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This settings' world is united by a world religion that all countries pay homage to. It is controlled by a priesthood who, as well as fulfilling traditional religious roles, keeps the peace between nations to prevent destabilizing wars from breaking out. This religion has seven gods, with each of them representing various aspects of humanity that connect with each other. For example, the god of war represents honor, courage, battle prowess, etc. Above them is a ruler god, Krishna, who is viewed by the population as the father of the seven gods as well as the world itself.

All nations pay homage to the seven gods. However, only the priests of this faith worship the creator god. Krishna feeds on worship, from which he derives his power. The more worship he gains, the more powerful he becomes, allowing him to compete with the other gods of the setting. Therefore, it stands to reason that he would want his followers to worship him directly instead of going through the lesser gods as intermediaries. This would siphon off some of that power to those lesser gods instead of going to Krishna.

Why would a god who feeds on human worship rely on third party gods and discourage worship of them directly ?

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    $\begingroup$ "Above them is a ruler god, Krishna" You might want to pick a different name unless you're intending your work to be a commentary on the Hindu religion. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Jun 6, 2021 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ Salt and pepper, not just salt. It makes for a much tastier meal. Even if you have to share your saltnpepper with the family. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jun 7, 2021 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of IO form the discworld. His primary godly role is that of thunder god. While there are over seventy "different" thunder gods on the Disc, they are all Io, he appears to the faithful while using an assortment of false noses, and different hammers and garb, and so forth. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 7, 2021 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ If your world is united by a religion to which all countries pay homage, where is the "diversifying worship"? $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2021 at 0:18

17 Answers 17

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ALL worship goes to Krishna.

There is only one god. The seven minor gods are just aspects of his personality. Often they seem to act independently of each other. But that's just Krishna using two of his hands for two different things.

Krishna does not compete with the other gods, because they are already parts of him, and he has authority. Worshiping any of the seven feeds Krishna directly.

The seven were created because it is hard for humans to grasp the mind of the Krishna. His schemes span thousands of years and his intentions are never stated.

Better for the lay-people to worship the god of Love/War/Fertility as it directly impacts the world, and leave divining the mind of the over-god to the priesthood.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this idea. To add to it, the lesser gods could derive some form of autonomy due to the direct worship they receive - the more worshippers, the more they grow in power, thus setting up internal power struggles amongst the lesser gods and their worshippers, and inevitably with pappa God and his priests. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2021 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @WolfieSmith I suspect the aspects get stronger and more autonomous as they get more followers. But I don't like idea of power struggles with the over-god, since that is part of what this answer is trying to avoid. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jun 6, 2021 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ @WolfieSmith Perhaps the overgod might allow the aspects and mortals to THINK there is a power struggle going on -- if it suits his mysterious design -- while remaining fully in control the whole time. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jun 6, 2021 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ Ah yes, the illusion of choice. $\endgroup$
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jun 7, 2021 at 18:15
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When you want to eat a succulent dish of your choice, do you hunt/slaughter/harvest the raw ingredients or go for have them prepared by somebody with the proper skills?

Chances are that, at least for some intermediate step, you rely on third parties to do the job for you.

Same for this scenario: why feeding on raw ingredients when there is someone who can elaborate them into something tastier, bringing variety to your eternal and otherwise boring lunches?

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    $\begingroup$ And there might be significant taste difference between worship by prayer (sweet?), meditation (probably bland), or whipping yourself (spicy!). So having various sects would be a luxury for a god. $\endgroup$
    – PTwr
    Jun 7, 2021 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ youtube.com/watch?v=iGuI0JqIaQ8 $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2021 at 5:15
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Pyramid scheme!

(The Herbalif-a-somethin' of the Gods, now in real chocolate flavor!)

Krishna allows the others to exist as gods, but they have to pay Krishna a percentage of the worship based on the degree of closeness of the worshiper.

This not only ensures that Krishna gets the biggest slice of the worship-pie, but encourages missionary work and conversation, while also allowing people a greater degree of choice and more flavors to choose from, which also encourages believing.

This sort of setup might encourage the creation of demigods and uplifted hero types for even greater diversity, and the chance for a mortal getting trapped to become something more... which might encourage even more to become faithful.

(Gather enough faithful and you too can become a deputized as a personal avatar of your chosen being of worship! Get the membership discount! )

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    $\begingroup$ And if you use Egyptian gods instead, then you can have a real pyramid scheme. (Badum-tish, thankyew, thankyew...) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Jun 7, 2021 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham: At first I thought "Badum-tish" was an obscure Ancient Egyptian deity.... $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2021 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Serious comment: Multi-level monodeism makes a lot of sense for an overworked deity (and what Deity-Above-All isn't overworked?). So paying a share of the take makes just as much sense (within the limit of mortal understanding, at least) on high as any commission-based structure below. $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2021 at 19:43
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It's a "Weekend at Krishna's" situation.

Krishna doesn't have a choice. He is weakened, incapacitated, or dead, and the universe at large is unaware of this situation. The Seven have a need to maintain the existing power structure, because if they cease to show a unified front and allow the status of Krishna to be known, other entities will make a direct strike at the Pantheon, and pull them down.

The Seven are feeding him as much worship as he can handle, in the hopes that he will be able to recover before things fall apart more completely. At least, that was the plan when it happened. Whether all of the Seven are willing to return sovreignty when ...or if... that recovery happens remains to be seen.

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The Zion Principle in Effect

In the Matrix movies, the machines who built the Matrix knew that if they just came down and demanded all humans lived in the Matrix, many would rebel against them. While most would embrace conformity and stability, many individuals would figure out they are in a simulation and not like being told what to do. So the machines let them rebel and built a fake rebellion for them to join, all the while covertly managing the city so it didn't become too great of a threat. They even gave them a "chosen one" messiah to give them hope and give them a goal to work towards, while resetting Zion every so often. This allowed them to control virtually the entire human populations.

Same principle here. If a god comes down and says "you must believe in this one way I set out for you", some are going to rebel against them because they don't like being dictated what to do, even if the motives are good. But if you create multiple competing religions and offer the illusion of choice based on ultimately cosmetic differences, all the worship goes to you and as long as the sects don't kill each other you don't have to worry about people rebelling because you are too authoritarian.

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It is cumbersome to coordinate lots of tiny worshippers.

This old daddy god did his hard work in days past. Now he is interested in taking it easy. It is much easier to coordinate the worship of 7 lesser gods than it is millions of humans. The 7 lesser gods all tithe a component of their worship energy and it is not too hard to keep track of the 7. Individual human worshippers are like pennies in the footwell - really not worth the time and energy required to retrieve.

As regards the 7 lesser gods, they are younger and more energetic, and also in competition with each other. They get no godly tithes. Human worshippers are all the have and so that is where they put their energies.

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It's the quality of worshipping that counts

The seven lesser gods can give, in exchange for being worshipped, some trivial, shot-term gains, such as winning a lottery or being brave in a battle.
Because of this, they gain devotion from people who are not very pious or wise. The devotion from such people, because of their extremely pratical desires and prayers, is not very valuable to the eyes of the father of the gods, for whom it is a basically negligible income.

What the father of gods wants from mortals, is the devotion from the wisest and holiest of the men, because their devotion is pure and lacks that kind of "interest" at the basis of the devotion of the less wise people

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It is a marketing strategy

Monotheistic religions offer only 2 choices: To worship or not to worship. Polytheistic religions give more choices: Not to worship, to worship god A, to worship god B, etc. Variety increases worship. Gods can also stimulate 'impulse worship' by instructing their clerics to place temples or shrines together.

It is important to remember, though, that too much choice is not a good thing: The gods do not want worshippers to become confused, frustrated, or too tired (see choice overload). So, it is more profitable to keep the pantheon smaller (your 7 gods is perfect) and stable (to reap the benefits of brand recognition and consumer loyalty).

Another good marketing strategy would be the creation of well-defined areas of responsibility for each of the gods. Pay attention to interactions between these areas. For example, it is better to divide waterways, roads, and trade among 3 gods to maximise faith earnings from travelling merchants.

As for Krishna, you can choose between Krishna is the only true god and the rest are just avatars (as Daron suggested) or a pantheon where minor gods pay tribute to the head god. In both scenarios, Krishna gets plenty of faith energy.

Lastly, why would Krishna discourage direct worship? Here are some possible reasons:

  • Krishna has an aloof personality and does not want to be involved with mortals;
  • Krishna does not want to destroy the brands (minor gods) that are the foundation of the successful marketing strategy;
  • Krishna is a good administrator and knows that delegating responsibilities is the key to effective management, at the same time, subordinates should be properly rewarded and have enough power to do their job;
  • Krishna is too busy travelling, creating worlds, etc., and being a benevolent god, he does not want mortals to put hopes on him;
  • Krishna is not strong enough to deal with the 7-god alliance, so he has to share;
  • Krishna avoids karmic debts (every prayer and every sacrifice create karma between Krishna and worshippers, this karma has to be resolved eventually).

There is yet another possibility.

Krishna is a minor god pretending to be the Creator and Father of all, the other 7 do not mind it as long as Krishna stays low and does not take too much faith power.

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So you're a supernatural entity that feeds off the worship of lesser creatures? Boy do I have a product for you!

Introducing: more religions for more worship!

Naturally, you founded a religion, so people could worship you. You likely tried already to put all your eggs in the same religious basket, but not everybody wants to worship you. You could see it as a waste of worship, but instead, you should choose to see it as an opportunity to expand.

See, humans are weird. They believe in different things, or sometimes in the same things but differently. They might have started different, competing worships out of their own free wills, the rascals! So how do you use that to your advantage? Simple: create more different religions of your own. They all might look different (and they probably should, it would be suspicious if they all looked like a color swaps of the same god, wouldn't it?), that pray to all sorts of "deities" that are, in fact, all you. You can reach a larger fanbase by highlighting different, even contradictory, values.

You could spawn an expansive polytheistic pantheon, with worship of the Sun and a worship of the Moon, to cover all the astronomy-based worshipping needs of the humans. Extrapolate to all facets of life, nature and hunting vs construction and farming, disease vs healing, the sea vs the land vs the sky, etc. There's a god for every part of life, and that god is always you.

You could also offer multiple monotheistic creeds, with all powerful deities to be worshipped differently. Different prayer times and practices. Different basic commandments or laws. Worship might highlight a different element of the environment, be it the sea, the mountain, the plains or what have you. There's a god for every way of life, and that god is also always you.

And, you could also do both.

But speaking of fans, what stronger form of belief than people fanatically willing to sacrifice their lives in your name? A war of religion is the perfect vehicle to strengthen one's resolve in their divinity. And what's better than that is you can have two of your religions fight each other. The worshippers you might lose in the process don't matter if you gain a much more robust worship from the survivors*.

This varied worship may create different divine entities that you feed from directly, thus you'd indirectly feed off the worship of humans. But at their core, they're not really different entities, rather they're avatars of your personality and (alleged) powers. They are an abstraction of you, feeding from multiple sources all at the same time.

*Disclaimer: Results may vary. Always perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis before starting any religion war. We could not be held responsible in the event of a religion war that turned out bad for you.

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  • $\begingroup$ This. A lot of the products you see in super markets are actually created by the same company (either directly or by buying up competitors) but sold under different brands aimed at different consumer groups. $\endgroup$
    – Llewellyn
    Jun 7, 2021 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Llewellyn has a point. Real Life example from roughly 2000: Unilever bought out Ben & Jerry's super-premium ice cream and Slimfast diet drinks, and announced both purchases on the same day. $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2021 at 13:29
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The first thing I thought about was the song "Seven nation army". But that aside. Why should Krishna create different gods which could be worshipped by men? Why not make people worship him alone? I think this shows the goodness of the great creator. He wants to give people a choice.
If people worshipped her alone, wouldn't that be dull? The amount of worshipping wouldn't be changed if she didn't create these sub-gods. It would only be less enlightening for her and for us.
By creating the sub-gods, the situation for her, as well as for us, has increased significantly.
She could have made people for gods. But think about what would have happened in that case...

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Theomachy and balance of power

War between gods, or at least battle involving them, is quite common in mythology. Think of war between Gods and Titans in greek mythology, or even Trojan war for example.

Krishna can be overthrowned by the other six gods. He can be killed, exiled, or lose his divine power.

He know it, the other Gods also know it, so he just can't ask all humans to worship him, as for the other gods, it means lose all power. If any God want to take too much power, the other ones would made a coallition to stop him.

To avoid a war, they separate power between themselves, and ensure that no God became too powerful. If you wants odds on your sides, you have to worship the God of war, as Krishna can't provide you that. He may have the ability to do it, but don't want to do it, as not only it would weakend God of war power, but it would also take his job. As a parallel, think of a president/prime minister who make all decisions, denying all power from his ministers. Those ministers would be quite upset if they have no power at all.

You could even think of a constitution between Gods, forbiding legally each god to interfere in each other fields. Maybe add a previous generation of Gods (like Gods VS Titans on greek mythology), were this was an issue and lead them to loose all power.

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Ever though about a Primus inter Pares situation?

The god "parent" does not require to be the strongest, or the most worshipped... but maybe the most "liked" by all the gods in the pantheon?

To not elaborate much, lets think all the seven traits that can be worshipped actually receive the same amount of worshipping (thus creating a balance). Now your main god creates seven smaller gods and in doing so, he diverts the flow of worshipping to those seven smaller gods... and so they get powerful while he is just standing there... BUT... what if more than half the gods decided "ok, we support father, he just created us after all" and they can actually redirect the strength back to the main god? Then the other three wouldt dare have an agenda against the main god because they can simply be "erased", so you create an "uneasy" balance as long as the main god doesnt become mad or a lesser deity actually gets worshipping that can beat the combination of the others.

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I see two reasons (edit: plus a bonus), both of which lead to an increase in "belief intensity" and a reduction of non-believers, and both can coexist:

Competition

When there are multiple religions in contact with each other, they are inevitably, at some point, going to clash. The clash creates polarisation, polarisation brings more non-believers to take a side, and makes believers more fervent.

Natural proliferation

As internal divergence of ideas are born from conflicts of interests, shifts in the economy and society, and the succession of new generations of people with different points of view, different ideas in what the doctrine should be lead to schisms.

Non-believers in a world (or parts of the world) that isn't scientifically advanced will want to explain natural phenomena. The justifications they create will in some cases acquire a mystical aura, and will expand to explain more and more of the world. Communities of people live in a finite space, so as distance between two communities increases, communication becomes sparser and slower: multiple communities will inevitably develop different beliefs to explain the same things. This will lead to multiple religions (some might even say different names for the same things, wink wink), but if the creator god feeds on belief towards anything divine, it's a win for them one way or the other: all they need is for people to want to explain the world through the divine.

Bonus: blame deflection

When a (polarised) religious group inevitably does something bad, the image of the god they worship is tainted to some extent. By being worshipped by multiple religions that act as a proxy, never being worshipped directly, no matter how bad things get with any of the existing religions, the "one true god" will always only harvest the positives, never the negatives. This is especially useful if the god in question actually competes with other gods that operate similarly, but even if there is only one it serves to reduce atheism: if there is only one option and it has negatives, the response by many would be to forgo religion altogether. If there are many options, many would instead (gradually or otherwise) be susceptible to conversion.

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They like their food spicy

Different methods of worship and/or worshiping different gods gives him different "flavors" of energy. Krishna simply likes to have well balanced and varied diet, full of worship-amins and worship-inerals.

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It's the same as the food chain for biological metabolism. The common citizen is the base of the food chain, producing "hay". The priests don't simply worship in the same way; they take in the "hay" themselves, and produce "meat".

Just like you can't eat horse food, Krishna might strongly object to being fed hay.

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First of all, let's face it, humans are a burden. The gods may need the humanity, but dealing with all those humans, is annoying. Each require too much attention comparatively to the amount of faith they provide. So not only does the "godchief" delegate into the seven lesser gods, but those delegate into a number of divine servants, which themselves coordinate other lesser ones, and so on. Even those directly worshiping the godchief are actually handled by some of its direct servants. It's not that the gods couldn't do it, but it's a lot of dull and boring work.

So they have a full administrative body of lesser beings counting the prayers they get from each of their believers, if they have a request, amount of time they have been worshiping it, if there are other people asking for the same thing, the last time they received the god's grace, if they are asking for something special or some mundane thing, perhaps even something they would achieve anyway without the intercession of the god, etc.

And then trying to be creative and get a proper action. This is a retributive religion, so they need to keep their believers happy by fulfilling their requests. Or actually, fulfilling enough requests of enough believers so they don't turn their back on the god. They don't need to fulfill them always, but enough times. Or at least to someone they will know about, so the god keeps its reputation of being kind to the people worshiping it.

In fact, the problem are humans themselves. A god could be willing to spoil their believers by granting them all their wishes. Problem is, even if they wanted to do that, they have believers with conflicting petitions. If you are the Love goddess¹ and have 45 suitors requesting the love of a single maid (and in exclusive for them!), you need to let some of them down.

Now, you may ask why would that higher god share the pantheon with the other seven gods, rather than having them as nameless serfs. The priests will tell you that in his infinite love to humanity, he chose to raise the Seven to that position, and that all of them agreed to divide between themselves all the aspects of the live, not due to rivalry, but as a way for better serve the people through by specializing in one aspect. Just as artisans specialized in one artcraft by guilds, so they could produce a better result [or a consistently mediocre one].

This specialization will indeed help the divine administration, since all requests of the same type will be fulfilled by the same branch (god), and petitions will already come sorted by god (more or less, there's always the weird guy directing their prayer to an inappropriate god, but they are safer to ignore if needed). However, a point you won't be told is that if humans had only one god to choose, should they become angry with it, that's a net loss of one believer. But with multiple gods, he would turn to the godchief requesting they override the lesser god. Or he could turn to the god of hatred and revenge. So you convert a no-win situation where the god needs to turn down many requests, to one where the rejection actually causes fervor to a different god. They then have complex schemes to pay certain worship units in exchange for having received new adoration as a result of the actions of another god.

Note as well that the actions of the gods from the believers point of view are somewhat arbitrary, which is a way to say they have their own agenda. The goddess of love would supposedly prefer the man's petition, repeated during his marriage to keep his wife, than the prayer from a herdsman to gain the favor of the hosts' wife. Right? However, giving her to the newcomer would a cause a war, making many people to remember their faith in the god of war. From which the goddess of love would receive a 10% commission for starting the war from the god of war (although she may be able to squeeze a little more, since he is in so dire need of believers), and having the loved one away will make many people to turn to the love goddess to keep their partners tied, too. After all, in peaceful times, humans tend to relax their ways and forget the gods, conflicts are good for the gods.

Which sheds a new light on why the priesthood, who has devoted their life to studying the gods and their actions, is so interested on maintaining the peace. They are not working for the interests of the gods as much as for protecting the humanity from them!

¹ No reason to be feminine, but it is traditional to consider it that way, and it is useful later to use multiple pronouns.

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It's Delegation not diversification

Delegation. it's far more efficient (and powerful) to have a team of subordinates doing things for you than it is to do everything yourself. More powerful still is for those subordinates to have subordinates too.

Because direct divine power is not the only kind of power there is.

Most powerful and efficient of all (for you) is to have an entire hierarchy of supplicants and subordinates at your beck and call. Worship and tribute flow up this hierarchy, and your directives, commandments, orders, wisdom, insight, etc. flow down it.

All great and/or powerful leaders do this, politicians, generals, conquerors, mafia dons, CEOs, etc., etc. Surely your ruler god is the greatest leader of all? Then it seems obvious that they would have the greatest organization hierarchy and power to multiply and extend their divine power and wisdom throughout all the world.

You can safely spend your time planning for all future eventualities and developing deep strategies to secure and increase your power, knowing that any problems that arise can be dealt with by your many fawning demigods, bands of mighty heroes, or legions of faithful soldiers and priests. And if that's not enough, you can always dispatch your Sun God and/or your War God to end problems permanently.

That's real power.

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