Religion and Divergence

deas change as they travel, morphing to fit their cultures, their regions and their eras. Would the images of gods be any different? I doubt it.

There’s a lot about a god’s image that can change over time and space. Name, for instance, particularly if a language shift is involved. Peripheral associations as well: while you’ll probably never see a sun god credited with dominion over the nighttime, or any similar changes in central concept, it’s certainly not unheard of for one group to associate their sun god with gold, another with plants, and a third with metal and mirrors. Another is ritual—everything from little details like whether the ceremonies are conducted with or without music to big issues like what sorts of sacrifices are acceptable and which offenses truly merit a death sentence.

I won’t ask what point of divergence two such groups would have to reach to be practicing two different religions. It’s a touchy, complicated subject, no two people will give you the same answer, and if we start debating it, next thing we know we’ll be up to our ears in real-world examples and no closer to an answer. Let’s leave that definition in the haze where it belongs.

What is more interesting is the question of how different another group’s practices must be for one or more people to not accept them as their religion. Just because two people worship gods that are as far as anyone can tell the same entity doesn’t mean that each will accept the other; just look at all the issues that the religions of the Book have. If anything, it seems to me that people who worship the same god and refuse to agree on specifics are even more dangerous to each other than ones who worship different gods. (Unless, of course, their gods are scripturally opposed, at which point the safest place to be is Somewhere Else, but I digress.)

But when divine intervention is not happening, worshiping the same god as someone else means a lot less than it could. If Manar worships a sun god through song and is devoted to the idea of redemption, and Ran worships a god of the sun by frying infidels with a sized-up analogue to a magnifying glass, are they really going to hate each other less because as far as anyone can tell they follow the same god? And while that’s a pretty extreme example, lesser divisions like what exactly the rank of a certain prophet is, what is or is not considered forgivable or who is or isn’t welcome at the ceremonies, or even little things like the exact details behind how marriage works can lead to deep and bitter divides.

Sure, in real life these divisions seem like they really shouldn’t be. But if they exist here, they’re fair game for our worlds as well, and isn’t a morally gray conflict with these sorts of nuances more interesting than yet another epic battle between good and evil? I certainly think so.

Yet again for RPG Blog Carnival. Ending before the carnival does? Hard to say.

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