Today’s post is a guest post from friend, reader, and writer Arashidrgn. He explores religion and deities in D&D in two parts.
So I decided to write out some stuff on religion in the D&D universe. In a world where there are multiple gods and everyone KNOWS there are multiple gods, how is there more than one religion? To tackle that, I had to break down different approaches to religion and deities in a world where multiple deities are accepted general knowledge. At times, thinking about how individuals would experience their particular religion helped flesh out my ideas.
Surprise, surprise, there is potentially a lot of material to expand upon. And of course I have constant access to Wikipedia. Do you know what this has done? I typed in Theism and it opened up a world of concepts that goes so deep the Underdark is a shallow pit in comparison. What kind of can of worms have I opened here?! I just started typing and every time I finished one sentence it spurred two more ideas. I am fighting some sort of bizarre conceptual hydra here!
Part I – One, Two, or All of the Above?
This is the belief that individuals should worship only a certain deity. Typically those that practice this ideology believe the proper deity for each person is the one associated with their race (Dwarves worship Moradin, dragonborn worship Bahamut). There are some exceptions to this. Gods whose realm is an idea and not a particular race may have followers from any race such as Avandra’s tricksters or Melora’s druids and rangers. People who follow these ideological gods must have a very strong affinity for them. Each person is born with a proper deity to worship and they should follow the teachings of that deity throughout their life. The ultimate ideal is to live their life as their deity intended for them.
Mono-deific allows for very little experimentation and research into other deities’ practices. A mono-deific worshiper of Moradin might never step foot into the temple of another god. Typically, individuals are expected to follow in the same footsteps as their parents. Cases in which a person feels a strong connection to another god are treated with the utmost care and consideration by their church. Often a worshiper of an ideological god will go on a pilgrimage another temple to gain understanding.
Individuals who stray from their racial god, including those that are considering following an ideological god, may find themselves shunned or persecuted by other mono-deific worshiper. In their eyes it is a greater sin to “change sides” than it is to be a worshiper of an opposing god (Bahamut vs Tiamat).
Good or neutral aligned worshipers of different gods do not have trouble working together so long as their varying gods are not at odds with each other. Mono-deific individuals in a group can often get into debates over whose god is better, or whose tenants are more appropriate in a given situation. In instances where mono-deific worshipers of various gods must work together to a common goal it is seen as the gods themselves driving them on to achieve the goal which is mutually beneficial to all.
This is the belief that an individual may follow any of the gods which they choose. It is up to each individual as to which gods they follow and how much weight each god has over their actions. Poly-deific worshipers typically select from three to four gods in the pantheon to closely study and follow and almost always one of these gods will include their racial deity. For example, Pelor, Avandra, and Erathis are a typical triumvirate for human traders or wandering craftsmen. There are many such commonly held groups of deities.
Because poly-deific worshipers choose deities with common goals and interests it is uncommon to see conflicts arise in which two or more of their chosen deities are at odds with each other; however, when such events to occur it is the choice of the individual to decide who they will follow. There are many parables in which these sorts of choices are made and they are common themes in sermons and part of religious texts.
A poly-deific worshiper believes that they may pray and worship at any temple that is devoted to one of their gods regardless of how strongly they follow that god. So a worshiper of the previous example triumvirate may most strongly identify with Pelor, but go to a temple of Erathis to worship. It is thought that when they pray they are praying to all of the gods with whom they worship. Some poly-deific worshipers will attempt to visit a temple for each god they worship or may cycle from one temple to another. A poly-deific worshiper follows all of the holidays of each god that they worship.
Radiant worshipers follow all the gods of good alignment. They most strongly believe in the triumph of good over evil and revere the good aligned gods in their struggle to hold back the darkness. Temples to radiant worship will often have statues and murals of the gods working together to fight of evil. A radiant-deific temple accepts worshipers of any good aligned god and will allow anyone (mono or poly deific) to worship there.
Radiant-deific members see all the good aligned gods as the creators and maintainers of the mortal realm and other realms. It is their belief that the world is held together by the bonds of the good aligned deities and their endeavors to combat the evil gods. They see power struggles and arguments among the good aligned gods and their worshipers as sacrilege that threatens to tear apart the unity of the gods and one day will result in the destruction of the mortal realm.
Radiant-deific patrons may have tendencies toward mono or poly deific teachings in that they may identify with one god or a group of gods over the others; however, the primary idea behind Radiant-deific ideology is that all of the good aligned gods are equal on the same side.
Chaotic-deific follows many of the same rules as Radiant-deific; however, they believe in the bringing together of the evil gods to overcome good. Chaotic-deific is less popular and less structured than Radiant-deific. The tenants of the evil gods are focused on empowering of them alone. It is less likely to see them banding together than the good aligned deities.
The concept of Chaotic-deific is primarily a mortal creation; however, Clerics and Paladins that are Chaotic-deific still receive their powers from a combination of all the evil deities. Evil aligned gods see their goals as a general out lashing at the good aligned gods and as such they will give a portion of their power to them.
Omni-deific worshipers are fewer and far between and a temple of this kind is rare. Omni-deism revolves around the idea that all of the deities, both good and evil, are a necessary part of the world and without them the mortal realm would become stagnant. The concept of omni-deism is one that few people adopt. Typically someone of a neutral alignment will come to realize that the good and evil deities are two parts of the same coin, and it is the power struggles between them that keep the world moving and changing.
Some Omni-deific followers are detached from the struggles between religious sects. Being able to see the whole picture they choose to remove themselves from the world in fear of tampering with the delicate working balance.
Others see the conflicts between deities as an unnecessary thing. If the gods are all part of the world then there is no reason for them to fight the way they do. Omni-deific individuals that choose this path travel a great deal to put out the fires of war as best they can.
Omni-deific people typically do not care to freely divulge their religious ideas to others. Because of their unique perspective they are commonly persecuted or mistaken for followers of an opposing god. There are no Omni-deific paladins or clerics and no temples. An Omni-deific follower may keep a collection of religious texts and holy symbols as a set to all the gods.
Next: Part II – Philosophy Pie
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