Sharon said, “Those poor people. Why did they have to die?”
I snorted a laugh around my pipe. “We all have to, dear.”
She didn’t smile. “You know what I mean. The way they died, sick and blind and screaming for their gods to save them, with no answer in return.”
She turned her eyes to me.
“The gods are cruel, aren’t they, Albie?”
I drew a deep breath and replied, “Every living being has but one need: power. Power over other living things. You need it to grow, to eat, to reproduce. And cruelty is the ultimate expression of power. To impose needless, extreme suffering and humiliation on another. It is the purest demonstration of strength. Toddlers learn it in the nursery.
“Therefore every organism, from the microbe up, wears its cruelty as a badge to mark its upward progress. Prey must be subdued, competition must be starved, enemies must be wiped out. One would thus assume that we find the same among the gods, only more so. That at each level of the heavens we find higher and higher levels of greed, brutality and mindless spite. How else could they have become gods?”
Sharon shivered, though it was not cold on the balcony.
In a barely audible voice she asked, “But is that really the way it is? The work you do—you would know better than anyone.”
I set my pipe aside and turned, to let her look into my eyes. I said.