Two days back I had polished off a plateful of pancakes (made by the wife, of course) with maple syrup and left the plate in the sink. Unlike usual, I had not bothered to run water over the plate before I put it in the sink. I happened to return to the sink half an hour later (to deposit my coffee cup) and noticed a swarm of ants over my pancake plate, trying to feed on whatever maple syrup was still stuck to the plate.
The more compassionate among you might argue that I should have left them alone. After all, they were eating what I had not eaten, and who was I to grudge that? But I’m not one who tolerates arthropodes of any kind in my house, and I decided to wreak havoc on the ants. It is not often that you find so many ants in one place that you can destroy. So I (belatedly) ran water over the plate. Historically, this event might go down among one section of the ants as “the great flood”. Yes, a few ants managed to scurry away to tell the tale.
Now, these ants had no clue about my existence. All they knew was that there was the plate with maple syrup stuck to it, which they could feed on. And they were going about their business when an external entity who they were not aware of created a flood, drowning most of them. As far as the ants were concerned, I was like an external “greater power”. Someone who had the ability to destroy. And destroy I did.
Note for a moment that this was not a predator-prey relationship. If I were their predator (a spider perhaps) they would have been aware of me. However, here I was, of a species that doesn’t normally interact with ants, much much bigger than the world they know, destroying so many of them.
Like me to the ants, some people like to argue, there is a “greater unknown being” who controls all our lives. This greater unknown being (commonly nicknamed “God”) is in control of our lives, they say. And so, we need to pay obeisance to him and do things that keep him happy. We are all at the mercy of this greater being, they say, and hence we must pray. Pray that this greater being is kind to us. Pray that in the flood that he unleashes from time to time we are among the lucky few that manage to scurry away and live to tell the tale. Pray that he doesn’t cause the flood at all.
While the Ant:Man::Man:God analogy might make sense in terms of the larger creature being significantly superior than the smaller one who is not aware of him, it still does not explain why one needs to pray or do any rituals or even make any attempts to make the larger creature take pity on you.
Ants have no way of communicating with me. Maybe they think there exist creatures such as humans, who should be prayed to so that they are now flooded. I’m sure they might have tried, as they saw me stand over their plate of maple syrup with my hand on the tap. It didn’t make a difference to me. I opened the tap anyway, and unleashed the flood. By a similar analogy, that the “greater creature” will even bother to take cognizance of you and try and understand you and do as you please is a massive leap of faith.