Accidental Gods | Granta

  • Published: 04/02/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783785018
  • Granta Books
  • 272 pages

Accidental Gods

Anna Della Subin

How does a man become a God?

It can happen by accident, or by prophesy, or through an article found in an old magazine. It can be a means to absolute power, or a radical form of resistance. A new god can be a conqueror, a young anthropologist, or a government official charged with doing his job. Making a man into a god is as old as time itself, but even today, in our disenchanted age, you might find yourself worshipped against your will.

Unorthodox devotions have seen Prince Philip deified on a small island in the South Pacific, while a National Geographic article elevated Haille Selassie from Emperor to Messiah. Unlikely Gods blossomed in India, where British officers and bureaucrats found themselves at the centre of new religions. When Spanish explorers landed in the New World they spoke with the natives and heard the word ‘God’ on their lips. These transformations have attended on moments of emancipation and rebellion; they have excused enslavement and fuelled revolution.

Spanning the globe and five centuries, Accidental Gods is a revelatory history of the unwanted divine, which tells the stories of the men and women who have profited and suffered from these curious apotheoses. In its bravura final part, Subin traces the colonial desire for deification through to the creation of ‘race’ and the white power movement today, and argues that it is time we rid ourselves of the White Gods among us.