In an effort to acquire more followers, the gods devised ways to set themselves apart from they others. In the old days, there had been no need for sweeping rules because a god and his followers were in constant communication. Each day was filled with advisement and actions and mistakes and adjustments with limitless guidance and patience. But with many followers, it became necessary for gods to come up with a platform, to lay out some basic tenants, and even to establish a brand.
One god mused: “People are noble, they want to work hard for a life of purpose. If I can give them rules that will guarantee a life of meaning, they will flock to me in great numbers.” So it made very strict rules for people about what to eat and when they could make eye contact and what to think at sunset and how to sing a song so that people could focus every minute of the day on the instructions and be sure that their life had meaning. Many people enjoyed the freedom of not having to think for themselves and they did indeed come in great numbers.
Seeing this, another of the gods said to itself: “That is folly! People are lazy, they would rather think of nothing at all than have to be obedient all the time. If I promise them that to follow me will require nothing of them, they will flock to me in great numbers.” So it offered one hundred holidays per year and encouraged gluttony in all its forms and took away all the rules about what people could do with their bodies (it even offered some suggestions) so that people could know that they were truly unbound. Many people enjoyed the freedom that came with not having to think at all and they came in great numbers.
These two gods were so successful that, in time, the number of gods dwindled and most humans followed one or the other. Only one other god remained, tethered to the earth by a single devoted follower.
The last of the gods looked at the other gods and puzzled. It had remained non-aggressive, un-competitive for all this time. It believed in inter-deitic harmony, it mourned its now-distant brothers and sisters, and ached over the destructive competition between the other gods.
It watched as the strict god constricted his rules ever tighter, constantly pursuing a greater purity. There was only one day of rest in an entire year and smiling was forbidden. The tired people who followed that strict god became ever more shrunken and weak. In their minds they were confused, the purpose they devoted so much energy to seemed eternally out of reach. If they made a mistake, they lost favor with their god and it was as though their past efforts were forgotten, lost forever. They hoped they wouldn’t die before they had a chance to re-accumulate their liberation. In exhaustion and desperation, many defected to join the ripe people of the lazy god.
It turned then to watch how, on the side of the lazy god, the people regained their color, they unclenched their minds, they smiled and stretched. It saw too how they stared at each other with expressions of constant bewilderment, each moment was a question that never received an answer. As the initial relief faded, the followers began to feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness. What to do? What good was this life if there was nothing to strive for? Nothing to gain? The followers wallowed in malaise, living in a state of physical and mental filth. In time, many defected back to join the strained people of the strict god. The pinched and confused expressions on the faces of the religious refugees haunted the mind of the third humble god.
It knew there was only a matter of time to act before the lone follower died or deserted, and it knew the people of earth were doomed to absurd and empty fates without help. But how to proceed? It could not have the hardest rules, nor the weakest- that had already been done and, anyway, it wasn’t working. There was logic in both, but neither was quite right.
It said to itself “people are both noble and lazy, if I promise them that following me will mean that their life will have both purpose and comfort, then they will flock to me in great numbers.” It determined that it must make one very strict rule, the ultimate requirement, which, once met, would promise its followers that no broken rule in their future could remove from her favor and guidance. What what should this rule be? Kill your firstborn child? – That was no way to grow your flock. Mate with the foulest person in your village? – That was no way to build your great nation. Cut out your tongue?– That was no way to have praises spoken in your name. It puzzled some more. And finally found an answer.
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