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Supposing you were creating religions in your world, and your world has advanced along a technological spectrum similar to Earth's. What is the latest point in history that a new god could be worshiped by some intellectual and cultural elite; i.e. not just a small cult?

By a new god, I mean a god that was not borrowed or renamed from some other, older rite. For example, in real-world history, I have a few candidates for the most recent new god.

  • Mithras was worshipped in the Roman Empire starting around the 1st century AD. While the god has the same name as an earlier Persian deity, the continuity between the two is debated.

  • Maitreya is the future Buddha and successor to Gautama and is treated as a deity in many regions. He is first regarded as a deity at least by the 3rd century AD, and possibly as early as the 3rd century BC.

  • The newest god whose origins are certain is Serapis. Created by Ptolemy I as a fusion of Egyptian (Osiris, Apis) and Greek (Hades and other cthonic deities) traditions, his god-hood began in the 3rd century BC.

So it is clearly possible for a new deity to emerge in classical times. Is it possible for a new deity to emerge in medieval or later times? Is there any evidence for a new god emerging in later times? How does the worldwide dissemination of exclusive monotheistic religions affect the acceptance of new gods?

Considerations

  • A person who is historically attested cannot count as a 'new' God; Jesus, Buddha, and the Divine Augustus do not count. Please, no arguments about the historicity of Jesus or anyone else.

  • A new religion doesn't mean a new god. The Mormon and Baha'i faiths are less than 200 years old but have appropriated existing gods. Same with Yiguandao adopting an ancient Chinese Earth Mother, and Rastafarians adopting Yahweh as Jah.

  • The god has to be worshipped by a cultural elite of some sort to raise it above cult status. Organized priesthoods and well-maintained temples or shrines are indications of an acceptable god. Subreddits are not.

  • A new god of an existing 'type' doesn't count. For example, say your religion believed that every river had its god, and everyone living near the river worshiped that god. If the nation colonially expanded to a new continent at an Early Modern technology level, the rivers on a new continent would get new gods; but these would be gods of an existing 'type'. The 'types' are to be interpreted specifically, within the same religion, not universally; that is, just because you have a moon god doesn't make my moon god the same one.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 7 '18 at 16:45
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The existence and history of Scientology would seem to suggest that there's no upper bound on when a new god might be created and accepted.

While Scientology does not per se include a deity, consider that it was created in the modern era (1954), contains scientifically falsifiable claims (76 trillion year age of the universe, among others), direct statements from the religion's founder that cast his motivations in a dubious light1, but despite all that, has a strong following among the "cultural elite" and a large number of members worldwide.

Much of that success has been credited to the idea of specifically targeting and effectively recruiting cultural icons (TV and movie stars), so there's really no reason a similar religion, with a new deity couldn't rise up in the same way that Scientology did. The backstory of Scientology itself does seem like it would provide ample fodder for new deities, Hubbard having described it as a space opera. Rather than nameless, anonymous "thetans" bringing the universe into existence and eventually losing their true selves, Hubbard could well have introduced specific thetan heroes as new deities who created the universe and eventually went to war with each other. (And that would certainly be more space operatic than the story he wrote.)

Seems that the trick is pandering to pop culture icons, and you can get hundreds of thousands of people to follow your religion and fork over tens of thousands of dollars a piece to whatever spiritual snake oil you want to peddle.

1You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion. - Response to a question from the audience during a meeting of the Eastern Science Fiction Association on (7 November 1948), as quoted in a 1994 affidavit by Sam Moskowitz.

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    $\begingroup$ It does have an anti-deity in Xenu. I propose that it's possible that Hubbard might have made more money from writing if he hadn't been so awful at writing. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Feb 5 '18 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 Amen to that. As is so often the case, Hubbard's famous quote said more about him than about anyone else. He couldn't get rich writing science fiction, but plenty of authors (even ones who weren't that good) have. ... of course they'd have gotten richer if they could have done so with tax exempt status. ;) $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Feb 5 '18 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think the real point here is twofold. First, Scientology is pretty secretive, so its isn't super clear if they have deities that they worship. Second, its theology is distinctive enough that it might as well have an invented god of some sort. And it clearly meets the bar for an organized religion 'worshiped' by a cultural elite. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 5 '18 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion Most Scientology mythology has leaked by now, including a lot of stuff only taught to "high OT level" members. If there is much left, it's only known to very few members. And when only a few people are aware of this mythology, we are talking about a "small sect" again. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Feb 5 '18 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ "76 trillion year age of the universe" This isn't exactly contradicted by science. The big bang theory only says that the universe "as we know it" began ~13.7 billion years ago, but it says nothing about what happened before that. And it doesn't say anything about all the mass and energy that comprises the universe coming into existence, it only says that a long time ago the universe was much smaller and that we don't know what happened before then. If scientology says that the universe has looked roughly like it does now for 76 trillion years, then yeah, that's contradicted by science. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Feb 6 '18 at 16:14
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The most recent example is The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism. Pastafarianism (a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarianism) is a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools.

This was created mostly as satire but it fits your criteria and has the potential of gathering actual believers. There is at least one councilman in New York City who was a Pastafarian.

With the internet, a new diety creation is highly likely. If you can get Flat Earthers, you can find some people to believe just about anything. You just have to find the right disaffected group. Then, you have to appear to be not too loony and you can build a following among the less fringe crowd. If you can make it fashionable, your job is done.

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    $\begingroup$ I explicitly disqualify Pastafarianism in my post, so -1. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 5 '18 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion, then you should make that more explicit in your question instead of hiding it in a link. As I mentioned, there is a city councilman who is a Pastafarian (satisfies elite status). That level of support could lead to actual shrines. You didn't say that the new god/religion has to already exist fully formed. You asked if it could happen. My answer answers the visible portion of your question. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 5 '18 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ I think Pastafarianism is a socio-political statement about religious intervention in society and governance, not the serious worship of a god. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Feb 8 '18 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion there are actual Pastafarian temples that hold weekly services, complete with rituals and leaders. Not a lot, but they do exist. It's not just on the internet. $\endgroup$ – Erik Feb 8 '18 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Mr.J There is no tangible difference between the FSM and the Christian god, so either people claiming they believe in them is enough for both, or it isn't for either. There is an obvious different between the two faiths but if people saying they are Pastafarians loudly enough to get their governments to officially record it as a religion doesn't mean anyone believes in the FSM, I don't see why people saying they are Christians loudly enough to get killed should mean anyone believes in the Christian god. It's an "either/or" thing. $\endgroup$ – Erik Feb 17 '18 at 7:02
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Disclaimer: It is a very philosophical question (more so than a worldbuilding one), so this is going to be a very long wall of text. It might be hard to read because I do not agree with suggested criteria of godhood.


Some thoughts on suggested criteria

If I understand correctly, according to your constraints, a god will be considered new only if all of these are true:

  1. this deity is not a historic human;
  2. their religion is not an appropriation of an earlier cult or religion and their gods;
  3. their religion is organised;
  4. this god is worshipped by a cultural elite;
  5. this god does not belong to an already existing 'type'.

It seems obvious that the Christian god is not new since it fails criteria #1, #2, and #5:

  • the Christians regardless of denomination and their views on the divinity of Christ accept his historicity (and it is the only thing that matters in this case);
  • Christianity is an Abrahamic religion built upon Judaism and its sacred texts and reusing its god and mythology;
  • the Christian god is the same type of 'moral' god1 as the Judaic god.

However, if we look closer the god of the New Testament is almost the opposite of the god of the Old Testament. The old god was very jealous and selective. Almost all covenants were made exclusively with the Chosen people (the Noahic covenant is the only exception) and the rest were essentially damned. And the god would not hesitate to punish his followers when they disobey or forget about the covenant. He is even more brutal when it comes to those he did not choose. He destroys their lands and cities without much of a thought.

In many ways, the Judaic god resembles a male warrior god from patriarchal societies. He is a strict and not easily forgiving father who likes to test his children a lot. And the same time he leads them to battle and grants them many victories, spoils, and trophy wives.

The Christian god has a very different attitude. It is a motherly figure. The New Covenant is potentially much more inclusive (although, it is open for debate who qualifies for membership) and substantially easier to follow (one only needs to believe, there are no elaborate rituals). The god offers unconditional love and salvation.

It is also important to mention that Christianity introduced a concept of Trinity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christian theologists have to use very complex arguments to resolve the problem of three personas of one single god within monotheism. Judaism is not only not accepting of this idea but considers it heretical. The Judaic god is always absolute and indivisible.

Historically the Judaic god was the god of conquerors and kings while the Christian god was the god of slaves. And this is reflected in theology and their attitudes.

With this said, while the Christian god was derived from the Judaic god, the Christianity still uses Judaic texts, and there are quite some similarities between the gods of these two religions, the differences are substantial enough to say that Christianity created a new god.

To further address your criteria.

I do think that in our modern society the surest way to create a new god is to convince the general public of the divinity of a living breathing human being or them being a proxy of the divine. Seeing is believing. Thus, the public needs to see miracles. And I am not talking about smoke and mirrors. I mean real miracles2. People cured of lethal diseases. Water changed into wine. This kind of things.

I believe it is almost impossible to avoid appropriation, borrowing, or any other influence from already existing religions if there is no complete isolation. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has slightly different saints depending on location. And those saints frequently possess the features of pagan gods Christianity replaced in this area. Christianity is a monotheistic religion, but people ask saints for favours exactly the same way they would ask minor gods of a pagan pantheon. The old ways are slow to die. And any new religion will incorporate at least some elements of the pre-existing ones. Unless it is created artificially in a completely sterile cultural environment, i.e. people's memories will be completely wiped out.

Organised religion with its priests, temples, and grandeur, of course, adds political weight. However, I am not sure that it is a necessary condition for a true belief in a god. In some sense, Virgin Mary is a goddess without an organised religion devoted personally to her. Yet, she has a huge following, especially in Central America. Pre-historic religions, Native American religions, branches of Hinduism, etc. also had gods but their belief system was not institutionalised.

I am also not sure that if a god is not worshipped by a cultural elite automatically makes their religion a cult. We can somewhat argue that Christianity was a cult in the Roman Empire prior to Constantine because the elites mostly practised paganism. Christianity was most popular among low classes (it is more complicated than that, of course). And once Christianisation of the Roman Empire happened the Christianity finally graduated. But what about Christianisation of other countries? Vikings and Russian princes adopted Christianity for political reasons. The general population continued to worship pagan gods for at least a couple more centuries. If any of those pagan pantheons acquired a new god would it be just a cult?

I think a more satisfactory criterion will be a number of followers than simply worshipping by cultural elites. Cultural elites are also prone to creating cults. In today's USA, for example, it is a cult of money. Everything is measured in money. In fact, you can say that money is the new god.

Please see Note 1 for my thoughts on 'types' of gods. I do not think that you can really come up with something radically new. You can have a god responsible for the material world or a god responsible for morals. Monotheistic religions usually offer the 2-in-1 package with more emphasis on morals. Perhaps once we solve the consciousness riddle we will be able to come up with another type of god.


The modern gods

While we are losing faith in traditional gods and abandoning churches and temples we are not becoming rational beings. We just replace old gods with the new ones and disguise them as non-religious things.

A curious case of the US Constitution or the goddess of Democracy

Disclaimer: This is not to start a flame war.

The US Constitution enjoys almost the same sacred status as the Bible in the USA. It cannot be changed. It is THE divine truth. Everybody ought to accept it. It has to be worshipped and it is worshipped. Even a thought of changing it (because it was written 250 years ago when the world was different, the slavery was a thing, and modern technology did not exist even in people's imagination) is a blasphemy.


Notes on the Constitution amendments (to address some comments).

There is a grand total of 27 (twenty-seven) fully ratified amendments to the US Constitution since March 4, 1789 (the Constitution ratification date). The first 10 are known as the Bill of Rights. They cover rights and freedoms (that somehow went missing from the final text of the Constitution) and were put to vote as one single package. The ratification process was complete in December 1791.

Only 17 amendments were added in the following 227 years. Moreover, after 1971, when the last of the Civil Rights era amendments was added, there was only one amendment and it was originally proposed in 1789. It took over 200 years to finally add it to the US constitution which happened in 1992. A funny detail: The final ratification of the Amendment XXVII was a personal project of just one man.

We could blame the Article V of the US Constitution for the lack of amendments. The required procedure is indeed incredibly demanding. However, this might be not the only reason.

According to the US Senate,'approximately 11,699 measures have been proposed to amend the Constitution from 1789 through January 3, 2017.' If you follow the link you can notice a downward trend in number of proposals starting from the 105th Congress (1997-1998). Although, without more data it is hard to say whether it is statistically valid.

The last time a proposed amendment went to states for ratification was 1978 (it would allow Washington DC to have representatives in Congress). But it failed. The absolute majority of proposals do not even get voted in Congress. They just die in committees and workgroups.

The US Constitution is an exception from normal practice in the USA. State constitutions are amended regularly (although, the procedures of amendment are usually much less demanding):

The Maryland State Constitutions Project reported in 2000 that "there have been almost 150 state constitutions, they have been amended roughly 12,000 times, and the text of the constitutions and their amendments comprises about 15,000 pages of text."[1]

From 2006 through 2014, 683 constitutional amendments were proposed and put before voters, and 482 amendments were approved.

For those who are interested to see how the US Constitution fares in comparison with constitutions of other countries the Comparative Constitutions Project made a really neat Timeline of Constitutions chart which lists new constitutions, amendments, and their dates for many countries in the world, including some historical states.


I think that the Constitution is one of the few modern text so closely resembling religious texts in status. It enjoys the same awe. And it also fuels very heated debates. Moreover, it is brilliantly short and open to interpretation.

I would say that the Constitution is essentially a sacred text of the goddess of Democracy. Democracy here is specifically the US brand. European democracies do not really count as they are tainted by socialism (which acts as a demon or even Satan).

Democracy is irrationally believed to bring happiness and prosperity to everyone regardless of their cultural and historical conditions. Democracy is forced on pretty much all the countries in the world. And if it does not work the people of a country are blamed for not embracing the values of democracy. This is way too similar to religious narratives that gods answer only to the faithful.

The money god

Money is another modern god, especially if one lives in an Americanised society. One's happiness, one's worth, one's social standing, and so on are measured in money. According to the belief, the more money one has the better one is. This is total BS, of course. But faith is irrational. So people continue to chase the elusive god of money.

Technology and science

The previous gods were minor compared to science and technology which almost replaced our beliefs in supernatural beings. Contemporary science and technology are beyond the grasp of ordinary people. Even specialists may not understand how something not related to their field works. It is really close to true miracles.

Science and technology make promises that only gods before could make: Freedom from disease, eternal youth, immortality, endless exploration, victories on any battlefields, and so on.

Despite the fact that contemporary science is in crisis because a significant part of the experiments cannot be replicated and scandals involving financing and data manipulation, we continue to believe in science. Technology is literally destroying the planet, but we hope that it will be our salvation.

The preference for science and technology is reflected in education as well. The proposals to reduce hours for non-STEM disciplines and to focus on the STEM are quite frequent. Online discussions are full of remarks on 'useless' arts and humanities. International prestige of a country is measured based on its children's performance in maths, science, and reading.

One can argue that recent events in the USA demonstrate anti-science attitudes. I would agree with that with one caveat. New regulations and policies are often pro-technology (and pro-money, of course). However, those might be outdated technologies that current political powers are the most familiar with.

Other gods

I am sure that if I think long enough I will be able to come up with some other new gods. A god of the eternal youth looks like a good candidate. But it is already a very long answer.


Closing thoughts

I do not think that modern gods will satisfy your criteria. Modern mindset is very different and blind faith in miracles and divinity is not something that can fit contemporary life easily. Unless divinity can be demonstrated to people, handed to them on a platter. But I still believe that we are not ready to abandon faith and old gods will be replaced by new ones. However, we will rationalise them and disguise them as values and worldviews. The saddest thing is that we will kill others for them exactly the same way we were killing thousands of years ago. Because one thing religious fanatics cannot tolerate is heretics.


Notes:

1 All gods can be divided into two main categories:

  • representations of the environment (forces of nature, elements of landscape, etc, e.g. Shinto gods, Greek and Roman gods);
  • representations of moral and ethical standards (e.g. Abrahamic gods).

2 If we are talking about fabricating a new religion, we still need 'real' miracles. Magician tricks will not work. I think there are two approaches to this: 1) technology so advanced that it is not distinguishable from a divine intervention mixed with some psychological manipulation and showing off; 2) move miracles from physical to mental plane, i.e. give intellectual elite a system of values and philosophical views that change their life outlooks.

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    $\begingroup$ I specified types in my answer to be clear that each 'type' was within a single religion. Zeus and Odin were both sky-fathers, but they aren't of the same type since they are from different religions. An example of gods of the same type would be genius loci; the 'gods of a place' from Ancient Rome. Christianity's God is not 'new' because it is explicitly identified by its followers, starting with Jesus, as the same Yahweh of the Jews. The Virgin Mary is not a god because her own 'elites' (i.e. the Pope) would deny that she is god. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 5 '18 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion I think that you forgot to specify Europe. In Europe that would be easy to explain by the spread of Christianity. Although, I believe Slavic pagan pantheons underwent some changes after the Classical times. Did you check Norse gods as well? I have a feeling that you are limiting yourself to the Roman Empire. If it's the case the Christianity incorporated pagan religions (disguised pagan gods as saints) and satisfied religious needs for some time. Unlike Judaism, early Christianity was very flexible. It was capable of accommodating many needs and traditions. $\endgroup$ – Olga Feb 5 '18 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @TheMattbat999 superficially it is the same god, functionally they are different. But I am not going to argue Christian theology. I believe that Kingledion's entire approach is flawed methodologically. But at this point, I do not feel like writing another wall of text to prove it. $\endgroup$ – Olga Feb 6 '18 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ It is a good answer to the question though. $\endgroup$ – The Mattbat999 Feb 6 '18 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ @r41n Some people do treat science like religion. Haven't you heard "it's scientifically confirmed" spoken with reverence? Bonus points when the thing in question was actually scientifically disproved. :) And some people do treat atheism like a religion. They wear its signs, attend its events, try to convert the heretics... They believe religions are the cause of all evil and that if everyone was an atheist the world would be perfect. $\endgroup$ – user31389 Feb 6 '18 at 15:41
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It's not at all clear that the age of god-creation is over. I have had managers who revered Microsoft, and "The Internet" was pretty well worshipped in the last few years of the twentieth century, before people got used to it. If worshipping a new god is perceived to be beneficial by worshippers, it will happen.

Edit: To expand on this a bit, I'm following the model popularised by Pratchett and Gaiman, although neither of them invented it, where the essential thing for a god is belief. It doesn't matter how a god gets started, it doesn't get anywhere unless people believe in it. And there are lots of things in the modern era that people believe in a whole lot, and build their lives round. They may not be very much like the Christian God, or Thor, or Athena, but everything changes with time.

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    $\begingroup$ The Demo God (of demonstrations) is a harsh God. $\endgroup$ – Mooing Duck Feb 5 '18 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Have you been watching American Gods too much? $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Feb 5 '18 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ Huh? I really have no clue what you're talking about. How does a piece of software or hardware, which can be fully taken apart and understood at a very basic level, form the basis of a religion? Do software engineers at Microsoft work for God? In what way does worshipping this god affect the worshippers? Non-believers can use Windows just as well as the next guy. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Feb 5 '18 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang: I disagree entirely. The uninitiated cannot use Windows or Linux or their smart refrigerator anywhere near as well as a true believer can. I suggest that you look more into the Pratchettian and Gaimanish theories of godhood, worship, and belief for insight here. $\endgroup$ – Timbo Feb 5 '18 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Shufflepants, NuclearWang: Timbo is correct, and I've expanded the answer to say so. This type of answer seemed to me to be implied by the question, but clearly not everyone sees it that way. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Feb 6 '18 at 14:10
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A lot of Gods "develop" as an explanation for a phenomenon, natural occurrence, or big powerful thing. Humans also seem to have some sort of compulsion to assume that someone is in control of big, powerful things. Combine these two concepts and you get gods.

So you have a big ocean, It's powerful, it sinks ships, it provides food. Who is in charge of this thing? Poseidon, Neptune, etc, etc.... Thunder and Lightning? That's gotta be Thor. and so on. Series of events, like why does it get cold and then warm over the course of a year? That's where a lot of mythological stories come in, the interactions of the gods.

Gods are free to develop like mushrooms here and there so long as Humans don't start asking too many questions. So long as mere survival is enough of a struggle, humans aren't going to get too deep into the big philosophical questions. When Humans have the time and energy to go beyond mere survival, this dynamic starts to break down. The scientific Method has really put a crimp in the development of gods.

Gods grow in status through 2 primary means. Persuasive conversions and, historically, violent conquest. Violent conquest is the most common. You don't want to annoy the god that granted you victory, so you tell the conquered to convert or die. Then you give an offering to the god. Over time and with more conquests. You will end up with a cultural elite rather than just a cult.

This great human brownian motion is still in action today, though the most current batch seems to focus on extending existing religious traditions, and the focus is more on prophets and human agents rather than new "gods", but the mechanisms are pretty much the same.

Where does all of this leave you?

A New god could, theoretically, come about at any time. Even now, in places where things are particularly chaotic and primitive. Humans want an explanation for things, and gods and stories are good enough for that until more systematic investigation gives better explanations.

From a more historical perspective, I would think that maybe up to just before the Renaissance would be a good time frame for New gods to crop up.

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I think that there is still the potential for new gods to arise, and they may be currently doing so, but we are too close to realise that it is happening.

The new gods are not likely to be much like the old, though. They are more likely to be a construct of the modern age in some way. Technologies, or principles, poorly understood by many.

For example, for many people today, Evolution is considered to be a driving force with a deliberate intent. Many people do not think of Evolution as an emergent phenomena, but as a conscious decision making process. Evolution is often presented as autonomous. I see many questions here which come very close presenting that kind of belief. There are many people, especially those who are already religious, who see Evolution as a rival to their own God. Others see Evolution as something they can use to challenge the religion and Gods of others. You cannot get much more godlike than that.

Evolution may, itself, evolve into something akin to godhood for those who do not really understand what it actually is. It is very close already.

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1974

The Heaven's Gate religion so completely believed in the presence of aliens (aka, gods) that would lift them away from the drudgery of our mortal existence as beings of pure energy that they willingly took their own lives when the Hale-Bopp comet (in the tail of which the aliens travelled) flew by.

I don't believe it's valid to stick with the word "god." If it quacks like a duck and flies like a duck, it's a duck. The practitioners' belief was as thorough and complete as any religious zealot from any age.

I've always thought the Heaven's Gate crew a remarkable symbol of modern theism. Clarkean Magic suggests that god must certainly be nothing more (if that simplification isn't too sacrilegious to the reader) than a highly technologically advanced being. And considering the thousands of names humanity's gods have born over the millennia, "aliens" is nothing more than another on the list. But, if you ask why I suggest this: in a very basic way, the worship of a god must include:

  1. Ritual
  2. Communication
  3. An "end goal"
  4. Sacrifice (of one kind or another)
  5. And the belief in something/someone more powerful/understanding than humanity.

Aliens (from the Heaven's Gate POV) meet these basic requirements.

And if you stretch the definition a bit to include any so-called "medium" channeling the latest alien who will beneficiently bestow upon Earth all kinds of magical technology (for just $9.99 a minute), then you can bring that year up to 2017 — except that it breaks your rule that it can't be a reused "god." Meaning you can only use aliens once. That being the case, someone might have used aliens before the Heaven's Gate group ‐ but they probably didn't get as much press.

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  • $\begingroup$ I did try to give rules that distinguished between a god worshiped by a cultural elite and a cult. With 39 members (at least, 39 who stuck it out till the end), Heaven's gate is really more of a cult. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 6 '18 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ After re-reading your Q, you're completely right. But I wonder if that's too limiting. It appears that with increasing scientific awareness and improved communication the "old religions" have a dramatic advantage over any new religiions - and worshipping a new god must, by definition, be a new religion. Now that I think about it, your limititation may force the only answer to become "impossible" since we have no modern examples of "new worship" of anything other than symbolic issues (e.g., money) - unless you count science itself. But that's an old belief (biblical, at least). $\endgroup$ – JBH Feb 6 '18 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Clarification: no modern examples of widespread belief. Faith must begin somewhere, even as a splinter from an existing religion (much less a completely new belief). In other words, by excluding the modern cults you've eliminated the potential for the worship of any new god to develop. $\endgroup$ – JBH Feb 6 '18 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ Well, an answer could be 'its impossible due to the scientific revolution'; an argument which no one has really mad (well). Another answer could be 'it is impossible due to monotheism'; an argument Placidia made. Finally, you could argue that 'new gods that meet the criteria are likely in the future,' which is the argument LeeLeon is making. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 6 '18 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ All good points, but is there an example in history of a religion jumping instantly to "mainstream?" I suspect they all started as cults in the beginning. $\endgroup$ – JBH Feb 7 '18 at 3:23
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  1. I suppose you know about cargo cult. One could say this is a religion but another would object. Let's pretend it's a religion and that in a small island there is a god named Dakota which brings goods for his priests. There are 'temples' (mocks of airfield, radio towers). Only elite has access to the gods' gift. I suppose there are now predecessors. So in such imaginary case we have a new god.

  2. Gods from imaginary worlds which leak to the reality. Most famous stories have numerous followers. Those followers pretend to beleive in religions and gods from stories. They could imitate ceremonies, create temples so outside observer couldn't say who really believe and who just play his role. We are on world building site so I would say it's possible some of such role-play will transform in real religion after some time.

    2.1. Let's talk about J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. Tolkien described some creatures like Eru Ilúvatar or Melkor which is one of many Vala. All of them could be considered as a gods.

    2.2. Warhammer 40,000 universe has various gods.

    2.3. As @Ruadhan2300 mentioned in comment, there are gods from not only fantasy but also sci-fi games. He mentioned Kraken from Kerbal Space Program, which I'm unfamiliar

    2.4. Sometimes valid saying from imaginary world could help in real world too (proof in russian)

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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to expand on this, Even beyond the in-fiction dieties, many communities around video games in particular, but other platforms too develop tongue-in-cheek Gods, usually in the vein of physics-engine glitches. Good examples include 'Kraken' in Kerbal Space Program, or 'Clang' in Space Engineers, both are Destroyer Gods that are noted to "take offense" to particularly complex constructs, usually manifesting as the physics-engine experiencing problems and the aforementioned constructs shaking themselves apart. In-Community Mythology is a very common phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Feb 7 '18 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Hail Glarnak! $\endgroup$ – JBH Feb 8 '18 at 7:12
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Chaotes create a myriad of new godforms everyday. Most are personal and unintended, but sometimes they gather to create a planned one for mass worship. Such new deities may then be worshipped not only by their creators but also other chaotes who learn about them.

Some interesting ones were created in the 20th and 21st centuries. I'll cite my favorite ones:

  • Phil Hine describes in his book Condensed Chaos how GOFLOWOLFOG was created during a workshop in London. GOFLOWOLFOG is often evoked when a chaote is stuck in a traffic jam, for his domain is that of roads and his blessing easies passage through heavy traffic.

  • Fotamecus was originally a sigil that eventually evolved to godform due to lacknof care from its creators. It is said to hasten things up to its worshippers, in exchange for slowing other things down later.

  • And finally Ellis, the lady in red. Her sigil, called The Linking Sigil, is also called the linking sigil and has the power to link magic acts throught space (and possibly time). See below:

The Linking Sigil

All this is pretty recent. AFAIK the linking sigil is something that started on 2007.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have an argument that meets the criteria of the third bullet: 'worshiped by a cultural elite?' Otherwise, I think these gods are excluded as a minor cult. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 5 '18 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion the A∴A∴, Ordo Templi Orientis, College of Thelema and Fraternitas Saturni are some orders with members that practice chaos magick. These are not just random teenagerd who only communiate among themselves through reddit. They do have proper hierarchied, and temples and other meeting places around the world. $\endgroup$ – Renan Feb 5 '18 at 16:20
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Maybe we can say that the kind of deity has evolved as we can see in the American gods books and series.

So even if we don't actually call their "name" or even "pray" them we still do many tasks a day that involves them.

I am of course speaking about the latest technologies trends. The use of tech we do nowaday can be seen as a cult by itself.

For now theses deitys are the TVs, computers and Smartphones or maybe simply the networks connecting them (broadcast or simply THE internet) and the "heaven" they offer is the acces to all knowledge. But tomorrow new tech gods may appear as we can imagine them changing our way of life.

For me the mext one to appear may be the Virtual Reality as it already start gaining new "worshippers" everyday. There is even cults Inside cults like with the Ugandan Knuckles that are worshipping the "Queen".

So for me, Humanity as it is will never stop believing in something greater as a god or deity.

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  • $\begingroup$ There's a difference between real worship and a joke. Ugandan Knuckles' Queen worship is the latter. $\endgroup$ – user31389 Feb 6 '18 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ This one is a joke but I think that even if we don't really believe in the "queen" we pray, someone that doesn't know it's a joke may start to believe in the queen by himself (really low probability for the Ugandan Knuckles "religion" but still) $\endgroup$ – Calaom Feb 8 '18 at 7:30
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There are plenty of new "gods" even now. I just started watching the American Gods series, but one of the quotes by Lucille Ball (the goddess of TV I guess) really stuck with me. "Time and attention, mmh, better than lamb's blood." How interesting is that? Makes you think about what is it that makes something a god, and what is it that really counts as worship?

A few current real world examples that come to mind are prayers to the Universe, Humanism (which I think is new, but am not completely sure), and "Science!" (with a capital S). I've seen the first one everywhere from TV shows to offhand comments people I know make; just a semi-serious request to "The Universe" as if the universe is listening, has a will, and might respond positively for requests for intercession. A little weird. Might just be a hold over from Christianity, where the ritual has outlived the belief. As an answer to your question though, you can have a common "rite" that persists past whatever started it and a new mythology can be built around that (or several of those). Next is the Humanism thing. Only met a few real humanists, but seen a lot of it in books. It's based on this idea of a metaphysical connection between all human beings. Sort of a specific type of "spiritual, but not religious." The Hyperion books by Dan Simmons (in addition to just being really good sci-fi) get into this idea quite a bit - especially the last two (which aren't nearly as good as the first two in my opinion).

The last one is probably the biggest in the list. "Science!" is a magical force that makes people's lives better. Most don't really understand it but you don't need to know what you are talking about, after all some smart person already figured all this out! My favorite is when you see in writing that some phenomenon is caused by some new theory, as though a physicist with a chalkboard is a magician coaxing some new version of reality into being, rather than just trying his best to understand what might be really happening without any regard to him or his chalkboard - look for this type of language in any sort of science article, it's rampant. This is a god that is trotted out by the elites all the time, and they can do this successfully because people don't see it as a god; they see it as reality.

Now of course science (with a little s) is just a thought tool, a process: you make observations, come up with a hypothesis, test against the null hypothesis, and update based on the new observations. Pretty mundane but super useful. As the how-to is lost on the general public but the benefits are not, all this has taken on a sort of arcane aura. The whole "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" (A. C. Clarke) idea. This is a great route to go for the fictional creation of a new god (it seems to be working OK in real life) because it is useful you get The Elites interested and the populace listening, because it is difficult to understand a Priesthood is required to commune with this new "god" on behalf of everyone else. Don't really think you should copy the Science! example exactly, but it offers a great road map for making a new "god" that will become a huge and contemporary force in your setting.

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It seems that you are really asking if new polytheistic gods can be introduced and credibly believed after the introduction of monotheistic religions -- i.e. is there real progress in religion as there is in science.

It seems unlikely. Once you get used to seeing the universe as a whole, it's hard to go back on that view and start worshiping many gods, that aren't just avatars of The One, or demi-gods under the control of a super-god of some kind.

I think that's your difficulty. Modernity and science assume a monotheistic world in the sense that there is one cause underlying everything. I find it hard to imagine a technologically advanced world (i.e. that has science) but that remains truly polytheistic. I think that's why we feel that the age of the gods is past.

The Sea of Faith 
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore 
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. 
But now I only hear 
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, 
Retreating, to the breath 
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear 
And naked shingles of the world.

Mathew Arnold. Dover Beach.

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Nearly instantaneously with actual divine intervention.

If a more powerful being appeared and began performing feats that we couldn't scientifically explain, then a new religion would be born within weeks, at most. This could be an alien, time traveler, whatever - any science sufficiently advanced would appear as magic (as they say) and miraculous to many.

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This could occur at any time.

That answer is not totally unique from some of the other answers. However, these examples may be, and so may be some of the resulting interpretations.

1800s

  • In 1830, Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon. Wikipedia's article on Joseph Smith notes, "By the time of his death fourteen years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religious culture that continues to the present." Wikipedia's article on Mormons notes, "In 2012, there were an estimated 14.8 million Mormons,[93] with roughly 57 percent living outside the United States."

  • In 1863, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was founded. On March 1st, 2017, the SDA church announced over 20 million baptized members.

  • In 1885, Mary Baker Eddy published "Science and Health". By 1936, the number of Christian Scientists reached 268,915"

He-Man

Do you remember He-Man? Maybe you think he was just a minor blip in history. Well, perhaps he has seemed far less impressive from 1986 on, but despite his fate being rather dismal after then, let's not forget the impact he had.

Consider, a moment, these two findings:

  • In the third episode of "The Toys That Made Us" ("TTTMU") (a video available now on Netflix), the story of He-Man is mentioned. Sales forecasts predicted \$38 in revenue during the first year of this toy line-up. It actually accomplished over \$38 million, and went up from there.

  • 38 minutes into that TTTMU show, according to in an interview with Roger Sweet (who was involved with making the Masters of the Universe toys), some specific numbers were provided:

  • "The 1982 Masters [of the Universe] line did 38.2 million,

    • then 80 million in '83,
    • then 111 million in '84,
    • 250 million in '85,
    • 400 million in '86.
    • Then it collapsed to 7 million."

So, this was not a minor blip. In particular, the cartoon introduced Prince Adam, essentially the equivalent to Superman's Clark Kent. Prince Adam could perform a step which turned him from a seemingly incompetent goofball into a revered hero. Despite clearly being fiction, this has inspired children (who placed themselves into the "incompetent goofball" category as they were surrounded by far more capable beings, adults). The children were inspired that they could be more.

This resonated far beyond 1987. Decades later, some of those same children have become collectors of He-Man memorabilia. So don't believe for a moment that the children's memories of He-Man were erased in 1987 just because Mattel failed to continue making the same amount of money.

Now, let's look at another example:

Star Wars

This is an even more compelling example. The first episode of "The Toys That Made Us" was actually about Star Wars, and the third episode (which was about He-Man) notes that the Masters of the Universe line was invented in order to compete with Star Wars toys. However, Star Wars has impacted us beyond just toys.

Beyond just toys, though, Jediism has claimed enough followers to become statistically noteworthy. Wikipedia's article on "Jedi census phenomenon" notes

In England and Wales 390,127 people (almost 0.8%) stated their religion as Jedi on their 2001 Census forms, surpassing Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism, and making it the fourth largest reported religion in the country. [...] In the 2001 Census, 2.6% of the population of Brighton claimed to be Jedi.

Wikipedia's article on Jediism notes

In 2007, the Temple of the Jedi Order was registered in Texas. However IRS tax exemption wasn't granted until 2015

If you were to tell people that their beliefs are superfluous, you might find that adherents who lack light sabers might just use the closest available tool, sabers.

Social Movement

Consider the sexual radicalization movement. This has expanded from murmurings about a desire for equality, to actual changes in law. Even the United States "White House" was colored rainbow (by shining different color lights on it).

The homosexual movement...
err... Apparently that's not inclusive enough of a name. Apparently this has become to LGBT movemen---
err--- I suppose there's now a Q, in LGBTQ...
Oh, no, now it's become LGBTQQIP2SAA movement? We're now looking at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexuel, Two-Spirited, Asexual, and Allies?
Oh, no, apparently that wasn't enough. Starting out with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex was deemed acceptable. And the remaining Pansexual, Asexual, and Allies were good enough to remain, but those latter four have now been moved into a longer mix of "Curious/ Asexual/ Agender/ Ally/ Pansexual/ Polysexual/Friends-and-family/ Two-Spirit/ Kink" (and more), so LGBTQQIP2SAA wasn't inclusive enough, and so now
LGBTQQICAPF2K+ is the latest iteration.

The on-topic point I'm making here is that all those letters represent different views with common elements, and even if the movement is fractured on what to name itself, there is a common flag (rainbow), ideals (equality), and they've been able to overturn regulations that had previously been set up by people who pursued different ideals.

Marijuana

This might sound like a joke, but I bring it up seriously to make a point. I recall reading about how a couple of traveling rock stars said they prayed to a joint that someday it would change laws and become legal. Well, in years later, you can now read about the Church of Cannabis. (Yes, an actual church building.)

Now, I know the question asked for something beyond "a small cult". However, the "question" presented actually consists of multiple questions, including "Is there any evidence for a new god emerging in later times?" I mention the Cannabis church simply to demonstrate an example of emergence. (Certainly there are a lot of people who may not have gone into the building, but do subscribe to some of this church's basic way of thinking.)

Revelation's Beast

From Christianity's Sacred Text, Revelation 13:3 (International Standard version) states,

Rapt with amazement, the whole world followed the beast.

This indicates that, during the end times (which occur just before the end of "life as we know it", when all sin is purged), a world-wide religion is created.

What all this means

Now that I've provided various evidences, let's look at the questions.

How recently could a god be born?

The evidence I showed indicates that the population is ripe for susceptibility to adopt new faiths.

What is the latest point in history that a new god could be worshiped by some intellectual and cultural elite; i.e. not just a small cult?

First of all, it may be worthwhile to identify what a "god" is. Going back to the Roman times, there's a rather strong indication that gods were used by the politicians to unite cultures and collect sacrifices, essentially as taxes. So they fulfilled roles in society other than just beliefs. Today, we fulfill many of those roles with made up entities, from mascots that unite local sports teams to superheroes that generate revenue for (corporate) leaders.

As for beliefs, there are some beliefs that have attracted large numbers of adherents. Significant devotion can be demonstrated by the followers of David Koresh (leader of a group who died off in/near Waco, Texas), and specialized/devoted buildings are created in numbers that are probably largely based on money (to afford the buildings), which is largely generated by having large populations.

So we have the creation of powerful (artificial, fictitious) entities, and we have a willingness for new beliefs. The creation of a new god would simply be a melding of those two aspects, both of which are present in current society. Although that may not have actually happened yet, the conditions seem ripe for such a possibility, indicating that [as late as today] it "could" happen (which is what you asked). And there are plenty of Christians who expect that it will happen.

is it possible for a new deity to emerge in medieval or later times?

I just answered: now, and in the future too.

Is there any evidence for a new god emerging in later times?

No.

Well, I'm not offhand aware of one. And maybe there is no widely known example that has actually occurred in recent history. (And your question indicates you're not just interested in a "cult", but something grander.) If that's the case, then no strong desire is going to be able to change what has actually historically happened.

How does the worldwide dissemination of exclusive monotheistic religions affect the acceptance of new gods?

In 1 Timothy, Chapter 6, verses 2-4, we see,

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing.

This teaching basically excludes later contrary religious ideas. Whereas some Roman gods were simply modifications of Greek gods (actually, the Greek Apollo didn't even get renamed by the later Roman empire), the idea of monotheism provides a context that is rather unfriendly to new gods entering the picture. That is, if people believe in polytheism, they may be more ready to simply accept a new god. Those who have embraced monotheism may question whether to call the God Yahweh or Allah, but the idea of just adding a new god to the mix won't be so readily acceptable.

So basically these religions have raised the bar. One could see polytheism as being sort of a step in between the belief that monotheists have, and the clearly unquestionably widespread recognition of superheroes.

Finally, I'd like to bring up that this is the WorldBuilding site, not Stack Exchange's History site. Therefore, I take the core of the question to be about what could happen, not necessarily what did happen. So even if some of my theoretical possibilities didn't actually happen yet, the point that some of these things are so close to happening proves the viability to be pretty believable (conceptually). So, as I summarized in my very first sentence of six words, I will boil all that down into this summary of even fewer words: it can happen (still!)

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  • $\begingroup$ Cool answer. You had a problem with MathJax as you used $, which starts MathJax syntax and should in your case be \$. While I was at it I replaced your HTML with markdown. HTML can sometimes mess with markdown and MathJax, it's easier to type and HTML elements can theoretically be stripped away from the server, so using markdown is the "safer" approach if you want to get what you see when typing as the final result. If you feel that was too much feel free to roll the edit back. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Feb 8 '18 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not asking about new religions. I'm asking about a new god. All the new real religions you mentioned use an existing god. The social movements and Jedi things are religions but those religions do not have gods. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 8 '18 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion - Yes, I do address that. To recap that point, my answer to "Is there any evidence for a new god emerging in later times?" was "No". So, therefore, all of my evidence lacks any new gods (which would be the natural, expected result from my "no"). The reason I mention those other religions is to address your other questions about what "could" happen. If you wanted an explanation with heavier focus of extra-powerful beings, the answer could have elaborated further on roles of modern "super heroes" (but then this question would've been even longer.) $\endgroup$ – TOOGAM Feb 9 '18 at 4:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus - simpler, I do suppose. As for easier, not to me :) For context, when I brainstorm, I type HTML structures. I likely type “ more often than " key. For me, raw HTML is quite easy, & I can get some things "just right" w/ less effort than mucking w/ less familiar "simplified enhancements". With an option to just stick w/ pure familiar HTML & not be affected by these alternative ways of doing stuff, I could've not suffered from unexpected MathJax. All that said, most re-formatting edits screw up my posts more than help, but you did better. Thanks for the help & the good job! $\endgroup$ – TOOGAM Feb 9 '18 at 4:17
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What about Allah?

On one hand, one could say since islam is abrahamic religion, it's not a new god. On the other hand, Allah is definitely differs both from christian trinity and the God from judaism.

According english wiki, Allah originated in the early 7th and russian wiki states that islam is the youngest religion.

I suppose muslims have different opinion related jewish or agnostics so there is no the only correct answer.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that Muhammad explicitly intended for Allah to be the same Abrahamic God as worshiped in Judaism or Christianity. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 5 '18 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ possibly you are right, I'm not a theologian. But how do distinguish what god inherits from another, and what god is a new one? $\endgroup$ – ADS Feb 5 '18 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ Well, a good guide is what the followers say is true. For older religions this is difficult to determine, but not so for Islam. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 5 '18 at 20:28

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