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How can the state challenge the role of religious authorities in a world of living gods?


Parallel to our reality is an alternate universe called the empyrean in which spiritual entities reside. These entities are regarded as creators of the human race and are worshipped as divine beings, which make up a pantheon of Gods in our world. The priesthood are the interlopers between man and gods, and use the blessings gained from this relationship to perform miracles of power. As such, their influence is intertwined within public and private life. Although a state government rules over the nation with complete political power, they depend on religious authorities to retain their legitimacy in the eyes of the public. However, the state finds this suffocating and seeks to free itself from the shackles of foolish traditions and outdated beliefs of worship in order to achieve more power for itself. A secret organization has discovered a way to utilize divine energy by summoning entities from the empyrean and binding them to machines to imprison them. By capturing and enslaving gods, they can use their energy to power technological feats, which holds the promise of leading to new advances in society. The state intends to incorporate this organization into its own bureaucracy to put forth a new philosophy. Worshipping and venerating gods restricts humanity's true potential as a species. Rather, it is Humanity's destiny to surpass and subjugate its creators, venerating our own achievements as our own instead of attributing them to otherworldly powers. By enslaving and humbling God, we free ourselves from the restrictions of our makers and rise above them to realize our true capabilities, leading to constant improvement and eventual perfection.

With the rest of society embracing this philosophical mentality, the state will no longer have to share power with insufferable old fools consumed with traditional dogma, and will be free to persecute these sects and institutions with impunity. Veneration of the priesthood will be forgotten, replaced with intellectuals and elites who will lead society through logic and pragmatism, using reason and logic to address society's ills. Insidious laughter will then ensue. However, faith and religion have always been tied to this society, suggesting that man has an inborn desire to worship something higher than itself. The communist nations who tried to eliminate religion from the state devolved into a cult of personality, and suffered an inevitable decline with the passing of their founder. The closest example in history is the Cult of Reason, France's state sponsored atheistic religion during the French Revolution in the 1800s. This cult was meant to replace the Roman Catholic Church, which many saw as a corrupt institution of the elite. It led to the dechristianization of France, through confiscation of church land and property, subjugation of the clergy to the state, and persecution of non-compliant sects. This would ultimately fail, as the cult despised by most people for their secularist ideology and considered them to be heretical, including the revolutionaries who hated the church.

The government needs to remove the priesthood and their belief system within daily life in order to replace them with the state-sanctioned atheistic philosophy: the creed that gods exist but are meant to be subjugated and enslaved by mortals for the continual advancement of society. Simply discretizing them as a corrupt organization wouldn't be enough to turn people against their gods, and using force would create a civil war, as the religious sects are as powerful as the state in many ways. How can the state discredit religious authorities when gods are real and can be proven to exist?


Myth Weaver
Separate children from their parents and give them computers.

I dont know, if gods are actual, even enslaved, it seems a leap to me to think they would be able to be removed form the minds of people, cause...there would just be right over there. Only, they would not seem very powerful if they were enslaved, so....I am not sure I would worship that.

I think this would probably play out like a pendulum, it would go one way, and then come swinging back. Inside the human spirit is a desire to be free of government as well. I think this would go more along the lines of, there would be some change, and some turning back, and some change and some turning back. If the government was too forceful, it would be toppled.


Frankly you're better off looking at the establishment of the Church of England. Sure it was still -a- church, but other than that it fits with the scenario described far better.


Myth Weaver
This depends so much on world-building it's difficult to even suggest an answer. The gods would either have to be wimpy or indifferent to their status. It also depends a bit on whether this is an "active plot" piece or historical background, seeing as the latter would need to be more detailed. It also depends on the timeline, how quickly it needs to be achieved. The creation of an alternate "secular faith" or encompassing philosophy would seem a possible route, similar to socialism/communism, which essentially replaces religion with faith in the state.

But in the end, you are playing god, so you get to decide until your characters no longer believe in you.
Were this mine, my world to mold, I would create a charismatic leader who not only uses these "god-powered machines" to gain power (probably through warfare) but parades himself around as The Subjugator of Gods or some such.

Basically, there'd have to be a public spectacle. This charismatic leader might even show this subjugation in action, as he and/or his elite class of subjugators draw that energy into our world and force it into machinery, in the public square or on television or whatever. (I'm not sure what level of technology this world has.)

This might well create a cult of personality for this leader. But in the meantime, people will be seeing this happen, not only the subjugation of gods but also the many benefits of doing so. You could borrow from the Protestant Reformation and show how these god-infused devices benefit the common person. "Why petition these greedy priests for a miracle—knowing you will probably be ignored—when you can carry God around in your pocket?" Even if the charismatic leader is overthrown in some way, the lessons will remain, and probably the movement will remain.

Have you ever listened to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast? One series is called Death Throes of the Republic, in which he explores the end of the Roman Republic. It's six long episodes, most about an hour and a half, but the sixth is over five hours. He spends some time discussing the rise and fall of a series of populists—all of them quashed until they weren't. The movements kept going even if the leaders were murdered.

Chances are very good the priesthood will fight back, and things would come to a head, so there would be war between the groups. Whether this is an all-out traditional sort of war, a series of isolated but determinative events, or something else would depend on how quickly and in what ways you want to show the gradual transition of power.


Myth Weaver
A few truisms -

Pride goes before a fall - which applies to classical pagan deities as well as mortals.

One step behind - or to put it another way, the more absolute beliefs you hold, the more restricted your options are in anything pertaining to those beliefs. This is especially true of cults, be they religious or political. People who lack these absolute beliefs can come up with options literally unthinkable to those who do subscribe to them.

Not-so-hidden flaws - absolutists systems tend to be both massively corrupt and monumentally incompetent.

The state (or church) as I - those at the top of the hierarchy tend to 'blur the line' between their interests and those of the state or church. Hence, personal enemies/issues/ resources are seen as state/church enemies/resources/issues...which leads to all sorts of problems.