Thursday Night Bar Fight #15: Return to Olympus
Bad news, everyone. After everyone’s private health insurance was cancelled in late 2014, we had no choice but to adopt a single-payer system and it turned out to be way, way more expensive than anyone thought. So, we had to sell off the Establishment Clause to the highest bidder. (Thanks a lot, Obama!)
That bidder turned out to be the deeply eccentric but fabulously wealthy lentil magnate Zorba Zorte of Thessalonica, Greece. (Wow! Who knew there was that much money in lentils?) In exchange for an annuity providing enough money to fund the United States’ national healthcare needs for a generation, Mr. ZZ has decreed that the worship of the ancient pantheon of gods and goddesses associated with his homeland. Public allegiance to one of those deities is now mandatory with services to be held at least once a week.
Allegiance involves payment of a tithe equal to eight percent of your annual income. That may seem steep, but you can earn a 50% credit towards payment of your federal income taxes on your tithe, should you be able to prove through a reliable electronic verification system that you’ve actually attended officially-sanctioned services not less than forty times in the previous calendar year. Piety has its rewards.
But if you do not register and at least financially contribute to the official religion, you will have to pay a tax surcharge of one-quarter of your annual income. And no tax credits for this payment would be available, even if you show up to services.
Since the official tithe is substantially less than the penalty and you get a tax credit for participating, it only makes financial sense to participate in the old-but-new-again official religion. I have been assured that should you discreetly and privately maintain your pre-ZZ faith, the government will turn a blind eye — so long as you make a decent public show of at least ostensibly “respecting” our new-but-old official Gods and their Established temples.
And, of course, as long as you pay the tithe.
The choices are the principal Olympians, as defined by Mr. ZZ: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Athena, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Demeter, Hephaestus, Heracles, Hermes, Hestia, and Pan. So-called “minor gods” are associated with the major gods; for instance those interested in devotion to Aesclepius will be steered towards the worship of Apollo (who is also a God of healing), and those interested in Helios (the sun) will be directed towards Zeus (the sky), and so on.
The tithing paperwork is incorporated with your income tax form. And unfortunately, the registration system is still new and buggy (thanks again, Obama!), so you can only pick one God or Goddess per year and then you’re locked in for at least a twelve-month period, although we’re promised that you can switch your preferences by filing moderately complex a two-page Form 977-D along with your annual tax return.
When choosing, of course your personal interests and preferences are important. You’re going to be in the temple at least once a week, so you’ll likely want to pick a God(dess) to whom you feel an affinity.
But your tithes will also fund charities directed by the clerics, who will steer the money towards causes to which their Gods would be seemingly sympathetic. For instance, if you pick Poseidon, your tithes would go to support things like marine biology research, promotion of international commerce, and earthquake relief. Maybe this will influence your decision, maybe not.
Scholars interested in the law of separation of church and state are out of work, of course; their field of study is now totally obsolete.But there will still be freedom of worship, of sorts:
- You can continue to believe as you wish privately, and you also get to pick which of the various temples and associated charities you will publicly (and financially) support.
- You can switch, once per year, if you decide later on that you prefer a different Olympian, or if you want to split your support up for multiple deities over time, although switching requires enduring a minor but non-trivial bureaucratic headache.
- And you can opt out if the whole thing is simply too unpalatable to you, although doing so would be rather pricey.
In which of the many new temples will we find you? And what sorts of charities will your tithe dollars go to support? Or would you elect to pay the penalty, as expensive as it is, and “opt out” of Mr. ZZ’s new official system?