The birth of religion is commonly held to lie far back in human history, with the occasional exception of an angel Moroni or the borderline godhood of a cult leader. But in Accidental Gods, Anna Della Subin documents how a surprising number of 20th-century men (it’s almost always men) found themselves labeled divine, sometimes without their knowledge and nearly always without their consent. Some, like General Douglas MacArthur, were even crowned four different ways, on three separate continents. Subin joins the podcast to explore the urges that lead us to declare a mortal man a god, and what this desire tells us about modernity.
Go beyond the episode:
- Anna Della Subin’s Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine
- Read “Philip’s People” in The London Review of Books
- A corollary to the book: a brief history of objects turned into gods
- This balsa wood carving of General MacArthur, made by the Guna people of Panama, was originally a tall figure close to 2.5 meters high (American Museum of Natural History):
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