Bacteria Is An Immortal, Living God

The life that gave us life
5 min readJan 10, 2020


Art made with bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus and Rothia nasimurium). Agar Art 2017.

Bacteria is a living god. One planet-spanning being — immortal, creative, and powerful. Bacteria were the first life, they created the conditions for life, and they maintain life to this day. In a very biological sense, God is real, but it’s not an old man in a flowing beard. God is bacteria. Their pronouns are they/them.

You Are Bacteria

Human lung drawn with Pseudomonas fluorescens bacterium by WCVM masters student Dongyun Jung.

We think of bacteria as something small, insignificant; an annoyance in our toilet bowl or at our hospital bed. In fact, you are bacteria. Your body contains 10X more bacterial cells than animal. Update: as per a comment from James Wazzo, the modern calculation is closer to 1.3 bacterial to 1 human, ie, your body is probably a little over 50% bacterial cells.

At the core, every cell in your body contains living bacterial code. We carry our own DNA and a completely other set of DNA in the mitochondria. This is an ancient bacterium, living in symbiosis with us. Mitochondrial DNA is passed asexually, from mother to child, incurring only small mutations over time. This foreign code enables us to unlock the energy of oxygen. It is our living passport to the bacterial world.

Bacteria Are Immortal

Cell to Cell, winner of 2015 ASM Agar Art Competition (by Mehmet Berkmen and Maria Peñil)

Bacteria do not reproduce sexually like us. They copy, clone and share DNA promiscuously in near real-time, across a global network. We experience this as viruses mucking with our own DNA, or anti-biotic resistant diseases, but this type of information sharing has been the language of life for billions of years, before sex.

Bacteria are not, therefore, a bunch of tiny, different species. Speciation is a largely sexual concept. Species are genetic islands, capable of reproduction only within themselves. Bacteria are the sea. As Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan write in Microcosmos:

All bacteria are one organism, one entity capable of genetic engineering on a planetary…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at