# How can there be different religions in a world where gods have been proven to exist?

In a world where gods can be seen by the inhabitants of that world, how can multiple religions even hope to form? If the gods choose to show people that they exist, regardless of area or person, I fail to see how the worshipers could believe different things.

If gods are proven to exist, how can there be different religions?

This question is asking how society would react, including what followers of other faiths would do if god suddenly appeared. I am asking how other religions could form if gods always were around

• Possible duplicate of How would society react if the existence of a god was scientifically proven? – Aify Oct 10 '16 at 23:28
• @Aify that is asking how society would react, including what followers of other faiths would do if god suddenly appeared. I am asking how other religions could form if gods always were around – TrEs-2b Oct 10 '16 at 23:43
• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – HDE 226868 Oct 13 '16 at 15:55
• Does the reality-check tag preclude a mention of the Discworld? – Michael Schumacher Oct 13 '16 at 18:47
• How can there be football fans when there are many different football teams? – Akshat Mahajan Oct 14 '16 at 20:49

In this world, theism involving the proven gods would map approximately to atheism in our world. Using this comparison, there are a couple of ways to proceed:

"Yes, but where did those gods come from? Did someone create them?"

This is cool, because you actually have precedent. Someone created this universe. We know that for a fact, and we know who it was. Who's to say this didn't happen recursively? After all, humans created The Sims.

"The so-called 'Gods' are nothing but liars. Here's what really happened..."

We already have people saying scientists are making up lies for the money (what money? I dunno). What's to stop this happening here?

Or further along those lines:

"There are no gods! It's all a plot by Big Theology!"

Not sure if conspiracy theories count as religion, but they can surely be taken to those levels.

"I worship Thor only. Really, all the evidence says he created the universe by himself. The others just pressured him to say otherwise."

We have a variety of religions on Earth that came from the same origin. Why can't that happen here? In addition, they'd likely be treated the same way we treat celebrities; with limited information and blind cherry-picking.

"The gods are not worthy of worship. Nature/enlightenment/the Sun/something else is!"

Not all religions focus on gods in the first place. They would still exist.

"Who? I haven't heard of them."

Maybe they lived in a third world country or one with tightly controlled information. Maybe they're a hermit or live in a tribe separated from the rest of humanity. For whatever reason, they simply haven't heard yet, and they have their own guessed answers to life, the universe, and everything.

I'm sure there are other ways to take this, but mostly it comes down to people not believing what they're told, no matter how scientifically accurate. This would be as true of that world as much as it's true in this.

• You missed one: "Sure the gods exist and they tell us to only wear red." "Really? I hear them say we should only wear black." "You are a heretic! Die!" – SRM - Reinstate Monica Oct 11 '16 at 5:58
• You forgot "these gods are jerks, I don't care if they exist, I'm not supporting them" Similar to the argument about worshipping nature or something else, but in this case it's simply a choice to worship nothing because you don't need them. I believe the trope is called a naytheist: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NayTheist – dsollen Aug 30 '17 at 14:04
• That's true, though I'm not sure that counts as an alternate religion, does it? That said, I took "religion" to more-or-less be about belief. I didn't even cover the situation where you believe something but reject it for something else. – AlbeyAmakiir Aug 30 '17 at 23:16
• they simply haven't heard yet, and they have their own guessed answers to life, the universe, and everything 42! – Hankrecords Feb 2 '18 at 14:55

I see 2 solutions here.

Devotion to specific gods rather than the pantheon as a whole, called henotheism: the belief in and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities.

To a henotheist, entities worshiped by other people can be dealt with a few different ways:

1. They aren't really deities, they're just powerful malcontents tricking people into worshiping them (e.x.: Satan in Christianity)
2. They are really deities, but they're evil and should be opposed (e.x.: Ahriman in Zoroastrianism)
3. They are really deities, but they're the deities of a different place / people / philosophy and so are improper to worship (e.x.: ancient proto-Judaism)
4. They are really deities, but they're just manifestations of my deity (e.x.: various philosophies within Hinduism and Hellenism)

Each different henotheistic religion can have a different attitude or attitudes towards each other sect. And none of them necessarily have to be "correct" from your omniscient authorial point of view.

Reverse syncretism. In ancient Greece and Rome, there was a tradition called Interpretatio graeca, where they identified foreign gods with Greek or Roman gods. The idea was that well, obviously our gods are real, and we know what they're like and how they intervene in the world, so obviously everyone worships them, even if they have other names for them. This resulted in things like the Romans reporting that the Germanic peoples worshiped the god Mercury, which was their interpretation of the god Odin.

Since your gods are real and do intervene in the world, different peoples are going to understand them in different ways. They'll give the gods different names, and worship them in similar but distinct ways. Perhaps one god appears more often in the north than the others, and comes to be considered the greatest god by the northerners, while another god spends more time in the desert and is revered by the nomads, etc.

• That's a great answer! I was thinking along similar lines when I was reading the question, and your answer gives more details than I had in my thoughts. My thoughts were specifically close to #3 from your list. – Chait Oct 10 '16 at 23:24
• I think the second answer would probably be the most likely, in my opinion. This situation has been paralleled twice on Earth, one in the form of Roman vs. Greek Gods, as mentioned above, and the other with Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism basically treated the Buddha as another incarnation of one of their own gods, which almost strangled Buddhism before it began. (But then it migrated East, and found new life in China, but that's another story.). So it's definitely plausible. – Atlas the Worldbuilder Oct 11 '16 at 0:23
• There is the third option: one might believe that the deities are just a figment of their imagination and that them and their tribe are collectively mad. After all, while it might not be a religion per see, one might simply be ignorant to the deities and believe they don't exist at all even as mortal beings. – The Great Duck Oct 11 '16 at 2:32
• @TheGreatDuck that would be interesting to see – TrEs-2b Oct 11 '16 at 3:13
• Why answer your own question in the second person? – Aarthew III Oct 11 '16 at 15:14

It's very easy to have different religions in an area where gods have been proven to exist. In fact, its so easy I'm not even sure how to write an answer about it. I would go so far as to say that having different religions would be the norm and it would be exceptional for there to be only one religion.

As an example, consider those who truly believe that there is a God. We can single them out and create our own little universe out of them. Very quickly you'll notice that even though the Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim to have the same God, they absolutely have different religions surrounding them. That's not to consider the other religions who claim to have a different God all together, or gods, or any other variation.

The key question would be how much effort the deity is taking unifying people and stomping out misinformation. If your deity is spending an extraordinary amount of effort interacting with the world on a daily basis, the people are going to be pretty unified. If your deity does yearly checkups on the world, they're going to be generally organized, but you may see some divisions as people interpret their statements differently. If your deity throws a book at your world and says "here ya go, good luck!" you will find a remarkable amount of disagreement in interpretations.

• If you want to get nit picky, Islam, Judaism and Christianity are different due to arguments about prophets/deities – TrEs-2b Oct 10 '16 at 23:47
• @TrEs-2b Yes, though that doesn't change the argument in any way. If you had proof that a deity existed, the arguments they have would be exactly as valid as they are today. – Cort Ammon Oct 11 '16 at 0:02
• To simplify this concept further, just look at how human society behaves, gods or no. Say you're ruled by a single monarch. How many different viewpoints and opinions and opposing camps would form around this? I see it being no different in the case of real gods. Those who trust His Word, and those who distrust. Those who interpret a statement in one way, and those who interpret it another. I suppose it depends how proactive your God is in correcting such differences of opinion. – flith Oct 11 '16 at 10:37
• Consider also the Roman Vs Greek pantheons, which were essentially identical, each major character having their equivalent in the other - Poseidon/Neptune, Hades/Pluto, Hestia/Vesta, Hera/Juno, Ares/Mars, Athena/Minerva, Aphrodite/Venus, Hermes/Mercury, Artemis/Diana, Hephaestus/Vulcan, Pan/Faunus... – Dewi Morgan Oct 11 '16 at 21:03
• Christianity is explicitly monotheist. For example Jesus can't disagree with and fight the Holy Spirit, because he would be basically fighting himself. (That's a slight simplification, theology is complicated.) And saints are just normal humans who can't really do anything supernatural. The only thing they can do for you is to just pray to God for a divine intervention. God then intervenes on his own (or not). – user31389 Oct 13 '16 at 13:28

Let’s try the reverse: In what world would there not be different religions?

In this world, no god has any enemies or rivals among the other gods. The gods have a unified vision of what religion should be like, and they have unambiguously communicated this to their followers. They are willing to demonstrate their power whenever some human doubts them, and they put an end to all false prophets who claim a special revelation from the gods, as well as to all who promote a variant form of the gods-approved religion.

Human nature being what it is, I think even in this scenario, people would rebel against the gods’ overwhelmingly oppressive presence. But they would probably agree on which gods exist and what they want humans to do.

Now, let’s change some of these variables:

Maybe the gods fight among themselves, and encourage humans to only venerate their group (or one individual god). The groups might demand very different things from their followers, so their religions could look very different. Or maybe the gods don’t fight, but do have different opinions about the world. So one god might encourage people to fast, while another tells them to feast. Over time, people would flock to the different gods the same way people in the real world adhere to political parties — they’d follow those whose opinions they prefer. Even if the gods do all have the same instructions for humanity, there could be some squabbles among humans about how exactly to interpret those instructions. Or those instructions do not cover every aspect of human life, and different religions form around the various ways to fill in the blanks. These religions would certainly be more similar than the real world’s religions, but to the people practicing them, their differences would be just as important. After all, these are the biggest theological disagreements that exist in their world.

Even if there is universal agreement about who the gods are and what they want, there could be different religions. If the gods don’t crack down on that kind of thing, sooner or later people will get philosophical. And some of them might come to the conclusion that while the gods certainly exist, the thing humans should actually focus on is something else. Maybe there is a transcendental spirit of which the gods and all other things are manifestations, and the real goal is to become one with that. Or maybe all phenomena are illusory, and it’s best to practice non-attachment so as to escape from the world of phenomena. Just because there are gods, doesn’t necessarily mean every religion has to focus on them.

And of course, it would be very difficult to construct a proof of gods that couldn’t possibly be explained any other way. After all, if the gods reliably provide some effect (for example, they answer prayers or strike down blasphemers), that makes them a phenomenon that can ultimately be studied with science. And if they only occasionally perform miracles, stubborn people could dismiss those as coincidences, illusions or superstitious nonsense. And even if the gods themselves obviously exist, whatever they tell humans about the world might not necessarily be true. So as long as the gods don’t actively persecute unbelievers, unbelievers there will be.

• + 1 just for use of the null hypothesis...cuts through so much blather. – Jared Smith Oct 11 '16 at 23:28

Something interesting to look at as an example would be the Elder Scrolls universe. In the Elder Scrolls, there have been numerous proven examples of Gods walking among men, influencing their actions, and leading them to crisis. However, not all of these deities are worshiped, and many are worshiped differently by different races. In particular, all races believe that the Daedric Princes are real deity-like creatures, and several have directly influenced the mortal world (Mehrunes Dagon caused the oblivion crisis.) However, most races on the mortal world do not worship these Daedric Princes, some because they don't want to be worshiping such malevolent powers, and some because they simply don't "do" religion (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.) Instead, the race of man for example worships the Aedra who they believe to have created man and in particular Akatosh, who they believe saved them from the Daedric Princes. (I say believe here because although it is strongly alluded to that this is the truth, it isn't made as clear what their influences are as there is less contact with them than the Daedric Princes.)

Even among worship of the Aedra, there is not a consensus among who to worship. The Aedra are commonly called the Nine Divines, even though there were originally only eight of them. This is because of a great man name Talos who united an entire continent together in the Elder Scrolls world. He had such an influence and so pleased the other divines, that he "ascended" to god-dom. However, this is not agreed upon among all races. As is the case in Skyrim, Talos has been mostly stripped of his rank of deity because of political conflict from other races who don't want to worship a former man.

Another race to look at are the Dunmer (think elves) who have their own religion known as the Tribunal. They worship living gods who led their people until several devastating events which reverted the Tribunal members to Saints, and began worship of the Daedra.

If you haven't looked much into the Elder Scrolls universe, than I would highly recommend it. Even though it gets a reputation sometimes as being a commercialized RPG, the amount of time they have spent into crafting in-depth lore which carries over between games and has remained consistent throughout the life of the series is staggering. There are a lot of helpful insights to be found from looking into it a bit more.

tldr: There may be multiple "levels" or classes of deities who can have different impacts on the world, people might just not be interested in trusting Gods, or certain Gods may be more benevolent than others (putting faith in just Gods rather than trying to appease immoral ones.)

• Similarly, see the novels in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. No one doubts that multiple gods exist, but you generally worship the one who's significant to you. Thieves revere the god of Thieves, housewives pray to the goddess of the Hearth, hobgoblins and orcs have their own gods, etc. – Shawn V. Wilson Oct 11 '16 at 23:25

"How can there be people who believe in flat earth when it has been proven to be round?" Sometimes there are people that just like to be different and think that there's some grand scheme behind everything, and that everyone is controlled/trying to control others. They will come up with stupid theories and amaze us with their stupidity. That's how it works.

Anyway, second options is that science isn't that good. Look at the history of science; what we call the scientific method and what we call science differs from what we called science 1000 years ago.

Different religions might disagree on which God is supreme. They could be believe one God is the king of the gods or at least the most powerful of all other deities they would consider the others to be as lesser or subservient gods.

Alternatively different religions could only recognize one particular God and view the other deities As Angels, demons, Saints and other forms of spirits, but not gods. For a real world example consider the way Jesus is viewed differently by Christians and Muslims.

Easy: people of faith will refuse to accept any evidence including that implied by your Title statement. Just read the “statement of faith” on any website for a religious-centered organization.

E.g. (taken at random from a Google search)

WE BELIEVE the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is divine revelation and the inspired Word of God inerrant in the original manuscripts. Its teaching is the final authority for all Christian life in matters of faith and practice.

So if something different is proven tomorrow, these people will just carry on as before with no change.

My point is that there will be some people (the most faithful) who won’t put any special effort in reconsiling their views with any new information. They already “know” the answer and simply ignore the new data.

• Would the downvoter please explain how this post «an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect»? Without feedback I don’t know what to improve, and others don’t seem to share the assessment, so I have to assume that it was improperly used to indicate “I dislike this subject” instead. Just so you know: we expect downvotes to mean something more specific around here. – JDługosz Oct 11 '16 at 12:58
• Not your downvoter, but I don't know that this answer really addresses the OP's question exactly, and seems mostly opinion-based, so that might have been your downvoter's reason. – vbnet3d Oct 11 '16 at 13:51
• How is referring to beleiver’s own public postings my opinion? I’d love to be able to improve this answer but I just don’t see how it is exactly the question in the title statement and verifiable observations of existing people. – JDługosz Oct 11 '16 at 15:27
• See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasty_generalization. Your answer is in the form of a universal dogmatic, which needs much more evidence. It probably would be better if you said "some people..." – vbnet3d Oct 11 '16 at 16:11
• @vbnet3d thanks for pointing that out. By “people” I meant ∃, but it might be read as ∀. I'll make that more explicit. – JDługosz Oct 11 '16 at 19:41

One might argue that this condition applies to the universe you and I live in... depending on how one defines the term "God"... and that therefore the answer you're looking for can be found by observing our own - real - universe.

You see...

1. Humans aren't pure rational creatures. Much of what a typical human believes in is based on emotional biases rather than rational thought. As a consequence, there is no obvious relationship between what is proven and what the average person believes in.

2. "God", "consciousness" or "soul" are examples of rather vague concepts that are defined differently by different religions, and even by different followers of the same religion. Due to the different definitions, many religions that seem incompatible at first sight actually are compatible when going deeper into the meaning of terms like "God", "consciousness" or "soul". In fact, I find it impossible to distinguish Atheism, Polytheism, Pantheism and Animism from each other at all other beyond the level of mere semantic differences. See my article The Atheistic approach to God… or how to bridge the gap between Atheists and Theists, where I elaborate on this in greater detail.

• Your links are all borken. http://<space>https//...?!? – wizzwizz4 Oct 12 '16 at 18:04
• @wizzwizz4 : Are the links working now?! – John Slegers Oct 12 '16 at 19:49
• Yup! :-) I like the blog post, but this does seem a little self-promotional. Maybe a clearer disclaimer (e.g. "(disclaimer: my article is my article)") would be good, but maybe it's fine how it is. -.(o.o).- – wizzwizz4 Oct 12 '16 at 20:48
• @wizzwizz4 : I already do explicitly say "See ＊MY＊ article ...., where ＊I＊ elaborate ...." — Being even more explicit that I wrote that article seems a bit redundant to me, and is likely to actually annoy more people than the way I put it now. – John Slegers Oct 12 '16 at 22:16

The answer is cults (in the technical sense of the word). If the Gods walk among us, and communicate, there will be broad agreement on cosmology: actual belief, in terms of the structure of the universe and the place therein of Gods and Humanity. However, there may well be groups focussing on the reverence of specific deities. People may dedicate their lives to this God or that God. There will be a temple to Offler down the road from a temple to Blind Io. And while all this is, technically, the same religion, the structure and form of worship and devotion can differ massively from God to God (and from place to place: the same God may be worshipped differently in different countries).

The interesting question would be how Gods compete for followers. Are you born into a specific cult? Do you choose it (and on what basis)? Are the cults completely separate, or is there any time in which you might visit a different temple? Do the Gods have certain competencies? (Do sailors pray to the Gods of the Sea? Do farmers give sacrifices for a good harvest?) Or perhaps different Gods are worshipped by the populace at certain times of year. Are there certain high holy days when a specific God is reverenced? (Even so, priests would probably be attached full time to a certain God, throughout the year.)

How do the Gods interact with their followers? And with each other? Are they jealous of other Gods, with more followers? Are there fights, maybe even wars? (If so, expect the distribution of worshippers to be largely geogaphic.)

Many people are fan/fanatics of a particular sports team, holding it to the best the best team in the league, even as other fans have similar allegiances to different sports teams.

Your world may have a pantheon (or league!) of gods each with their own fanatics. Adherents don't deny the existence of the other gods - they just don't think they are as good, for the same reason people like different ice-cream flavours.

Your question assumes that the main function of a religion is proving that God or gods exist. That's a way of looking at religion or faith that's only become current with the successes of modern science. Throughout history, and for most people, religions and various forms of faith are the answer to the question, 'Given that God (or gods) exist, what does that mean for us, people, specifically in how should we lead our lives and treat one another?' People will always differ in their answers to this question.

Because people interpret information they are given differently

They also disagree about everything, even things that are proven, even things they can see, even things they can ask questions & receive answers from. "Proven" doesn't mean "accepted".

Even assuming the gods had been around for all of recorded history, this comes into play - people disagree about what shape our planet is, among other things - and it's always been here. Even things taught from birth are eventually questioned, often during adolescence. And of course there's always the possibility of the gods being malevolent, or uncomunicative, or fighting each other...

Under most circumstances, even if gathered with their own eyes, evidence that gods exist would be open to interpretation and would be interpreted differently by different people.

As an example, we know from pictures and the word of others than the moon landings happened - this is taught in schools, and is accepted knowledge of something that happened before many of us were born, so it's always been there. But there are plenty who argue they didn't, evidence was falsified, etc. Plenty of those were born after the events in question. Regardless of whether you credit those people, the point stands that they do not accept information that others did, and have found alternate explanations for the evidence they received.

Gods exist.... but mine is better than yours. This one is pretending. I don't like this other one. They are all aliens. We're the aliens and this is their planet all along. They are manifestations of the religious people wanting to believe in a god so hard their brain-energy created one. It's a robot. They are just another species with different abilities. The whole thing is fake, they don't exist. My one created your one so mine is the real god. I could do that with a top hat and a deck of cards.... ad naseum.

• To add to this answer: there's plenty of scientifically proven stuff out there and yet people choose to believe what they please (think about vaccine for instance). If God(s) were proved scientifically, some would believe that, some would be skeptical and some would disagree and find a way to disprove. – Alexandre Oct 13 '16 at 18:14

Different groups of gods hang out in different locales. So up North you've got the gods of ice, wind, cold, and naked sauna-bathing, while down South you've got the gods of heat, sand, beach-wear, and ice-cold beer! In the East they're all into mysticism and clam-digging while out west - yep, you guessed it - the gods who are worshiped by the masses are those who are concerned with surfing, earthquakes, and mall-shopping, fer sure! In the middle are all those dull, boring, fly-over gods who are worried about dull/boring stuff like growing corn and raising hogs and such. And - good news, priests and priestesses-to-be - THEY ALL FIGHT WITH ONE ANOTHER! "Damn those gods of the Western Pantheon! Bunch of feckless bastards! HOLY WAR!!!!" scream the Eastern priests, and thousands of their clam-juice-dripping-from-the-corners-of-their-mouths devotees go storming across the continent to take on their tanned surfer-dude counterparts. "Dang them Northerners! When they wuz down here a-fore they done STOLE all our hot tubs and took 'em back with 'em! KILL 'EM ALL!!!!!" cry the Southerners, charging north to take on their counterparts. "Gentlemen! Ladies!", cry the Lords of the Central Plains. "We're tryin' to grow us some soybeans here!". And off THEY go in every different direction in the name of Mom, Apple Pie, and The Great Cornucopia In The Sky!

Best of luck - and slay the unbelievers! :-)

You assume the gods agree.

Try the basic world of Dungeons and Dragons. There are multiple competing gods. It's obvious that not everything the gods say is true--there are multiple competing creation myths, for example.

Or consider Harry Turtledove's The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump. We don't see much of the big picture but there are certainly multiple gods competing for worshipers--a god without worshipers dies.

Note the key element in both of these examples: the gods are not all-powerful. (In fact, in the second example some severely weakened gods are slain by human action.)

Religions form due to the inhabitants interpretation of what the God might teach or represent, regardless of how the inhabitants interact with him/her. A "God" may write a book and make that book the original standard teachings of that religion. But as long as the inhabitants are natural men and women, the teachings found in the original work are bound to be interpreted in many diverse ways for the benefit of themselves. Thus we see so many different religions.

• /perverted/twisted/g and you have my upvote. – wizzwizz4 Oct 12 '16 at 18:01
• @wizzwizz4 random aside, but you're aware we're not on a software development site? – djechlin Oct 13 '16 at 21:54
• @djechlin Sorry. I'll rephrase: "Replace 'perverted' with a less... loaded word such as 'twisted' and you have my upvote." – wizzwizz4 Oct 14 '16 at 15:35

You walk to the kitchen, open the fridge and look at your beer. "I got all the beer in the world, right in my fridge" you think. And you're obviously right. How can there be more beer than the ones you see in your fridge?

Unless there is a law of nature (assuming gods still abide by them) saying all gods have to show themselves to everybody, you can always believe there are more gods that you haven't met. And thus faith arises, and in it's wake a new religion.

• True, but I know where beer comes from, I know it is a product that many other people find. – TrEs-2b Dec 25 '16 at 2:47

How can religions exist in a world where there is little to no credible scientific evidence of any its claims?

Because religion is not rational.

Proving something scientifically does not always or even often change the public perception. Man made climate change is a scientific fact - backed by an overwhelming consensus. But there are many people who still dispute this - one of them may become president.

When you up the ante and add religion into the picture people seem inclined to believe / or not belive in claims with less rational thought and seem far more inclined to rationalize in order to not question their preconceptions.

So unless this god zapped all the unbelievers instantly he would probably have to deal with ignorance, doubt, stubborness and all the things that make us human.

A reasonably sophisticated conspiracy theory is indistinguishable from a religion.

Practical experience shows us that despite of the enormous success of sciences and medicine there are lots of adherents of conspiracy theories in our world. There is no reason to assume things will be different with powerful gods in the place of medicine: Conspiracy theories will prevail and may turn into alternative religions.

## protected by TrEs-2bOct 12 '16 at 18:01

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