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(For my own needs) I write stories that are primarily fantasy, but with very strong touch of modern technologies (modern technologies converted to magic world, for example magic bomb that behaves like nuclear bomb, magic rods that give cold light, climatic change released and given by magic, and so on).

That world (including lower gods) was created by group of thirteen gods called The Creators of the world.

All gods accept that people need to believe in them, but they hate if people ask them for help, Hence they try to teach people to not ask for help.

Currently they kill (with great pleasure) clerics and other people that dare to ask gods for help if any else mortal could do that (of course, some lower gods sometimes make an exception; mostly if it serves for their own). ... and sometimes they say words like do it in such way or search for someone who will make it.

Is killing people that dare to ask the gods for help the best way to achieve getting people to not ask for help?

Is there a better way to teach people to not ask the gods for help?

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    $\begingroup$ Do the gods literally appear and murder people that ask them for help? Or do they shoot lightning from the sky or something? $\endgroup$ – fiend Apr 5 '16 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ Simply don't provide help? If gods never helped anyone, why would people start asking? $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Apr 5 '16 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ NPSF3000 - people in the real world pray, but there's no statistical evidence to show it works. $\endgroup$ – Dave Halsall Apr 5 '16 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @NPSF3000 - I think you've shown my point. People pray because they believe it works, not because it has been demonstrated first hand to work. $\endgroup$ – Dave Halsall Apr 5 '16 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ @NPSF3000 a lot of people ask god for help every day, even not being sure if he exist $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Apr 5 '16 at 17:34

17 Answers 17

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Killing "offenders" prevents them from learning from their mistakes. Responding instead with a painful or embarrassing curse/disease that lasts for a short time will cause humans to quickly figure out the cause/effect relation here.

After a few short months, the only people still asking the Gods for help will be either desperate, drunk or teenagers. The first category may be worthwhile listening to, the second are due a month-long hangover and the third can be punished with acne, as usual.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, eventually people would figure it out, especially if the cleric preaching to a congregation keels over just as he begs the Gods to help them in the coming war, etc. In fact, a world where people die as soon as they ask for help could develop a very interesting and convoluted religious system. It could be seen as a worthiness issue, a last act of desperation, hoping that your particular problem is worthy of assistance and so forth. $\endgroup$ – SethWhite Apr 5 '16 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ In cases like this, people have a habit of assuming the other person did it wrong somehow before accepting that it cannot be done (or the consequences avoided). That makes a personal experience much more effective, until a critical mass is reached and people stop "testing". $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Apr 6 '16 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ @SethWhite you'd be surprised, I think people would be remarkably willing to interpret the deaths of those who ask for help as a "sacrifice that is the cost for obtaining the gods' help". $\endgroup$ – Cronax Apr 8 '16 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Cronax either way, both our situations create an environment rich for creating a unique world with an interesting religious system, but if vaclav removes the insta death, and replaces it with acne, he loses that. $\endgroup$ – SethWhite Apr 8 '16 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Cronax: yes, somebody could understand it like you say - but only if you would kill them without watchers and in common way $\endgroup$ – Václav Apr 10 '16 at 6:54
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Killing worshippers just because they talk to you might indeed be an overkill. There are certainly ways to mitigate that:

  • Self-help must be a virtue. If you help yourself (or other humans), gods will help you too. Sort of.
  • Gods are there to manage the universe and global concepts such as elements, nature, death and so forth. Everyone knows they care little about individual humans and should not be distracted lest the world gets out of control. That volcano probably erupted because someone was bothering gods too much.
  • One should never ask for something for himself, but only for something for many others. (So if someone prays for help with a great plague the gods might be actually inclined to help.)
  • Strongly limit the possibilities for effective praying. You are only allowed to contact the gods in major temples, on major holy days, after great rituals. And you'll be sacrificed at the end.
  • There could be only one day in a year when mortals are allowed this. (Which the gods will probably spend drunk on ambrosia.)
  • Also, make sure to use the concept of sin a lot. If the asker is sinful or asks for something for sinful people, it is only fair the gods curse them for their wicked ways. (Oh no, somebody was selfish again!) That should make mortals paranoid about asking for stuff.
  • Make the domains/spheres of influence clear so that people have to ask specific gods and make sure they address the correct one.
  • Alternatively make their domains unclear but the asker must still address the correct god, risking serious insult.
  • Asking all gods for help is right out and fast track to hell.
  • Oh, and yes, hell as an institution would be handy as well, something the mortals can get visions of.
  • The gods are such amazing and supreme creatures that the very act of them starting to pay attention to you, puny mortal, could turn you into dust. One does not simply 'talk' to gods. Rather, to attract the attention of the creators of the world one should create a work of art that embodies your prayer. If it is beautiful enough and your wish is noble, they may choose to help you. (The gods can ignore or kill anyone that speaks to them and can at leisure ignore all the pieces of art the mortals create. Perhaps they'll choose one once in a while to keep up the appearances.)
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    $\begingroup$ This answer comes very close to how real-world religions handle the issue. Most (if not all) real-world religions discourage people, from praying for selfish gains. $\endgroup$ – vsz Apr 5 '16 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ "You are only allowed to contact the gods in major temples, on major holy days" … location, time. Very effective. +1 $\endgroup$ – kaiser Apr 5 '16 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ Location, location, location. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Apr 6 '16 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ "God only helps those who help themselves." +1 $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Apr 7 '16 at 14:16
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Don't eliminate asking for help - people are likely to do that, or expect help without asking, because that's what they expect from omnipotent beings. But establish an semi-formal "currency" of worship that can be "spent" on the granting requests, and have a history of such requests being granted so it's not like our rare-to-never "miracles", but more common place and part of the culture.

Make it expensive. For example, one year of solid worship might build enough "credit" to grant a request for a good harvest. A lifetime of worship might build enough credit to grant saving someone's life from serious illness.

Make it optional for the god to grant. It's also up to the god to determine the "price" at the time of asking for help and thus determine how much credit will be left. The price would be "spent" regardless of the grant being made - it's more an "application fee", so people are taking a risk that if they don't have enough credit, they'll blow all they have and get nothing.

This would also create an interesting situation at the end of someone's life. What to do with your saved up worship credit? Do you take it with you into the after life? What implications would that have? Do you spend it all on a "last request" as you're dying? Do victors in battle show professional courtesy by waiting a few moments before delivering the death blow to give the defeated an opportunity to make a "last request"? And is it possible for the defeated to make his last request that (s)he not die (like a "saving throw" in D&D or an "extra ball" in pinball)? Would that be dishonorable? If granted, would they have to spend their remaining (granted) life in worship/penance/service/philanthropy? It could make an interesting backstory.

Can people "pool" their credit? Can a village spend all their collective worship to save the village from destruction the lava flow, or an invading army?

Can you borrow worship to spend on something worthwhile? What would be the interest rate? How would you pay it back?

Can you buy it, trade it? What would it cost?

Can you extort it - force others to give their worship credit to spend on your request?

Would a god accept borrowed/bought/extorted worship?

The concept could have macro-economics implications. Could "wealthy" countries support professional worshipers whose job it is to build "credit" for the government, which spends it as they see fit? Could you tax worship credit from the populous? If fighting a war, could there be war bonds for worship credit, where the donated credit is spent winning the war, but you get back more credit later on as dividends.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to World Builder SE Bohemian. Nice answer +1 $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Apr 5 '16 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Bohemian: Just cases like asking gods for saving village from natural disaster instead fleeing as fast as you can is what those gods hate. $\endgroup$ – Václav May 10 '16 at 20:11
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There is a tried and tested system for this used by most of the major utilities, phone companies and airlines. Have an answering system takes you through an infinite loop of menus. If you finally get through to a particular god's answering system it would put you on hold playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons until your patience runs out. Why re-invent the wheel?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you mean Vivaldi's "Four Seasons". You sure did get the "Help Line" part right though :) $\endgroup$ – AJB Apr 9 '16 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the epitome of Dvorak: youtube.com/watch?v=I002Aq1o3Pg $\endgroup$ – AJB Apr 9 '16 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ You're right. It was Vivaldi I was thinking of! Apologies to Dvorak. $\endgroup$ – Geoff Apr 10 '16 at 11:14
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CROM

Have people believe the gods frown upon weakness. And that strength is pleasing to the gods. Only through struggle and suffering can one truely get the blessing of the gods.

That valor and endurance are the best form of prayers. And the gods do not do parlor tricks. Imagine responses to prayer like this...

If you tie up your camel, its less likely to wander off.

Got 2000 people to feed? I'm a god, not a caterer.

Walk on water? Meh, get a boat, you showoff. Damned boatman's got 20 kids to feed.

Piss me off badly, and I might decide you're not worth dropping a rock on.

So, divine gifts? Hope that one can endure, strength to do all one can, and hopefully a sharpened piece of steel that does not break at the wrong moment. What else does one need?

or to borrow that wonderfully pithy line from Conan the Barbarian.

"Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you will remember if we were good men or bad, why we fought, or why we died. No, all that matters is that two stood against many, that's what's important. Valor pleases you, Crom, so grant me one request, grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!"

That's a man who clearly is looking forward to a nice brawl in Valhalla.

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The Gods have the same problems that arise whenever you try to scale an operation:

Delegate, delegate, delegate!!!

The Gods needs to appoint their high priests to handle the process of receiving and prioritizing these requests. These elders will be advised of the various priorities of the employer and will bring forth those tasks which are important to be done.

When you send an email to a VP in my firm, you make it very short and clear. If there's a deliverable, it's clearly stated "please deliver ___ by ___". If there's a question, it's in its own paragraph. There's no fluff, you get maybe four or five sentences to get your point across, Blaine Pascal style.

This would be very much the same. Of course, this means putting trust in your priests, but you unless you want to spend time dealing with all the peasantry and their stupid grandmothers needing healing and stuff, this really is the only way to do it. And they have to believe they're being heard because it only takes one God who actually delivers to make it so everyone has to or they all flock to that one! Free market religion, etc.

Now exactly this is implemented has a wide variety of ranges, but at some point this God has to realize that delegation is the only way to scale.

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  • $\begingroup$ Dammit, the first idea I had was "outsourcing". It's not exactly the same as your answer, but not different enough IMO to post. The main difference being "They're gods. Let them make lesser gods (or employ sinners, muhehe) to take in their prayers and dispose of them as they see fit." Priests aren't as useful, since people will still pray in private - you really need something on the other end of the line as well. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Apr 11 '16 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan and if you ask your computer to work in private instead of calling the help desk, how far does that get you? If I were one of these deities, that's how I'd handle it. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Apr 11 '16 at 14:56
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Can your gods not just directly instil 2 ideas in the minds of humans?

1 We exist

2 Don't ask us for help. Really, really don't ask us for help.

Go directly for the brain, don't bother with symbols, signs and mysticism. They're open to all sorts of misinterpretation

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, "direct from brain" is also open to misinterpretation. Fun fact: the brain lies all the effin' time. It might be much more easier to just stop listening. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Apr 11 '16 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ Christian theology generally says that God allows his existence to be doubtable because faith is a virtue. Direct revelation is only for the very few. It also says that God allows people complete free will. However, there's no need for all gods to use their godly powers in this way. I mean go directly for the brain and/or whatever it takes (I don't have godly knowledge) to make belief and obedience imperative. $\endgroup$ – Dave Halsall Apr 11 '16 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ If you take this to extremes, who says the Christan God doesn't do exactly the same thing? After all, if he's omniscient and omnipotent, everything we do is his responsibility - he decides who's faithful and who isn't, who's orthodox and who kills Jesus... It's not like everything he says is true - that would be no fun, would it? :P Oh my... is God the Doctor?! $\endgroup$ – Luaan Apr 11 '16 at 9:28
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There is an excellent magic system which it is possible to create that allows your living gods to handle prayers. If the system is done right, the Gods themselves will have to do very little work.

Your Gods should demand the following:

  • Pray to them only at a certain site, or at certain times (per another answer).

  • Only congregants with a certain degree of reputation can ask a prayer or question the gods.

  • Responding to other people's prayers, as a supplicant yourself, will earn you reputation with the Gods.

  • Other supplicants may upvote or downvote your prayer. If you attain enough downvotes your prayer service is closed, and you are immediately put to death.

  • You will also be expected to award them points (for their prayer).

  • Bounties can be awarded for an especially good sacrifice.

  • Non-constructive responses to prayers should be confined to verbal discussion only.

  • Verbal replies are for brief discussion and factual clarification about the nature of the prayer, which god, etc.

  • Anyone asking "Whose god is greatest?" questions will immediately be put to death as they are "not constructive" in a prayer setting.

  • Extended discussion should be done in private chat, not in temple.

  • Prayers must be answerable. If your prayer is subjective, you will be asked to clarify your prayer, start a new prayer, or else put to death.

  • If you attain 50+ reputation, you are able to chat with other congregants (within the temple).

  • If you attain 150+ reputation, you are able to chat with other congregants in a room of your choosing.

  • Name-calling the gods in the midst of chat will result in instant death.

  • If you attain 10,000+ reputation (or mana points, whatever you want to call it) you are promoted to high priest. This enables you to respond to hidden prayers.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Your prayer has been put on hold for being a duplicate" $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Apr 10 '16 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @HagenvonEitzen "Your prayer has been asked and answered. If you do not like the answer, you are free to start a new prayer, or else be put to death..." $\endgroup$ – Ber Apr 10 '16 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ "Your prayer does not appear to be about worldbuilding as defined in the Holy Scrolls." $\endgroup$ – Ber Apr 10 '16 at 13:29
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Your question is a bit vague on why exactly gods need belief:

  • They somehow screwed up when creating the world and now require worshippers to not die?

  • It turns out mortal can generate copious amounts of a Very Important Resource and they want it for pantheon domination, further world-making and/or for use as poker chips?

  • They prefer to have their worlds infested with obedient little sapient annoyances to having their worlds crawling with unruly little sapient annoyances, because the former are more likely to scurry away when you need them to scurry away?

and, more importantly, what kind of belief they need: fanatical devotion, love-filled faith, fearful reverence, any-kind-is-fine?

In quite a lot of cases, killing the mortals who dare to waste your time with their incessant nagging is a perfectly fine solution as long as you do that immediately after they ask you in public, preferably surrounded by common folk and believable witnesses, so cause-and-effect relation is crystal clear and the word spreads. This way, you can get quite a lot of hushed, terrified belief and establish yourselves as the "Stop, you violated the law natural order!", "there's a long list of things they really don't want you to do", "like Olympians but without favours" kind of gods.

Of course, you would probably need to do some other tricks from time to time, but eventually your position should be cemented and people should stop asking.

However if that kind of public image is not a viable option, you might want to rethink why your gods are doing everything to set it up there are two other options.

The most effective route has already been mentioned by others: you need to tell them. Either directly (word of god, pieces of writing ascending down in a beam of light) or indirectly (pass down the holy commandment that taking even more from the gods than they already gave you is unclean, abhorrent and sinful).

The second most effective route would be to take inspiration from stories about monkey paws, deals with the devil and lazy/malevolent genies, and grant every single wish - but grant it completely wrong, tongue-in-cheek, bonus points if it results in some sort of a visual or a situational pun.

I can't think of a good example, but, let's say:

A general asks for an army to defend him from incoming horde? Spawn 50 chickens in adorable, tiny, completely useless helmets. With manicured, completely dull claws. And make them inedible, too (you can't eat something that poofs out of existance when it's poked too hard). And when he repeats himself, spawn another 50 slightly above his head, because slapstick. And if he tries to explain he needs something ferocious, make the chickens peck away his good boots, his fancy prayer pants and his oh-gods-I-paid-four-villages-for-this cloak.

(And have them immediately pass out from exhaustion, of course. We don't want them to be too competent.)

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So you want them to keep praying but don't want them to ask for anything during the prayers?

Basically outline that the deal is:

On Earth, the people must serve the Gods, but they get their eternal reward when they get to Heaven. Since the Gods are real, they should have a much easier time proving that Heaven and Hell are real.

The purpose of prayer then is to thank the Gods for creating the world and giving them the chance to get to Heaven, to "check in" any tasks, homages, sacrifices, other dues to the Gods, and to say things to their formerly dead friends & relatives (now in Heaven if they were good), though not necessarily to hear anything back.

I suppose you could call that last part help from the Gods (i.e. to pass on the message) but they could set up a sort of magic radio which is automatically initiated with the sucking-up type prayer (which is passed on to the Gods themselves) so they wouldn't have to get involved themselves every time someone wanted to send a message to their Granny.

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The gods are likely to run up against the superstition problem, i.e. that random rewards lead to superstitious behaviour (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner#Superstition_in_the_pigeon). This means that even if they kill every worshipper who asks for help, inevitably someone is going to ask for their sick child to be healed, they'll be struck down, and their sick child will happen to get better on their own. The rest of the family may then say:

"Ah! It is because they prayed at the hour of noon that our gracious Lord granted their plea, though it cost them their life."

This kind of thing is quite hard to get rid of, particularly if people are well aware that the gods could fulfil their requests if they wanted to. To avoid this I suggest either:

  1. The gods have very clear, and restrictive rules. E.g. if you want to pray successfully it needs to happen between 23:50:55 and 23:51:00 on the 14th of January. Any other prayers receive a response from the god that says something along the lines of "Your prayer is important to us, please hold." The flaw with this is that they will have to grant some requests.

  2. The gods both do the opposite of what was requested, and kill the worshipper. The major flaw with this is people getting wise to it and praying for the opposite to their desired outcome. However, assuming the gods are omniscient, it should be fairly easy for them to spot this.

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Trigger alert for all those that believe in religious teachings: atheistic reasoning ahead.

Let us first look at what we mean by "a god". In real life, the label "a god" has always been assigned to entities that are supposedly omnipotent or at least supernatural. Also "a god" is a benevolent being that wishes good for us humans (those that do not are usually called "demon" or "devil"). Finally — and crucially — the "gods" in real life never actually manifested themselves in any tangible and verifiable way. Hence: "a god" is more or less wishful thinking, the unproven belief that there is someone out there that is looking out for us. That is what we mean by "gods" in real life.

What you have there is not that. Sure, your beings are omnipotent but 1) they can and obviously will manifest themselves in a tangible manner, it does not require faith to know they are real and 2) they are callous towards us. So your beings are not "gods" in any traditional sense.

What you have is a very cranky version of Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

So those are not "gods", they are powerful jerks. Why would people turn to them in the first place? It is like running to Donald Trump with your credit card bills and expecting him to pay them for you out of the goodness of his heart. It does not matter to him that you made an oopsie and are a few hundred short on paying them this month, that is your own lookout.

So your problem kind of solves itself fairly quickly. The reason people turn to "gods" in real life is that there is enough uncertainty about their existence that you can keep calling on them, attribute good things to their name and bad things to just bad luck or that they have an ultimate, greater plan. In your case there is no uncertainty; they do exist, and asking them for help would not come up in the first place, or would be quickly discouraged in any which way you want to come up with.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not atheistic reasoning. This is just plain anti-religious talk. There is a huge difference in not believing in god and pushing a offensive view of god ahead. You are doing the latter, not the former. Also, don't try to define god - there is not a single accepted, common definition of what a god is. You are really missing the point of how much difference there is several gods for several different religions - most of classic gods aren't even omnipotent or omniscient. Check norse mithology for a good example. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Apr 6 '16 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ThalesPereira Even if I did consider my answer "offensive" - which I do not - that claim does not constitute an argument. I am very much with Christopher Hitchens on this point: 1) those that are determined to take offense will do so 2) it is not an argument. Your outrage grants you no additional weight in the discourse. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Apr 6 '16 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ I think @MichaelKarerfors makes a good point: the OP is stuck too much inside of taking a Judeo-Christian or Roman god, and modifying him to not answer prayers. The OP needs to revisit the idea of "what is a god, and why would people even develop the idea of asking for help on this world?" As for the tone, I am a religious person myself, and I do not find his answer offensive. $\endgroup$ – browly Apr 6 '16 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @browly Maybe you mixed up who did the comments? $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Apr 6 '16 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @ThalesPereira One last comment: atheism is not "not believing in a god". A-theism is apathy towards theism. Theism is the notion that a human can know the mind of a god and that this person therefore has additional argumentative leverage in an open discourse. Atheism simply rejects this notion. If you were to say "I know the mind/will of (a) god and therefore people should listen to me when I present my opinion" (or any variant there of), my reply as an atheist is simply "no, that argument is not valid". Anti-theism is to actively encourage others to reject that notion in the same way. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Apr 7 '16 at 6:35
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The Gods need to be active enough to engender belief but make it clear they don't care about humans They can do this by making numerous appearances, basically live where the humans can see them. This should generate the required belief. However, when someone asks for help from the Gods, visit them with some punishment that makes it clear that it's divine retribution. Revoking the retribution when the supplicant recants their request for help will go a long way towards reinforcing the knowledge that the Gods aren't there to help.

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The simple solution is to never answer prayers. Obviously that doesn't work in this context because people know that these gods and one actual case of them intervening or the rumor thereof is enough to restart the issue all over again.

So, they should/could:

  • limit themselves to certain kinds of actions
  • demand payment of some kind, preferably something costly and the sort of price you can't or won't pay twice.
  • enforce some kind of confidentially geas on those they help or one that simply compels them to do something or act a certain way. making them do something unacceptable in their culture will discourage others from seeking aid from that source (e.g. force them to sleep with anyone who asks OR always tell the truth OR help those in need regardless of the cost or sacrifice involved) require that the party involved do everything that they could have before asking for help, even things that person would never dare
  • only intervene in cases of mass loss of life or global catastrophe
  • smite anyone with impure intentions, assuming they can tell. only someone who has no concern for their own wellbeing will even bother asking or even seeming to ask

An important question is how the "gods" feel and whether they care about the fates of those below. They could be concerned or even care deeply and yet rather not be called upon constantly to solve every little scrape, splinter, heartbreak, etc.

Most of these would either be to create fear or insinuate total, utter indifference. Alternatively they could just intervene regularly enough that the demands/request are small an easily ignored. You know, the dictator's guide to keeping the people blissful and ignorant.

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  • $\begingroup$ As The Evil the Rider (like Death in Discworld) said it is hard to stay out human affairs in whiles of battles. $\endgroup$ – Václav Apr 9 '16 at 13:00
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Firstly, the whole idea of gods implies that humans (or whatever sentient beings there are in your world) are not omniscient, and thus are not all-powerful. If there are gods, then anyone lower than a god would automatically look to them for help: it's natural and instinctive. Thus, why would gods exist if not to help those below them? Humans exist not really to help those below them because they have their own needs to attend to. But a god needs nothing, he already has everything. Thus, he should be helping those who need it. If your gods really do not like people asking them for help, it would be useful to explain why. Perhaps someone had once asked them for help, and it resulted in something terrible?

Secondly, I find it difficult to reconcile a world with magic, and a world with gods. Having magic implies that magic-wielders are capable of more than normal people, which blurs the line between them and gods. Perhaps you could place a more distinguishing factor, which justifies humans being 'allowed' the use of magic, and yet explains the presence of gods.

Finally, one possible way to ensure people do not ask gods for help would be a public punishment akin to a branding and libelling. Such a person would be shunned by all, solving the issue. The offender realises his mistake in asking the gods for help, and the people around him would avoid doing the same, because they see that asking the gods for help would not solve their problem, but instead would make them an outcast.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are people capable of using magic and some of them are a very powerful - but they have to conceal their abilities related to magic, because there is group of soldiers that hunt for them. $\endgroup$ – Václav Apr 7 '16 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ And I don't think so that gods don't need anything because they have all. Gods may need to lead world somewhere. And teaching people to don't ask gods for help may have some target. $\endgroup$ – Václav Apr 7 '16 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Václav, I apologise, I think I wasn't very clear... It's not the problem about hiding spellcasters' powers. It's the problem of how then do you define who's a god, and who's a really powerful spellcaster? Basically, if let's say someone found out that a character could use magic and is really powerful, what's stopping him from calling that magic-user a god? $\endgroup$ – ASH-Aisyah Apr 9 '16 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ You probably want to show case of Asterix and Obelix in movie Twelve tasks of Asterix, when Romans decide that only gods or half-gods can successfully defend themselves from Roman legions. Yes, this ?conflict is possible. $\endgroup$ – Václav Apr 9 '16 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Hahaha, didn't watch that particular movie... But, yeah, conflict would definitely be possible. Especially for some crackpot magician who is hungry for power. If the gods don't show that 'hey, we're here, and we can do things that none of you humans would EVER be able to', any magician would start to get uppity and try to garner worshippers for power. $\endgroup$ – ASH-Aisyah Apr 9 '16 at 13:00
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Let the community moderate themselves.

Priests are not only responsible for making the prayers, but also collectively decide which prayers are to to be made. Give reputation points and more senior positions to those who moderate well.

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I'm not sure if this is strictly speaking an answer, but here is a world where the setup makes sense. Take one part quantum theory and one part Norse mythology. Stir with the order and chaos axis which I always find more interesting than good and banal evil, add a touch of Cthuluesque horror.

This is a universe where chaos has almost won. The earth is a small bubble of relative order held together by the gods, adrift in an unmeasurable chaotic void. It is a failing world. Soon enough even the gods will die, but us mere mortals hope enough time remains for our small lIves and our grandchildren's.

We absolutely need to believe in those gods. They are our anchor against the chaos. In this world, chaos can break though the orderly fabric that we call reality at any moment, revealing things that first destroy our sanity and then rebuild us as soulless and motivelessly malign agents of chaos. At such a moment we pray to the gods. We are their chaos warning system. When we rightly raise the alarm, they hasten to repair the fabric of reality. The might even save our lives, though that is very secondary to saving the world itself.

People who pray for other reasons ... at best they selfishly distract the gods and thereby imperil the world. At worst, they subconsciously want to destroy the world. The former may get a warning if there is any time to spare. The latter have to be sacrificed if this little bubble of order and sanity is to be preserved. The chaos can also hear their prayers.

A dark vision. Ragnarok cannot be much delayed. The gods themselves would pray if they knew to whom or what such prayers could safely be directed.

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