I am currently building a world where most of the realm is primordial and extremely hostile to human life with humans worship of an angel(With each angel being specific to that settlement.) warding off the darkness and keeping things solid. If the faith of the community falters then the protection bestowed upon them also falters which can result in a breach. How would such a society deal with someone who is found out to be a non-believer whether it be through their diary being revealed or them loudly complaining?

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    $\begingroup$ "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, [...] whereof he spake unto thee, saying, let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams. [...] And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 13.) (And the pagans were not necessarily better: see the trial of Socrates for impiety. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 24 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ Hello Maiko. I apologize that I felt I had to vote to close this question, even though you quickly accepted the one answer provided. As asked, this is not a worldbuilding quetsion, but I believe it's a storybuilding question. Had you asked us to help develop the beliefs and rules of a religion, it would have required you to explain what you had so far about the religion and your goals for unbelievers based on the beliefs. As written, any answer will do (exile, excommunication, burning at the stake, ignore them...) and they're all equally valid, which is prohibited by the help center. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 25 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ If there is a direct evident and proven correlation between protection and worship, why is it still called 'belief'? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Nov 25 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm... this raises a few questions. Are the angels actually real? or is it the communities sense of faith that powers them? If they are real, do they care about the humans? Would they be willing to intervene, for example, to try to convert the unbelievers? Is it the number of faithful that empowers protection, or the number of infidels that disempowers it? $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Nov 28 at 13:27

4 Answers 4


The obvious answer is exile. You don't believe? OK, pack your things and fend for yourself outside in the darkness.

The problem with your idea however is that any unbeliever who wishes to can simply mimic whatever cycle of prayer or ritual the community requires while personally having no commitment whatsoever to its ideals at all. And of course unless they are very careless no-one will ever know. Given the potentially severe punishment they face no unbeliever is going to talk about their agnosticism/atheism let alone leave written evidence of it for others to find.

The only circumstances where such might be possible would be where there is an organized 'network' or secret society of unbelievers who are hiding within one or more of the communities. That however would require some kind of backstory on your part to explain why it exists in a world where apparently faith is essential for mankind to survive. Perhaps for example they secretly worship the darkness because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that generations ago a pact was made by their ancestors with the darkness on the promise that if they could undermine the faith of the communities to the point where the towns collapsed they and their descendants would be spared/rewarded.

  • $\begingroup$ Given that angels in the setting described are pretty real (mundane vs spiritual, or manifested), they can also possess powers of knowing which human of their pastry does not contribute faith, thus detecting unbelievers might be way easier. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Nov 26 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Vesper Given the way the question is phrased it would appear the opposite is true. If the Angels could detect who amongst their worshipers did and did not have faith there would not be a problem to begin with because the Angels in charge of each community could simply point out to that towns leaders who was and was not a believer. That means either (A) the angels can detect a diminution in a towns total level of 'faith' but cant detect the source or (B) they can detect the unbelievers and know who they are but cant communicate the information to anyone. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Nov 26 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the late response. As Mon stated angels in my setting do not have the ability to follow individual level events and while they can bestow some power to mortals(Turning them into what is essentially a cleric.) said mortals are not omniscient . $\endgroup$ Nov 27 at 8:25

Just look at theocratic regimes on earth over the centuries.

Most will shun unbelievers at the very least, many will actively persecute them and either exile them, forcibly convert them, or kill them (often the same religion will do all three at different times and places).

And the true believers are excellent religious police, just make it a holy duty to weed out the heretics and either kill them or turn them over to the inquisition. You might even create a system where a new convert has to prove his faith by killing say 10 heretics for you, or by serving in a function in the armed forces where there is a very high risk of death for those who aren't true believers (I assume your deity grants special protection to his faithful on patrols in the wilderness and will withhold that protection from the unbelievers).


Frame challenge: there are no non-believers

In such a setting you can probably very directly prove the existence of angels. And very directly prove the existence of needing their protection. Assuming a non-believer exists, they can be convinced of real actual presence of all the supernatural things.

Such a society would most likely reinforce this by having demonstration of the reality of all of this.

Example of this:

Each year young adults (e.g., around 12-14 year-olds) might be sent to live out for a few days outside where there is no protection. This would be as much as a religious ritual as an actual practical example of an angel and their power existing. Adults can also be sent out to watch over the children and rotated each time. This both reinforces their belief and also they can serve a guides. When they leave the city, they need to make their way to the local shrine. Once there, they provide a prayer to the angel. This immediately stops the darkness seeking to creep into the shrine demonstrating this power. They live there for a couple of days maintaining the rites for honouring the angel. Once they leave, the darkness is back in full force. It is a dangerous journey but does show everybody involved that everything is real.

A non-believer later in life might be enrolled in the group. That should be enough to convince them that they are being foolish. Or they can even be made to make the journey by themselves and come back. A faithless one will surely perish. If they do have faith, they would return and be a fully functioning member of society. Win-win.

If there are a lot of non-believers, then perhaps the journey outside can be made traditional, so you go more often. And even if you do not, most other people would be thoroughly convinced of the reality of the religion. It would be hard to deny it when not only other people believe, they also can present concrete proof. And you can go see the proof yourself.


Show them the angels!

Since the angels are, (judging by the question), real, then the obvious answer would seem to be to show the angels to the non-believers, and quickly make believers of them!


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