Once it was claimed God had taken sides in a war between ant colonies. Because both sides in the conflict declared God had taken their part against the other, it was thought at first that two deities might be involved, one being called “The God of Light” and the other “The God of Darkness.” But as one side’s “God of Light” turned out to resemble the other’s “God of Darkness” seen from a different angle, this explanation proved to have some obvious shortcomings. Over time, a view that a single God had chosen to look with favor on one side and with disfavor on the other was advanced to deal with the more troubling aspects of the original two-Gods-who-urge-opposite-sides-to-smite-their-foes-unto-death interpretation of the war. But how was one to know whether one’s own side was destined to give or to receive these divinely sanctioned smitings? Faced with that ambiguity, both colonies conducted themselves as if the problem was simply a question of the strength of one’s belief. Instrumental in this regard were the unstinting efforts of the two opposing queen ants. Whenever the situation looked grim, out they would stride to energize their followers with stirring speeches. The most rousing exhortations were always those that announced new proof the opponents were either “infidels” or “evildoers,” claims that could move listeners to hoops, cheers, and chants of “God Bless Us! God Blast Them!!” As casualties in the war mounted, each side pointed to high losses by the other as evidence that it, the other side, was becoming more desperate at its, the side in question’s, growing success. Or, put another way, one side’s losses showed it was winning; the other side’s losses showed it was not. Questions of whose God was looking down on this mayhem with favor might have been expected to fade when it came to the soldier ants actually sent out to do or die in no-ant’s land. It might have seemed self-preservation would be their chief concern. As they taunted, tortured or dismembered one another, though, these staunch rivals were sustained by the belief that if they perished in this righteous carnage, their payment of the supreme price would be honored forever. As a precaution that not a single ant placed by command of either queen “in harm’s way” would miss out on this reward, a solemn pledge never to forget was read over each collection of unidentified body parts brought back to either colony. Despite all of these efforts, the war dragged on, at times intensely and at times fitfully, with one side gaining the advantage and then the other coming back from the brink of threatened annihilation. No victory promised to be permanent. Every defeat had its revenge. Ultimately, as the mounting toll began to tax the enthusiasm of both colonies for this fight, a new variation on the one-God-who-takes-sides explanation arose for the uncertain course of the fray: there might indeed be only one God involved, but that God had taken both sides. The contending forces barely paused in their lethal clash to consider this idea before rejecting it out of hand. For what kind of God would that be?
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans