Once upon a time, there was a little paingod attached to humanity. It was mostly benign and useful; it was there to warn people not to step into that patch of thorns, that that spearpoint was sharp, that fire was hot, that you’d regret drinking that whole skin of beer in the morning. It brought with it the gift of empathy and forethought, as well, so the people were mainly well-served by its presence.
Humanity prospered and grew, and the paingod got ever busier; as societies got larger, not only were there more people experiencing or avoiding pain, but the complexity of their lives created new opportunities for pain. New diseases erupted in the denser populations, wars flared up between competing city-states, social stratification created breeding grounds for envy and contempt. The paingod also grew.
Now this is the thing about gods of all types: they are ambitious. They all aspire to be the greatest manifestation of their gift that they can be. After all, people had been defining god as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”, so there was definitely pressure to escalate — if it wasn’t the greatest of all possible paingods, then it really wasn’t a god at all, now was it?
But now comes the tricky part. The paingod served humanity, and that was also an essential part of its existence. It could not simply lash out and promote death and suffering, like a cartoonish cult in a cheesy sword-and-sorcery novel; no, it had to convince people that their personal pain was a great boon, get them to revel in it, and also get them to willingy define their existence by their suffering. Then the paingod would be the the ultimate deity!
And so was hatched a cunning plan. The paingod would ask everyone to give it their pain as a gift; it would present itself as a savior to the world, telling everyone that they can find salvation from the suffering they experience by consecrating it to the paingod, that it loved them so much that it would accept their burdens and bear them for humanity. And it spread a story that claimed the paingod took on the form of a man and suffered heinous torture and died in agony, just to prove it was willing to take on the very worst that people could offer.
It was actually true. The man, though, was symbolic; it was the paingod, and it experienced every death and felt every person’s agony. There was no sudden change in the paingod’s role, only a clever semantic twist: now you metaphorically bestowed your unhappiness on the paingod as an offering, and it was no longer your fault or your responsibility, or anyone’s responsibility, really. It was the paingod’s will. Your duty was to bear up under it, and thank the paingod for sharing it with you.
And so it came to be that the people accepted the paingod’s rationale. When the inequities of their society bore them down, they wouldn’t rise up to change them — they’d go to the paingod’s church and praise it. When the paingod’s acolytes enthusiastically embraced their role in giving charity — after all, the poor and hurting were clearly the most blessed of the paingod’s subjects — they subverted that role into one of maintaining poverty and disease. They would provide a quiet place for people to die as slowly as possible, every moment one of redemption as you shared your pain with the paingod.
Every improvement that reduced the people’s suffering was shunned, and every social change that might make pariahs appreciated for who they were was discouraged. The paingod rules, and the only way the paingod can grow in power is if the misery of our existence were made the central focus of our lives.
And now we live in the world the paingod made, and true to form, it’s a world of pain.
We can’t end the pain, but we can kill the paingod and end the cycle of reinforcement. We can own our pain. It’s not the god’s, it’s ours — we don’t reduce it by pretending to share it with a supernatural being. We cause pain in others, and we don’t minimize it by claiming our sins are redeemed by the paingod — we accept the fault as our own, and struggle to change and repair and redeem ourselves. Tell the paingod that nobody died for your sins, they can’t…because they’re yours. The suffering we cause, the inequities we propagate, the unfairness and misery of a world split between those who have and those who don’t, those are all our responsibility, and no one else’s, especially not a paingod who feeds on grief and regret and sorrow and harm.