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Why would a priesthood of a world religion worship a different god from their followers?

This organization is the only official religious order in this setting. Although It has no official power within governments, it is widely revered as the voice of the main god and is deeply entrenched in civilized society. it operates as a priesthood, it also has many other functions. One branch operates as a police force, investigating crimes related to the supernatural. Another operates as a military order, defending the world from large outside invasions. Still another is an humanitarian organization, running shelters, hospitals, and the like or focuses on keeping the peace between countries.

This organization only accepts young children into its ranks. These are taken from their families at a young age normally after they are born, and raised by the org. itself to become members. This is a mandatory requirement for all nations. Then they are placed to whatever order needs their services. There are many capable adults and experienced professionals around the world who are willing to assist the org in its goals due to them being widely influential in all walks of life. However, it refuses their services and forbids new members over a specific age group. This tradition has been the rule since its inception.

Why would this order, at their own expense, only take in kids as new members?

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    $\begingroup$ "These are taken from their families at a young age normally after they are born..." - what do you mean by "normally after they are born"? Do they sometimes take the mother pre-birth? There are practical difficulties if they separate child and mother before the infant is weaned... $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Sep 29 '18 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ One word: janissaries. Ah, and... When you say that it doesn't have "official" power it does not mean that it doesn't have power in general. "Governments" are a rather modern (post-Renaissance) phenomenon; before the modern age states did not have "governments", they had rulers, and rulers had courts, possibly even an apparatus: but there was no "government". "Nations" in the way we understand them today are also a modern phenomenon; before 1600 or so nations were purely geographical entities, with no political dimension whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 29 '18 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ The trope of only accepting children is quite old. The Wizards of Earthsea only accepted young teenage boys. The Jedi Knights only accepted children. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 30 '18 at 2:34

Education and training.

The form and rituals involved with the religious cult, together with the mental attitude requested to its priests, demand intensive and extensive training, lasting years to properly shape the brains of the priests.

No grown up can be molded and biased to the level of a fresh and clean child mind, therefore putting effort into educating an adult is just a waste of time and resources.

Yes, adults might get some partial training to understand the exterior form of the rites, but getting to the core requires starting as a child.

Therefore children are taken into the religious order as soon as possible.

  1. Charity. Orphans and unwanted children need a place to live and be raised.

  2. Purity. Those raised in the church are uncontaminated by outside influences.

  3. Influence. Younger sons of nobility, who would otherwise be disinherited and potentially cause trouble and rebellions now have a position of influence which gives their countries a sense of influence in the church while giving the church influence in national affairs. ( Common practice in the old empires, read the Book of Daniel )

  4. Loyalty. "Give us a child until he is 7, and he is ours for life." A proverb attributed to Catholic monks, who coincidentally took in orphans and unwanted children.


They want to be save from infiltration.

Any adult who is asking to join the priest order might have ulterior motives. They might want to spy on the secret internal affairs of the org, abuse the influence of the org for their own benefit or attempt to change or destroy the org from the inside.

This is why they only recruit infants. It is impossible for an infant to already have a secret agenda.

If someone wants to plant a mole in the organization, they need to turn someone who is already in it. But that might be difficult because they were indoctrinated from birth to be loyal to the organization.


For most people, their primary loyalty is to their family. If you want maximum control over people in your organization, you need to be their family. So you adopt them as children so small they can't remember their birth families (age 3 will suffice and allow the children to be breastfed and have constant physical contact and be raised with love, which will help them be strong and healthy (physically and emotionally) for life).

Now you are the children's parents and the children are each other's siblings. If, when these children grow up, they're allowed to marry, their spouses will be other clergy. If they are allowed to breed, then their children will automatically be part of the order. As these clergy become the adults who run things, they will take in young children from the outside world and become their parents.

Pure and total loyalty built in to the system (though obviously there will always be exceptions).


Because their religion commands them

I'm aware this sounds a bit like a cop-out, but why does a religious order do anything really? Why do they congregate on Friday/Saturday/Sunday? Why don't they eat beef, or pork, or shellfish? Why do they preach what they preach? The answer is always going to be: It's part of their religion.

Even if their real motivation is not their religious beliefs but something more practical, their religion must (be made to) support their actions, or at the very least not forbid them.


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