster that Was Not God. They will have plenty of evidence, that the Toaster Was In Fact God – because the world worked OK until now, and as a result of the toaster being destroyed, the stock markets of the world have crashed, and major offshoots of the toaster-faith are all at war with each other, over the One True Household Appliance.

So I ask you, dear reader, if you ever find yourself time travelling, and you are in a world with a Toaster-type God, I suggest that you head for a more reasonable place.  On the other side of the galaxy – over on the Orion Arm, I hear there are other worlds that use an invisible toaster. Of course they don’t believe in time travel, so you’d never get over there anyhow.

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