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The multiverse is made up of different realms, each with their own human population. These realms are planet sized, and have their own cultures and traditions. Realm gates exist in each of those realms and connect them to each other. The church of an organized religion control these gates and are the glue that bind these populations together.

Members of this clergy are the only ones who can use these realm gates to traverse the realms. Each realm worships the same deity, but have different perspectives regarding his nature, with some being polytheistic, monotheistic, or others. In realm A, there are multiple gods with the main god at the top ruling over them. In realm B, those multiple deities are simply smaller aspects of the same god. In realm C, god is a single monotheistic deity. And so on. Regardless of how it is represented, this god exists in some form across this multiverse with this church as administers of the faith. This God is unable to interact directly with these realms after creating them due to reasons, and is unable to communicate with these worlds directly. Therefore, this organization is responsible for watching over the realm and protecting it from external threats.

How can a church exist across the multiverse with different perspectives on its god without causing a schism? What's the best way for it to maintain control?

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    $\begingroup$ When that God can not interact with the realms he created or communicate with his followers, then why should they worship him at all? Or are the humans not aware of this? (is the clergy?) $\endgroup$ – Philipp Jun 16 '18 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ The Catholic church has worked like that at the very least since they expanded into the Americas (more or less) $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 16 '18 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ I would say that if there is a God working in one of the realms, the answer to any heretics is to send them to that realm so he can see the truth and return to tell the others. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Jun 16 '18 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ Also, how much cultural interaction is there between the different universes? Is the average person aware that the other universes exist? Can they travel between them or even migrate? Or does the multidimensional clergy keep this a closely guarded secret? $\endgroup$ – Philipp Jun 16 '18 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Ah, sorry. Telepathy failure. $\endgroup$ – KernelOfChaos Jun 17 '18 at 16:12
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When the multidimensional clergy would accept that each dimensional sub-branch of them has the right to their own theology and when they agree that each branch is on their own when it comes to enforce their dogma, then there would be no reason for them to argue about their theological differences. There is no conflict.

Also, if they have a general policy of non-interference between the branches, then there would also be no reason for them to cooperate. Large organizations exist so they can pool their resources to solve local problems. When one region of a unified religion experiences a spread of heresy, they can ask the central church to divert money and resources from other regions to them until the problem is solved. But when the interdimensional clergy doesn't do that on principle, then there would be no reason for it to exist.

But while the interdimensional clergy couldn't exist as a religious organisations, there could be other reasons to justify its existence:

  • Maintain and administrate the gate network
  • Actively prevent religious interference between universes (if anyone tries to proselytize in another universe, they put a stop to it)*

They would have a similar role to the United Nations on Earth. They don't get involved in the internal affairs of their members, but if anyone disturbs the peace, they try to prevent that. Whether your organization is actually effective at this or bound by institutional barriers like the UN on Earth is up to you.

*this point especially has potential for some interesting stories to tell. If there is a spread of heresy in universe A which seems very similar to the religion of universe B, then the high priest of universe A will ask the interdimensional clergy for assistance. But in order to get that assistance, he needs to provide proof that the heresy was actually caused by interdimensional interference and that they didn't come up with it on their own.

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  • $\begingroup$ Bullet point 3 consolidate power $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jun 16 '18 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @nzaman The second paragraph explains why I didn't add that point. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Jun 16 '18 at 16:08
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What you are describing is a form of Omni-Theism. A belief system which supports the importance of belief in a higher power without getting too tied up in the details of what is actually believed. Modern Wicca works that way as do many "Coexist" and "All Attempts To Reach God Work" theologies.

Given any group of religions, the truly devote of each faith have more in common with each other than they do with the less devote, more secular members of their own faith. There can be a unifying force to serving a higher purpose which can foster a friendly rivalry between the ministers of each faith.

There are many campuses around the world which host seminaries for multiple faiths on a single grounds. In these places, coexistence, communications and tolerance is encouraged. The governing body of such a campus could be seen as a single clergy serving the needs of students of many faiths.

Your divergent faiths need some central belief to bring them together; a seed of cooperation, a single belief which they can all share. The existence of a supernatural portal system seems like a good starting point for such belief.

The portals are more proof of transcendence than our "real" world faiths have ever had. If they are identical on all worlds and bear none of the religious markings of any of those world's existing faiths, then they must be a gift from an even higher power, a physical unification device to allow a peaceful and cooperative spiritual unification to take form.

The biggest threats to this unification are fanaticism and dogma. These threats manifest themselves in the form of holy wars and crusades. Why not give your gates a pacifying function to help avoid such unpleasantness? If only one person can pass through a gate at a time and if all blades which pass through with them are dulled, all explosives nullified, all plagues and poisons cured; then it will be exceptionally difficult to conduct a holy war across dimensions.

The gates don't have to just be a means of transportation, they can also be an extremely unsubtle demonstration of the higher power's peaceful plans for the multiverse.

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How can a church exist across the multiverse with different perspectives on its god without causing a schism? What's the best way for it to maintain control?

As described, it's unlikely.

In realm C, [G-]d is a single monotheistic deity.

This part right here is the problem. You can have a vast amount of religious pluralism and syncretism among polytheists. Some will draw all the clergy under a single wide tent, viewing the myriad gods as facets of the transcendent in the manner of India's Dharmic faiths; others will maintain separate clergies, traditions, liturgies but consider their various storm, fertility, virility, love, spice, toilet, and wombat gods and goddesses interchangeable in the manner of the Roman 'Greek interpretation'.

In either case, syncretism will cause them to share various traits but you'll still get the variety of practice and doctrine that you were looking for.

Exclusivist monotheism and hostile ethnic faiths are precisely who your clergy would be defending against, at least from the inside. The heretics to the greatly tolerant are the intolerant who insist upon their own way and refuse to respect and play ball with the rest. Witness the Roman treatment of the Jews (ethnic monotheist partisans of 'Jupiter') or Hindu spats with the Buddhists (whose founder rejected the importance of gods to personal salvation and became a Hindu avatar of deception and Satanic faith-testing for his pains) and Muslims, who permit predecessors of their faith for a fee but have religious injunctions against permitting idolatry.

Thing is, though, intolerant faiths are much more marketable to powerful secular rulers. If they have enough adherents to ride out the civic unrest caused by changing faith, their tenets give such rulers complete permission to exploit their power against weaker neighbors in the name of spreading the One Truth and immortality as a holy men for their troubles. People around the world still praise and remember David, Asoka, Constantine, Charlemagne, Muhammad, Vladimir, & al.

When such faiths are strong, even such notionally pacifist strands as Christianity and (e.g. Japanese & Sri Lankan) Buddhism will feel a divine right to expand; indeed, the clergy will tend to speak of a divine duty to expand, to save the souls of the as-yet-unborn children of the heathens and benighted. When such faiths are weak, like the Jews under Rome or the Palestinians under the Jews, they will view their neighbors as illegitimate and resistance as a test of their faith.

Plausible options include

  • Such faiths existing and in uneasy pluralist participation with the rest because we're coming in just after they've burnt themselves out on decades to millennia of crusades, jihad, and wars of religion. You'll see 'culture wars' similar to modern America as stalwarts aim to resist tolerance of everyone else's 'decadence' and 'immorality'

  • Such faiths exist as nuisances, terrorists, and wasteland enclaves (think Utah) but are not part of the interplanetary religious order you're describing. The official faiths might suppress them as a matter of policy or attempt to ignore them in the name of upholding personal conscience... until a certain threshold of insubordination or political power is reached, at which point the gauntlet comes down (think Roman Judea or the entire religious history of China).

  • Revealed, exclusivist monotheism as such does not exist or has just begun, but some philosophical monotheisms on the Socratic or Deist model exist, either as the usual mindset of secular university faculty or as the leaders of separate realms. They would consider their single deity to be identical with existence (or nearly so) and accessible to trained reason; they would consider their polytheist neighbors less refined; but they wouldn't see any need or sense in going to war over the topic.

  • The polytheists are just right. (Hey, those gates didn't build themselves and you're talking about their being maintained by clergy, not engineers.) In your universe, there actually are divinities or divine emanations and it's unquestionable that they have and provide spiritual power (basically, magic) and the monotheists, if they exist, don't or are just on par with some of the more powerful gods. They could even spring from separate vain and upstart gods (basically, Lucifer).

Regardless,

I'd consider that some major tensions in your societies are going to be how monotheists fit in (if they exist); how the clergy deal with the secular and military powers in their realms; and, if they are the secular and military powers in their realms, how they avoid using that power in ways self-destructive to the social order.

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One method would be to treat the clergy of different universes as though they were from separate orders. A real-world example of this would be the various orders of the Catholic church. A Benedictine monk will have slightly different rituals and practices from a Fransiscan, but they are still considered to be members of the same religion. Your multiverse has more differences within the religion; however, this approach may still work. The Order of Universe A will have similar-but-different beliefs from those of the Order of Universe B, but they will be able to work together.

In terms of the different interpretations, it seems that the most important thing is that all the Orders believe that they are part of the same religion. If the clergy of one universe adamantly believe that their's is the one true faith then they will not be able to cooperate (unless they take a mercenary viewpoint and only cooperate because it gives them power). If all the clergy believe that the different universes are differently-correct then cooperation will be more possible. This raises an extremely important question: are you sure that every single universe is following the same religion? Is there a universe where the clergy refuse to believe the other universes follow the same faith? This could be a different issue to explore in your story.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE! When you have a moment, please take our tour and visit our help center to learn more about us. This was a clever answer! Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 16 '18 at 21:09

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