What kind of religion would develop around a god whose existence was well known, but whose behavior seemed random?

In the scenario I'm thinking of, this god's behavior only seems random - there is actually a good reason for him doing what he does, but it is pretty much impossible to tell what his reasons are. For example, imagine throwing a rock a certain way, causing a moth to change it's path in just the right way so that 5 minutes later it will get eaten by a bat that will then poop on a woman's head, causing her to go to stop at a nearby well and wash it off and get a drink while she's there. No longer thirsty, she does not stop at a well closer to her home from which she would have gotten cholera and subsequently died. Had her son lost his mother, he would have grown into a Hitler figure and caused a devastating war. So throwing a rock prevents a massive war.

In short, this god is very good at utilizing the butterfly effect. For all intents and purposes he is omniscient and omnipotent, so he can do anything he wants do. Also, even though he could accomplish everything with well-timed rock throws, he likes occasionally doing more flamboyant things like showing up surfing a wave of lava pouring out of a volcano.

Some more examples of the kind of things he might do:

  • Physically manifest himself to a believer, blessing them with a salt shaker that is never empty for them but always empty for anyone else.
  • Physically manifest himself to a staunch non-believing baker, using a penguin-wand to bless them that their loaves of bread will always be twice as large but shaped like a random mammal.
  • Curse a believer with feeling like the sky is down every 5th day from 11:05 AM to 11:13 AM.

Some things he hasn't done:

  • Overtly interfered with the development of the religion
  • Given explicit commandments other than basic moral rules
  • Explained what his plan is

He's shown up enough with a consistent appearance for everyone to agree he exists, but because he has neither blessed nor condemned the religion(s) that developed, there are believers and non-believers in the sense that there are people who do and don't belong to the religion(s).

So what would the religion that naturally develops in this situation look like?

More information:

As for the basic moral rules, I mean things like "don't murder", "don't steal," and "be honest." I don't have the specifics nailed down, and I'm having trouble thinking of a way to summarize them other than "don't do anything clearly bad." Also, this god is more interested in the spirit than the letter of the law - using legal loopholes/shenanigans to take everything someone owns is still going to count as stealing.

As for enforcing the basic moral rules, I'll say that yes, he does enforce them sometimes. Creatively. There's a legend floating around of a man who murdered his neighbor and was then turned into a lizard. If his legs were pulled off in a specific order and then thrown into a pot of boiling water for five minutes, he would pop back into human form (with limbs intact) for the rest of the day (retaining all the memories of being a lizard, including the process of being turned back into a human).

When he gave (and if he ever has to give again) the moral rules, he did tell the people that they in particular and society in general will be better off if they follow them.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm of the belief that a religion takes its form from the society in which it appears, and that the same religion can appear differently in different societies. Do you have a particular society in mind, or do you just want the core tenants that would likely be common across all forms of the religion? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jul 13 '15 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I don't have a particular society in mind $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Jul 13 '15 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ I agree - without knowing both details of the society AND the content of "basic moral rules" - which surely differed a wee bit between Quakers and Aztecs - this is impossible to answer objectively. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Jul 13 '15 at 19:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It doesn't look much different form many religions on Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 13 '15 at 20:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Following up on @Vincent I think this is exactly how most religions believe God acts. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel
    Jul 20 '15 at 13:39

Basically, given the largely Laissez-faire deity like this, most likely a set of competing religions would spring up, which would formulate religious rules to satisfy the needs of the local power elites - the same way Christianity was severely transformed once Roman Empire decided to adopt it for a state religion.

Specific details would heavily depend on (1) precise basic moral rules the deity declared and (2) the level of spiritual enforcement of said rules the deity declared (does your immortal soul go to hell, or do you simply get soup-Nazi "No Salt-Shaker for You"?)


A religion made up by humans to serve humans.

It's the same religion as for any god when there isn't really a god at all. If there isn't any discernible difference between acts of the god and random chance, then what really is the difference between the god being there or not?

People will believe whatever they want (or were taught) and then they will use the cherry picking fallacy to point to the matching events and attribute those events to their god.

The backstory provided seems to say that this god is chaotic good. So most people will likely cherry pick the good things that happen and select those as the meaningful events or messages from their god. This might look like any religion that Earth has ever seen.

  • $\begingroup$ "chaotic good" is a good way to describe this god $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Jul 13 '15 at 20:39

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