19
$\begingroup$

Assume a medieval magic world, where Gods are worshipped and the most popular God is the most worshipped. The Gods gain their power from the belief & prayers that comes from the believers, and find it easier to show their power (which causes more people to believe in them). The Gods cannot manifest physically, but they can show their powers in different ways - if a group of people want to destroy a house of the person blaspheming their God, that God will call down a lightning strike (though this is limited to the most powerful God). Or they can grant some blessings, a war God can make a person stronger and weapons become sharp (and glow,so people know they are magically enhanced). Gods basically can do some moderate magic.

However,there is a minor, almost-forgotten God who wishes to become #1. He has very few believers (lets say 5) but he needs to figure out a way to increase that number. His magic is very weak, providing a blessing to one person at a time or causing some minor rain. What should he do in order to get more worshippers?

Note : Think magic as Elemental magic and Blessing magic. A strong God can cause a flood, our God can only cause a light drizzle. Or if a strong God can cause a tornado, our God can make it moderately windy. (Of course, Gods don't want to destroy things, only if almost all the worshippers want that, then they act. Otherwise Gods mostly don't do much (though they can)). Blessing magic would be the typical DnD type... buffs. (Increase strength,health etc) A strong God would give one man the strength of 5 men, and that person would be glowing. Our God will cause a slightly noticeable difference, and some slight glowing. Same goes for weapons (making them stronger or sharper).

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of an old videogame, Black & White. I loved that. You were a small God trying to grow among the older ones. Reading about it may give you inspiration. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 1 '16 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz Point was talking about belief as a question to answer is backwards, since belief is a cause, not an effect. This is absolutely relevant, because (1) It factors into the OP's world: belief is something that people have, full-stop. More interesting from a worldbuilding perspective is to consider what actions a god could take to direct or reallocate belief. (2) that affects the posing/validity of this question itself. (3) we teach ramifications: "Effects...on specific aspects of that world's societies, cultures, and environment". $\endgroup$ – imallett Jul 1 '16 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ I'll add that I never said anything about my religion, nor did I attack anyone else's. It is a historical fact that belief structures for literally thousands of deities have existed, that in many cases it is archaeologically demonstrable how they were invented by or played off of sociological hardships of the time, and that humans believe easily. While pouncing on the non-PC is ever-popular, you were way too hasty to attribute proselytizing. $\endgroup$ – imallett Jul 1 '16 at 18:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A while back, ok a long time back, Wizards of the Coast published "The Primal Order" which intended to be a cap-stone book about religion and deities in role-playing games. I can't recall (and my version of TPO is currently packed away), but there may have been some information about deities growing a following. ((full disclosure -- I contributed to the book in the preparation of the conversion notes for RoleMaster and AD&D; however I have no monetary stake in Wizards of the Coast)) $\endgroup$ – thurizas Jul 1 '16 at 22:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Smite. Just have 'em smite some people until word gets around. That'll put the fear of... themselves... into the people and make 'em worship. $\endgroup$ – Hack-R Jul 2 '16 at 0:08
19
$\begingroup$

What you speak of is similar to what happens in Discworld.

You need a prophet

If you don't mind doing that, you could possess someone and use that person as your voice. Otherwise you would have to convince one of your believers to want to be that for you.

Once he's gathered a big enough crowd of wannabee followers, you will need to take the next step.

You need to perform a miracle

Something that impresses the crowd or that strikes fear in their heart. Something that makes people think I want to be on his good side.

You will need to protect your followers

As you grow bigger, you will step into the territory of other Gods and their followers, so you will face reprisals. Heal/buff your following, fend of attackers, strike them down ...

You will need a proper religion and places of worship

Have your followers come together and worship you as a religion. Have them build places of worship for you.

Choose a champion/messiah at regular intervals

So that people are reminded that you're there and that they know that it's beneficial to join your religion.

Have your followers convert other people, or have them go on religious conquest, if you're into that.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is a good step-by-step plan ^_^ $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 1 '16 at 12:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ and don't forget: Spare the thunderbolts and spoil the congregation $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 1 '16 at 14:05
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Nice, but only five things? To be able to hold your head up in public you need a twelve step plan. Ten at the very least. FIVE IS RIGHT OUT! :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jul 1 '16 at 17:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The only problem I see with this is the same problem people face in real life - how do you keep the Bully from curb stomping your face into pulp and destroying whatever following you've started? @Spikee unintentionally hit on it - your minor god needs some god friends! The disenfranchised, the down trodden, the curb stomped gods no one else will worship. They need to be Legion and share in the prayer goodness. They still won't have a lot of magic individually, but can gather a larger following quicker than one god on its own by performing a lot of minor miracles and have several prophets. $\endgroup$ – Steve Mangiameli Jul 1 '16 at 18:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This seems like it'd make for an interesting video game... $\endgroup$ – Ajedi32 Jul 1 '16 at 20:49
6
$\begingroup$

It seems to me that in this system, your minor God is not very different from a minor politician trying to rise to power. Compare Hitler's rise to power, starting in small beer halls and gaining more and more followers.

He must start at the grass-roots level, taking care of his existing worshipers to extent of his power, (suffering a drought? that drizzle might seem useful then) but not solving all their problems (he still wants them to think they need his help).

That as well as spouting his own propaganda. He should target other minor Gods around his level or lower (he doesn't want to piss off the bigger Gods just yet), blaming them for certain social ills he has identified, to try and poach some of their followers.

He could also make vague promises/prophecies about glory and plenty to his followers. Just highlight some obvious looking flaws which seem to have simple fixes, even if the fixes are a lot more complex than they look (which they probably are which is why they haven't already been made)

Identify his more powerful followers, and focus most of his power on trying to help them (e.g. cure a local Lord's child's terminal disease or something) as they should drag commoners with them.

When he gets powerful enough to perform a miracle, make it high profile. e.g. He may find he gets more thanks for wiping out a plague of rats with a rainbow blast of lightning than he does from persuading the mayor to implement hygiene reform...

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Well the first step is to find a proper mouth peace to be your voice on earth preferably someone with a lot of charisma and who is a natural leader.

Next you need a sells pitch, ask yourself why should people follow me? what I can do (or be) for these people that there other gods can't or won't? Find the answer for that and give it to your prophet. For a real world example look at Christianity, one of the reason why it was so successful was because it's main competition (the Greek and roman gods) where selfish, cruel, vindictive, and completely unpredictable. Christianity offered a alternative God that loved and cared about his followers.

The third step is to have your followers spread embarrassing stories about the other gods. Anything that will make them look weak, cruel, or otherwise unreliable. for an example just look at any phone company commercials where they make fun of the other companies.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ "...selfish, cruel, vindictive, and completely unpredictable" - so...too much like people for their own good. :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jul 1 '16 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @BobJarvis pretty much. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 1 '16 at 19:07
2
$\begingroup$

This god would likely gain followers much the same way that any world religion has developed and gained power.

It needs a few things to do this:

  • A documented belief system that people will support (mind you people support all sorts of weird stuff so this system can be pretty much whatever you want it to be)
  • A person or people to disseminate the message. This can be in the form of a prophetic figure similar to Jesus or Mohammed. It could also take on the form of early Christianity where you had many apostles spreading the religion to various places around the world at the same time.
  • Considering that in your world gods are an undisputable fact the god would also need to demonstrate that he is real via miracles/blessings
  • Find niches. Considering your god is starting at the bottom rung he is going to have trouble directly challenging widely supported well established religious organizations. Start with the disaffected and fringe elements and then as power grows he can become more mainstream and start taking on the larger players.
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I believe (pun intended) that "miracles" are the usual trade goods in the god <--> believers thing. Potential converts go to priest with outlandish request ("Oh, priest - we are sorely afflicted with drought, pestilence, famine, and smelly armpits! Can thy god do aught for us? Save us from one or more of our afflictions, oh priest, and we are prepared to believe any sh*t that thou can'st dream up! Fail us and...well, this is a farming community, we've got lots of sharp objects close-to-hand - you get the picture..."). And so the priest goes off, burns some incense, slaughters a perfectly harmless domesticated farm animal (which, never fear, will grace the priestly dinner table that night!), mumbles a bit, and finally goes back to the potential converts and cries, "HEY! LOOKIT THIS...errrrr, uhhhh...BEHOLD!!!!!", whipping out from behind his back a small screw-bottom tube-like container of some kind of smelly-sticky stuff. "Behold!" crieth the priest, "my God has provided THIS unto thee!! Smear this in your armpits and stink no more!!!!". "It's a miracle!" cry the now-true-believers as one. "Our pits no longer reek like a damp dungheap!!! Hallelujah!! We believe! WE BELIEVE!!!!!". (Of course, in the back of the crowd some completely unrepentant infidel is saying, "Uh...I think we'd be better off if we hold out for rain..!" but he gets ignored for now and then is killed off later in the first Pogrom Against The Unduly Stinky - so he really doesn't count).

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ God from the bible made Christ to spread faith for his people to believe in him. Every God from Greek mythology had a role or purpose in their life. $\endgroup$ – Edmund Frost Jul 1 '16 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ Really? So the whole "sent his only-begotten son to take away the sins of the world" thing was just a smokescreen, and he was really an advertisement? "JESUS! NEW! IMPROVED! BETTER BEARD! MORE SMILE!" kinda thing? Wow. That's great! Sure hope the focus groups work out! Thanks! :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jul 2 '16 at 11:45
0
$\begingroup$

Assuming that worshipers know the rules about gods laid out in OP, there is little incentive to worship a weak god. Hence, the god's best strategy is to lie. The god should convince the worshipers that he has a much stronger power than he actually has, and has a lot of worshipers to give him this power (worshipers that are, conveniently, somewhere else).

A good choice is to claim to NOT have any of the various abilities spelled out in the OP, but INSTEAD to have prescience. It's not very impressive to create a tiny gust of wind, but it's much more impressive to correctly predict that the best marksman in the village will completely miss the target three times in a row, and then that his half-blind mother will hit the bullseye on that same target.

If the god's powers extend to seeing into sealed containers, he can share these secrets with the head priest, giving the appearance of even more supernatural knowledge abilities rather than just poking an incomporeal head into a locked box.

Actual prescience would be a very powerful ability, so it should have the people falling over themselves in a hurry to sign up to the god's cult/church. As the god's power grows, he can make more powerful "predictions" that he secretly forces to come to pass. These can be mixed with the type of vague predictions Nostradamus is famous for, where just about any outcome can be said to validate the prediction.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Please. Who would ever believe that a god (or his earthly representatives) would lie? I...I can't believe it! :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jul 2 '16 at 11:46
0
$\begingroup$

Here is one of many possibilities: To start, the five followers could all want and pray for the same outcome in a joint manner. Doing this, the strength of the God’s magic increases fivefold. The followers are aware each added believer to their joint request increases the god’s power. This gives incentive for the five followers to convince others with the same desire as theirs to join them. Each added follower actively seeks more followers Thus, the god is only concentrating on one thing at a time instead of one person at a time, which enables his strength to grow. Once his strength has grown enough to grant blessings as powerful as any of the top gods he does. Because of the joint requesting growing exponentially, this god’s powers seem greater than any other God power does. This soon finds the God in the number one position. Especially since the followers learn to harness the power of mutual prayer, and thought.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

In this system, your 'forgotten' deity is going to be fighting quite an uphill battle. Several have already stated how to get started, and at first, this will likely work. In most of the larger religions, only a few thousand at the top will get the direct ear of their deity, everyone else having to hope that the majority of the church supports the same goals as them.

In a smaller church, each member will have a greater access and influence over the goals and direction of the deity they are powering. They are willing to give up access to greater power for more direct influence of a lesser power.

The real problem comes in when larger deities start to take notice. They don't want to lose their power and influence. The top deities will likely have established an accord between each other to help them all maintain their positions of authority over the world. "Better to share it with the others at the top than risk losing everything." That doesn't mean the top deities won't be looking for chances to stab each other in the backs, though.

The best chance a 'forgotten' deity would have is to reach out to someone at the top for protection from the others. Perhaps a former ally. Maybe not even at the top, but someone fairly high, someone high enough to either create a distraction or otherwise shield them from the view of those at the top until they have enough of a base from which to challenge the top. Perhaps reaching out to a god of chaos who is willing to stir things up, who hates how the top have remained in power for so long and doesn't really care who replaces them.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.