The X-Men, Polytheism, & Socrates

I have a good friend who is a much bigger fan of the comic based summer epics than me. But it doesn’t take much arm twisting to get me join him for the newest bestseller. In fact, I’m usually the one to make the recommendation. I like movie popcorn. Don’t judge.

They are usually disappointing, as far as the storyline goes. But they never fail to impress in terms of special effects. That’s probably a parable unto itself.

We recently watched the new X-Men movie. I really don’t know enough of the backstory to follow along. I just, like the rest of the audience, ooh and aah over the 3D computer graphics. It’s always a good time and there is usually some worldview takeaway worth trying to rehash online.

So here it is.

This new saga involves a character who is so powerful he describes himself as god. In one scene he says he’s been worshipped in a number of ways over the centuries and offers a short list of divine names from various religions. The problem is that in the end of the movie, as you might imagine, he’s no match for the combined mutant powers of the X-Men.

The movie illustrated what I’ve often shared with students. The idea that there are many gods unravels rather quickly when put to the test. After all, if the X-Men kill “the god” then what does that make them? If there were multiple gods one would surely find a way to be supreme and at that point the other deities would be more like angels: powerful but submissive.

It seems that the great philosopher Socrates understood this problem as well. On his way to his trial he had a discussion with a young man named Euthyphro which illustrated the impossibility of achieving objective morality based on the Greek system of many gods. Some skeptics try to use this as an argument against monotheistic morality but that doesn’t square with Socrates’ defense of his calling as a philosopher.

In Socrates’ final discourse, what Plato offered as Socrates’ Apology, Socrates grounded his understanding of his life calling in monotheism. He said he was a philosopher because “the God” called him to be one. “God cannot lie,” Socrates argued. This was a rather remarkable statement given the polytheism of his day.

A world of many gods would be a world at war. And while that’s fodder for Hollywood producers, it produces a rather unstable worldview. It certainly wasn’t good enough for Socrates. He stood trial as an atheist for rejecting the many Greek gods. But it was there at his trial where he defended his belief in the one true God.

If you need help understanding the inherent weakness of polytheism you need look no further than your local box office. If you need help understanding your life calling, you might consider Socrates. He found his mission in his understanding of the one true God. And I would argue that that is where you will find yours as well.