Written by Kayla Devault
Students of CWRU’s new World Theology 101 class find themselves with an easier workload after a slew of angry gods destroyed their classroom.
When Professor Harold Piper, atheist, felt that students needed a class to learn about the various religious god-figures of the world, he had no idea what can of worms he was opening. “I thought people would, naturally, be frustrated with the class during some touchy discussions. I had no idea the gods themselves would be the ones to open fire.”
World Theology 101 started peacefully in January. Students carried various books of scripture, analyzing historical events and their impacts on theological beliefs. Piper slowly encouraged his students to see beyond their conflicts, and to understand that they often believed different versions of the same thing.
“I was showing them that, sometimes, a god can seem to be just a powerful means of intimidation that places doctrines for how to live our lives and threatens us if we don’t do as we’re told. The idea was to support a new stream of thinking that encourages people to believe what they want and to coexist peacefully,” sighed Piper. “I thought that understanding religious origins was an excellent way to drive that point home.”
Yet, as the students became more understanding, the situation became increasingly dangerous.
“I wrote an essay on how cool Jesus was,” said Ella Bonberg, a Jewish student. “Then the weather turned.”
“I finished the Koran,” said Nicholas Gualeta, Buddhist. “I was walking to class, comparing the many different gods in my head, trying to decide if they’re all really just the same guy. I was starting to see what professor Piper was saying. Then I looked up at the Sun and thought, now is that Ra or Apollo or a really big ball of fire? And, just like that, the sky got black and I had to run into the building for class because I thought a tornado might be coming.”
That day, all 15 students were present when Piper invited them to listen to “Same Love” by Macklemore. “I told them, think about what religion is supposed to be: love, acceptance, living together peacefully,” explained Piper. “For God’s sake, I thought it was a respectable notion. Then I wrote the line ‘Whatever god you believe in, we come from the same one’ on the board. The students started clapping and hugging each other, holding their personal scriptures and smiling. And all hell broke loose.”
Accounts vary as to what actually happened that day. Many saw bushes outside burst into flames, while others saw apparitions of gods appear in the hallway, pressing zombie-like faces against the glass. Others witnessed tornadoes of dust transform into swarms of fleas, cockroaches and frogs. One student in particular is convinced that a possessed form of Pan refused to stop playing his flute until the student did the Dougie and Gangnam Style with him.
Piper gave his side of the story: “I looked up to the quote I wrote on the board and the letters started changing. Suddenly, the whole board was rewriting itself. I think at some point a sun was drawn and it said ‘Ra’s crib’, but Ra was crossed out and replaced with Apollo, then Apollo was crossed out and replaced with Ra, back and forth until they ran out of space. A lot of inappropriate words and vulgar sketches were made regarding Macklemore.”
He continued: “Pretty sure all of my chalk turned into serpents, and that’s the point where I pretty much just gave up. It felt like a group of kids were fighting over who gets to go down a slide first. Finally, all of the text books and essays burst into flames, and the cockroach tornadoes ended once the pages were destroyed. So our class is taking a little hiatus right now until we can afford new materials. I think the experience was a little traumatizing for the students, so they could use some time to reflect on their religious allegiances.”
When asked if this experience will change Piper’s opinion on divinity, he retorted quite frankly, “I see no reason to change my mind on the matter. Science clearly trumps all.” His atheist stance seems completely unaffected by this divine chaos.