I am building a world in which there are several gods at war. One of these gods creates the earth and humans. He intends to use the humans as cheap forces that reproduce in the war.

Along with the earth and humans he creates immortal beings who are the "shepherds" of humanity. Though he makes them believe the earth is a safe house far away from the war where life should thrive. And the shepherds ought to make sure it does.

What powers do they have?

The gods There is a kind of raw material, or ether, of which the universe is made. The gods can shape this material. Once it has been shaped, they can only further manipulate it if they know how exactly it is built (which they do when they created it, but not when others created it). If they have given a mind to their creation, they cannot control it that way anymore. Every mind has a name that only the mind knows. To control the mind or body attached to it, one has to know its name, even the gods. Also, a mind is a mind of its own. It cannot be written like a computer program, but formed by its circumstances. So the gods could only create the mind's body to get the mind to do what it wants, like giving it feelings or a voice in its head that's continuously reminding it of its purpose.

The shepherds The shepherds have similar power, just weaker. They can also control beings by knowing their name and manipulate things if they know how it is built. But the god has only given them insight in how the earth is built, so they cannot create new things or manipulate something outside of the earth.

The humans The humans also have access to these powers (to them known as magic), but they can use it only in limited ways on earth. Once they get "drafted", they'll learn to use it to its fullest extent and will be given more things to use it on.

Why doesn't the god just compel his creations to do what he wants?

As for the shepherds: Because he doesn't want to. Or rather, feelings have proven themselves quite useful in the war. Compelling someone to do something isn't the same as giving someone something to fight for. He makes the shepherds believe the humans are innocent beings that deserve protection, that do not deserve the war, and not just another military factory (this time just spitting out live beings), so that the shepherds will be more willing to fight for it. That's also why he doesn't want them to find out about the human's true purpose: they can still use their own judgement and would feel betrayed. Heaven knows what they would do if they find out that their god given task to create and maintain a place of peace in the universe really is just another military factory.

As for the humans: the god wouldn't want the shepherds to find out about the human's purpose from the humans themselves. Other than that he wouldn't really care if the humans found out, as it really is their purpose and people are willing to fight and die for their god (as people in the comments have pointed out).

But why does this god need mortals?

Simply because they can reproduce. Also it is just an experiment of the god at first, to test new strategies. The immortals have to be created by the god and they cannot reproduce, because with reproduction comes growth and with growth comes death. So while creating immortals takes all of the god's attention for a while, the humans could just reproduce and the god can be off elsewhere to do something else than keeping up his supply of soldiers and pick up the humans later. Also, both, mortals and immortals, die when their bodies are destroyed.

To summarise: this god is almost unlimited in what he creates, unless he gives a mind to it. From then on he can only control his creations rather limited. Also, he actively chose to be limited in ways of picking up the humans, as he wants them to be protected properly. To do so, he made the shepherds believe it is something worth to be protected and hid its true purpose from them.

Now, how would this god pick up a portion of these humans and take them away to fight, without the shepherds finding out about their true purpose?

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    $\begingroup$ What powers and technology does the god have? What powers and technology do the humans and shepherds have? If the humans are Stone Age, the shepherds are Bronze Age and the god has the USS Enterprise (now we know why god wanted a starship) then teleporting humans away undetectably is trivial. $\endgroup$ Mar 21, 2020 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ This god creates all of these things so it can create them to believe whatever it wants the to. This is a non-issue. It could also create them all to be compelled to let it the god do whatever it wants regardless of how it affects those races. $\endgroup$ Mar 21, 2020 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ Meanwhile, on this planet Earth, millions and millions of people are perfectly willing to fight and die for their God. As for the naive question about who wants to put the burden of war on their babies before they are born, it only show a complete lack of historical curiosity. Consider, for example, France and Germany: from about 1650 to 1945 each and every generation of Frenchmen and Germans went to war; you may want to ponder the notion of hereditary enemy. (As of 2020, western Europe has been at peach for 75 years; the previous time this has happenned, Hadrian was emperor of Rome.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 21, 2020 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ This seems like another god-is-both-unlimited-and-severely-limited question. It would really help if the ways in with this supreme being were limited were explained. If it can create immortal shepherds, why does it need mortal cannon fodder who can feel and suffer and lament? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Mar 21, 2020 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you all for your comments. I have edited the question to clarify. I hope I answered all questions or doubts raised. $\endgroup$
    – palkonimo
    Mar 24, 2020 at 3:34

3 Answers 3


People right now are willing to die for a god they have never seen or heard, and going back in history there have been religious conflicts for centuries even over minute details. If this god can prove he's a capital G God, why wouldnt these people want to fight for it?

The God can also maintain the communication between the people on earth and the "chosen one's" who go off to do Gods bidding. Meaning that earth never has to find out that their chosen one's are only going to war.

Alternatively God can just create reasons. "I have this planet that used to be populated by humans just like yours, but my evil twin destroyed them. It will be harsh and you will have to fight, but I will support you in taking back these planets".

Or just greed: "these planets are viable but you will have to meet many challenges to inhabit it, including fighting the desciples of who seek to eradicate all". Its a nice self-serving goal you put in front of the humans.

Better yet is to just combine most of the above to speak to the greed, self-preservation, religious purity and vengeance of the human populace to get them into the war willingly and with as much enthousiasm as humans can have for war.


This ended up as long wall of text. Apologies. Hope some of it is useful. Suggestions of how to edit this to something readable are welcome.

There is no issue. Sunk cost fallacy can be used to control people. The article and examples commonly given talk about it as it is only related to economics but in fact it is a major factor in how people behave in context of religion or politics.

It is trivially simple to find real world examples of religious and political movements currently using this to manipulate people. I had several but turns out discussing this in the context of the actual question works better. As in it just works better even if you do not care about raising pointless controversy.

Basically if people have already sacrificed lots of their young men to the great God and there is no specific reason that forces them to admit doing so was wrong, people will simply convince themselves that the past sacrifices were justified without you needing to try that hard to convince them. Just provide any semi-plausible reason and people will work really hard to convince themselves it is true. Which naturally means that keeping on sending more young men to die is the right thing to do.

They will be happy and proud to do so too, because it proves they are good and godly people. Totally unlike those weak and corrupt people who fail to understand that living properly requires sacrifices. That is actually very important factor in this. People have to believe that making the sacrifices makes them better than somebody else. That they are more committed, more faithful, more moral than those who raise doubts. That admitting those doubts would make them inferior and worse.

So do not try to make everyone believe your made up nonsense. Instead play up the divide between those who believe and those who do not. Make sure that the believers see the non-believers as morally inferior and unreliable, even corrupt. This way the believers will want to constantly prove to themselves and others that they are true believers who believe all the right things. And who disbelieve all the wrong things made up by the corrupt non-believers.

It is very important to understand that proving your group identity by publicly repeating the right things and rejecting the wrong things is much more important to real humans than whether the right things make sense or wrong things are backed by hard evidence.

Which social group you belong to is vitally important to humans, while the veracity of anything that does not directly affect your life is usually totally irrelevant. Only scientists actually care if something is true or not. And even for them, the group identity is usually stronger and conscious effort is required to believe the wrong thing just because it is true.

Another important reminder is that there must be a cost. Sunken cost fallacy does not really work otherwise. And this cost must be in line with what you want to get away with. Established religions might be satisfied with people ritually confessing their faith and attending the church. Abusive cults often have intentionally humiliating and abusive rituals. Stronger the reasons to walk away, the stronger the hook preventing that must be.

Happily in your case you can just use the truth. That the young men are going to a sacred war, will probably die in a horrible fashion in the near future and in any case will never come back. And no, there is no communication after they leave, they are gone. Sending your sons to certain death with no chance of return is pretty big sacrifice. No more is needed.

Instead your focus should be on glorifying your cause and demonizing your opponents. Everyone needs to know your cause is just and they are evil.

Make sure that making this sacrifice is directly linked with being a good person. The young men are martyrs and stories of their heroism and valour in battle should be familiar to all. The priests recite them in church. Storytellers tell them in the evenings. Fathers tell them to their children. Poets makes epics from them. It makes no difference if the stories are actually true.

And naturally parents of martyrs deserve great respect as well. The prestige and social position of a family should be directly related to the martyrs it has. Families should be eager to pay poets to write epics of their martyrs and storytellers to spread those stories.

And naturally families that do not believe that do not have any martyrs will be at the bottom and not worth even your contempt. Certainly their nonsense of how doing your part in the great fight between good and evil is somehow suddenly wrong and all the previous generations were just fools is not worth serious consideration. Just overhearing it on the street makes you dumber.

Make sure that being a martyr is seen as a choice. Sunken cost fallacy only works on actual choices. You must choose to make the sacrifice. Choose to make the commitment. Choose to be a good and godly person instead of a corrupt and weak one.

Usually this choice involves lots of social pressure but in your case since you want the population to grow and have a sustained source of manpower letting them self-regulate the rate of sacrifice is just fine. Just maintain the level of prestige and status associated with martyrs and sacrifice and the laws of supply and demand will take care of it.

Since women are more important than men to sustained population, you do not even really need to worry about people being too eager and sacrificing themselves to extinction. Just make sure that only young men are sacrificed and polygamy is allowed.


There are several options, each revolving around religion. Humans are able to believe pretty much anything. Make it a rite of passage. The chosen ones "ascend" to be with their god. Then just pick them up with a spaceship and send them to boot-camp. Maybe even their whole religion revolves around the concept of being soldiers of god, so the humans reproduce fast and train to fight, until they get picked up to join their god in the war of the gods. Humans won't get depressed and stop reproducing if they know they are just bred cannon-fodder for a war, if they believe it to be their purpose. Some may, which would be a good start for a story.

If the god really needs to be sneaky about it, so his own shepherds don't find out, he could just teleport the humans he needs out, and let everyone know it's the work of the devil. Or use a shadow, monster race, that "eats people at night" but really they teleport them to bootcamp. They would mostly "eat" the brave warriors, who stand up to them to protect their children.

Much of what is possible depends on the nature of the Shepherds though.

  • $\begingroup$ I really like the shadow monster bootcamp idea! $\endgroup$
    – palkonimo
    Mar 24, 2020 at 3:57

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