Waves of emigration from humanity’s homeworld have yet to weaken the venerable belief systems developed on its surface. Some have seen a percentage decrease In their numbers when compared to the whole of the population. This decline can be partially attributed to the same factors that led to the First Galactic War, far from religious centers and leadership that were still based within the Sol system, faith among the colonial powers wandered. It’s also likely that the discovery of nonhuman sentient life-and the unfriendly response that more conservative religious groups offered-played a role In decreasing the attendance at Old Earth churches, synagogues, and temples.
Yet as human population has grown, so has the number of followers of most Old Earth faiths. Missionaries sent to convert the alien species have enjoyed some moderate success as well. More than one and a half trillion sentients follow an Old Earth faith. All of the major religions in existence prior to the discovery of the stardrive still flourish, including Christianity (in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), Buddhism (in Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrism branches), Islam (in SunnI and Shia sects), Judaism (in Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed divisions), and Hinduism (in three major traditions encompassing a variety of sects).
A small but growing religion is sweeping through many of the stellar nations. Begun in the Borealis Republic, this new faith focuses on the ruins and monoliths left behind by a space-faring civilization that rose, flourished, and disappeared long before humanity left its home world. The faithful call themselves the Children, but the popular press refers to them as ‘the Ancientists’ due to their fervent interest in the past.
This faith believes that the ancient civilization was a species of gads. (Historians have labeled this mysterious group the Precursors.) Their power and majesty can be seen in the structures they left behind, claim the Ancientists, and they believe that someday the Precursors will return. On that day, the Precursors will grant humanity the knowledge and technology it needs to take Its place beside them.
“We are the children of the Precursors,” the Ancientlsts claim, “and soon they will return 10 see what we did with what they left behind. If we did well, they will shepherd us to the next level of existence.” Some Ancientists also believe that the Precursors will test and judge humanity when they return. If they find humanity wanting, the Precursors will destroy humanity and reclaim their ancient home. Ancientlsts, naturally, believe they wilI be spared this judgment-provided they can decipher the clues left behind In Precursor ruins.
Ancientists are scholarly, inquisitive, and fond of exploring and studying Precursor sites and artifacts. Their young faith has few established churches or hierarchical structures.
The Hatire are followers of a god they call the Cosimir, an alien deity that they have adopted as their own. Though they became infamous for their ‘by-the-sword’ conversions during GW2, they are also well-known for their passionate dislike of advanced technology, especially tech that alters the human body. In truth, the Brethren of the Hatire Community – which accounts for more than hall the total followers of the faith-follow a conservative philosophy and lifestyle that seems to invite attack and ridicule by outsiders.
The Brethren accept the burden of their reputation, as undeserved as they believe it to be. Why? Like most religions founded in the last three centuries, the Hatire faith Is a proselytizing one. The Hatire see themselves as missionaries, determined to bring trust In the Cosimir to the masses, exalting the spirit revered by the long-vanished dwellers of Haven. For both the Brethren and the ancients whose stones they translated, worship is about purity and purification. All other factors being equal, the ideal Hatire life pursues simple harmony, without complicated technology to distract the spirit. It would be a simple agrarian life, focused on spiritual contemplation. Nothing would stand between a believer and the universe.
This is not the universe the followers of the Cosimir must live in. In a fierce, contentious universe, the Hatire must gird themselves with weapons and technology they abhor. The Hatire priesthood offers special dispensations, called technology indulgences, to those who volunteer to contaminate themselves in this way. The Brethren must fight fierce wars, undertake far-flung explorations, and even research spaceships and other instruments, though ultimately these things are only distractions from the truly important goals in life.
Missionaries of the Cosimir travel throughout the Stellar Ring and beyond, spreading the word.. The average believer can comfort himself with the thought of someday returning to the spiritual life-once all of humanity has been prepared for it. That’s the job of the Cosimir’s disciples. The most famous are the Hatire Mind Knights. The Hatire’s less violent followers include Its telepathic Seers and the members of the Chorus.
The ranks of the faith are fairly simple. Brethren begin as reverents, then become ordained missioners for a local church and possibly diocesans, responsible for an entire planet.
The Chorus is a Hatire religious order that believes faith heals injuries. Chorus members view blokineticists as masters of the Hatire faith, adepts who have perfected themselves and others without using technology.
The Hatire faith continues to grow, especially within the Thuldan Empire. While it’s true that Hatire ministers have had to adapt their teachings to overlook the Empire’s manipulation of the human genome, belief in the Cosimir is winning over the hearts of the Thuldan people-members of a culture that the Brethren consider spiritually bankrupt and ready for change.
The Reformation’s tenets acknowledge that all human faiths – indeed all humans-are flawed. Theocratic governments, rigid belief systems, and well-defined canon produce nothing more than a docile, weak-minded populace and a wealthy religion. The faith acknowledges a single god, responsible for the creation of the universe. However, worship Is Irrelevant to the creator – worshipers must help themselves. Blaming one’s shortcomings on an omnipotent god is just another failing.
According to Reformer tradition, humans should never expect divine help to overcome problems. Instead, the creator expects sentients to solve problems in themselves, in others, and In society. When a person sees a wrong, he should right it. More important, when a Reformer discovers greed, malice, or any other flaw within himself, ills his duty to confront it.
At the same time, Reformers must help believers overcome their flaws – psychological, physical, or spiritual to take advantage of another’s weakness or, worse, take joy in it is a greater crime than to sin or to have personal failings of one’s own. Followers of the Reformation are expected to devote themselves to lives of achievement, giving generously to charity, helping those in need, and opposing injustice.
Opposing injustice often puts the faith’s clergymen In conflict with local authorities, other churches, and even stellar nations. According to Reformation doctrine, a member must oppose injustice even when doing so violates local laws. For example, the Reformers actively denounce VoldCorp’s ownership of Its employees and work hard to help escaped sesheyans. Despite Its high-profile trouble making, the Humanity Reformation is widely accepted throughout the Stellar Ring. The only issue that divides the faithful is nomenclature. The church is open to sentients of any species, but its name Implies that only humans are fully welcome. It’s an open question whether the next church council will remove human-specific titles and doctrines.
Clergy begin as initiates and are given small tasks to prove their worthiness. Once these tasks are completed, an Initiate is given the position of father or mother and is assigned to a specific location. Alternately, the initiate may be ordained a reformer, a wandering priest who searches out wrongs and helps others as part-time counselor and adviser. The reformers are considered the faith’s true patriots, and competition Is fierce for such assignments. Abbots are the rulers of individual Reform settlements. While a father or mother can become an abbot or abbess, he or she can’t rise any higher unless named a reformer at a later date. Finally, the term “reformer” Is also used by those outside the church to describe all its members.
Bishops are the next highest rank, made up entirely of prominent reformers who have achieved great successes. A bishop Is assigned a region to watch over, which may be as small as a continent or as large as a star system Bishops appoint reformers, fathers, and mothers and occasionally sponsor initiates Into the order. Ultimately, the religion Is guided by thirteen cardinals led by the pontifex. Collectively, the cardinals and pontifex make up the Council of Reform.
As the youngest major religion in existence, the Church of the Oracle Is the spiritual home to worshipers called the Inslghtful – so named to distinguish them from the title Inseer, given to citizens of the stellar nation of InsIght. Followers of the Church of the Oracle aren’t acknowledged as religious adherents by many stellar nations, and certainly aren’t acknowledged by the other major religions. Nevertheless, more than 500 billion believers call the Insightful faith their own. The religion Is a well-known haven for gridpilots and programmers, and some of the best hackers are known 10 follow the code of the Insightful.
To understand the Insightful’s beliefs, it’s necessary to experience the Grid. The Grid’s ability to allow exchange of thoughts the cornerstone of all Insightful beliefs and practices. Insight depends on a perfect melding of technology and mysticism- a melding that has a strong appeal for many of the technically and artistically inclined. The vehicle of the religion is not prayer, or good works, or devotion to scripture. The Insightful believe that divine potential lurks within the Grid.
Uncomplicated by the imperfections of human language, the Grid-especially as perfected by Insight- permits direct contact with the conscious mind. As such, It grants human minds the potential for complete understanding, or complete union, with one another and with the universe. This Is a possibility once thought limited to those fortunate enough to be gifted with mindwalking talents. This union results in a state of complete equality among souls, reflected by the Insightful disregard for the notions of ranks and hierarchies. The only hierarchy is the exchange, and its fire of truth. As a believer grows in understanding, he gains access to higher and higher levels of truth and advances along the path to perfect understanding.
For humanity to evolve beyond crude flesh to a free exchange of thought across the Grid, information must be free. For governments and corporations to keep secrets and restrict the free flow of information is a sin. Its the sacred duty of the insightful to expose the truth, no matter how painful it may be. The price of free exchange, the price of human destiny, is the willingness to learn and embrace both the good and evil sides of human nature, and ultimately rise above them both.
Unlike any other religion except the Church of the Oracle, Orlamlsm is a dynamic faith built on a foundation of technology and science. The Orlamist faith was born from the invention of the stardrive and the subsequent discovery of another dimension, drivespace. While testing the stardrive, pilot Jeff Sendir had an encounter with the divine. When he returned to normal space, he abandoned his previous life and set forth the principles of the faith: Drivespace is the groundwork of God. Just as the world all around was the conscious act of the creator, the space behind space remains the source and origin of all things. Drivespace Is nothing less than the Divine Unconscious.
The doctrine of the Theocracy is centered around a single objective: understanding and contacting the Divine Unconscious. To reach this goal, the Orlamus constantly monitor and experiment to advance their understanding of drivespace. Doctrine changes as necessary to fit the latest theory supported by the scientific evidence. Disputes and disagreements among the OrIamist faithful are more than permitted; they are encouraged. Just as division and arguments are vital to the scientific community. Not surprisingly, a secondary result of all this experimentation on the Divine Unconscious has been the superiority of Orlamu stardrives over the last 300 years.
The Theocracy can only loosely be considered a united religion, since it lacks elders who preach a common doctrine. The only requirement for an Orlamist is that one’s activities help to understand the Divine Unconscious. By seeking to understand what drivespace truly represents, one comes closer to understanding God. For example, the 121-hour duration of each starfall has led some Orlamists to suggest that this was the span of creation itself. A more radical Orlamu cult questions the very use of the Divine Unconscious as a means of travel; might not trespassing alter the very nature of God? At the same time, the religion’s openness and tolerance extend beyond its own faith; Orlamists are accepting of all religions.
Fraal Philosophies of the Mind
The fraal are skeptics in most matters of faith. Indeed, the fraal are the only one of the have major nonhuman species without a native faith of their own. Even fraal who adopt a religion are rarely very devout. They show little interest in human missionaries, and they often forbid preaching on board their city-ships.
At the same time, Borealin colleges have closely studied fraal philosophy for more than 200 years, and a number of 23rd century discoveries link fraal schools of mindwalking academies with sacred belief systems. Though the data is incomplete, the fraal seem to believe that each major form of mindwalking corresponds to a sentient being’s inner form, possibly something that resembles a soul. However, the fraal’s extreme reticence in discussing their beliefs about the origin of mindwalking powers has frustrated every attempt to broaden human understanding of these beliefs – though the Hatire have gleaned same portion of this knowledge. As long as the fraal refuse to discuss it, speculation will continue unchecked.
Ever since the genocide that converted most mechalus to pacifistic ways, these aliens have suppressed their only native faith, the Warrior’s Credo. Founded by a warrior/programmer named Thetor, the faith taught that only through struggle could the mechalus species attain and maintain unity. The little evidence available indicates that the religion involved special implants and software as well as ritual acts of prayer and violence. Most mechalus today look back on these beliefs as primitive and em! distasteful, much as many humans frown on some old
human religious practices such as animal sacrifice.
Since contact with humanity, however, the mechalus have demonstrated some interest in human faiths. Currently, many mechalus adhere to Old Earth Buddhism or claim membership among the ranks of the Insightful.
Sesheyan Fable Animism
The sesheyans have their own beliefs, based on tales and proverbs told by their shamans. These tales vary from shaman !o shaman. but almost all contain one of three important figures: Neshii’en the trickster, Tal the hunter, or Vec’t’lir the broodmother. In particular, the parables of Neshii’en and his enemies have sustained the sesheyans during the dark times of their servitude to VoidCorp – though many of the public rituals and outward expressions of the faith have been lost.
Sesheyan religious practices are now strictly verbal within VoidCorp space. Possession or manufacture of religious paraphernalia is punishable by heavy fines, demotion, or relocation. If anything, this restrictive atmosphere has strengthened the hold of religion on the sesheyan culture; new tales of Neshii’en’s conflicts with agents of VoidCorp circulate as pervasively as jokes and rumors.
T’sa religion is a complex polytheistic faith generally referred to as Ch’Nalism. Ch’Naiites believe in a single, all-powerful creator who provides a guardian deity for every sentient creature. After creating the universe, Ch’Nal created many lesser gods, the Ch’Nakan, for each kind of living thing. Each Ch’Nakan watches over its own piece of creation, acting as guide and guardian to its charges. The Ch’Nakan can appear in whatever aspect suits them.
While the T’sa revere Ch’Nal and celebrate his holy day during the harvest, they reserve their daily worship for their personal guardian, K’san Ch’Nak, a tireless patron who takes good care of the t’sa. The t’sa Joke that it is good that K’san is Immortal, because otherwise his curiosity would have killed him many times over. K’san Ch’Nak embodies all the qualities that the t’sa value most in themselves. He is curious, friendly, and quick-witted.
Within the T’sa cluster, almost all t’sa worship Ch’Nal and K’san Ch’Nak. In human space, many t’sa cling In their religion, but some have adopted other belief systems. The t’sa back home consider this odd, but not blasphemous, since they assume that every species has its own Ch’Nakan guide.
The Weren Heresies
Many weren still living on Kurg have embraced Orlamism. Unfortunately, these weren often hold heretical versions of the Orlamu beliefs. For these weren, the Divine Unconscious is indelibly linked to the universe itself. Their version of the Orlamu god – the Divine Unconscious takes them from their homeworld to other, better worlds. The Divine Unconscious isn’t a subject to scientific study, but a force that believers must appease. A weren who makes the proper offerings before leaving Kurg will find her way to one of the paradises of the Great Beyond. Those who fail to do so end up in one of the universe’s many hells.
The native religion of Kurg is a sophisticated form of animism that depends on its adherents’ belief to give strength to a clan’s warriors through the channeling of the proper spirits. Beyond that point, interpretations differ from tribe to tribe.
Weren priests offer a number of simple explanations for everyday problems. Hexes, curses, astrological predictions, and the summoning of disease by hostile prayers are widely held beliefs, especially among the nomadic marrizhe-herders. The details of these beliefs vary, but the position of priest is one of the few in weren society with as much prestige as that of warrior. The priests watch over the sacred combats of the faith’s high holy days and perform the ceremonial bloodletting that purifies a clan’s warriors. These religious festivals sometimes become little more than drunken riots, as the weren argue points of doctrine and the merits or interpretation of each Individual combat. Few outsiders can withstand the sheer noise of a weren religious gathering.
The dralasites have a nearly extinct religion based on the veneration of the great creator Ahm, who makes up all things. According to dralasite texts Ahm still exists in all things as subatomic matter, self-replicated and eternal. While all communication and prayer to Ahm has long since been abandoned, the ahmists believe that respect is due to that which the universe is made from. Many humans see ahmism as a similar principal to The Big Bang’s.