Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet. It’s out late this fall but you can find out about the world now . . .
Religion on modern Telvaren and it’s colonies is a practical affair due to the simple matter that aeons of worship, theology, magic, science, and a few confused holy wars and philosophical battles have led to religion becoming an organized, well-understood part of culture. It’s there, it has its purpose, and if you want to actually read up on it there’s extensive books, theses, and scientific papers that can bore you into knowledge.
At it’s core, religion essentially accepts that the gods are real (which is easy when they tell you they are) and that humanity and they benefit from the interaction. There’s several hundred gods at last count so there’s plenty of gods to interact with, though they’re not always on the same side, or in agreement, or understandable. But in the end, religion provides mutual benefit, as found by aeons of work and a few centuries of recovering from the devastating event simply called The War.
Gods predate humanity. They are conceptual creatures, a face on the abstract forces and powers of the world and of life itself. The variable nature of reality, often called magic, seems to play a role in this, but the simplest way people are taught to think about it is that life can evolve from anything – even abstract concepts or non-living natural forces.
The gods are the masks the world puts on, life that evolves “over” the abstract.
The evolution of humanity, of thinking creatures able to conceive and dream, and conceptualize was a boon for the gods. Human minds and emotions manifested the abstract forces of life and thought more than anything else; their ideas and thoughts enriched the lives of the gods and helped them grow and become more aware. Metaphorically (and to an extent, accurately), humanity is the environment gods live in; creatures of life and death, industry and war, thought and art.
It’s considered by many Evolutionary Theologians to be similar to how dogs and humans affected each other’s evolution, though no one is sure who’s the dog and who’s the human in the relationship. The Sixth Sage is noted as saying the dogs probably got insulted by this comparison, which is a very popular saying among dog owners and seen on many t-shirts by people thinking they’re witty.
Gods and Humans co-evolved, with the humans providing a rich environment for the gods, and the gods happily lending their power and insights to people. Out of this evolved worship and rituals and holidays to keep gods and humans in sync.
It is said that gods could indeed exist without humanity, and all evidence indicates this is true. But their lives would be like living in an arid desert; you can live, but that’s all you can do. The War is said to have terrified the gods and helped re-shape their relationships with humans and each other.
Religious practices are viewed practically, but they also vary extremely with god, families, neighborhoods, and regions – gods and humans tend to take different views of “what works.” Usually this is close to, but not always the same, and when you throw a few hundred gods into the mix it’s confusing.
There are enormous efforts, especially post-Reformation, to ensure organized religion is even more organized. This sometimes actually works, but it also means there are endless meetings and sessions and attempts to codify works. There are always newly discovered holy text that may seem revolutionary to humans, but to a god are just something they “wrote down” and they didn’t think of the culture-changing impact. The great Theopolis of Triad True is constantly abuzz with work, and boasts a bureaucracy that would make even the great historical mages of Phoenix Ascendant jealous – albeit jealous in an organized manner.
Among all this attempt to codify everything from clerical titles (which are known to change every few years) to agreements with the gods, the front line of human-god relations are clerics.
“Cleric” is the catch-all term for a person who is in contact with a specific god, voluntarily, and has an ongoing relationship with them. A Cleric is officially recognized by their god and their Church (or Temple, or whatever title) as being a direct line to the god in question.
Clerics provide advice from holy texts and occasionally the gods themselves. They provide prophecy from the gods – which has only increased as Network usage has expanded and the gods took to email centuries ago. They also provide blessings, channeling some of a gods power to the faithful.
However, Clerics also provide a service to the gods in that they are their connection to humans. Clerics help the gods understand humanity and stay in touch with the world. This part of the relationship is not always understood by other humans.
Clerics often have a variety of powers granted them by the god, sometimes without the god actually thinking much about it. These are classified as:
- Aspect: Almost all Clerics develop a talent or ability that reflects the sphere of their god. A Cleric of the goddess of war may have supernatural tactical sense, a Cleric of the god of scheduling may have precognition, and so on. These Aspects usually have to be called upon consciously, and though in theory unlimited, some “turn off” at odd moments if a cleric strays too far from their god’s plans.
- Glamour: Though Clerics hate this title, most Clerics have the ability to inspire people with certain emotions related to their gods – sometimes without thinking. It is called “Inspiration” by most Clerics, but popular opinion has left them stuck with “Glamour.”
- Exorcism: All Clerics in theory can release some of their gods raw power to disrupt demons, malicious spirits and ghosts, and other anomolies. Few actually use it – it’s basically the spiritual equivalent of putting a lighter in front of hairspray, turning a utility into a weapon.
Many modern clerics organize in Theocades, great multi-religious structures that can have temples, rooms, and the like reshuffled. They also act as housing and community centers.
Shamans And Spirits
Shamans and spirits are sometimes classified as part of religion, sometimes not – and there’s been a concerted and not entirely well-meaning effort to exclude them from being considered religious professionals entirely. This is an area of theological politics that many humans and most gods don’t like as well as don’t care about.
“Spirits” are not gods, though some have been mistaken for them and some gods employ them. Spirits are the results of human interaction with objects, places, and ideas that, over time, shapes the magical forces of that object, place, and idea until it achieves consciousness. Roads, vehicles, buildings, famous objects all can have spirits.
Spirits are conscious but erratic and unpredictable magical beings with a variety of powers and abilities. They can easily be appeased and interacted with in assorted ways – conversation, attention, sacrifice of blood, food, and alcohol, and so on. In times as spirits mature they become more powerful and more human.
Shamans are those that interact with spirits and have extensive knowledge of them. Shamans and Clerics used to be the same profession for all intends and purposes, but over the last few centuries there’s been a noteable split as religion became more organized. Now the two are on their way to being specialist professions, and there is conflict over this, especially as Clerics wield more political and social power – and as people learn more and more about interacting with supernatural creatures in school.
All of the Great Cities have a City Shamanic Department to deal with the spirits in a city.
Triad True is a great Theopolis, and arguably a Great City younger than Highpoint if you want to argue what constitutes a Great City, which many people do just to be spiteful. Located in the southern part of the Central Region, it has gone from a mix of temples and hastily-assembled seminaries to a gigantic metropolis in only three centuries. Many clerics do some or all of their training there, great libraries and reliquaries abound, museums display history, and some great publishing concerns operate.
Beyond theological and educational business, Triad True is also a popular vacation spot with beautiful areas to visit, relaxing parks, and more. Needless to say this additional financial influx is quite popular.
There is some unspoken issues involving the Bridges that connect works – Triad True much to people’s surprise does not have a permanent Bridge schedule with Godsrest. Why is not entirely understood, and its suggested economics and politics plays more of an issue, though superstition may as well.