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Old 07-21-2019, 06:48 AM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2013
Default Need help to flesh out a religion

Note: I'm sorry if it sounds a little corny. :D

The short form - The Allfather created the world from a sea of chaos. It was supposed to be a paradise. Without his knowledge, he had a brother watching him. When the Allfather took a short break, the brother tainted the world with evil. Death, disease, greed and thousands of other plagues found their way into creation. When he returned, the Allfather killed his brother, but could not reverse the damage. It particularly grieved him that even his children (The mortals) were affected by it. The souls were trapped on the corrupt world and are reborn to go through another cycle. The Allfather created a second world (Haven) which would serve a refugee place. In addition, he showed prophets through visions the path how to leave the world.

The brother wasn't killed completely. He fell into countless pieces, which became demons. Similar to cancer, they were inextricably linked to the world, trying to hold mortals to the world.

The basic belief is that every person is equally composed of light and darkness. Good deeds promote light, bad deeds promote darkness. Only when a person sheds all darkness can he break the cycle and enter heaven.

So the problem is what could be good and bad deeds now. Asceticism should play an important role. So the problem is what could be good deeds now. Asceticism is supposed to play an important role, but that alone would be too little for a religion. Tips on what might fit in well?
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:04 AM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2017
Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

Is fighting against evil seen as a great and glorious thing, worthy of the highest praise? Or is it seen as a necessary evil, with violence as the last resort? That right there will color the attitudes of the religious.
Is it necessary, in the eyes of the believers, to follow the religion to be a good and decent person, or are nonbelievers judged on there behavior?

How is conversion, if any, handled? By words and example, or by the sword?

How are those brought up in the faith, who leave the faith, doubt, or simply interpreted the religious tales, handled? (Apostates and heretics.)

There's a few questions to ask yourself.
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

If violence is acceptable in the "good" guys, then what is the difference between them except the colour of their shirts?
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

Is it possible for true believers to make it to Haven? Is this a known thing? Like the saints of the religion ascend to another reality and leave the world? This would have implications. On the one hand, depending on how it works visually, this may increase faith: people can see that the Good Place is real. On the other hand, it means that all the best members of the faith depart, leaving the religious hierarchy with flawed members. If ascension is subtle (like dying in your sleep) or possible to misinterpret (you seem to be in pain), the servants of darkness may spread counter-myths about it: "Asceticism is counter to the laws of reality... you will be punished!"

For figuring out what "good deeds" are, you may need to flesh out the Allfather's vision a bit more. It might be easier to think of what the "sins" are and then figure out what's opposed to them. Currently, you list a few examples of the taint: "death, disease, greed." So, my assumption is that the original creation (and maybe Haven?) don't have such things. Being a healer or a doctor may be a good path, reducing the grip of darkness on your body (and soul?). Healthy choices, too, would be good. (Parents telling their kids to eat their veggies might have a theological element to it. Health food stores might be connected to the church.) Altruism and generosity run counter to greed. What are some of the "thousands of other plagues?"

Right now this sounds not-so-different, in terms of moral compass, from many real world religions. Is that your goal? Kind of reskinning things a bit, but keeping it familiar? Or do you want it to feel more exotic? If the latter, you might want to add some spin. A few random ideas:
  • Maybe physical bodies themselves are part of the darkness. (The Allfather intended his children to be spirits... free souls.) The true faithful are therefore ascetic to a point of absurdity, denying their bodies any pleasure... attempting to kill the body while nourishing the soul. (The stuff about doctors and healers would be changed to spiritual doctors and healers... people who actually care for bodies would be evil!)
  • Blood is seen as the fluid of darkness. The faithful ritually bleed themselves and then burn the blood (or something).
  • The religion could be radically anti-state. Nations, politics, and civic institutions are seen as things that hold people to this world of darkness.
  • The prophets, intended to have a shared vision, developed into sects that fight viciously. Add false prophets to the mix for added religious political fun.
  • You mentioned "a brother" which leaves open the possibility that the Allfather has other siblings. What are they up to?
  • And, of course, the Allfather might actually be a schmuck, wanting his "children" to dance for him and be happy and mindless. Perhaps the brother was trying to save them from being mere decorations in their Daddy's twisted snow globe. In which case the demon pieces are the real prophets and "good deeds" would be deed that link you more tightly to the earth.
I'd love to hear how your ideas evolve. What type of game is this for? Fantasy? Modern? Sci fi?
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Old 07-21-2019, 09:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

First, I must highly recommend this video on worldbuilding religions.

More specifically:

Demons want body parts. You can gain power by giving them bits. Everybody with missing fingers/toes/arms is treated with suspicion. Sure, your story about an accident could be true. But... you could also have sold your arm for wealth...

The all-father, by contrast, asks for soul-searching. The altered state of mind that comes from suffering brings clarity. From that clarity, one can see one's own evil. Some attain this through fasting, some through bloodletting, some by suspending themselves upside down unto the point of passing out. The variations are endless, and the debates fierce.

One faction posits that only through success can one know true suffering. They promote decades of decadence followed by declining years of abject poverty. This faction is popular with the wealthy.
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Old 07-21-2019, 09:59 AM   #6
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
If violence is acceptable in the "good" guys, then what is the difference between them except the colour of their shirts?
Is violence acceptable to the bad guys? The OP doesn't say.

Perhaps their belief is to avoid killing people, because if you kill them, they just loop back for another cycle, but if they stay alive, they have to keep suffering in this corrupted world. Killing them early cheats the Corrupter's purpose. They're pacifistic, yet still evil.

Meanwhile, the good guys are standard crusaders trying to purge the corruption by destroying it or its agents wherever they can be found. And that pogrom does work; if they could be as successful as they'd like, they'd eventually cleanse all the Corrupter fragments from the world, and it would eventually be free of the taint, restored to the paradise the Allfather intended.

(This setup is of course meant to force the question of whether the end justifies the means.)
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Old 07-21-2019, 01:39 PM   #7
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Location: Southeast NC
Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

You might have the brother steal the world creation level powers for his shenanigans, and those powers are weakened in the subsequent battle. There is just enough power left to establish the Haven, and you have an explanation of why miracles on that sort of level are a thing of a past age of legends.
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Old 07-21-2019, 09:41 PM   #8
Captain Joy
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Location: Heartland, U.S.A.
Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

For anyone interested in building religious for a campaign setting, I can recommend GURPS Religion. Its a 3rd ed. product, but should serve 4th ed. (or any rules system) well.
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Old 07-22-2019, 02:25 AM   #9
David Johnston2
Join Date: Dec 2007
Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
If violence is acceptable in the "good" guys, then what is the difference between them except the colour of their shirts?
Given that this is a slight variation on Zoroastrianism the difference between the two sides is that one side represents truth, lawfulness, cooperation, and regularity, unity while the other represents deception, disruption, randomness, fragmentation and selfishness.

Neither side is nonviolent since after all they are constantly at war but it seems likely that the followers of the god do engage in some kind of purification ritual to banish the chaotic residue of violence.
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Old 07-22-2019, 05:07 AM   #10
The Colonel
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Default Re: Need help to flesh out a religion

Sounds vaguely Buddhist, although things could probably be pinched from Gnosticism/Catharism as well.

The implication behind souls being "trapped on a corrupt world" would be that, besides reducing your connections to that world - and the Buddhists are very big on reducing "attachment" - your followers would also be discouraged from having children (to avoid trapping more souls in the mortal coil). Possibly even as far as self castration.

Presumably the demons would tend to divert people with false cults that alleviate suffering and teach a life of contentment, moderation and happiness. The demon cults could even look like the good guys if posed against a religion of wild eyed, half starved fanatics that mutilate themselves.
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