Today I want to talk about religion and supervillainy.
I'm not going to offend anyone's religious beliefs here. Well, I am, but it's not deliberate. But since this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, let me put my cards on the table. I'm a casually committed Asatruar, which you can find on Wikipedia under "Germanic neopaganism". I like drinking, I like partying, I like doing my job, and when I give my word, I take that shit very seriously. There's a bunch of people under the larger "Asatru" or "Odinist" umbrella who use these beliefs as an excuse for racism. I'm not down with that shit, so don't get in my face with accusations.
The Big Four religions today are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Aside from Buddhism, each of them has a billion adherents or more, and Buddhism has almost half a billion. That's not bad. Of course, people being what they are, there's a huge amount of disagreement and sectarian conflict, even armed violence, within each one. The Shia and Sunni, the Protestant and Catholic, and so on. I hear Christians talk about "revealed truth", but I guess not enough got revealed to make everyone agree with each other. So I think I have room to talk here, since my truth isn't any less valid than anyone else's.
Rather than break down the pros and cons of any given religion - especially since I'm not a real believer in any of them - I want to talk about religion in general.
As a villain, should I be religious?
A 2012 Gallup poll in the United States ranked "atheist" as the least electable group - beneath women (traditionally under-represented in government), Hispanics ("illegals crossing our borders!"), gays or lesbians ("the homosexual agenda!"), or even Muslims ("9/11!"). Apparently if you want to roll in the USA, you need to get yourself a god.
Even if you aren't being elected to high office, villains benefit from having a recognizable code of behavior. It confers a certain level of trust from heroes, the public, and so on. You don't really have to stick with it, just show it some amount of respect.
If you're worried about public reactions if you break that code, I want you to look at the decades-old child abuse scandal from the Catholic church, the long line of con men televangelists and gay pastors, and "family values" politicians on both sides of the aisle. Notice that the guys who say "Jesus forgave me!" get re-elected, while the guy sending dick pics who isn't a holy roller gets strung up. Like I said in the introduction, villainy is in the condemnation, not the crime.
As a superhuman, should I be religious?
This is a pretty good question. A lot of people feel that super-powers are divinely granted. Names I've mentioned in the past, like Asiri and Illumina, explicitly claim religious origins for their abilities.
I think if God or Allah or some other divine being is giving out superpowers, it's not going to the "worthy". Precious few people who actually receive powers are living up to anything like what's taught in the holy books of their respective religions. Plus, if powers are divinely granted, they're really being granted to the mothers of these super-kids, because every kid of every Eve-active mother has super potential.
Barbara Fall, of the "quantum visitors" school, wrote an article about this, although she's talking about some sort of extradimensional reptoid observers instead of "traditional" gods. She says that the distribution of powers are an ethical test for the species as a whole, and that we as a collection of societies are being evaluated for our response to such powers. So the people with the powers are meaningless in the larger scheme of thing, but the people passing the laws and forming public opinion are under scrutiny. Take that as you will.
Could it be that the gods give out powers to some deserving people, and the rest are just being born lucky? Sure. On the hero side, supers like Illumina and the Good Shepherd certainly walk the walk. If you told me you had proof Illumina really was an angel, I'd believe you. Even non-heroes like Doctor Cross, who works at a religious hospital, has been known to patch up villains and their henchmen when they needed it. But if you believe this, you'd need to buy into the idea that the gods created this lottery for physics-breaking superpowers and then only hand them out at random to a few nice people, instead of flooding the world with Stage 4 missionaries and bringing about Utopia.
This concludes Part 1. I'll be back with Part 2 soon!