I've read many posts discussing the method of creating a religion, or the way that a god gains the belief of people (Here's an example).

These discussions have caused me to wonder the why of gaining belief, not just the how.

In my plot, the relationship between human and "deities" is similar to that in Zelazny's Lord of Light.

Deities are not really omnipotent in this world, they just have advanced technology. These deities take advantage of humans and have methods to hide the truth.

I think that the deities will get into unnecessary trouble if they establish religion(s); people will know the existence of the deities, they may suspect that they are causing the bad consequences caused by their exploitative actions. If people know these deities are only normal life forms, and that they are responsible for their suffering, they may mount a resistance. Although the deities can suppress the technological advancements of humans, they would have to do more than just hide if the humans were aware of their activities! Thus, I think the simplest and easiest way for the deities to maintain their power is to hide their existence.

However, I still want to have religion in my story. Is there any reason for deities to take this risk and establish a religion? Or is my logic just wrong?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe your deities get more ad revenue the more followers that they get. That's why people care about Facebook friends and Twitter (etc.) followers, right? $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2016 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ On Terry Pratchett's diskworld, gods get their power through the believe of their followers. A god can do great miracles if people have strong believe in them, but if the believe of the followers is weak, then the god is essentially powerless. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Jul 7, 2016 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ "So I think the simplest way is to hide their existence." All you need to start with is a deity that disagrees with you on this point =) That being said, this question only shows the negative side of such reveals. What are the benefits? Once you have a balance of benefits and drawbacks for revealing, one can start exploring why such a reveal may be desirable for some deities. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jul 7, 2016 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ I don't quite get it. These "deities" need to coexist with humans on the planet? (Why?) Is there reason for the "deities" to be known to humans? (Are they visible? In same locations?) In general, "real deities" have a separate plane of existence, so humans could be totally/absolutely ignored if so desired. But in your story, some type of interaction is necessary/guaranteed...? $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2016 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ I like the Stargate SG-1 "Ori" explanation. By surrendering your will to the 'god' or 'gods', they gain a portion of power based on the brain functions you're no longer using to self determine. Like cloud processing. $\endgroup$
    – Logan
    Jul 8, 2016 at 11:33

15 Answers 15


Humans are an Extension of Gods

Most answers can be cast as natural results of a simpler notion: everything grows. A god seeks out followers because all life, however advanced, seeks this growth. One axis which growth can be measured, and would seem 'natural' to a hyper-advanced, hyper-powerful being, is the extent of those who follow it, over whom it can exert influence.

That a following appears to be a religion is actually more the happenstance of the follower than the followed: human followers seem cult-like. However, pets are a great example of followers that don't organize as a religion: Fido does not worship (perform rituals, etc.) his owner - he's just a dog that follows the owner around and barks at things that might be a threat.

Consider, then, that your 'gods' are simply advanced beings, and one way they seek to protect themselves is by modifying the ecosystem around them. Humans do this: they build buildings, for instance, and cache supplies where they can find them. They do it on grander scales as well, such as the creation of cities, the weather channel and the Emergency Broadcast System. The universal sign for 'choking' or stop signs aren't religion; but everyone adheres to an understanding about what they mean. This is so everyone benefits.

Businesses do this too, particularly in computers, where they promote 'complementary products' and develop 'ecosystems' for their product to flourish. Sometimes this comes in the form of stifling particular competition, or giving away part of their product for free, or seeking a subsidy or tax break for their product, or encouraging a behavior that creates a need for their product. Branding is, in this way, similar to proselytizing. These are called 'industrial complexes' because they go beyond the bounds of the business itself.

How does this relate to a god? Even hyper-advanced beings will find some things easier than others. Therefore, it is in their best interest to encourage conditions that make most of what they do easy, including safeguard themselves. 'Religions', or large groups of self-organizing followers, are a great way to do this. When you have many people who follow you it is easy to:

  • Call on them if something unexpected comes up.
  • Use the organization they have already set up to get something done without first having to herd cats. (Right down to sheer labor.)
  • Not worry about explaining complicated ideas, because they'll take it on faith, saving time.
  • Quarantine or suppress conflicting ideas, groups of people or other situations that will have a particular adverse effect.
  • Discover, filter and deliver information to you about a wide variety of things that you would otherwise have to take effort to do. Or, perhaps not just information, but raw material or actual power (energy, oil, 'belief', human blood).
  • React on their own without your intervention.

Now, will a following always do exactly the right thing? Probably not: but the reason to cultivate it is that then it is more likely they will do the right thing. They become extensions of the 'god': just like you might not parry correctly with a sword, if you practice with a sword a lot it can become an extension of you, and a parry becomes very easy to do.

In the end, as with less god-like human leaders, this is a symbiotic relationship. The god can find great utility in a following, both for the raw people they influence but also the environment they promote with their every action. They may feel fondly towards this group as a result (think of celebrities always thanking their fans), and even crave the adoration they give: having and using followers successfully feels good, and so they will be encouraged to do it more and more, and try more complicated things. This is simply an extension of any human societal structure, just taken to the utmost: where the number of humans involved is huge, where the god's ability to influence them is massive and the difference in perspective is particularly large. And to return to the initial point: because the benefits of having many beings working in concert with you is great, there is no reason to do anything except to grow that. It feels good. It has utility. There are thousands of secondary reasons. Why wouldn't you pursue developing a following? The only reason is if the opportunity cost in comparison to another pursuit was greater, but it's hard to imagine what that might be.

  • $\begingroup$ Although I am inspired by many answers, I find that the solution provided in this answer is the most reasonable, also, it contains multiple ideas that is useful for me. (while in some answers I only get one useful idea. I only gave upvote to those answers.) $\endgroup$
    – fairytale
    Jul 9, 2016 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ I'm glad it was useful to you! $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2016 at 17:23

So the obvious answer would simply be 'pride/ego' which has been a dramatic force throughout Earth's history. Why, down the ages, have people wanted to be kings, emperors, presidents, or mayors? Of course there's people who do it for altruistic reasons, but a lot of people want the sense of power and recognition that power brings.

Somebody would want a religion formed around them because the idea of people worshiping them, thinking them fantastic and flawless, and willing to do their every request just sounds appealing.

Shoot, for the same reasons many kids have wanted to be rock stars, because a lot of people thinking so highly of you is just something most humans instinctively want.

Your deities also, most likely, convince themselves that they're deserving of such renegotiation because they're just better, in the same way you'd respect the life of a human over the life of an ant; it just makes sense. This doesn't have to be overtly evil, but it's almost certainly selfish and self-indulgent.

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    $\begingroup$ And they're alien. Perhaps they have a similar attitude to those of the first conquistadores arriving among the "savages". $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2016 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ s/renegotiation/recognition/ ? $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2016 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ And let's not forget competition! In the Harshini serie (Jennifer Fallon), the gods gloat at other gods, when things turn their way. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2016 at 7:39

It sounds like your deities have more motivation to broadly control belief than to be worshipped.

Both natural and explicitly constructed mythologies often include polytheistic gods who seek worship. Natural mythologies tend to chalk this up to deities desiring services from mortals, simple vanity, or a paternalistic bent on the part of the deity. Constructed ones, however, sometimes present mortals' belief in or devotion to a deity as directly providing that deity with power. Arguably, this is metaphorical and represents the power gained by the institution as its ideas dominate, but still, you don't see much in natural mythologies about gods explicitly NEEDING their worshippers. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus claims that God doesn't need worshippers, saying he could "raise up sons for Abraham from these stones." (Luke 3:8) (Though, this claim could be representative of the turn from tribal deity to monotheistic God.) Still, particularly if you delve into the mythologies constructed for games, some constructed mythologies really do at a nuts and bolts level have gods that are utterly dependent on the worship of their followers and will die without it.

But, that doesn't sound remotely like anything you have going on. Your gods are powerful technologists. Their motivation for controlling the belief of the masses is to prevent anyone else from climbing the ladder of technological advancement and threatening their position. Worshipping "the gods" directly is not necessary to this end: any old religion that enforces some ideas that prevent the discovery of the microscopic world will do the trick. Say glass is a demonic substance so people never make microscopes, or never trust them if they do. Make a nomadic lifestyle a religious obligation so cities never form. There is no end to the variety of imaginable religious notions which might hamstring technological advancement. In fact, Paul Feyerabend argued that the idea of an exclusive "scientific method" is just such a religious notion.

The X factor for your gods is that they only know how to conceal the ladder they themselves ascended. If an alternative history of science could reach the apotheosis machine (a kind of "could a mermaid ever build a radio?" question) your gods depend on, trying to keep budding sentients down without exterminating them might just be a fool's errand.

  • $\begingroup$ Also important to point out is that belief in this context is more of a means to an end. If people believe in the gods, they will be more willing to obey the gods' rules. In this case, saying that certain levels of tech are bad and should be suppressed. Which, incidentally, is exactly how it is managed in the book that OP references. $\endgroup$
    – D.Spetz
    Jul 8, 2016 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ Securing personal worship is the most obvious way to exercise fine control over the content of religious doctrine, but not the only way. If concealment of one's own divine nature is desired it's always an option to speak in signs. Just screw with some mortal in ways that will make him or her conclude "wow we shouldn't X." Might have to squish a few before they can report back if they draw the wrong conclusions. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2016 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not talking past you, I've read LoL too (Zelazny is my absolute favorite - read a Rose for Ecclesiastes!), I'm just saying that being underhanded about it like the Bene Gesserit Missionaria Protectiva in the Dune novels is also a live option. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2016 at 17:14

What does God need with a starship; or more generally what do gods get from a religion of lesser beings?

The lesser beings can do something god needs, something large scale requiring a lot of followers to implement; maybe building something large like a pyramid (UFO landing sites?) or gathering some widely scattered resources.

To prevent other gods from doing any of the above.

In the old testament some of the first commandments given are to ignore the other gods. If there is disagreement between the deities, a religion is a great way to convince the lesser beings to ignore the other gods and only do what you say. A religion also allows you to blame any problems on the other deities (literally demonizing them).

Often in fantasy there is some power that comes from belief, some sort of psychic benefit or mana, that is increased by having others believe in your power. But based on your description it sounds like you are looking for a more hard science explanation. If you're up for some handwavium you could have some quantum effects of belief influencing reality achieving something similar.

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    $\begingroup$ It might be worth noting that your introductory quote (nice :P), in its original context, was used to reveal an entity that wasn't a God. Because, well, a God doesn't need a starship. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2016 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ I used the quote for that reason, the questioners deities, as advanced as they are would still have needs, unlike capitol G God who is supposed to be beyond anything we can comprehend. $\endgroup$
    – Josh King
    Jul 7, 2016 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JoshKing God must be beyond that, because we can comprehend that we can't comprehend. In which case, God must be beyond that, because we can comprehend that we can't comprehend what we can't comprehend that we can't comprehend. In which case... $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Jul 8, 2016 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 it's turtles all the way down... $\endgroup$
    – Josh King
    Jul 8, 2016 at 16:18

Since we're talking polytheism, there's potentially many reasons your deities would want to be believed in (or wouldn't). Ultimately, the motivations behind these reasons could be altruistic or selfish, but it's mostly about power structure.

  1. Fanaticism.

Fanatics are willing to do anything for their chosen cause. This has traditionally been very true of religions, though not exclusively. Once a god has fanatics, there's little those fanatics won't do for their cause.

Fanaticism typically has a negative connotation associated with it, but many people considered to be the best of humanity have been fanatics (Mother Teresa). It really depends on what the god is pushing them toward: destruction of the "other"? Compassion for the needy?

  1. Redistribution network

Building a world-wide distribution network is very difficult. Ultimately, the problem lies in getting other people to move what you need them to move. Corporations do this with money (hire employees, employees move your stuff around). Churches do this through belief. In fact, churches typically get money from the people, and those people are also part of the distribution network.

But, what are we redistributing, here? Wealth is an obvious choice; depending on the god, that could be either to that god or to those that need it. Goods also a possibility. Most importantly when talking about belief, however, is idea redistribution.

  1. Cooperation network

There are certain things that would never be done properly if left up to individuals. Warfare. Road and bridge maintenance. Policing. Helping the homeless.

Closely related is the idea of the "Tragedy of the Commons".

Currently, governments tend to handle these things, along with regulating entities that have a history of destroying the commons. That being said, it would be easy to see how a god could use their own personal workforce to take responsibility in these areas. Kill those people. Feed those people. Though shalt repave potholes, or suffer eternal punishment.

The following aren't about power structure, but also can't be ignored.

  1. Vanity

Who doesn't want to be famous?

  1. Destiny

It is my place in the world to be a god. I cannot escape it, so I must accept it as the true state of the world and so must you. This can be a driving force for good or ill, depending on what "god" means to that person. Personal aggrandizement? Responsibility to help people?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! Nice answer! $\endgroup$
    – kuhl
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:02

There are some things that an advanced culture may want humans to do, for example make music or not eat bacon. Perhaps they consider humans to be culturally protected or they really like pigs because of their own religion. They probably wouldn't want to do something like murder a bunch of humans or start a bureaucracy, in which case they could act as gods. They would want to keep the humans in place because of their ethical system, but they don't care enough to deal with the details of keeping humans in line. Instead, their religion does it all for them.

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    $\begingroup$ I will never worship a god that forbids bacon. A Bacon god, I can get behind... $\endgroup$
    – Keltari
    Jul 8, 2016 at 6:46

Here's another way of looking at it: selection bias. The deities who have a need, for whatever reason, to gain believers (i.e. ego, actual dependence on believers for existence) ruthlessly promote themselves, and are the ones you've heard of. Meanwhile, deities who need no believers are just off by themselves, doing their own thing, and nobody's ever heard of them.

So, why do deities need believers? They don't. Not all of them.

  • $\begingroup$ It would kill a story, but your explanation makes a lot of sense. I'm upvoting its elegance :-) $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Jul 10, 2016 at 8:58

What you describe sounds pretty similar to the gods of Classical mythology. For sure, the source of their power was not usually thought to be technological, but something something magic something advanced technology...

Besides that, they seem to have desired followers not out of genuine need but narcissism and self-importance, and perhaps bragging rights among themselves. You could reuse much of this mythology for your own case, assuming your "gods" have some social instincts that would justify sentiments such as pride.

A less common (but adored by modern fiction writers) perspective is that gods are somehow bound to domains, and depend on followers to expand these domains. Eg. the god of oceans wants the whole planet to be flooded, since that will expand his domain and thus make him more powerful. I never got the impression that Classical people believed anything like this - at best they seem to have viewed the gods' dependence on ordinary mortals in the vein of an owners' "dependence" on his fighting cocks: There is no actual dependence, but there is mutually agreed pretense of dependence for the sake of sport. I think this just goes back to pride and bragging rights, though.

Incidentally, one school of thoughts regards DC Comics superheros in a similar light: For instance, Superman is essentially like a God unto men, he does not need them, and they have little they could offer him - he assumes his guardian role and seeks humanity's approval out of dedication to his personal principles and beliefs. Then you have characters like Batman that are more nuanced. So these comics are a nice modern interpretation of the same thing.

A second common trope is gods requiring either belief per se, or some other human quality access to which is secured through belief. For this you just give the humans some trivial ability which doesn't change in any way the ability of the gods to totally kick humans' ass, but is still a trick humans can do and gods cannot.

For the first class, many fantasy settings simply have belief directly produce the god's power in a magical way. Since your divine power is technological, you can't really do this easily - you could perhaps badly abuse quantum mechanics and such to handwave it somehow.

The second class is much easier. Maybe our mortality creates a unique motivation that immortal gods cannot appreciate, so we are capable of some great deeds that they are not, or maybe human psychology has some novel quirk that allows ideas the gods couldn't think of themselves. With the domain idea from earlier (easily produced by having each individual god's tech being different and only applicable to a limited context) is a great example: On the whole gods are vastly more mighty, but humans can do the one thing they can't - gods are bound to their domains but humans are not. Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought universe has an example of this that I like: Advanced computation becomes more and more difficult closer to the center of the galaxy (the brain, itself a computer, apparently is not affected). The gods of the series (in fact planet-sized post-singularity AIs) can only exist on the outer rim, and hence try to get mere mortals to be their agents in places where they themselves could not function.

The distinction between needing specifically belief, or service guaranteed by belief, is helpful. For instance, in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books (where gods and magic are both ubiquitous and well-known) the gods don't care much about heretics and atheists unless they "stand on top of a hill in a thunderstorm, wearing a copper hat, and yell all gods are bastards". So, not belief per se but respectful behavior, which in turn implies pride and social behaviors. This seems much more plausible for a sci-fi story absent a compelling explanation why mere belief would grant power. Granted, in Discworld gods do get power from belief, one book is even about a once great god whose name has become so obscure that he rendered powerless.

In our world, nobody has credibly observed a god. So it is hard to say what would be considered realistic behavior for them. One could say that our gods have served philosophical function: Once upon a time they provided explanations for natural phenomena, later they provided the basis for moral and legal systems. Today we consider our philosophies to arise purely from our own reasoning, and all our moral and legal systems supposedly stem from axioms that we hold to be self-evident. Thus we seemingly have no need for gods, nor would the gods in your case have any niche that humanity has in the past provided for gods.

On the other hand, your gods seem very similar in role to dictators: They are very powerful, and strictly speaking do not "need" any given individual. You could therefore model the role of your gods on real-life dictators, good or bad. The question is then why they would feel the need to be gods, not rulers (a trivial question, since in reality many dictators have chosen to deify themselves). Perhaps they believe that religion is a more effective way of control than politics - a view supported by the comparative longevity of religions in our history (millenia) vs. governments (centuries at best).


for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain: "Remove hence to yonder place"; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Using a widely abused and completely crackpot interpretation of quantum mechanics and the observer effect, you could posit that the act of believing something does indeed influence the value of truth of that something.

Then you can explain that the reason I can believe I've a pocket full of golden dobloons and yet my pocket is empty is because my pocket - just as the grain of mustard - also has faith in its own emptiness. There's no special status for conscious beings. In the normal order of things, any single observer is a minority with respect to what is called "objective reality".

Therefore, I can believe I can fly all I want, but so long as six billion human beings aver that humans can't fly, and that I am a human being, I still can't.

Deities would then be beings that have found and exploited a loophole in this state of matters.

They (with advanced technology and impressive mumbo-jumbo) started by fostering a belief that they weren't bound by physical limitations and that they had godlike powers. As soon as a certain threshold of believers was reached, they started gaining "real" powers, and rapidly ascended from warlocks (or in some culture, pop icons and successful politicians) to demigods to gods.

Some interesting implications:

  • all gods compete for a scarce resource, which is believers.
  • any being can be "coopted" and made a god by other gods, on their say-so.
  • having the back of a god and believing in the matter qualifies to perform minor miracles - you've become a saint.
  • while a believer in a different god is an irritant to a god, that believer does not only believe in a god -- he has to believe in gods. So a small part of his faith still benefits the godhead at large. On the other hand, unbelievers would be anathema to gods great and small.

And the answer to your question,

  • the more followers and more belief a god can gain, the greater his powers to alter reality.

Update I've remembered an enjoyable novel by Eric Flint and Dave Freer in which a race of aliens, the Krim, routinely abuse other worlds by taking over their mythologies, mind-controlling their Gods and hijacking the faith in them, and finally reenact those mythologies within a hybrid between an alternate universe and a hologram deck. The more people they find that can be taken in and believe, the more power they gain. Then with the (apparently unavoidable) help of a massive release of thermonuclear energy, they get to absorb the whole planet into their alternate universe and lord over it until, I think, they drive their victims to extinction and have to start the hunt again.

Something like that also is the backstory of Star Trek's Who mourns for Adonais? (emphasis mine):

Kirk and McCoy conclude that he is indeed the real Apollo, but was part of a group of powerful aliens that visited Earth 50 centuries ago, and thrived on the love, worship, loyalty and attention of the ancient Greeks. Eventually all of the aliens, with the exception of Apollo, realized that humanity no longer worshiped them. They spread themselves "upon the wings of the wind" and faded away into nothing.


What if humans or indeed all life as we know it is really a kind of carbon based biological machinery designed to terraform planets and build infrastructure in preparation for their creator's arrival? However a core protocol (servitude to a specific creator or institution) has been corrupted, i.e. the Weyland Yutani corporation launched the artificial life seeds only to be later assimilated by Walmart, but there's no way to update the programming, humans feel compelled to serve something but with Weyland Yutani gone there's no users with legitimate administrator level permissions to take control.

Essentially these gods are all trying to take ownership of the planet and the human race, the humans are creationists but don't fully understand what having creators implies, they feel compelled to serve the gods but are confused when different gods make conflicting requests. The accumulating errors are damaging the human’s programming, on a subconscious level IFF routines are adapting (as they’re designed to) but the ambiguity is causing them to lose priority to other lower priority functions.

Though they don't realise it atheists are protocol fundamentalists, subconsciously having interpreted the ambiguity as an intrusion attempt they've gone into a high security state in which they wont accept commands from any user other than a fully verified Weyland Yutani system administrator, which of course no longer exists.


Religion is a method of rationalizing the irrational. Take our world today, where religious fanatics will willingly kill themselves in the name of religion. Religious extremists will blow up buildings, fly planes into buildings, shoot up gay clubs, suicide bomb marketplaces, bomb abortion clinics, kill their family members, etc, etc. The promise of a religious benefit outweighs the cost of their mortal life.

If you were to ask a non-fanatical Muslim or Christian to blow up a building to further your goals, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would agree.

By forming a religion and building a fanatical base, that deity gains irrational loyalty from his/her followers.


Belief is insufficient, concider faith...

Picture a parent giving his child some delicious treat: if the child does not have enough trust that it will be good, it will not give it a try - regardless of how tasty and delicious it really is!

The child will definitely believe in the parent (in his existence), but trust is an entirely different beast: Trust has to be carefully built. Especially if you want to give something which does not look inviting...

If you have the best gift in the universe, and the recipient does not trust your intention to give him something good, he will not receive it! Or only under force (which is not so good).


From your description the aliens don't want to be deities, so they don't need to be. Humans will still make up deities to explain things, especially if some of those things don't seem physically possible. If the aliens are pulling resources from the planet with giant tractor beams then humans will make up a deity for what they are seeing, even if the aliens don't 'want' them to.

We see this excellently presented in an episode of Star Trek where a simple people become exposed to some Federation personnel, including Data the android and some phasers. In the end, it took nearly killing Captain Picard for the locals to stop worshiping him (with Crusher's medical attention his arm/chest just needed a couple days to fully heal from the arrow).

So you can definitely have a religion worshiping the aliens without the aliens trying to be worshiped. Some of them might realize they are being worshiped and attempt to direct these religions to specific ends, or they might stay out of human affairs entirely, just keep exploiting them as originally intended.


Honestly, the way I see it is that a deity requires belief to exist. No offense to any religious folk out there, but this is coming from a place of personal opinion and my own knowledge of world cultures, but when people stop believing in an entity, it loses all power.

Look at the judeo-christian god compared to say, gods in ancient Greece/Egypt. The latter is little more than fictional inspiration now. Thor is just a comic book hero now. When at one point, people legitimately believed in these entities the same way Christians believe in Christ/God. So I ask you this: what is really the difference?

God without belief/worship is just a word. But with belief is one of the most powerful forces in our world. No it can't cause hurricanes or volcanoes, but it is certainly the cause for many a mass-slaughter and genocide as recent as the last couple centuries.

God/gods are powerful constructs of the mind and society unless we have a basic understanding that they are purely myths.

Therefore, while a god in realistic terms may not "want" the way a human does, the human mind (where gods reside) want the comfort of god and the sense of community it brings and the fewer people believe in it, the less power/comfort/community that god brings to their lives.

People make god powerful therefore people generate the "need" and the "reason" for belief.

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    $\begingroup$ Hey @mordecai, the question defines the deities as physical beings with advanced technology. To that end your answer misses the mark, as it implies that the beings would no longer have their power if belief stopped. Unless you're willing to explain how belief in the being would deprive the being of their technology or turn them into little more the fictional characters, this is not a good answer. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Jul 7, 2016 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ My point is that by definition "deities" are figments of imagination. The OP asks how something "real" like and advanced being can be defined as something "fake" and I gave OP an answer to that end. OP can have advanced beings that pretend to be fictional beings or believers that pretend their gods aren't just aliens. You can't have it both ways. If you can prove something, it's not religion. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2016 at 20:47

Polytheism in ancient times worked like this: People live in some kind of symbiosis with their god. They do or don't do certain things because it is beneficial to their god. The god does things beneficial to the people. But the people cannot really comprehend what their god needs, and the god is unable to clearly communicate his needs. Whenever something good happens, it's their god blessing them. Whenever something bad happens, either the people are to blame - they did not do their part, so the god could not do his, or he is angry - or it's the work of another god.

Let us assume the aliens find such a religion.

When they play such gods, they get the help of the humans. They might increase that help through manipulation, e.g. by playing good god / bad god, or by starting a war where the people's survival depends on them helping their god. Wars are also good to reduce the population.

So, it's not "team humans" vs. "team deities", there are several factions of humans and their respective gods against each other. Divide and conquer.


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