Justice of the Gods

*This article contains spoilers for the show Moon Knight.

Superheroes have been considered modern-day versions of mythical heroes. Such mythical figures have also featured prominently within superhero stories, with Greek gods represented in Wonder Woman and Norse gods like Thor and Loki being featured as regular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The latest Disney+ series, Moon Knight, introduces another branch of mythology to the universe: the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt.

 

Marc Specter suffers from dissociative identity disorder—he also serves as the avatar of Khonshu, god of the night. As such, Spector acts as Khonshu’s hand of vengeance—his “Moon Knight”—against evil-doers. Meanwhile, Arthur Harrow, cult leader of the goddess Ammit, seeks to resurrect his faction’s deity, who also desires to rid the world of evil. Ammit and Khonshu have different ways of defeating evil, however, which creates the main conflict of the show.

Whose Justice?
Moon Knight focuses on the theme of justice and leads us to reflect on the right way to fight evil. Khonshu punishes people for the evil acts they have committed, while Ammit judges people based on the evil within their hearts, thus preventing them from perpetrating evil. This raises a question for us: whose version of justice is better: Khonshu’s or Ammit’s? After all, wouldn’t it be better to stop evil before it happens? This would prevent much pain and suffering and the world would be a better place. Yet, Marc’s mild-mannered alternate identity, Steven Grant, thinks this is wrong, as it is not true justice. People are punished for crimes they haven’t committed; thus, they are killed while currently innocent of any evil acts.

This raises a concern with morality within polytheistic religions, in which there are many gods and goddesses. Each deity within a polytheistic system may have his or her own version of justice and morality. Doesn’t this make morality arbitrary, based on whichever deity you choose to follow? This seems like moral relativism, only pushed onto your favorite deity. If you have a moral code you prefer, you can find a deity whose morality most aligns with yours. Furthermore, isn’t this an example of “might makes right” morality, in which the strongest deity gets to impose his or her morality on the rest of the world?

The Scales of Justice
While Khonshu and Ammit judge people on earth, there is a final judgment that occurs after death. In episode four, Harrow shoots and kills Spector and Marc finds himself aboard the ship sailing through the Duat, the Egyptian afterlife. The goddess Taweret explains that the deceased’s heart is judged on the Scales of Justice, and if the heart balances with a feather, that person is granted entrance to the Field of Reeds, the “heaven” of Egyptian mythology. Thus, it seems that there is a true scale of morality that determines people’s final destiny, one not subject to the whims of any one deity.

This should lead us to reflect on the nature of morality. Are right and wrong subjective, left to each individual’s personal moral code or the rules of the deity one chooses to follow? Or is there an objective “scale of justice” that applies to everyone? These views on morality have considerable worldview implications. While the first view fits within a polytheistic system, the second view does not. Having only one scale of justice requires only one true Judge.

A Common Morality
All superhero stories are ultimately about the battle of good versus evil, but even the villains may claim to be motivated by good intentions. In Moon Knight, Harrow seeks to free the goddess Ammit so she will eliminate all evil in the world, which certainly seems like a noble goal. Yet, Harrow is presented as the show’s villain because of the way that he and Ammit seek to eradicate evil, destroying individuals prior to their doing anything evil. People are judged by their potential for evil, even if they are still innocent of any wrongdoing when they are killed. We know that Harrow is wrong for killing innocent people, even though he claims to be acting for the greater good.

The same goes for most other superhero stories: we intuitively know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. These tales assume that we, the viewers, all share some general, common morality that we recognize as we watch the films and shows: it is wrong to hurt innocent people and it is good to protect them. Doesn’t this tell us something about ourselves and the world in which we live? Maybe there is an ultimate moral code that most of us acknowledge and try to follow.

As Moon Knight shows us, however, not every worldview can account for such an ultimate moral code. Each deity within a polytheistic system may have his or her own agenda and sense of justice and no one would be truly right. The only way for there to be a single, true scale of right and wrong is if there is only one Judge and Authority, one Ultimate Deity who is supreme over all. So while Moon Knight presents us a polytheistic worldview of battling deities, the show actually makes a compelling case for monotheism.

Sign up here to receive weekly Reflect emails in your inbox!

Timothy Fox

Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. Tim lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and children. He also blogs at freethinkingministries.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox.