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The Nine Billion Names of God
That’s the title of an old short story by Arthur C. Clarke. He assigns Tibetan monks the task of compiling and transcribing those nine billion names. At the time of the story, they’ve already been at it for thousands of years, and just as they’re finishing up…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

No matter; I have some questions for those monks. First, did you proofread the list for spelling? I’m guessing God will notice if even one of the nine bil is wrong. Second, did you use an appealing, easily readable font? You can’t go wrong with Times New Roman, I suppose, but how about Baskerville Old Face for a hint of understated omnipotence? And third, are you sure that your list includes every name ever assigned to God? I have no doubt that it includes Yahweh and Allah and Krishna and all of your top gods. You couldn’t have overlooked those.

But does it include, for instance, Jesus H. Christ? One might be tempted to dismiss this offering as nothing more than an oath of angry frustration, one that takes the Lord’s name in vain. But what does that mean exactly — take the Lord’s name in vain? That you gave him a shout out and he didn’t hear it? That he did hear it and ignored you? That’s what doing something “in vain” means, isn’t it? To try it and fail? I don’t get it.

Still, it must mean something. It’s one of the commandments, after all. Does it refer to cursing in which God is invoked, as most people would conclude? I don’t think so. Do you really think God is going to establish the Ten Most Important Rules Ever and waste one on outlawing “God damn it” or “Jesus H. Christ”? If he did, gosh, gee, golly, cripes, crackers, jeemineez, holy smoke, goldang it, dad gummit, and jumpin’ jehosaphat would also be proscribed. God would not be so stupid as to see these as anything other than poorly disguised curses. In fact, he might be even more offended at being taken for an easily duped deity.

So I’m saying add Jesus H. Christ to the list — right along with all those cute, fake-reverent euphemisms for God. Whatever that commandment means, it can’t possibly be about swearing, unless it’s swearing falsely, and Jesus H. Christ is nothing if not an honest expression of emotion.

By the same token, I’m not sure Christ on a crutch should be in there. It could be tagged as redundant, and we don’t want to be caught padding just to get to nine billion. The same goes for Kee-rist and hey, Zeus! Jiminy Crickets, moreover, should be disallowed simply to avoid confusion with the famous insect.

I don’t know what standards guided Arthur C. Clarke’s monks used in separating real names from pretenders, but I’m hoping they opted for a liberal, inclusive attitude. I think a genuine Supreme Being would be secure enough in his own identity that he wouldn’t mind a few nicknames or even a curse or two in his name. After all, any publicity is good publicity. Just be sure to spell all nine billion right…and steer clear of Comic Sans.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon