"Scorn not the Gods: Despite their non-existence in material terms, they're no less potent, no less terrible.
The one place Gods inarguably exist is our minds where they are real beyond refute, in all their grandeur and monstrosity.
What's Mars but mankind's violent attributes personified? Or Aphrodite, save mankind's desires? the Homeristic sages recognized all Gods as aspects of "The One" yet missed the greater truth.
"The One" is us, each with a pantheon of Gods in our right brain, whence inspiration and all instinct springs.
Athena Gives us automobiles, Mars our Mahdi uprisings. Is that not plague and miracle enough to sate the God of Exodus?"
These paragraphs from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's stirring comic "From Hell", a fascinating dissection (no pun intended) of Victoriana, are surely what keeps me from being an Atheist, and makes me a (conceptual) Politheist instead.
In fact, if you don't believe in any other Gods, the existence of Mars is undeniable. This month, many countries in the world remember the time when, ninety years ago, Mars took a (temporary) lull.
On November 11th, 1918, the world breathed with relief: a war that had spreaded throughout the globe was over. Europe, in particular, was exhausted and impoverished, a whole generation of its men coming scarred from the experience, that is, those who eventually made it out: others would never see the end of it, their bodies scattered over devastated ground.
Five years before, proud empires ruled the continent, each one infused with arrogant superiority. Then one day, one guy shoot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. What could have been just a Balcan affair quickly spread into a full-blown continental conflict, for each side had been working alliances, and any member in any of the sides saw in the war a golden chance to work out their own agendas.
The crowds in uniform marching towards the front in August 1914 display smiles which look so disquieting today, like lambs smiling on their way to the slaughterhouse. Happy and cheering as if they were attending a soccer world cup: everyone thought that the whole thing would be over by Christmas. It wasn't.
It is easy to analyse with hindsight, but one wonders if the rulers of the contending countries would have gone ahead with the war in 1914, if they had seen the consequences five years later. Probably, and just to give a couple of examples, Kaiser Wilhelm or Tsar Nicholas, who had both lost their empires, would have given something to be able to rewind and avoid the whole thing.
This was a war ruled by artillery, an arm which had evolved to attain previously unseen levels of destruction. However, infantry had not evolved at such speed, and this meant that they were quite unprotected against the respective enemy shells, machine-gun fire or chemical weapons. Decades ago, there was an historiographical trend which analized the events considering that the brave soldiers on foot were lead by asinine generals. A more recent trend tends to consider the later as oversimplifying, arguing how high command would eventually change old (and more expensive in lives) tactics to make their armies more effective on the ground. While the thought of generals carelessly wasting their human resources may be an oversimplified idea, one cannot avoid thinking that, even if the generals cared about the soldiers under their command, soldiers' lives, back then, were rather expendable.
If you take, for instance, the more than 4.000 American soldiers dead so far in the Iraq war, and compare them with the casualties of a few selected battles in the Western Front, like the 250,000 casualties of the Battle of the Marne, the more than 1,000,000 casualties of the Battle of the Somme, the 714,000 casualties in the Battle of Verdun, the over 850,000 casualties of the Third Battle of Ypres, or the last three months of the war, in which the casualties were over 1,850,000... Well, you get a quick idea (While these number refer to the total amount of casualties, that is, not only the dead, but also the wounded, those taken prisoners, and the missing, bear in mind that, on average, the fatalities ranged rom one fifth to one third of the total number of casualties, and that the battles aforementioned took place in one of the many theatres of war).
By November 11th, 1918, the wreckage was such, that everyone thought that such slaughter sould never be repeated, and thus the conflict was emphatically dubbed "The War To End All Wars".
But much as it should, it didn't end any wars.
Either we humans are too dumb, or old Mars is full of resources.