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In my fantasy-medieval-with-magic world, after a great war between the gods that destroys the old gods, a new "one true god" is born. Out of a love for the people, and a desire not to change who those people are, the new god bestows a blessing to all who accept the gift.

The blessing grants the following effects

  • Cure disease/poison.
  • Fast healing (minor injuries heal in a day, major injuries like broken bones heal in a week)
  • Improved empathy (you know exactly how someone else feels as long as they are not trying to hide it)
  • Improved learning/strength (if you want knowledge, agility, or strength, your DNA is no longer a handicap. AKA everyone who puts in the same amount of effort and are at the same starting point will achieve the same results)
  • Green thumb (Your love for your plants, pets and livestock nourishes them, helping them grow big and healthy)

Everyone instinctively knows about the blessing, and understands how to receive it. They can also freely opt-in or out as often as they like. The people of the world did not participate in the war of the gods, and enough time passed between the end of the war and the rise of the new god for everyone to learn the old gods are dead. They only learn about the new god when the blessing is offed (minutes after that gods birth). All they know about the new god is that they are granting this blessing, and promises not to interfere with this world that is now theirs (aside from the blessing, which is granting a portion of the power of the gods to all people).

Given that receiving the blessing is no effort, and how powerful it is, what justifications could people give to reject this blessing?

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closed as too broad by Renan, Frostfyre, We are Monica., JBH, Liam Morris Jun 23 at 9:20

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ is there any side effects? prob for blessing to work, you have to be sober, vegan and avoid sex? Prob if everybody have this blessing, being unplessed is some sort of fashion, young people do to show everybody they different from older generation? $\endgroup$ – vodolaz095 Jun 21 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ Folks often do counterproductive things. Some people today reject miraculous stuff like vaccines and Green Revolution foods. We are very good at self-delusion sometimes. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 21 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ Whether or not a specific person accepts/rejects the blessing will depend on that person's personal views, which are formed by past experiences; this would be a story-based question if it were about one person. Since it's about all people, an answer would have to list every reason someone would reject the blessing; in other words, every plot, making this question too broad or primarily opinion-based. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 21 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ "you know exactly how someone else feels as long as they are not trying to hide it". Know for certain that people will immediately start hiding it. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Jun 22 at 1:19
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    $\begingroup$ Re. bullet point #4 : because they're Nazis. Or because there's no bullet point #6 : eternal salvation. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jun 22 at 5:00

13 Answers 13

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If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Reading through the benefits of the blessing, it struck me that it's pretty similar to spam ads you might find on the internet - Cure all your diseases! Increase your intelligence! Burn fat! Try this one neat trick to have a green thumb! If it hasn't been very long since the new god's birth, and very few people have accepted the blessing, people will rightly be skeptical that these blessings are really what they say on the tin.

Even if the blessings work as advertised, what if there's a hidden cost? Maybe this isn't a god offering these enhancements for free - it could be a demon who's doing all this in exchange for your soul. No one would have evidence either way, so if your people are naturally skeptical, they might just stick with the life they know rather than getting involved with an unknown god/possible demon.

As a real-life example, if somebody I've never met offers me a million dollars out of the blue, I would ignore them rather than accept the gift - it's possible I'm missing out on a million dollars, but I there's a good chance I have saved myself a lot of trouble by avoiding the situation altogether.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. They do not know if old gods are really dead, or merely recovering. They did not know if new god will keeps it promises or not. They might believe that new god killed the old ones. And if they do believe that gods can be killed, who knows how long will this new god last, and what will happen to its follower when yet another god takes over. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Jun 21 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps most worryingly of all, they may believe that the old gods will return, and those whose faith wavered in the meantime, well... use your imagination. Gods tend to be rather inventive in this area. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Jun 21 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ Note that you cannot use real life comparisons for this, only, as Nuclear Wang says, the proposal of your 'inworld' god, based on what it may promise vs what it may potentially wish in return. No real life 'god' has ever been able to substantiate any similar claim. All similar real life claims are made by humans purporting to represent the wishes of said 'god' & all 'benefits' promised seem to require you to first be dead. $\endgroup$ – Tetsujin Jun 22 at 15:56
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Loyalty

Or the lack of loyalty to the new god. Old habits die hard. Old faith dies harder. Most people had already devoted themselves to the old gods, and news of them being dead is not enough for the many to abandon their faith. Accepting anything from the new god would be an apostasy. So thank you, but no thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ This might as well be (a SWR on ELU?) science vs religion. At the top of the list of things religion can offer you that science can't, nor does this 'new god' : eternal life. And if you still believe in, a particular, 'old god', you'd be in violation of their 2nd commandment. In a word: faith, which is used here twice, +1. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jun 22 at 4:52
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Mistrust.

"Godly gifts are never without cost", the crones of the village used to say. And they were right. The old Gods tried to tempt us too, with vigour, and skill, and what they claimed was wisdom. But they knew, and in the end we knew too, that there's no such thing as a 'gift' when it comes to the Gods. They always extract their price, whether in vitality or free will. No, this New God can keep their bounty.

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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking something similar, so I’ll just add it here instead of a separate answer: maybe there’s been a lot of scamming like this going one after the war from fake prophets, and people are just totally suspicious and/or indifferent for any religion. $\endgroup$ – tuomas Jun 22 at 19:19
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Social Pressure

Certain people in power might not trust the new god or might not want others getting stronger so they declare the blessing heretical/evil/work of the devil and declare anyone who accepts it is a witch and is not welcome in their group or society or country.

Self Reliance

Some people might want to have sole power and control over their own lives, don't want anyone to interfere and want to achieve things at with their own abilities

Apathy

Many people may have no great ambitions, they don't want to stand out, they have no need for any of these blessings. They just want to lead their little quite lives at home, going through their daily routines as they have been doing until now.

Magical Reasons

The blessing interferes with magic, interferes with other blessings they might have or want to acquire, makes them marked or visible to some enemy, makes them unsuitable for some ritual, etc.

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  • Being affraid of being addicted to it. You might argue that improved empathy might have side effects. If for some reason everybody is sad around you because of something you cannot change (e.g. their parents died) you might get sad, unproductive, even less helpful to those who are sad, because you feel their pain too much. You might even become depressed or suicidal. Of course you then may opt-out. But what if you became addicted to other people's sadness? I don't ever smoke not because I think a cigarette will kill me but because I fear that I may become an addict, and a lot of cigarettes might kill me.
  • Being old and having enough of it, thinking that you are not the one who should do it. I can justify this with a story. My grandparents lived most of their adult lives in communism where they had to vote but they didn't have choice. Now we live in a democracy which is loved by almost everybody. My grandmother believes democracy and voting are great, but she wouldn't vote, because she has bad feelings about it, and thinks she is not qualified, her knowledge is from an other system. She is also a religious but wouldn't go to the church because she didn't go in the communism when it was a hard choice, she thinks she shouldn't go now either. She likes to watch sermons in TV.
  • Hierarchy. The society might have or develop a hierarchy where people think that it is better if only those capable should get these powers, and everybody else would be incentivized not to. This is hard to do because everybody could try in secret, but I think might be possible.
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The old gods might be dead, but:

  1. their priests aren't dead,
  2. the priests like being in power, and
  3. the new god might not want the old gods's priests.

Thus, the old gods's priests preach against this new god.

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    $\begingroup$ vote up! and some of the new priests are becoming corrupt ... $\endgroup$ – Albrecht Hügli Jun 22 at 11:58
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Gift might be good, but people don't have to

Consider biblical story of Jesus (it doesn't matter if you believe it or not). Jesus spent his life teaching, feeding and healing other people. But he did point out mistakes of the old ways, which eventually made Pharisees to kill him in the worst imaginable way (I'm ignoring the Romans and a lot of details to simplify).

Should your people have a similarly strict government, they could enforce a ban on using new god's gift. This could occur for several reasons:

  • They are worshippers of old gods
    Maybe they have some secret plans of reviving the old gods? Or they just don't beilieve they are dead and are afraid of punishment.
  • Accepting gift by the majority of population could result in uprising
    Improved learning capability for masses is not something you want under strict government. At some point people will understand that they are treated badly and will rush to create new, better government.
  • They want to keep the power for themselves
    If only a handful of people will benefit from the blessing, they'd have a massive advantage, which would allow them become a demi-god cast. Imagine a priest walking from village to village and multiplying their crops (for an outrageous price of course).

Since your world is medieval level, it would be pretty easy to enforce the rule. Your neigbour has a bountiful harvest while you're struggling to find a ripe potato? Report them to the guards. You went on a bar brawl and got your face mutilated for the next week, but the other guy looks like newborn next day? Guards will be very interested in this event. A street orphan has some good looking muscles? You know what to do.

And the guards love to deal with such unruly citizens. Since there's only one effect that works immidiately-ish is healing effect, the best way to check if someone is using the gift is to break their bone(s)! If they heal within a week - death. If they don't, well, they probably just disabled the gift for the time of healing. They were unable to move or do anything for two months, good enough.
Or the good ol' witchhunting method - Trial by ordeal. Give your subject a poison. If they live, they are using the gift! Burn those heretics! If not, well, they were not guilty, too bad.

This approach is not only going to make people really unwilling to use their gift but also they will actively try to prove not using the gift.
Those that use will use the gift will try to minimize it's effects to be close to "natural". Just a bit of Green Thumb to get a kilogram more potatoes to survive the winter. Use healing only to deal with the life-threatening issues, and let everything else heal by itself. Keep your head down if you want to live.

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    $\begingroup$ Yksisarvinen, welcome to Worldbuilding. Great first answer. +1 $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Jun 22 at 17:49
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Independence vs Dependence - It's a part of growing up.

A common misconception of foreign aid programs is that we provide 'gifts' to other societies out of the kindness of our hearts.

The real purpose is for societies to be adequately supported so that eventually they would be able to provide those same services to themselves. In turn, their society would grow to support trade and other cooperative functions that benefit all.

The danger and ultimate balance with 'gifts' is then dependence, and the need to strive for 'independence'. If a society becomes dependent on a continuous gift, such that they cannot exist without it, and there is no desire to change or grow out of it: then there is a real deficiency in this society. It is far better for the society to work towards not requiring the gift at all.

To accept a gift without the ability to learn how to live without the need to accept it in future is dangerous, you would always be indebted to it, society would always expect it, and development within society would be damaged.

It is well conceivable that a society would reject such a gift due to the internal ruptures the gift would bring and the impediment it would imply to its development and growth.

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People can't control their new powers.

If you receive this "blessing", you don't get to pick and choose who benefits from your new powers. Your new abilities affect everyone and everything near you.

Improved empathy: You get to hear the problems of everyone around you, no matter how minor, all the time. Any sort of social situation is going to become a serious strain. Being in a crowd will become unbearable. People who receive the "blessing" are going to have to live away from the rest of the world, just to hear themselves think.

Super Green Thumb: Your crops, pets, and livestock will grow up big and healthy... but so will weeds and vermin. Having a healthy cornfield isn't worth it if it gets overrun by rats the size of draft horses. (And if your cat or dog gets too big? They might start to think you look like their next meal...)

Cure Disease/Poison and Fast Healing: The energy from this has to come from somewhere. If that "somewhere" is you, then this is similar to the Improved Empathy problem. You'll have to stay away from everyone so you don't starve to death curing every single stranger who walks past.

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I have to voice my concerns over this premise...

You have a world where gods are absolutely known to exist.
Some old gods were killed off & one new god has sprung up to fill the void.
That god is now offering 'benefits' which, unlike most 'real world' gods, don't seem to rely on you first being dead to claim them.

It is absolutely not the 'one true god', it is simply a replacement for the older, now dead, 'many true gods' that previously existed.

"One true god" as a concept can only exist when the mere fact of its existence is open to debate.
If it is absolutely proven to exist, it simply does not matter which one it is, nor if it is singular or plural.

Unless there is some plot armour allowing these old gods to miraculously return later, then they're done with, whatever their initial purpose.

Your people now have the new guy in charge. They can choose to accept its 'gifts' with no apparent adverse reaction, or they can choose not to.

Why would they distrust this new god?
They have no history of distrusting their old gods. This new one is presumably equally omnipotent, omniscient, or not, as the case may be - but these people know their gods exist.

Unless you're going to play this for comedic value - whereby you take a pace to the left if you ever make a disparaging comment about your god - to avoid the inevitable thunderbolt, of course - then you have an established precedent for 'doing what they say' without question.

So, why reject the new guy?
His promise to his people that if they merely say 'sure, I'll have some of that' they get these magnificent benefits.
Their history has no concept of 'spam' or 'gods not upholding their word'... so go for it.

Which brings me to my concern...

How do you make a plot out of this?
Is there some blowback? The new guy has a sneaky agenda? He's really a devil in disguise?

This is not 'real world'.
You don't have two millennia of history of the populace lying/cajoling/poking each other with sharp sticks over whose god is the best god, culminating in war after war after war trying to prove who might be right - or at least have the biggest or most dedicated army of zealots... you have actual gods who communicate their desires to the population.

Why would your population not want this blessing?

'Belief' in a god as a concept can only be upheld so long as there is no actual proof of its existence.
As soon as it becomes a simple known fact, then everything else goes out of the window. Belief is no longer a driving force.

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There have been some great and deep answers but I think this simple one is missing:

Some people are fools

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” ― Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

You have designed a very neat and simple way to make life better.
All someone has to do is accept this blessing and hey presto, better life.

So what about the people saying: "But what if I don't want to be happy?".
Good luck getting a stubborn fool to trudge down the nearest church of the new god or spin counter-clockwise with a bone in their hair to accept this new blessing.

Yes your story can go into why Bob didn't turn to the new God because he was of the opinion that this new god was up to no good.
But Jack was just a fool who didn't want anything to do with this god business in the first place, nobody could convince him otherwise because he had no reasoning or opinion to change.

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I will add to the others and also, in a way, summarize them:

Conviction

People hold different values and weight different things differently. I can easily seeing somebody rejecting the Blessing, not because they think it has a negative side, but simply because they don't want to accept help from a place like a god.

They might also see it as completely opposed to how they think society or people should be.

  • You do need the threat of great harm, otherwise criminals would become reckless.
  • Being promised a given result with a given input does not reflect the nature of humans and true conviction (working until you achieve your desired result, instead of it being simple calculation: If i put in X hours, I will achieve X)
  • Relying on an external power will weaken them, if it disappears (remember: gods have been killed before)

etc.

You can look at basically any good villain and you will find a conviction that is understandable and that you might actually be sympathetic to, but that is ultimately harming the well-being of humanity.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome, SourceOverflow. I think this is a very thoughtful and well-expressed answer. $\endgroup$ – EDL Jun 22 at 23:21
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Long term survival of the species

So there's a god that freely grants a boon that basically obsoletes the skills of doctors and farmers.

Also, there used to be something called the "old gods", meaning that gods aren't immortal, so some of the people will reason that the boon won't be available indefinitely.

Therefore, it seems likely that an ascetic order of atheists preparing for the death of the god would probably form: they would reject the boon (and all the food and medicine produced by people who have accepted the boon) just so that when the benevolent god eventually disappears, there would be at least someone who still knew how to farm land and heal people without resorting to divine favours.

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