All right I’ve been trying to find an answer to this question for a while, even fell down quite the rabbit hole without much success and I decided to post it on here. This is for a sci-fi novel series that I started a while back, never finished, shelved for a couple and now I want to work on it again. Strap in because this one takes a bit of explaining.
The series takes place on a planet roughly on the 16th century level of technology with a few notable exceptions but I’ll get to that later. In this world, there is a polytheistic religion with two sides currently engaged in a holy war.
One side is the Holy Oracle’s Church, an authoritative, militant theocracy, that claims to 'teach' the will of the gods and adheres to a doctrine called “the Unwavering Path.” They preach that all actions and events are predestined, and the job of the Oracles is to help those find their place on the Path. They believe any choice made by mere mortals cannot change the path, and they readily hunt down and execute those who say otherwise.
On the other side, you have the Free Peoples, a ragtag bunch of pirates, mad scientists, and outcasts, who firmly believe that the Unwavering Path is a lie meant to keep the Oracles in power and the populace beneath their boot heel. They are lead by the Nine Lords, champions chosen by the gods to end the tyranny of the Oracles.
Now here is the interesting part, and the part that lead me down quite the rabbit hole.
The ten gods of this religion (who I shall call the Ascended for simplicity) were once flesh and blood mortal beings who terraformed this world as part of an effort to set up a seed colony. But something goes wrong, their location was taken out from orbit and their minds ended up digitally uploaded in ten crystal artifacts, nine of which were later found by survivors, while the tenth was lost presumably forever and held responsible for the fall. Since they are locked out of the main system, thereby limiting their powers (they can still heal the sick and smite the wicked but only within their direct vicinity) they set out to guide the survivors back to their previous technological level. But of course, something goes wrong, again, and the Oracles sequester the now digital beings away and take power for themselves leading to a couple of rebels stealing the crystals, learning that the Oracles has lied to them and starting this holy war that has been going on for a couple of centuries. And each of the Ascended has been serving as a personal Cortana for the one of the Nine Lords ever since.
Now herein lies the problem I have been having. The Ascended understand that they are not gods, this isn’t a Goa’uld or Ori Ponzi scheme, and aside from someone falling to their knees and begging for forgiveness when ever they show their faces, they don't really get anything out of it. In fact, I have a scene in mind when a human explicitly says they are not gods and is then given the equivalent of, “Yes! Thank you! Finally, someone who gets it!” And anytime they are not explicitly saying it, it’s not in the “I am conning you for power” kind of way it is in the "I was tired of correcting you two centuries ago,” kind of way.
And I do have a scene in mind where the missing tenth Ascended being found, is caught up to speed on how this all had happened and is lost in thought about it. And it is explained that the Ascended had tried to explain that they were not gods only to lose the argument by conceding that yes they created the world (through terraforming) that they fathered and mothered those that came after (through embryonic storage) taught them their laws and morals (because what else could they do) sacrificed themselves for good of the world and returned from the dead to guide them (as Digital beings) and still be heralded in their positions. Not to mention the newly returned Ascended is an ancestor worshiper and she now fits her definition of an Ancestor.
And even though they themselves don't want to be worshipped, they cant just get rid of the faith, for two equally important reasons. First, because that faith is so entrenched in this society that making any effort to remove it root and stem impractical, and second that even if they succeeded it would leave a populous that had already lost so much to war and tyranny, that telling them that they have been fighting and dying for millennia all for Nothing, would leave them irrevocably broken.
So they are stuck in a role they neither want nor can escape, as part of a faith that they can’t remove, fighting against an enemy keeping these people in a dark age to maintain power with limited resources thanks to being locked out of their system.
Naturally, the actual story happens when humans arrive and one of them is chosen to be the champion of the missing Ascended, who both might be able to help turn the tide. But this new development might actually be an opportunity to reform the faith in a better direction.
Here is the question I need answers for.
Which methods and strategies the Ascended could use to pivot and reform the faith (of the free peoples) into something benign and closer to the truth?