I have a civilization in my story structured around the idea of worshiping the sun(s) as gods. The Church is the ruling body of this interstellar civilization and ensures that the "Blessings of the Gods" (technology) are only operated by Priests and the Chosen Few. Anyone caught violating the Blessings of the Gods by daring to disassemble, examine, or question their operation is immediately put to death for having the hubris to believe they could understand the Gods' power.
In this way, anything more complicated than a pocket communicator or simple power bike can only be operated by a member of the Church, keeping the normal populace in check and reliant on the Church for the continuation of their way of life. Access to the Divine Heart (fusion power), Protectors from the Great Void (spacecraft), and Portals of the Gods (computer networks/internet) are strictly controlled by the Priesthood.
That's the easy part.
The hard part is, how do I keep the Priests themselves from knowing how their technology works, while still letting them a) operate, b) repair, and c) build it?
The technology itself was designed many thousands of years past by a now long-dead, more secular, previous iteration of this civilization. Further R&D by the Priesthood is unnecessary, but they need to be able to repair existing Prayer Vessels (deep-space comms) and build new Fists of the Almighty (laser guns).
The trick is that the Priests believe in the Divinity of the Stars just as much as the populace: to them, their operation of these Holy Devices is a god-given right, not the result of superior technological understanding. How can I impose some social rule strong enough to keep a curious Priest from disassembling a Star Shard (light bulb) one day and figuring out how it works?
There are two explanations I'd like to avoid using:
- They don't do it because faith. I'm looking for a way to keep some of the more skeptical priests in check; faith is enough to keep most in line but I'm looking to scare the outliers here.
- They don't do it because the original designers made the technology un-understandable. This seems like a cop-out to me, and doesn't fit with the story of the previous civilization.