So, I have a country in the making in my series that has a completely different culture than the rest of the world other than belief in a religion, Prophiatism. Since the country is said to be so different and also is the heaviest place of belief in Prophiatism, almost to the point of it being a cult, could they survive as a country if they did not have any political leaders, saying this in the sense of a titled leader such as king or president?

To apply some more context, this country is called Ebrias, and Ebrisian people automatically hang, or execute by bullet, any person in their country who they find does not believe in Prophiatism at all or speaks against it. This would mean any person who could possibly cause trouble inside the country by changing other's minds on the subject or just blatantly trying to take over would be stopped before they can make any effect.

But, on the other side, since Prophiatism is also known throughout the world and is commonly followed and that Ebrias is considered the heart of the religion because of the religions lore, what would stop other countries from invading and taking over? My answer to that isn't clear but, in my thoughts, there is a god in the Prohpiatism pantheon who is a god of war. I was thinking maybe there would be a group of people in the society that choose to heavily follow this god in the pantheon creating a sort of small army with them maybe training to fight to worship that god. This would be the same with farmers following the fertility god, etc.

But still with all this, would this country still be able to survive in the world with a structure like this?

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    $\begingroup$ In the well-known series known as the Bible, the people of Israel survived and prospered just fine in the time span covered by the Book of Judges, didn't they? True, they eventually called upon God to give them a king, and He did so in the Book of Samuel. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Not quite; the Israelites did have a formal leadership (the Levites and Judges); the introduction of kings was just a power shift away from the clergy. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MarvintheParanoidAndroid: Isn't "clergy in power" what the question is asking about? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP The question specifies that there is no government. "Clergy in power" qualifies as Theocracy, which is (guess what!) a form of government. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ Please note that there is no such thing as "no government", neither is there such a thing as "no money". Remove any of these two from a society, and society will soon find something else to become the new government, or to become the new money. In worst case, it can be "warlord" for the former and "pack of cigarettes" for the latter, but the void will be filled pretty soon. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 7:18

5 Answers 5


Yes, the religion becomes the government. This is known as a theocracy, and is not rare in history. Early Islamic history shows that Muhammad engaged in both religious preaching and politics. North American colonization also shows clear elements of this, as many of the early colonies were founded specifically as havens for persecuted sects. In the absence of strong, local secular governments (the nominal government being weeks away by ship), religious leaders ended up taking on much of the necessary governance tasks. Look at the Puritan movement in New England for endless examples of this.

In your specific case, you mention that "Ebrisian people automatically hang, or execute by bullet, any person in their country who they find does not believe in Prophiatism at all or speaks against it." What you have is an informal vigilante group or militia, which can easily become institutionalized into a law enforcement agency or criminal justice system if the leaders of Prophiatism encourage the members of said militia to formalize their ranks. This could be through the introduction of standardized training regimes (delivered at Prophetiatistic monasteries by clergy appointed for such), the induction into religious orders of militia members (with the associated rules and discipline associated with belonging to such an order), or the establishment of penalties for fighting for Prophetiatism in a manner "unauthorized" by religious leaders.

E.g. something like the following decree could get things started:

Any follower who has acted or desires to act in favor of the Prophetiatistic religion may submit their resume to the local bishop, who, upon his recommendation, may send the follower to Three-Year Crusader Training Camp at which they will be indoctrinated into Level II Prophetiatistic Foundations in Preaching and Intermediate Introduction to Advanced Best Practices in Religious Police Organizational Technology, upon completion of which said follower will be inducted into the Order of the Iron Fist of the God of War.

In just a few sentences above, a few things have been established that are commonly associated with governments:

  • An educational system, with defined entry and exit points
  • An organized service agency, with official selection/vetting criteria, which may act as a de-facto military, police force, and/or judicial system
  • A way to enforce uniformity or discipline (the Order of the Iron Fist presumably has rules that must be obeyed, or possibly even uniforms to wear)

If you are uncomfortable with having a single agency handle everything, then you can divide it. Make the members of Order of the Iron Fist who have completed Crusader Training Camp into police, and establish a separate religious order to act as judges for alleged blasphemers brought in by police.

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    $\begingroup$ As another example, look at Quakers in the state of Pennsylvania who pretty much ignored the task of running the government and ignored William Penn and his attempts to get them to do so much to his dismay (as he was apparently hoping to become rich off his land grant from the king from collecting taxes and such). $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ Great answer, I was just about to comment that any organization with a monopoly on violence over a certain area becomes government (the effectiveness of which, as well as recognition by other parties being a secondary matter) $\endgroup$
    – crizzis
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ @crizzis ty, that was exactly my point. There is rarely no government at all in a place. There may be a state of open rebellion, or the local government might be unrecognized by other governments and/or a more powerful one, but that's not the same thing as there being no government. If the old "official" government of an area collapses and local warlords take over, then the warlords are the government. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 18:06


There is such a thing as a theocracy, but a theocracy is defined as one where the government is run by priests or other religious figures - not that there's no government at all. And government of some sort is always necessary. Who will build and maintain public roads? Who will deal with the advent of natural disasters? Who will solve disputes between two people and pass judgement on criminals?

And, suppose, that your religion Prophiatism has an answer to all those question and has a framework to deal with large-scale events. Well, guess what? That's a government. So, either your religion has a government build it, or the people form one outside of it, but a government is absolutely needed to avoid the country falling into chaos and ruin.


Other answers:

Robert Columbia:

Yes, the religion becomes the government.


... a government is absolutely needed to avoid the country falling into chaos and ruin.

I disagree. While a theocracy is certainly one possibility you can consider, I don't think it is mandatory.

If you have a strong church organization, that church will become a de-facto government if there is no other.

But you don't need a strong church. A charismatic leader can gain influence in one city, but will not have much to say elsewhere. Maybe there is even a religious prohibition against taking religious leadership, like with the Quakers.

What is needed to defend against internal chaos is a strong culture. If everybody agrees that a nice well-ordered society is a good thing, the few criminals will be branded unbelievers and lynched.

Lynching should not be too common, as that in itself leads to unrest.

There will need to be some sort of system for settling civil disputes, but it doesn't have to governmental.

Defending against external enemies is different. I would suggest something like fear of excommunication. Not actual excommunication, since that requires a central authority, but more like informal word-of-mouth shunning.

Some hundred years ago the leader of Oppressia decided that they could waltz in and take this ungoverned area. At first it seemed easy. The army marched in and declared the county conquered. Hurray!

But then soldiers started disappearing in the night and turning up dead. Not very many, but the rest became very nervous.

At the same time, Oppressia's trading partners suddenly stopped trading with them. Their economy took a steep dive.

Then important people start dying in the capital of Oppressia, usually killed by their own servants. Not very many, but the rest became very nervous.

Some weeks later the leader is killed in a coup. The next leader immediately orders the withdrawal of the army and things return to normal.

Still, Oppressia haven't really recovered from this yet.


It depends...

...on how you define "government". Since you did state that you want them to "survive as a country" (emphasis added), then they are going to have to have some kind of leadership.

...and "politics" is what happens when you put two or more people in contact with each other. A bunch of anarchists each doing their own thing will not have any cohesion "as a country", and once you give them any sort of decision-making capability as a group, then, guess what, you've given them government!



If you take a literal meaning of "government", then government (i.e. political leadership, even if that leadership has nothing to do with "public works") is absolutely necessary for any sort of group identity to maintain itself, especially if there are any external problems (e.g. other entities that want to take your stuff).

However you also asked:

Would this country still be able to survive in the world with a structure like this?

...and mentioned:

Could they survive as a country if they did not have any political leaders, saying this in the sense of a titled leader such as king or president?

(Emphasis added.)

Well... yes, and probably not / it depends. They can survive; theocracy is not at all implausible. However, they will almost certainly have titled leaders. They might call them "judges", "bishops", "reverends" or whatnot, but people being what they are, it will be difficult to avoid saddling the people that are in charge with titles. The only way I could see this happening is if they have some really strict religious proscription against titles, and even then, the leaders are going to be titled in fact if not in name.

By the way...

Did you know that churches have government? If you look at the Roman Catholic Church, or even any of the more organized protestant denominations, you'll find they have government not unlike a large corporation or small country, with various levels of officials and usually a single person acting as the chief official ("president", "pope", etc.). A cohesive religious body the size of a country is almost surely going to have government in its own right, regardless of whether the church also functions as the state government.


At various times in history, stateless countries have existed. They tend to be perceived as primitive and some of that perception is justified in that this often happens in places where humans are still tribal hunter-gatherers, but not all of it is valid. Most people today have a bias in favor of governments, if only the idealized versions they imagine in their own head.

Statelessness, as a condition, is a little difficult to pin down. When it does work, it's not always clear what factors are at play. I don't believe religion to be a requirement at least from those examples we have, though it wouldn't necessarily be a hindrance either.

We might even compare this place to Somalia or Afghanistan. There are many disincentives to invading such a place. The United States decided to perform "police actions" in Somalia in the 1990s, and this caused significant political grief. Somalia had no strong government (little at all), it had no regular military. There were people who wanted that police action to succeed, and perhaps even future ones to similar locales to happen in the future. But the results were a PR disaster that turned off that administration to further adventurism.

Afghanistan wasn't quite so different (though it did have a singular person in the undisputed top status). There, the United States did invade and remained, but we must consider that the prize there was significantly more valuable encouraging them to ignore these disincentives.

These examples, drawn from modern history, shouldn't make you think that it'd only be true on 20th/21st century Earth. Wars and invasions were often ruinously expensive unless victory promises to be self-financing (there's enough loot to make it worthwhile).

Additionally, if you're proposing a militia of some sort, that's not implausible either. They are probably the norm in those places with a weak or remote government.

My conclusion: there are no details here that make your story entirely implausible, though you will need to carefully navigate them to suspend disbelief and bring it all alive for the reader/player/whichever.


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