Religion in conworlds with magic

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CarsonDaConlanger
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Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by CarsonDaConlanger » 11 Apr 2019 01:11

How do you handle a world where there are defined gods (or a defined god) as well as a hard magic system? Would there be multiple religions and only one of them be right? One religion with minor variations? There are many cultures and many haven't interacted with each other at all, so I feel like one religion shared by the A people and the B people who have never met is a bit unrealistic.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by elemtilas » 11 Apr 2019 05:10

CarsonDaConlanger wrote:
11 Apr 2019 01:11
How do you handle a world where there are defined gods (or a defined god) as well as a hard magic system? Would there be multiple religions and only one of them be right? One religion with minor variations? There are many cultures and many haven't interacted with each other at all, so I feel like one religion shared by the A people and the B people who have never met is a bit unrealistic.
Interesting question, but I frankly don't see what the issue is. Could you clarify??

Magic is magic and gods are gods. It's like recipes for bernaise --- why should the existence one affect the other?

In The World, gods have their religions (which may or may not be correct) that they may or may not interact with.

There are a number of phenomena that one might call "magic". Using these forces doesn't necessarily bring one into conflict with gods (who may or may not be able to counter your actions) or their religions.

In so far as conflict mìght arise, you'd find yourself in trouble. Of course, gods aren't omniscient or omnipotent. If you make good your escape, you might actually get away from trouble! And anyway, gods tend to have short memories. Except when it comes to apples. Pretty soon some gorgeous mortal woman will be born or some recalcitrant priesthood will require attentions of the lightning bolt from heaven kind.

So yeah, the dwimcrafty do their thing largely out of the purview of gods; and gods do their thing too. Fighting against a god, now that's a different matter! It can be done, though. Successfully even. There was, for example, a Daine long ago who was teaching Men how to get along in the world, and didn't he go up onto a mountain and nick a conveniently placed patio torch from the gods' dinner party? Mythistory is full of god slayers and deity confounders. Just remember, gods a people too. It's not until you really get high into the heavenly realms that you run into Those whom it's best not to tangle with.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by Salmoneus » 11 Apr 2019 12:43

I don't understand the question.

Regarding religion: it depends on the gods, clearly.

If a world has immensely powerful supernatural beings in it, they will have, by definition, immense power over people's behaviour.

So there are four options:
a) superbeings that remain silent
b) superbeings that mostly remain silent but occasionally communicate with people
c) superbeings that communicate with people a lot but don't bother trying to persuade them
d) superbeings that try to persuade people

In situation a), there'll be no direct impact on religion. Religions might develop that theorise and worship the superbeings, but since the superbeings don't talk back it won't be easy. Of course, 'silent' is relative. One possibility is superbeings who try to communicate but can't - so there may be enough omens and miracles to indicate that something exists, but not enough to know what it wants. More obvious signs equals more consensus among people. Although of course the question of religious value is unrelated (the superbeing could be treated as a god, the god, an angel, a demon, an unexplained natural phenomenon, etc etc).

In situation b), you may have an array of both primary and secondary cults - primary cults being groups in communication with superbeings, secondary cults being groups that have been in contact with primary cults that don't exist any more (or have broken off communication). If there are any Deep Truths about the world that the superbeings know, the existence of a plethora of secret-learning cults may help generate some cultural similarities, but the vary variety and the chinese whispers effect will result in some diversity inevitably.

In situation c) the superbeings may or may not try to teach religion to the people, but since they don't bother proving their case there will also be rival religions. The superbeings may teach people to worship them or, more optimistically, some other system of worship.

In situation d), the superbeings use their immense power to effectively force people to believe in their religion - some foolhardy heretics may wander around just asking for a lightningbolt to the head, but most will kowtow eventually. The only question then is whether the superbeings all have the same religion or not.



But if that's your question, I'm not sure why you asked it, because you surely know those answers already, as they're just elementary common sense.


And then there's magic. I don't understand what the connexion of magic is to religion here - why would magic be more relevant than any other part of physics? Of course, magic could influence how the superbeings communicate - but so could electromagnetism, so...

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by CarsonDaConlanger » 11 Apr 2019 14:17

Sorry I guess I was a bit opaque lol. It is basically a C. The gods can be communicated with and interact with people relatively frequently. The magic system works through a sort of "ethereal plane" in which the gods also exist, so most magic has to go through that the gods and involves calling on one or more for aid. Basically my predicament is that magic all but requires that the user acknowledge the gods.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by Reyzadren » 11 Apr 2019 15:17

My conworld has magic and god (whatever its definition is there), though the overlap between these 2 concepts is generally somewhat small. However, religion/culture (again, whatever this means) is sort of conflated there. Yes, there are multiple cultures, all of which contain essences of truth, with a little misinterpretation.

Not sure about realism for you, but there, certainly many unrelated faraway cultures would have similarities, just as there are similarities of linguistic/cultural universals worldwide irl without prior interaction, and even simultaneous scientific discoveries irl
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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by Salmoneus » 11 Apr 2019 19:56

CarsonDaConlanger wrote:
11 Apr 2019 14:17
Sorry I guess I was a bit opaque lol. It is basically a C. The gods can be communicated with and interact with people relatively frequently. The magic system works through a sort of "ethereal plane" in which the gods also exist, so most magic has to go through that the gods and involves calling on one or more for aid. Basically my predicament is that magic all but requires that the user acknowledge the gods.
So all magic is actually prayer. OK.

In which case, the question becomes simple but twofold. First, do all the superbeings have the same ethical system? And, second, do all the superbeings insist that all their petitioners adopt the superbeings' ethical system?

You'll only have uniformity of religion among "magic-users" (i.e. petitioners) if the answer to both questions is 'yes'.

If different superbeings have different ethical systems and they only help out humans with similar values, then humans can shop around to find a superbeing who is friendly toward their beliefs, and there will be a range of religions.

Alternatively, if some superbeings are liberals, then it doesn't matter if they all agree. Petitioners can just talk to the liberals, without having to adopt their ethical system. As a practical example: if I write to my MP to complain about a hospital closure, I don't expect her to write back demanding I discuss my views on Brexit first. Similarly, while of course your superbeings might have some limits - a vegetarian superbeing might not kill cows for you to eat - it's not unreasonable to think that at least some of them might not require you to submit a complete ranking of all your film preferences to make sure you agree of the relative merits of Iron Man 3 and Batman Begins before they strike dead the ogre about to eat you.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by elemtilas » 11 Apr 2019 20:57

CarsonDaConlanger wrote:
11 Apr 2019 14:17
Sorry I guess I was a bit opaque lol. It is basically a C. The gods can be communicated with and interact with people relatively frequently. The magic system works through a sort of "ethereal plane" in which the gods also exist, so most magic has to go through that the gods and involves calling on one or more for aid. Basically my predicament is that magic all but requires that the user acknowledge the gods.
Well, that sounds like you've got your answer!

Unless the gods themselves promulgate religion, that's largely up to the worshippers. A god could easily promulgate several religions to different peoples. Human nature being what it is, even if a god promulgates a religion, people will eventually become contrarian and you'll end up with millions of protestant religions anyway.

Here you've tied magic and petitional prayer together: I've got this wand, o god, help me smite mine enemies with it! I don't see how "magic" actually exists in this world as anything different from prayer. Does a petitioner actually need magical training or a magic wand to smite his enemies when a good old fashioned prayer service might be just as efficacious? It also sounds like the results of magic / prayer is actually the work of one or more gods. I'm not convinced that there is any magic here at all.

Finally, your "predicament" is something you didn't mention earlier! The only people who have trouble acknowledging gods are atheists. In your world, in order to use "magic" one needs to call on a god for help. So, either "atheism" doesn't exist (makes sense because gods are manifest and regularly interact with people) or else atheists have moved the goalpost around a bit in order to access perfectly ordinary "magic". Perhaps they have redefined their set of beliefs to mean "we reject the notion of religion, not gods". Or perhaps they simply don't recognise the divinity of the gods, calling them instead super beings or ascended people or something like that. Ascended people can still be called upon for aid, after all!


The questions I'd ask for clarity:

Do the gods categorically insist that magic can only work through prescribed religion?
Is there any way for a non-religious person to access magic apart from engaging with a god through that god's religion?
If there are enough gods, some of which may be hungrier for worship than others, might they not manifest to those who don't acknowledge the gods and work with them, even though on the surface they reject the notion of gods? Kind of like, yeah, I'm a god & you're an atheist, but we can work together!

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by CarsonDaConlanger » 11 Apr 2019 23:53

Sorry for the confusion I'm bad at explaining [:)]

The magic system doesn't require interaction with a god or spiritual entity per se, but a lot of things require more than what a human can do, so your potential is largely capped if you don't solicit help from (or bind) spiritual entities. But there are a lot of them so it's probably possible that not every culture worships every one. And they don't generally have "commands" that you have to follow morally like the Abrahamic religions do, but many may have rituals and sacrifices that you must do to placate them or even enable them to interact with you. I.E the gods aren't omnipotent.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by Salmoneus » 12 Apr 2019 00:08

So, they're not really "gods", and you're not so much talking about religious practices as just... using machines?

There's not a lot of difference between arranging candles in a certain way to make a ball rise through 'divine intervention', and manipulating levers and valves to make a ball rise through 'steam'. I don't think either steam engines or efficacious prayer services would have any impact upon religion per se.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by elemtilas » 12 Apr 2019 00:18

CarsonDaConlanger wrote:
11 Apr 2019 23:53
Sorry for the confusion I'm bad at explaining [:)]

The magic system doesn't require interaction with a god or spiritual entity per se, but a lot of things require more than what a human can do, so your potential is largely capped if you don't solicit help from (or bind) spiritual entities. But there are a lot of them so it's probably possible that not every culture worships every one. And they don't generally have "commands" that you have to follow morally like the Abrahamic religions do, but many may have rituals and sacrifices that you must do to placate them or even enable them to interact with you. I.E the gods aren't omnipotent.
No worries!

So, it sounds a lot like religion & magic would be somewhat disconnected, then. You might have worshippers who are just going about their daily lives without much concern for magic, and then some whose needs can be met with their naturally capped abilities and then the others whose concerns are of a magical nature. With so many gods, it may well be the case that any given individual could make out like a bandit shopping his adoration around. If godling C gives a better deal than godlings A or B, well, go with the economics!

To get back to your original question:
How do you handle a world where there are defined gods (or a defined god) as well as a hard magic system? Would there be multiple religions and only one of them be right? One religion with minor variations? There are many cultures and many haven't interacted with each other at all, so I feel like one religion shared by the A people and the B people who have never met is a bit unrealistic.
I'd say that multiple religions are almost a guaranteed reality unless a super-super-god, or the Supreme Deity, promulgates One True Religion and subsequently enforces its acceptance & practice on lesser gods and humans alike. With numerous gods in the picture, it's almost certain that a) none of their religions will actually be the One True Religion and also b) that all their individually promulgated religions will be true as regards the god in question and his followers. It will probably also be the case that sòme amount of religious a/o mythical truth will carry over from religion to religion.

Until we know what is objectively "wrong" it is impossible to state which of those gods' religions is objectively "true".

One religion with minor variations actually sounds quite plausible. This would largely be the "mystery religion" situation we saw in the Mediterranean region a couple thousand years ago. One set of mysteries pretty much being like any of the others, they largely come down to the creativity of the window dressings. If the gods of your world aren't terribly creative, then I could see a number of gods finding themselves competing with each other through nearly identical religions.

As far as distant cultures sharing one religion, keep in mind that it's the gods making these things up. While worshippers will undoubtedly give a religion their own twist, it sounds like in your world it's the god that's basically in control of devising a religion. I'd actually find it weird that culture A, worhipping god no. 5, would have a radically different religion than culture N on another continent, worshipping god no. 5.

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Re: Religion in conworlds with magic

Post by Pabappa » 14 Apr 2019 20:23

CarsonDaConlanger wrote:
11 Apr 2019 01:11
How do you handle a world where there are defined gods (or a defined god) as well as a hard magic system? Would there be multiple religions and only one of them be right? One religion with minor variations? There are many cultures and many haven't interacted with each other at all, so I feel like one religion shared by the A people and the B people who have never met is a bit unrealistic.
On my planet, a specific archangel tied to each culture endows the priests with their specific repertoire of magic spells. All 26 cultures thus have different magic spells, but there are no wars between the cultures, and all of them consider each other to be part of the same religion.
Sorry guys, this one has the worst sting.

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