Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? takes place in Orario, a setting populated by gods drawn from a variety of ancient mythologies. These beings form followings known as familia. Early in the second season of the series, the god Apollo attempts to poach protagonist Bell Cranel from his goddess, Hestia. To pressure Bell into joining his familia, Apollo has his forces attack. During the chaos, Bell’s ally, Lili, is apprehended by the Soma Familia (of which she is an errant member).
The god Soma basically does nothing except brew highly potent alcohol, leaving other matters to his majordomo, Zanis. When Zanis goes to confront the imprisoned Lili about exploiting her abilities to advance his schemes to get rich, he ends up making a profound admission about the nature of the gods we humans invent. When Lili condemns Zanis’s greed, he launches into a villainous rant:
“What’s wrong with greed? I want the stuff Soma-sama makes. Money, women, food…I want to enjoy all the pleasures of this world! I love this familia! No matter what evil things I do, my god doesn’t say a word! I can do whatever I want!”
Lili bitterly responds, “Your true nature is showing,” and indeed, the speech is revelatory regarding Zanis’s character, and also regarding the human habit of creating idols. According to the Bible, God created mankind in his image. However, we have an unfortunate tendency to ignore the living God in favor of gods we humans devise for ourselves. Rather than accept that we are images of another, we devise new deities that are just images of us. This is readily apparent from any reading of ancient mythologies. Such stories are full of extremely human-like gods. They lie, cheat, and steal. They are arrogant and cowardly and foolish. And they provided license for all manner of wicked behavior (child sacrifice and temple prostitution spring to mind as obvious examples).
The god Soma is “real” within the world of Orario, but Zanis’s description of why he follows Soma rings disturbingly true to real-world idolatry. We humans want pleasure and create gods for ourselves that will allow us to live as we please. In the past, this took the form of actual temples and statues and mythical beings called gods. Today, we tend to be a lot more subtle about it. We may not openly proclaim such things as power, money, fame, sex, abortion, wisdom, family, career, the church, or self-righteousness to be “gods,” of course, but we still make them our guiding lights.
We can even claim to worship the God of the Bible while carefully twisting his words to conform to what we want to believe. After all, the prophet Jeremiah condemned the ancient Israelites for making Yahweh’s own temple into an idol. Whatever our individual agendas, we decide we don’t want to believe in a god who would prohibit our pet vice, so we conjure up a cheap knockoff that superficially resembles the real God, but who doesn’t place any uncomfortable demands on us or ask us to change. The real God says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Idolatry—creating gods in our image—is fundamentally about rejecting Jesus’ call and replacing him with a god who “won’t say a word” about whatever evils we adore.
The one major point of difference between us and Zanis is that we are more careful about letting the true nature of our idolatry show. We refrain from calling our idols gods, we mouth platitudes about love, justice, or other virtuous-sounding things, and we slip into into an idolatrous way of life almost (but not quite!) without noticing. The truth is that we humans today aren’t all that different from our pagan ancestors who lived millennia ago. Let us be on guard against every form of idolatry, lest we wind up becoming Zanis ourselves.