Religion: Father God, Mother Eve

The story is told in countless versions. Somebody—a saintly rabbi, a mystic caught up in holy ecstasy, even in one version a lost astronaut—chances to see God face to face and lives to tell about it. "What is God really like?" asks an anxious crowd back home. The narrator hesitates. "You'll be shocked," he warns. He is pressed further. "Well," he finally says, "to begin with, she's black."

The message of the joke would be lost in some cultures; in India, for instance, Kali—an incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess—is both female and black....

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