Organized religion in your games


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Ok so it started with this thread. I want to know - if you use the Golarion gods, how do you run organized religion in your games? I'm sure there's other threads on this subject but right now my search-fu is failing me (point me in the right direction if this has been done before in earnest). For example I run a homebrew but use the CRB deities - there is a central church called the Holy Rukenvalyk Church and then there are small, regional or settlement-based churches dedicated to 1 or more of the cannon deities w/in the pantheon which includes Abadar, Desna, Erastil, Iomedae, Nethys, Pharasma, Sarenrae, and Shelyn. Other deities are more region-specific or pagan.

Also that begs my second point: do you have different versions of your deities representing pagan/heretic/fringe groups of the faithful and cannon?

Liberty's Edge

Well, canonically, all of them have at least some organization in their religion...but rarely full on 'Catholic Church' level organization. It's usually more local, though with common threads based on the deity's areas of concern and personality.

For example, most things run by devotees of Cayden Cailean are bars or orphanages.

But beyond very basic stuff like that it varies a lot y specific location.


In my games most deities don't usually care for complex hierarchies and a organized faith; further more I do not typically think of many gods interacting enough to form organized pantheons. These are also the way I often see Paizo depict things. Now with that said:

1.) On Golarion (or at least the campaigns I run) I do have some of the deities, the lawful ones primarily, have religious organizations that at least attempt to unify the faithful. Gods like Abadar have the Bank-Temple, a organized faction that not only promotes the worship of Abadar the spread of civilization but acts as a banking guild, unified and organized and established across several nations. They were originally a kind of tongue and cheek reference I made but now my group treats them like the Iron Bank.

2.) Not quite the same thing but I know that the Campaign Setting for Cerulean Seas goes with the concept that the gods, of which there is one of each alignment, came together and created a divine peace treaty of sorts that banned worship of any other deities besides themselves to bring an end to some terrible feud. Holy men in that setting are part of a certain unspoken vow not to fight each other and actively work together to find and route out heretics and cults. Not quite the same thing but it is somewhat organized.

3.) In one homebrew game I am working on I have a empire (based largely around Meso-American societies) based around the worship of a hero-god and the idols he and his disciples created. In this setting traditional deities do not exist beyond the hero-god Xulotil but the Great Old ones do, which along with the serpent-folk are the most dire threat to the empire. As such, anyone caught worshiping the Old Ones (even the fairly benign ones, of which I have made a few} are sentenced to death. Furthermore the empire, during times of expansion has been known to impose their faith on defeated peoples, although those peoples ancestors/gods/totem/ect are believed to be spared by Xulotil to be made into his disciples in the war for mankind.

Hope that adds to the conversation.


Right now in my Homebrew I use the standard gods and offer to make some up. I also have organized religions playing a reasonable part of the plot (converting a new populace, causing issues, soon to be rioting due to being Chaotic worshippers in a largely Lawful place (anarchists vs. aristocrats kind of thing.)

In my campaign churches represent the lawful dieties of the locals for the most part, and the more chaotic individuals practice out of town (being in smaller groups and not having the organization to go build giant churches, let alone the desire for such things.)

This offers a great place for me to place people who are adept at healing magics (particularly "Restoration", aside from curing wounds) and a good place for Holy Water and other such supplies on occasion. It's also good for plot hooks and intrigue.


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Mark Hoover wrote:
Also that begs my second point: do you have different versions of your deities representing pagan/heretic/fringe groups of the faithful and cannon?

Not that I play in Golarion, but this question has some problematic assumptions. Ignoring cannon/canon, the very idea of heresy is hard to swallow in a setting with real gods. The point of real world heresy is that people purporting to be of the same faith have Wrong Ideas, which make them not Real Members of X Religion (according to the side accusing the others of heresy). Since they don't have any objective proof or source they can ask to tell them who is right, it's basically just a big game of 'yuh-huh, nuh-uh'.

But how does this work out when the god in question can actually answer? more importantly, can answer in such a way that it is independently verifiable and there are real metaphysical consequences for getting it wrong. There shouldn't be much question whether something is heretical or not if priests can just Commune and ask "Oh Lord, is Bob right in saying that lemons are evil in Your sight?"
If people with 'heretical' beliefs still get spells from the same god as the orthodox it should indicate that the god doesn't have a problem with whatever beliefs are 'wrong' this time around.

Liberty's Edge

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Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
But how does this work out when the god in question can actually answer? more importantly, can answer in such a way that it is independently verifiable and there are real metaphysical consequences for getting it wrong. There shouldn't be much question whether something is heretical or not if priests can just Commune and ask "Oh Lord, is Bob right in saying that lemons are evil in Your sight?"

The issue with this is not that it doesn't work, and it does keep heresy to a minimum, but for some things it runs into a few problems:

1. People rarely question what they believe. If you truly believe X and your God gives you power...are you really gonna believe that guy over there when he tells you you're only mostly right? Are you even gonna check?

2. Commune is not a low level spell.

Assuming, based on the settlement rules, that one in 2,500 people is a 9th level or higher spellcaster and further assuming that half of those are Clerics, and further assuming that all Clerics are of one of the core 20 Gods...we're talking something like 1 in 100,000 people who can cast that spell for any particular deity.

And those numbers are overly generous, it's likely more like half that number. Certainly far less for obscure deities. With numbers like that, it's very possible there's nobody around to cast Commune.

3. And even assuming someone is around to cast Commune, you have to trust them. The spell doesn't summon the deity to write the answer in letter of fire, it just gives that one person knowledge. Who's to say they're telling the truth? Most of the faithful will probably be willing to believe them, but a group that's already on the outs? I wouldn't count on it.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
If people with 'heretical' beliefs still get spells from the same god as the orthodox it should indicate that the god doesn't have a problem with whatever beliefs are 'wrong' this time around.

This really depends on the God and situation.

Look at the Cult of the Dawnflower in Golarion. They tolerate slavery and advocate a variety of hardline stances that Sarenrae does not approve of. However, they are still within one step of her Alignment, do a variety of good works, and she's the literal deity of forgiveness and mercy, so she's giving them time to see the error of their ways.

As another example, the Pharasmin penitents endure great and terrible austerities and engage in self-flagellation for their Goddess. She really and sincerely doesn't care, but given that she doesn't care she's not putting a stop to it either.

Anything that goes directly against the God's teachings or drives you more than one step out of synch with their alignment will result in the heresy getting suppressed quick, but other stuff? Not necessarily.


Also, it is highly likely that various deities will be trying to interfere with each other's elections influence each other's worshippers in a direction favorable to themselves. I would expect Asmodeus to make this a fine art, but several other deities are probably no slouches in this department either. Also, deities canonically cultivate a certain amount of variation -- for instance, Abadar commissions Paladins, and yet has Lawful Evil worshippers, while Calistria commissions Antipaladins, and yet somehow has Chaotic Good worshippers.


Heresy can exist even if a god can answer a question, as he or she may choose not to. Gorum has a sect that believes he's a half-orc under all that iron, which angers some of the other faithful. And 'what are you?' is a question a god is able to answer ... but willing?

(Granted, given the god, why answer when you can just revel in the fight that it starts?)

Shadow Lodge

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In my current setting, the main political power has a "state pantheon," with the main lawful deities within the pantheon responsible for providing specific civic services. The three that are most politically involved (valour, knowledge, and punishment) are also entitled to vote in the Senate.

For example, the church of the god of valour and the sun (think Iomedae crossed with Pelor) is closely tied to the military and provides the vast majority of the empire's combat medics. They also sponsor a prominent Paladin order that specializes in demon hunting. In fact it is the only church to specifically train paladins - other churches just include them in mixed-class martial factions.

The church of the goddess of knowledge runs the school system, which includes a public grammar school. Higher levels of education come with increasing fees attached, but bright students can obtain scholarships from the church through some form of "work-study." The church also funds R&D, with scholars on their payroll whose magical, alchemical, and technological discoveries then become property of the church. Some of these discoveries are put to use for the public good - others are used to fund the church.

The church of the death goddess Alida (vaguely similar to Pharasma) is responsible for running the world's hospitals and funerals. If you're closely associated with a different church you can get help there, and some rural areas are too small for an Alidan presence. But the average citizen of any settlement at least the size of a small town goes to the Alidan church for care.

The god of punishment and ambition runs courts and jails.

I wouldn't say I have heretics - at least not yet. But there are definitely factions and fringe groups. For example, there's also a "black powder" movement within the church of the goddess of knowledge that is trying to replace the crossbow with the firearm as her favoured weapon. As a pro-innovation deity, she's theoretically on board with this - but it's a question of whether the technology is mature enough to be widely adopted. Often these groups end up being represented by a demi-deity or patron saint. For example, the church of Alida recognizes a patron saint of undead-hunters whose followers are not involved in the mainstream hospital administration and have their own training and leaders, but who ultimately report to the High Priestess of Alida, and can count on help from the main church.


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I do run in Golarion, but a version with which I've taken a few liberties.

Often, though not always, you can take the "law/chaos" axis of the deity's alignment as a guide to how much heirarchy and organization there is in the faith's organized church.

The church of Asmodeus has the most complex and heirarchical organization, which I base very heavily on the trappings of the Roman Catholic Church at the apex of its political power... especially in Cheliax.

The church of Abadar is organized like a complex multinational corporation, and the church of Iomedae bears much in common with a very well-disciplined military organization.

On the other extreme, the church of Desna has little-to-no structure to it at all; for that matter, there aren't very many temples dedicated to her. The priests maintain a loose personal connection with each other, meeting up periodically for informal conventions every once in a while, usually coinciding with interesting astronomical occurances.

That said, I do have the occasional breakaway group that's doing their own thing. I ran a campaign around a splinter Urgathoa cult who worshipped her as "The Scythe Mother," who wanted to bestow the "gift" of unlife onto everyone... willing or not. The PCs ended up getting some help from the "mainstream" Urgathoans.

There are some heretical groups in Golarion canon. Some that come to mind are... the militant Sarenites in the Cult of the Dawnflower in Qadira; those who worship a non-evil Nocticula as a goddess of sexual outcasts; and the Glorious Revolution, a sect of Iomedeans who are trying to reclaim the throne of Cheliax at the expense of Mendevian Crusades; and some cults of Desna who have strange and unusual practices, such as the one in Ravenmoor.

Spoiler for 'Feast of Ravenmoor':
...which we find out is actually a cult of Ghlaunder masquerading as Desnans, twisting the faith of the townsfolk to evil.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

The issue with this is not that it doesn't work, and it does keep heresy to a minimum, but for some things it runs into a few problems:

1. People rarely question what they believe. If you truly believe X and your God gives you power...are you really gonna believe that guy over there when he tells you you're only mostly right? Are you even gonna check?

In matters serious enough to be considered heresy? Yes.

There may be some people who wouldn't but I would imagine that most people who could check it would. Enough that they could get a straight answer.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


2. Commune is not a low level spell.

Assuming, based on the settlement rules, that one in 2,500 people is a 9th level or higher spellcaster and further assuming that half of those are Clerics, and further assuming that all Clerics are of one of the core 20 Gods...we're talking something like 1 in 100,000 people who can cast that spell for any particular deity.

And those numbers are overly generous, it's likely more like half that number. Certainly far less for obscure deities. With numbers like that, it's very possible there's nobody around to cast Commune.

Well I mostly play Mystara which has high-level folks coming out the seems, so finding someone to cast Commune should be easy enough with any major Immortal. I can't speak for how things work in detail in Golarion, but in serious enough matters I really can't see how the word of the god doesn't make it around eventually. Sure, for a minor cleric somewhere to start spreading heretical teachings with no one to determine whether he's right or wrong, it make take a while to filter through to those with power or never get noticed, but you won't be getting anything like the major religious splits we've had IRL without someone checking it out.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


3. And even assuming someone is around to cast Commune, you have to trust them. The spell doesn't summon the deity to write the answer in letter of fire, it just gives that one person knowledge. Who's to say they're telling the truth? Most of the faithful will probably be willing to believe them, but a group that's already on the outs? I wouldn't count on it.

Possibly, possibly. People are strange and stupid, after all. But how many would accuse someone who has just received the direct divine revelation on matters of doctrine of lying about it? That sounds like a great way to lose your clerical powers to me.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
If people with 'heretical' beliefs still get spells from the same god as the orthodox it should indicate that the god doesn't have a problem with whatever beliefs are 'wrong' this time around.

This really depends on the God and situation.

Look at the Cult of the Dawnflower in They tolerate slavery and advocate a variety of hardline stances that Sarenrae does not approve of. However, they are still within one step of her Alignment, do a variety of good works, and she's the literal deity of forgiveness and mercy, so she's giving them time to see the error of their ways.

This basically proves my point, doesn't it? Saranae obviously doesn't care enough about opposing slavery and whatnot to do anything about it when her own faithful are OK with it, so there isn't really anything wrong with it. At worst it's something along the lines 'please don't do X, but you won't get any real punishment for it'.

Slight tangent: As for the one step alignment shift thing, I much preferred how BECMI (and I believe 2e)did it: each Immortal listed allowed alignments of laity and clergy, which could be 'any'.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


As another example, the Pharasmin penitents endure great and terrible austerities and engage in self-flagellation for their Goddess. She really and sincerely doesn't care, but given that she doesn't care she's not putting a stop to it either.

Anything that goes directly against the God's teachings or drives you more than one step out of synch with their alignment will result in the heresy getting suppressed quick, but other stuff? Not necessarily.

That's basically what I've been saying, isn't it? Is any given idea really heretical if the god doesn't care? If clerics still get powers and no sanctions for doing X, there isn't a problem. And a quick Commune or lesser divination should be enough to answer whether some aspect of doctrine is bad or not. In this particular case, worshipers who stop being all masochistic might be unorthodox but they won't be actually heretical. At least not in the sense of one side being right and the others wrong.


I run it more or less Eberron style. If you believe in an entity and worship it, you get powers from it, including heretical/fringe sorts of beliefs. So, two people could worship the same fire god, one a mad pyromaniac that thinks all must burn to please his god, the other seeing fire as a more benevolent force, protection from dark and cold, both seeing the other as doing it the wrong way, when there really isn't a wrong way.

Notes:
1. There are no gods in my campaigns. They're simply anthropomorphic representations of beliefs; all clerics etc are 'clerics of a philosophy', they just put a face and a name on it.

2. I strongly de-emphasize alignment, so the 'one step' rule does not apply.


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In my old D&D 3 campaign, heretics were legion because, so long as you truly believed, something was going to grant you those powers, fallen clerics were the result of crises of faiths, not mistaken/aberrant faith... of course, it might come as a nasty surprise when you discover that your powers have been funded for years by someentity for the lower planes, and it suddenly demands true service...

Liberty's Edge

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Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

In matters serious enough to be considered heresy? Yes.

There may be some people who wouldn't but I would imagine that most people who could check it would. Enough that they could get a straight answer.

Have you ever actually debated a religious person about something that is commonly said to be supported by their faith but is not actually supported (or even contradicted) by their holy text?

I have. Their ability to say 'Nope, I don't believe it.' is pretty impressive. I don't see why their God being real would change that tendency of human behavior.

People's capacity to only believe what they want to believe even in the face of direct evidence is well nigh unlimited.

And I say this as a religious person.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Well I mostly play Mystara which has high-level folks coming out the seems, so finding someone to cast Commune should be easy enough with any major Immortal. I can't speak for how things work in detail in Golarion, but in serious enough matters I really can't see how the word of the god doesn't make it around eventually. Sure, for a minor cleric somewhere to start spreading heretical teachings with no one to determine whether he's right or wrong, it make take a while to filter through to those with power or never get noticed, but you won't be getting anything like the major religious splits we've had IRL without someone checking it out.

Such heresies will definitely be less common the more high level people you have around to cast Commune. And you definitely won't get something huge in the way of a church split like the Protestant Reformation.

But smaller heresies can still creep in, as can large heresies in an isolated group, which was rather my point.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Possibly, possibly. People are strange and stupid, after all. But how many would accuse someone who has just received the direct divine revelation on matters of doctrine of lying about it? That sounds like a great way to lose your clerical powers to me.

Does it? Two people can be devoutly faithful to the same faith and still hate each others' guts. A Paladin seems unlikely to take a LE Cleric's word for much of anything, for example, and both of them can be coreligionists.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
This basically proves my point, doesn't it? Saranae obviously doesn't care enough about opposing slavery and whatnot to do anything about it when her own faithful are OK with it, so there isn't really anything wrong with it. At worst it's something along the lines 'please don't do X, but you won't get any real punishment for it'.

Uh...what part of 'Goddess of Mercy' was unclear? It's not that she's okay with any of that, she is profoundly not okay with any of it, she's just so far unwilling to bring the hammer down on the people in question, because that wouldn't exactly be merciful. She's been trying to gently guide them back to the path of righteousness rather than being all dictatorial and smite-y because that's who she is.

She's also very close to just bringing the hammer down anyway, because they haven't been listening.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Slight tangent: As for the one step alignment shift thing, I much preferred how BECMI (and I believe 2e)did it: each Immortal listed allowed alignments of laity and clergy, which could be 'any'.

Well, per the official Pathfinder rules, laity can be any Alignment for any God. Clerics and other priests just need to be within one step.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
That's basically what I've been saying, isn't it? Is any given idea really heretical if the god doesn't care? If clerics still get powers and no sanctions for doing X, there isn't a problem. And a quick Commune or lesser divination should be enough to answer whether some aspect of doctrine is bad or not. In this particular case, worshipers who stop being all masochistic might be unorthodox but they won't be actually heretical. At least not in the sense of one side being right and the others wrong.

My whole point was that the masochism was the heresy, actually. And one of long standing.

And that's the thing, the heresy in question is 'Pharasma demands this.' which is factually untrue and makes their faith deeply heretical in many ways. It's just not a heresy that the Goddess herself actually cares much about.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

In matters serious enough to be considered heresy? Yes.

There may be some people who wouldn't but I would imagine that most people who could check it would. Enough that they could get a straight answer.

Have you ever actually debated a religious person about something that is commonly said to be supported by their faith but is not actually supported (or even contradicted) by their holy text?

I have. Their ability to say 'Nope, I don't believe it.' is pretty impressive. I don't see why their God being real would change that tendency of human behavior.

People's capacity to only believe what they want to believe even in the face of direct evidence is well nigh unlimited.

I have too, but again, real world with no gods vs fantasy world with actual gods. If the god doesn't care, it doesn't matter. It's not heretical (as in 'wrong' rather than merely unusual) if the god doesn't care. And again, in a world where gods actually do exist and can literally answer questions, you don't have to have the nonsensical blind faith and 'mysterious ways' and revelations given to a single guy who everyone else just has to take at his word. If you can ask and get a straight answer, when divine revelation really can be sent to lots of people, when holy messengers can be summoned fairly easily, I can't help but think that people will be more inclined to ask the actual source than in our world.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Such heresies will definitely be less common the more high level people you have around to cast Commune. And you definitely won't get something huge in the way of a church split like the Protestant Reformation.

But smaller heresies can still creep in, as can large heresies in an isolated group, which was rather my point.

Minor points of disagreement with larger groups, yeah, but anything really wrong should result in some obvious warning or punishment regardless of how many people do it. Not just getting a few things wrong or making mistakes or a bad choice here and there, but routinely and dogmatically violating the tenets that a god really pushes should result in some sort of obvious warning or punishment.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

Possibly, possibly. People are strange and stupid, after all. But how many would accuse someone who has just received the direct divine revelation on matters of doctrine of lying about it? That sounds like a great way to lose your clerical powers to me.

Does it? Two people can be devoutly faithful to the same faith and still hate each others' guts. A Paladin seems unlikely to take a LE Cleric's word for much of anything, for example, and both of them can be coreligionists.

They can hate each other's guts but one would hope that they could at least be honest with each other regarding the truth of actual doctrine. Being personally horrible to each other is one thing but lying about your god's will is another entirely. Sure, you have a@#!~$@~ gods and people who want to lie about everything but then we have moved from honest disagreement about something to actual deceit (which I personally would be very careful about when trying to convince people of what my patron deity wanted).

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

This basically proves my point, doesn't it? Saranae obviously doesn't care enough about opposing slavery and whatnot to do anything about it when her own faithful are OK with it, so there isn't really anything wrong with it. At worst it's something along the lines 'please don't do X, but you won't get any real punishment for it'.

Uh...what part of 'Goddess of Mercy' was unclear? It's not that she's okay with any of that, she is profoundly not okay with any of it, she's just so far unwilling to bring the hammer down on the people in question, because that wouldn't exactly be merciful. She's been trying to gently guide them back to the path of righteousness rather than being all dictatorial and smite-y because that's who she is.

She's also very close to just bringing the hammer down anyway, because they haven't been listening.

"Mercy" can mean many things. I can name a number of supposedly merciful 'real' gods that are anything but according to pretty much all doctrine and 'action'.

So if I get this right, a heretical belief pops up and people ignore warnings from their god that it is wrong. Am I right?
Sounds like this is on the people being willfully stupid and the god being willfully stupid as well. This is a case where heresy is allowed to persist because the god doesn't think it important enough to take appropriate measures to stop before it becomes a serious problem. Doesn't really contradict anything I've said.
A god who really dislikes something is perfectly capable of making her opinion known on no uncertain terms. Losing divine powers for wrongful acts is hardly excessive punishment or an insurmountable obstacle, yet it's a very obvious sign of displeasure.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


My whole point was that the masochism was the heresy, actually. And one of long standing.

And that's the thing, the heresy in question is 'Pharasma demands this.' which is factually untrue and makes their faith deeply heretical in many ways. It's just not a heresy that the Goddess herself actually cares much about.

Again, if the god doesn't care it isn't really a heresy, is it?


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:
Also that begs my second point: do you have different versions of your deities representing pagan/heretic/fringe groups of the faithful and cannon?

Not that I play in Golarion, but this question has some problematic assumptions. Ignoring cannon/canon, the very idea of heresy is hard to swallow in a setting with real gods. The point of real world heresy is that people purporting to be of the same faith have Wrong Ideas, which make them not Real Members of X Religion (according to the side accusing the others of heresy). Since they don't have any objective proof or source they can ask to tell them who is right, it's basically just a big game of 'yuh-huh, nuh-uh'.

But how does this work out when the god in question can actually answer? more importantly, can answer in such a way that it is independently verifiable and there are real metaphysical consequences for getting it wrong. There shouldn't be much question whether something is heretical or not if priests can just Commune and ask "Oh Lord, is Bob right in saying that lemons are evil in Your sight?"
If people with 'heretical' beliefs still get spells from the same god as the orthodox it should indicate that the god doesn't have a problem with whatever beliefs are 'wrong' this time around.

what if the heretic is getting their divine magic powers from a demon or some such pretending to be the god in question?

Liberty's Edge

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Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
I have too, but again, real world with no gods vs fantasy world with actual gods. If the god doesn't care, it doesn't matter. It's not heretical (as in 'wrong' rather than merely unusual) if the god doesn't care. And again, in a world where gods actually do exist and can literally answer questions, you don't have to have the nonsensical blind faith and 'mysterious ways' and revelations given to a single guy who everyone else just has to take at his word. If you can ask and get a straight answer, when divine revelation really can be sent to lots of people, when holy messengers can be summoned fairly easily, I can't help but think that people will be more inclined to ask the actual source than in our world.

More inclined? Absolutely. Always do so or listen to the answer they get? Not so much.

And I'll point again to the real world where a number of eminently provable scientific things have been completely denied by relatively large numbers of people under certain circumstances. Evolution and vaccines being a good idea are both stellar examples of things that have been pretty thoroughly proven but there are still large groups of people who actively disbelieve in.

Something intangible that most people can't observe directly like the will of a God is hardly less likely to be disbelieved than things like that.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Minor points of disagreement with larger groups, yeah, but anything really wrong should result in some obvious warning or punishment regardless of how many people do it. Not just getting a few things wrong or making mistakes or a bad choice here and there, but routinely and dogmatically violating the tenets that a god really pushes should result in some sort of obvious warning or punishment.

Eventually? Yes. But we're talking about busy immortal beings. Eventually could be a few hundred years, depending on circumstances and how great the heresy is. Heck, if it's within one step of their alignment it isn't even enough for them to strip powers from an individual Cleric. Not inherently anyway.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
They can hate each other's guts but one would hope that they could at least be honest with each other regarding the truth of actual doctrine. Being personally horrible to each other is one thing but lying about your god's will is another entirely. Sure, you have a%@#!+&# gods and people who want to lie about everything but then we have moved from honest disagreement about something to actual deceit (which I personally would be very careful about when trying to convince people of what my patron deity wanted).

Lying is a tricky bit of terminology. What if they just shade the truth a bit? And many Gods wouldn't object to a bit of that sort of thing at all.

But my point wasn't actually that the LE guy would lie, it's that many a Paladin would be deeply suspicious he would and thus not believe him even if he isn't.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

"Mercy" can mean many things. I can name a number of supposedly merciful 'real' gods that are anything but according to pretty much all doctrine and 'action'.

So if I get this right, a heretical belief pops up and people ignore warnings from their god that it is wrong. Am I right?
Sounds like this is on the people being willfully stupid and the god being willfully stupid as well. This is a case where heresy is allowed to persist because the god doesn't think it important enough to take appropriate measures to stop before it becomes a serious problem. Doesn't really contradict anything I've said.
A god who really dislikes something is perfectly capable of making her opinion known on no uncertain terms. Losing divine powers for wrongful acts is hardly excessive punishment or an insurmountable obstacle, yet it's a very obvious sign of displeasure.

This seems to hold the position that Gods can do whatever they like whenever they like, or at least descend from the heavens and directly speak to their worshipers without spells being involved. That's rather profoundly untrue in Golarion and most other settings. If the Gods can enact absolute signs like this on a regular basis what stops them from, say, smiting the looming evils of the setting?

Gods freedom of action is sharply circumscribed (by mutual agreement) in Golarion, limiting them to communicating with their worshipers in subtle ways for the most part unless directly asked. Something similar seems to be true in most other settings featuring deities, IME.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Again, if the god doesn't care it isn't really a heresy, is it?

Factually untrue statements about a deity and their portfolio remain heretical even if the God in question doesn't care that much about them.

djdust wrote:
what if the heretic is getting their divine magic powers from a demon or some such pretending to be the god in question?

Also, there's this. When you have fiendish deities out there with 'heresy' as one of their primary areas of interest, and other similar things, you get people spreading actual lies about what a particular deity might want, and often in a very convincing manner.

Shadow Lodge

The definition of heresy is simply "belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine." It doesn't necessarily have to be a serious disagreement, though it's usually used that way.

Any given that there were/are a lot of Christian heresies, even a greatly reduced frequency of heresy in a fantasy world would probably still result in the occasional heresy popping up.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Slight tangent: As for the one step alignment shift thing, I much preferred how BECMI (and I believe 2e)did it: each Immortal listed allowed alignments of laity and clergy, which could be 'any'.

I like this idea and am considering implementing it in my current setting. For example, the god of punishment might accept only LN and LE followers, while the LN death goddess would probably be fine with any non-chaotic followers.

Grand Lodge

UnArcaneElection wrote:
Also, it is highly likely that various deities will be trying to interfere with each other's elections influence each other's worshippers in a direction favorable to themselves. I would expect Asmodeus to make this a fine art, but several other deities are probably no slouches in this department either.

This is Geryon's department, really. He even takes churches as actual buildings to Hell as trophies.

He, or his followers/servants would be pretty good candidates for what happened with the Cult of the Dawnflower, for example. Baphomet among demon lords, along with his followers is another clear suspect. Anyway, it's a good campaign plot hook. You don't need adventurers when everything is just running smoothly...

In any case, Asmodeus (and Mephistophles, who shares his church, who is effectively the Antichrist) would definitely have the most hierarchical church in Golarion without a doubt.

In any case, according to Inner Sea Gods, Saranrae has one of the stronger churches around as well (even if we ignore the Cult of the Dawnflower completely).

Among Lawful deities, Erastil's church would probably stand out as particularly disorganized, given that the emphasis is made on small insular communities by the faith itself, as well as the god.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

In matters serious enough to be considered heresy? Yes.

There may be some people who wouldn't but I would imagine that most people who could check it would. Enough that they could get a straight answer.

Have you ever actually debated a religious person about something that is commonly said to be supported by their faith but is not actually supported (or even contradicted) by their holy text?

I have. Their ability to say 'Nope, I don't believe it.' is pretty impressive. I don't see why their God being real would change that tendency of human behavior.
{. . .}

On our world, it gets even worse than that -- people will get a set idea about what other real people said or wrote (sometimes including yourself, and including government institutions), and it becomes impossible to debate them rationally.


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Mark Hoover wrote:
Also that begs my second point: do you have different versions of your deities representing pagan/heretic/fringe groups of the faithful and canon?

I definitely do this. I don't like to be too prescriptive, since I like to encourage my players to add details like this - if they come up with something way off from what I'd pictured, this allows some wriggle room to fit their interpretation in with mine.


I run them as they are described by Pathfinder. I'm not a big fan of homebrewing -not that good at it and no time. I love having organised religion in my games so there's usually some cleric or priest npc that will do a bit of "explaining" about their deity and religion in general. I find that religion and politics make the games more interesting (currently running a solo campaign for a worshiper of Milani in Chelliax) and the world more realistic. As a player I prefer no homebrewing also, because I enjoy reading about religion in Golarion and rather not have to ask the DM "So is Sarenrae as she is described in your setting?"


Sorry about the messed up formatting: browser not wanting to quote things properly.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


More inclined? Absolutely. Always do so or listen to the answer they get? Not so much.

And I'll point again to the real world where a number of eminently provable scientific things have been completely denied by relatively large numbers of people under certain circumstances. Evolution and vaccines being a good idea are both stellar examples of things that have been pretty thoroughly proven but there are still large groups of people who actively disbelieve in.

Something intangible that most people can't observe directly like the will of a God is hardly less likely to be disbelieved than things like that.

People may be stupid and pig-headed but one something directly impacts them, most people should take a hint. If a cleric espousing stuff her patron doesn't approve of loses powers, you'd think most people would take a hint.

I've never said heresies won't pop up, just that I can't see them becoming very big or lasting very long.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Eventually? Yes. But we're talking about busy immortal beings. Eventually could be a few hundred years, depending on circumstances and how great the heresy is. Heck, if it's within one step of their alignment it isn't even enough for them to strip powers from an individual Cleric. Not inherently anyway.

But not too busy to constantly give spells, I guess. We're getting into unknown territory about exactly how much a god pays attention to what is going on, how much if can comprehend at one time, what sort of mechanism goes into granting spells and sending visions, etc.

My position is that if the god is generally paying attention enough to grant spells, it's paying enough attention to do something about a heretical belief before it becomes a big problem. The god probably won't read the cleric's mind the moment a bad thought forms and send a solar to straighten him out, but by the time the heresy is big enough to be of some concern, the god will have gotten wind of it and can do something about it.

If it isn't a big enough heresy to bother to handle immediately, it is hardly worth calling a heresy, which has been my position all along.

Quote:


Lying is a tricky bit of terminology. What if they just shade the truth a bit? And many Gods wouldn't object to a bit of that sort of thing at all.

If the god doesn't care, it isn't much of a heresy now, is it?

I've said this before.

More later, gotta run.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
But my point wasn't actually that the LE guy would lie, it's that many a Paladin would be deeply suspicious he would and thus not believe him even if he isn't.

Suspicious, sure. Perhaps suspicious enough to seek independent verification.

Deadmanwalking wrote:

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

"Mercy" can mean many things. I can name a number of supposedly merciful 'real' gods that are anything but according to pretty much all doctrine and 'action'.

So if I get this right, a heretical belief pops up and people ignore warnings from their god that it is wrong. Am I right?
Sounds like this is on the people being willfully stupid and the god being willfully stupid as well. This is a case where heresy is allowed to persist because the god doesn't think it important enough to take appropriate measures to stop before it becomes a serious problem. Doesn't really contradict anything I've said.
A god who really dislikes something is perfectly capable of making her opinion known on no uncertain terms. Losing divine powers for wrongful acts is hardly excessive punishment or an insurmountable obstacle, yet it's a very obvious sign of displeasure.

This seems to hold the position that Gods can do whatever they like whenever they like, or at least descend from the heavens and directly speak to their worshipers without spells being involved. That's rather profoundly untrue in Golarion and most other settings. If the Gods can enact absolute signs like this on a regular basis what stops them from, say, smiting the looming evils of the setting?

Gods freedom of action is sharply circumscribed (by mutual agreement) in Golarion, limiting them to communicating with their worshipers in subtle ways for the most part unless directly asked. Something similar seems to be true in most other settings featuring deities, IME.

Are Golarion's gods prevented from sending prophetic dreams and visions? Is there some reason they cannot withdraw their blessings to clerics and paladins? If not, then they can do exactly as much as needed to show their displeasure. It may not be as in-your-face as a big honking outsider with a flaming sword giving people the Word, but it should do the trick.

Deadmanwalking wrote:

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

Again, if the god doesn't care it isn't really a heresy, is it?

Factually untrue statements about a deity and their portfolio remain heretical even if the God in question doesn't care that much about them.

And if the god doesn't care about it, it isn't important and hardly worth calling a heresy.

I will restate my position, since it seems to be forgotten: big schisms on important matters of doctrine should be practically impossible in worlds like Golarion where both parties have plenty of opportunity and ability to get a clear answer.
Sure, minor inaccuracies may show up, people may disagree on this and that and something that is technically heretical may persist, but anything truly offensive to the deity should be stamped out quickly. All it takes is clergy losing their powers.

Deadmanwalking wrote:

what if the heretic is getting their divine magic powers from a demon or some such pretending to be the god in question?

Also, there's this. When you have fiendish deities out there with 'heresy' as one of their primary areas of interest, and other similar things, you get people spreading actual lies about what a particular deity might want, and often in a very convincing manner.

This seems pretty stupid to me for all the reasons previously mentioned. But if we really want to go down that path, it doesn't matter in the end. If a demon/god can imitate another god well enough to fool people then it will be pretty much pure luck who you end up actually worshipping, so heresies and attempts to convey correct doctrine are mostly irrelevant. There could be a huge variety of different sects all claiming to have the truth and noone could prove anything.

Sounds familiar....

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