Religious Problems in your Milieu


WOW, I honestly didn’t expect such a good reaction to my druid post. Around here, they aren’t that popular of a character class. I think that there is a mystery to how religions used to function. I mean, in high school literature they teach you Roman and Greek mythology, as it is very rich. I discovered a problem with my lack of faith early in life, I was baptized into Roman Catholicism, but in the 80’s my folks stopped taking me, as our regular priest was granted the rank of Bishop, and he was replaced by a pervert who got caught shoplifting porno mags from the local sex shop. GREAT STUFF!!! I think that something like that is enough to cause anybody to have second thoughts about the people who choose to dedicate their lives to God.

I tried other Christian religions, but none of them filled me up the way that Catholicism did, thus I went the other way. I studied the occult, and devils, and Satanism; this is some scary stuff, which got me into tons of trouble. It was then, at this climax in my life, when I needed spiritual assistance the most, that I discovered the Norse Runes. I found them to be magnificent, their magic easily grasped, but they are like chess, easy to learn but very very difficult to master. I have always felt that one’s relationship with God should be very personal. I have always had problems with every form of Christianity, I have a deep understanding of it, though I have found much more worth as a private practitioner, and I am not very Christian at all. I understand what God is, and that people need Deities to give it a human face to gaze upon.

There is some confusion about Neo-paganism. That we worship many gods, which isn’t true, we worship one god, but we break the one god down into many different parts, or aspects. Once one understands that all gods are one god, and that the myths are about us, then we understand the basic foundation of all religions.

I really enjoy the Nordic Mythology of Odin and Thor, of course this history is not as complete as the Roman myths, much of it was never written down, and many of the ones that we do have are either highly important to understanding, else are simply just the tales of bards which entertained the writer. There is also much mystery to them, or their incompleteness, how many “important” myths were lost, forever? That answer, is no doubt, MANY!

Christianity, I believe, has made us as a race, rather confused. Religion has always been about people and god, it has always dictated, to the people, what is proper behavior, and what is not; however, Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism, actually took over as the law. One can accurately say that at one point, the Pope was more politically powerful then the grandest king. I do not believe that in the history of man, that a religion was ever as aggressive, nor as wealthy as Christianity. How did this happen? This too is a mystery.

I will admit that the Roman’s came close. The Romans also built elaborate temples, as did the Babylonians. Permanent structures dedicated to a specific god, with acolytes of that god always on hand on a full-time basis. As far as I can estimate, this is very rare, and it says something about the culture who did it. And was it not the great city of Rome that was the first city to be crushed by the Christian religious war? I doubt that it was the first battle, but the falling out of the Roman gods and the belief in the Christian faith was the first decisive victory.

All of this is good and dandy, however how does this help us in D&D which is the name of the game? I don’t really want to get too far into religion here, that isn’t why I started this blog, but religion does come into play.

Folks seem to avoid the classic archetype of the original PC Cleric. The mace wielding, undead turning, spell-caster of gaming’s past, into more of a Christian take on old religions. But do we really know any better? Christianity has us by the throats and won’t let us go.

Some classes, in and of themselves upset the balance which we might want to keep, thus begging the question, do we introduce an all consuming religion into our milieu, or do we resist it?

I believe that most religions in the dawn of man, were based on answering problems. Why does the sun move across the sky? What do the seasons mean? Big questions! God provided and punished wickedness though providing food and animals. By teaching us about tools, and methods of our survival.

Once we evolved past tribal life, we settled down and cities became. Gods are different for city life, we still sought protection, and wealth, however we had time to ponder a different question, what happens to us after our death? It also brought plagues and sickness, new gods for us to fear! Temples were raised to honor them, out of fear and hope they came to be.

Christianity started as a slave religion, the religion of the Jews. Once Christ came, the religion changed into one of forgiveness and hope. A caring god, one who let us punish ourselves, and gave us new gods and myths for us to chew on that were more relevant to the times. However the teachings of Jesus went into one ear, and right out the other. Christianity grew in strength through the blade of a sword. Once it took the minds of the Nobles, it took over government. The old ways are still around . . . the old gods are not dead, their ghosts are still around. The people hid their beliefs.

Today we have this Wiccan stuff which claims that witchcraft is a religion, which it isn’t. A witch is not a healer, they are the spies of hell. Demons in human form, who sold their souls to the devil for powers beyond the realm of mankind. A healer, and the old religions are not witchcraft! I have no idea why they chose this title? Perhaps to shove the Witchhunts in their faces, attempting to gleam some kind of pity from the church, or some way to legitimize what they are doing, making it appear to be an older faith then what it really is.

Now that I have properly offended the Wiccans, let us go back to the topic. Who was in charge of religion prior to city life? The answer is simple! We all were. Fathers taught their sons the gods, and what they do. Holidays were practiced by everyone. In small towns alters were erected, but people also kept them in their homes. There were no true clerics in the modern sense of the word. Before the age of writing, none of it was written down, it was all a oral history about our past. Great men and women from our histories became Gods, and we invoked their names to keep our children informed of what is to come, and to instill in them, and ourselves, a specific code of conduct which we shared as a culture.

I think that this is important! The church is a bi-product of what happens to a culture when they all lose their faiths. When they cease to need God, and stop looking up. God to us, evolves as our minds do. I don’t think that we would be happy with worshiping a god of the hunt, because how many of us are forced to hunt for our survival? As long as we can go down to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up a package of ground beef, we could give a crap about the god of the hunt!

The gods reflect the people, they always have. They display the cultures needs, their fears, and their desires. How did they go about practicing these beliefs? What are the cultures holidays? Are they private, or are they practiced as a community? Should we instill a dominant, and violently zealous religion into our worlds, they are dual bladed. On one hand, you have noble paladins, but on the other, you have religious war and witch hunts. Paladins cannot exist without power and wealth, and where do they get their wealth? Why from other people, of course! Some knightly orders were usually founded upon the wealth of a man, but it stays rich by hunting down the enemies of their gods and taking their land and money. But paladins are Lawful Good? Well, one final thought before I go. In the legends of King Arthur, all of the knights of the round table were Cavaliers, but just one, Sir Lancelot, was a Paladin.

18 comments:

The Lord of Excess said...

I agree with most of what you've said ... I think its a very good piece with some good old common sense observations about religion. Better yet you bring it home to RPGs. Good article. One thing I will say is that A) the god of the Old testament is undeniably a different god than that of the new testament. B) Christianity is really a plundered religion. There are so many people out there who blindly believe anything they are told, never questioning, never wondering and examining. Christianity is based on various versions of the bible written by men (not god) who largely plagiarized/stole concepts, stories, etc. from other religions. They proceeded to base an undying corporate organization on these literary works which gave them tremendous power and control over western civilization for well over a millennium. This could turn into one long, long post ... but I'll give at least one example. If you look at all of the holy dates, the details of the Christ resurrection, etc. etc. they are all stolen from other religions. The story of the resurrection of Christ is so closely tied to the story of Horus (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5b.htm)

David Macauley said...

There is some confusion about Neo-paganism. That we worship many gods, which isn’t true, we worship one god, but we break the one god down into many different parts, or aspects.

Actually this is incorrect. While some neo-pagans do indeed subscribe to your belief that all gods are one god, some are die-hard polytheists and would take great offence to being tarred with the brush of what they see as a pseudo-Christian belief. And interestingly, most neo-pagans who subscribe to the all gods are one god belief seem to be ex-Christians.

Today we have this Wiccan stuff which claims that witchcraft is a religion, which it isn’t. A witch is not a healer, they are the spies of hell. Demons in human form, who sold their souls to the devil for powers beyond the realm of mankind.

This statement shows appalling ignorance about the history of witchcraft and Wicca, and once again smacks of the ex-Christian neo-pagan who is still carrying around a lot of Christian baggage and has swallowed hook, line and sinker the propoganda of Christianity. Sad stuff indeed.

If you want a more balanced view on the subject, try reading the works of Bristol University's Professor Ronald Hutton, a specialist in Medieval and Early Modern History, in particular his books Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft and The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles.

The former book, to quote Wikipedia, "examined the development of Wicca and the context in which it formed. He questioned many assumptions about its development and argued that many of the claimed connections to longstanding hidden pagan traditions are questionable at best. However, he also argued for its importance as a genuine new religious movement. It has been described by Wiccan Frederic Lamond as "an authority on the history of Gardnerian Wicca"."

To state that Wicca is not a religion is either incredibly ignorant, or incredibly arrogant. Hutton shows that Wicca is a modern religion that came into being as the end result of two centuries of cultural developments. It's arrogant to believe that "my religion" is valid because it is old, but "your" religion is false because it's young.

Sadly these two inaccurate points in this post have coloured my view of the whole thing. It's a shame that someone who obviously puts so much time and effort into his writings, could be so incredibly off the mark on two easily researched subjects. And no I am neither a Wiccan or neo-pagan, just an atheist who does his homework.

Allandaros said...

Wow. This managed to turn me off AG&T completely, after I'd been reading for a few months. Too bad.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

You've managed to make major factual errors on the Greek and Roman religions (particularly their cultic practices), early Judaism ("slave religion??!!"), early Christianity (big difference between post-New Testament and post-Constantine), paganism (old and new), and even the origin of tools and technology. And, apart from factual errors, using terms like cleric and paladin in interpreting religious and cultural history is a break from reality.

kaeosdad... said...

Ah well, too bad for people being caught up in a twist over trivial details. I thought the overall point was well written.

I say fuck it and look past errors and differing opinions on what religion is and isn't a religion. Personally I'm not well educated or knowledgeable about history, I care more about absolutes and this sentence I thought was absolutely the point:

The gods reflect the people, they always have. They display the cultures needs, their fears, and their desires.

So rather than get bogged down by errors or whatevers why don't we just have fun with it? Ask more questions and come up with more answers? Oddly enough I've been thinking about beliefs and D&D all day.

kaeosdad... said...

http://symptomsofmadness.blogspot.com/2009/10/tomorrow-people.html

Here's a post I put up about questions I ask myself about beliefs and how it relates to gaming. It's more of general questions and doesn't get too much into specifics

Ripper X said...

All of this is "My" opinion. That is what a blog is. I can't write about your opinions because I don't know them. Besides, it would be a very boring world indeed if we all had the same one.

Thanks everyone for their comments, but I do have a need to express more information in regards to my comment, Witchcraft isn't religion. I stand by this statement and point out that being psychic isn't a religion either. Wicca IS an established and very rich religion, there is no debate about that. In order to qualify as a religion, one must worship a god, or gods; casting spells requires no faith, however summoning specific spirits, and honoring them is definitely a faith!

Oh, and yes, the Jews were all slaves, and I find the fact that later, after they earned their freedom from their oppressors, their oppressors turned to their faith to form a basis of their own.

My point wasn't to make you angry, but to point out questions which I don't know the answers too. Christianity sought to destroy every religion out there, even if that meant erasing history. THAT IS TERRIFYING! And much of it worked. We don't know as much as we should because it has all been burned and destroyed.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

Anger was the furthest thing from my mind. As an agnostic, I am not trying to defend something that I don't believe in, but as someone who has an advanced degree in this stuff your post struck me as eerily similar to the sort of things some Christians used to say (and still do, on occasion) about RPGs. I'm not bothered by your opinion about religion, I agree more than disagree. I guess I was bothered by factual errors and, probably more than anything, what it really has to do with role-playing games. Funny how the most heated blog posts and comments have the least to do with the actual playing of the game.

Brooze the Bear said...

There is a blurry line between faith, religion, culture and political ideoogy and all have traditionally led to genocide. You need not look to Christianity versus paganism, consider that at one time Danes were raiding Britons and British Christianity was deadlocked in a brutal struggle with the Nordic panthenon of the Danes. Each tried to eradicate the others beliefs, religion and culture. I believe that Christianity triumphed in the end because it was more oriented towards building a society. Christian priests did more to establish community amng their worshippers than did Norse priests. At a time there was a period where early Catholic church was ruthessly eradicating early Christian sects - The Manicheans, The Bogomils, The Gnostics etc, those whom the Catholic Church labeled heretics. Not unlike the Cultural Revolution in China and the Stalinist purges in Russia. In that respect religious theology became like political ideology. Same kinds of things went on in Islam and Buddhism.

But this is not about religion, paganism or the coccult, and you can have any kind of setting in D&D! If you want to set this up in your D&D world, it is fine and will probably make your settng a more interesting place to play.

I am not sure of your source for the runic knowledge. It may have colored your perceptions of the other religions. What's your take on Edred Thorsson?

Also, may I suggest that you read Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, awesome book and it may deepen your apprciation of both, the witches and women.

If you gonna read it, I suggest that you get the Bugrin/O'Conner's translation, by all accounts it's the best translation into Eglish of that novel, and DO NOT read the reviews and outlines of that novel, it's a ride you don't want ruined with plot spoilers!

1d30 said...

This is perhaps why it was decided that D&D magic should be divorced from real-world spiritual practices.

Note that while the Cleric of OD&D had a cross and holy water, these were right next to the wooden stakes and mirror and garlic and wolfsbane. These pieces of equipment were intended for vampire-hunting, not to represent the Cleric as a Christian one.

Of course the Cleric did have Bless, Prayer, Chant, Holy Word, etc. And he could make a Clay Golem. But there were many references in the Clerical spell list that are not present in the Christian holy books. And many religions have practices that are sort of like those of a Cleric.

In fact, the Deities & Demigods book doesn't contain Christian religions. Then again that may have been to avoid pressure by Christians, as the book effectively statted up everyone else's gods like monsters with HP and saves versus breath weapon. Perhaps while it was okay to describe just what you'd need to do to kill Odin or Osiris, people may have gotten upset if Jesus only had 300 HP. Catch him in a narrow hallway with a lightning bolt and you might get lucky! I think his conspicuous absence was a bit of early wisdom on the part of the game designers.

Joseph said...

May I ask what, exactly, your religion is today? It will help me to formulate a response if I know where you're coming from. Many of the statements you've made seem contradictory and erroneous on the surface, but before I give an in-depth reply, knowing your own perspective would be very helpful.

Tala said...

I agree with the fact that witchcraft, in and of itself, is NOT a religion. I myself would be considered a witch. Not in what is the modern sense of the term witch, but in what it originally stood for. Original witches were shamans, healers, diviners, however, those original witches would have been caught dead before calling themselves witches. My religion, is paganism, notably Norse in nature. I am a pagan first and a witch second. I would be what many would call now a Norse witch. I could still worship my Norse gods, and not be a witch, and vice versa. If I was a Christian, I would be a Christian witch.

Spell casting does not require the help of the god(s). Not to say that it doesn't hurt, but it is not necessary. I can still curse others, cast protection, divine the future, without any god(s) at all. However, when I pray or meditate, it is to my gods that I turn to.

I myself have never been Christian. I was not born into a Christian household, nor have I ever been baptized in the Christian way. I have no ex Christian guilt hanging over my head. However, it is from my own observations and studies, that I have found that while Neo-pagans, Wiccans, what have you, do in essence worship one god with many aspects. The maiden, mother, crone, are three different aspects of the same goddess. Just like Christians have the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Three different aspects of the same god. The only thing that I have found to be polytheistic about Neo-Pagans or Wiccans, is the god/goddess worship. However, many would argue that this is only two sides to the same coin, therefore only one god with two faces.

This whole argument and uproar is rather silly. So what as to what Rip's opinions are on his own personal religious beliefs. Is it really that important? What the point was behind the post was whether a permanent religion have a place in your world? Take for instance Earth. The main religion is Christianity. Would your world be the same in the fact that there is one main religion and the possibility of several different religions as well. Or does it even matter and you can allow your PCs or NPCs to have multiple religions that just happen to coexist with no problems? A world that has one main religion, with several smaller ones, could be an interesting standpoint. Would there be crusades to fight for or against? Would villages be seized and tortured simply because they don't believe the right way?

I believe this was the point behind this post and not just a way to piss people off and put their panties in a twist.

Joseph said...

However, it is from my own observations and studies, that I have found that while Neo-pagans, Wiccans, what have you, do in essence worship one god with many aspects. The maiden, mother, crone, are three different aspects of the same goddess. Just like Christians have the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Three different aspects of the same god. The only thing that I have found to be polytheistic about Neo-Pagans or Wiccans, is the god/goddess worship. However, many would argue that this is only two sides to the same coin, therefore only one god with two faces.

That is what is called, in the modern parlance, "soft polytheism". There are, however, quite a few of us who are "hard polytheists", and who absolutely see different Gods and Goddesses as unique individuals, and not as aspects of some overarching Godhead. One of the blind spots of modern Wicca is that many Wiccans don't realize that not all Pagans are Wiccan, and don't necessarily subscribe to their preconceptions.

Valandil said...

Wow Ripper, you´ve got some heated debate going on here!
I LOVE debating about theology,religion and the like, but sadly,I would feel more comfortable doing it in my own language rather than in english.
Anyway,I think that if you give all of us just one or two sentences that sumarize what you intended to say in the first place, everyone would be able to start discussing about D&D,settings, and RPG's in general and stop arguing about all that useless stuff( because here,in a blog about Dungeons and Dragons, religion oriented debates seem a just a little usseles to me).
As always, I´m pleased to know that you keep AG&T updated. By the way, I was having a great time reading your humanoids posts, you should keep writing them!
·Valandil·

Brooze the Bear said...

Tala,
Witch, in itself a Christian term derived from the Church's worldview, and formed, perhaps, as a reaction to Christian theology, just as European Satanism, formed in the context and could not exist apart from Christianity. Early on, Christian Church has declared all of the previous Gods of antiquity to be demons and devils, and with one swoop had marginalized and later outlawed priests of those religions as witches. Ths is not unique to Christianity. Ancient Islam did something similar, when it gave a limited protected/second citizen sttaus to communities of the "people of the book", Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, and then waged a war of extermination against all others - Buddhists, Hindus, and various other followers of animism and folk religions, who would not convert to Islam. In 18-19th Century China Buddkists were known as God-Worshippers because they carried those wide bladed martial arts swords and beheadede those, who practiced other religions and Buddhinsm of other sects. So, this is nothing new or unique to Christianity, or WEstern culture, it is part of the cultural evolution of mankid.

What is important, tough, is that temrs like a witch, shaman, witch doctor, are LABELS. Take a Shaman from the Amazon, a shaman from the Gobi desertm and one from among the Australian aboriginals. Western man might call each, a shaman, but if you look at how each defines him or herself in the context of their own culture, they will have vastly different roles in their society, will hold different religous beliefs, will practive different rituals and will have different places in their own native cultures. So, the Western term Shaman or Healer, or anything, is a external label an imposition by a conquerig outsider, that have vague notions of what each does. Same thing with the term Witch, It's a Christian Church invention and over the years ot was aplied to all types of people, from priests of other religions, to midwives competing against the established medieval medical profession to wealthy widows with lands eyed by the church to political opponents. Some of those people may have practiced Euopean and other native beliefs, which were in place when Christianity arrived and for a tiem was competing with the Christian Church, other may have practiced singly, or with others folk sorcery or even may have worshipped the devil as it was defined by Christianity and conducted black mass, which was invented as part of Medieval vaudeville. Even the goat headed Baphomet, the symbol associated in the West with the devil was invented by the Persian Magi (philosophers who practiced gnosticism and were experimenting with the early Christian beliefs ion the first and second century AD), and only came to symbolize the devil after the Church outlawed and prosecuted the Magi as a heretic sect, and somehow popularizing the Baphomet symbol via their writings.

You may practice Norse or some other non-Christian beliefs, but you are doing yourself a disservice by caling yourself a Witch or a Pagan, because you are adopting a label that was invented by the Christian Church to brand their opponents. The fact that you have no other terminology to define yuorsef, other than that imposed by Christianity shows that you are a part of a modern revival movement, and also that Christianity succeeded in eradicating from society and from culture those traditions, which created your religious beliefs. And yet again, Western Culture is not unique with its revival of "neo-paganism" in all its forms. In mopdern Islam there are Salafists, and in China thare are Falun-Gong cults, all are a reaction to the modern post-industrial age. Falungong believers were persecuted (tortured, sent to mental aylums, martyred) more than Western Wiccans, and the Salafists are more militant and hence a lot more dangerous, but all these movements, be they cultural or spiritual, grow in the same soil.

Ripper X said...

I had taken considerable time to address everybody here in one giant post, however the gods of the Internet ate my comment like it was a ham sandwich.

The quick and easy way of doing this is just admitting that I made an error by describing my own religious beliefs, the point was that one can fuel a kickass game through the muse of religion.

Some examples are movies like Conan the Barbarian, Beast Master, and even Dragonslayer. An enemy that if you just outright kill them, then you run the risk of turning them into martyrs. It gives you enemies that aren't really enemies at all, but simply misled or forced to act the way that they do out of fear.

Do all of the Gods in Greyhawk get along? I highly doubt it, and many of them probably aren't even in the same religion. The world has many religions and customs which would easily pit Lawful Good vs. Lawful Good, evil can sneak into any religion and taint it through fear and devotion. This is what the post was intended to project, and I am sorry that it did not.

It did spawn some good conversation in the Ripper-Tala household too. She proved me wrong in regards to my belief that the witch was created by Christians. As it turns out, the term predates Christianity and is used to describe local shamans who were probably insane and lived on the outskirts of town, verses Mid-wives, who were more sociably excepted.

Anyway, thanks everyone for all of their comments, even the negative ones because I can use them too. And I'm sorry that I can't address all of you individually, but rest assured that I have read all of your thoughts and appreciate each and every one of them . . . well, except for Allandaros. To you, I would like to address personally.

If your religion, Allandaros, is so unstable that it can be effected by a post on an internet blog about playing a game, then you are welcome.

To everyone else, thank you for all of your great comments!

Allandaros said...

My religion affected? Hah. Not so much. I've been having religious turmoil for a while, but that's not anything because of your post.

However, when you, or anyone for that matter, start tossing around terms like "slave religion" and your insults towards Wiccans, then it indicates to me that there ain't much to be gained from sticking around here. (And no, I am neither Jewish nor Wiccan.) It's a matter of respect.

Ripper X said...

Okay Allandaros. That, I can respect. But I ain't hating anybody, the Jews were slaves until Moses freed them, an awesome story! And I already said that Wiccanism is a religion and all persevered insult was unintentionally caused by weak and lazy writing on my part.

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