Once upon a time, there were two tribes of hunters and gatherers that lived in a vast forest. For generations, the tribes survived and flourished by hunting animals and planting meager crops, and lived in peace with each other. One night, a terrible thunderstorm swept across the land, and the villagers in both tribes were afraid. Lightning crashed and thunder boomed, and several trees were blown over. Rain pounded down upon the huts of the people, and mothers clutched their babies within. Soon, however, the storm subsided, and the remainder of the night was more or less peaceful.
The following morning, however, a great alarm was raised; a huge fire was spreading through the forest. The fire raged across the villages of both tribes, many huts were burned and many lives were lost. Afterwards, the survivors of each village decided to come together and hold a meeting in order to decide exactly what happened and how to go about repairing the damage caused.
In an undamaged part of the forest, the two tribes came together for a day to share information. Due to the fact that neither tribe understood exactly what happened or why, the big questions during this meeting were: Why did the big fire happen? And what can we do to prevent another one?
The shaman of one tribe clearly had the most popular answers to these questions, and a large group of villagers from both tribes gather around him to hear what his views were.
"I believe this… Big Fire event… is the sign of an angry god," said the shaman. "What other possible answer could there be? We’ve never seen anything
like this before, and the power involved is beyond anything we could ever be capable of."
Several villagers nodded in agreement… fascinated at the thought of a divine power looking down on them… angry or no. One in the back, however, spoke up… "I
don’t know… we have fire, and we cook with fire. How do you know that this Big Fire event was the work of an angry god?"
The shaman’s jaw dropped. "How can you NOT see that it is the work of a being completely beyond our abilities and ken? Yes, we have fire now… little piles of burning wood to cook our meat, and torches to guide our hunters at night, but this BF event was clearly something that we could never be capable of. What are our embers and torches when compared to the mighty blaze that ruined leagues of forest and crops? Obviously this was done with a purpose."
"Was it?" said the villager… pushing his way forward towards the tree stump that the shaman stood upon. This villager was from a different tribe than the shaman. "What if it was a natural event, and just like our own fires only bigger?"
"Bigger?!" laughed the shaman… "My friend, this fire was GIGANTIC! Flames twice as tall as the trees! A roaring devastation that consumed trees and crops and huts… animals and US in it’s wake. I say it’s CLEAR that this was a sign from a god… nothing else could have caused this type of event. After all, we make our own fire, and we are intelligent. Fire does not simply happen in mid-air… have you ever seen such a thing happen? We use flint and tinder, and it is a very careful process." The gathering of people was now looking back and forth between the shaman and the villager. "Tell me, my brother… what do YOU think caused the BF event?"
"Hmm. I don’t know." Said the villager.
"Then there is your proof!" cried the shaman, "there is simply NO other way to explain it… it must have been a god. Consider the events night before! A great storm crashed and pounded… the heavens were resounding with angry noises. It was a prelude. A great and powerful god is angry with us, and we MUST determine why and appease him before we all perish before his unknowable strength!"
"But we’re not all dead…" said the villager, "all of us gathered here survived the BF event. If the goal of the angry god was to kill us and destroy us, then why did he kill some and spare others? Why…"
"We are not meant to understand the minds of the gods! Is it not enough that he has made his presence known to us by this terrible sign of power? Must you tempt his wrath again by questioning his purpose and his plan?? You will bring devastation upon us again!"
"Well… what do you intend to do?" asked the villager, "What does this god want, and how do we know? I think we should take some more time to look at what happened… I still don’t think it was just an angry god."
"Do you have a better explanation?" sneered the shaman, "Do you have a better answer that fits what we’ve seen?"
"Well no. But I think we should keep looking…"
"Ah HA." The shaman stood up and raised his arms. "Here we have a man who cannot tell us anything about what happened. I, on the other hand, have a perfectly good
answer based upon all the FACTS we have currently, and not the lack of facts. What shall you all believe?"
And so it went throughout the night, and when the next afternoon came, the villages were divided in their beliefs.
One village went home and built several large monuments honoring the fire god, whom they named "Archon, god of the Big Fire and Bad Breath in the Morning". They built a large temple in the center of the village, and offered sacrifices of animals and crops to the god, in order to appease him and thus spare their village from another burning. A clergy was appointed to maintain the holy monuments and the temple. Prayers to Archon were uttered nightly and before meals. Virgins were sacrificed.
The other village went home and began setting controlled fires. They discovered that a forest fire needs wood for fuel, and that a large dirt path would effectively stop an advancing wall of flame by denying it fuel. Thus, they built a firebreak around their village.
For two years, there were no forest fires. Annually, the two villages would come together in friendship to feast and to trade, and the shaman happened to come across the same villager from two years before.
"Ah ha," said the shaman, "you see… we have appeased the Fire god, and we have had no more troubles. You, on the other hand, are tempting him by not honoring him. It would grieve us terribly if you were to meet your end in a fiery sign of wrath from Archon… I beg you to follow the faith and give your village a fighting chance against his wrath."
"Nahh." Said the villager, popping a freshly jerked piece of beef into his mouth.
The following year, another storm swept across the land, and another forest fire was ignited by lightning. The Worshippers of Archon were consumed completely by the flames… some kneeling before them as willing sacrifices, some praying in the temple for Archon to spare their lowly lives. Some, however, fled to the neighboring village, where the firebreak spared lives and crops.
Many centuries later, the descendants of the same village that built the firebreak would re-invent the gods of mystery, and the tribe would again split.