This is a religion i am creating for a possible book in progress. It takes place in a world created by gods. This is a world of humans, dwarves, elves, and magic. I would like to create a religion which all three races follow, but which is based on a lie. My three gods are as follows:
- "The Destroyer"
- He created* the dwarves and based them on himself. Their natural instinct to mine into the earth and to create things by chiseling into stone comes from his destructive tendancies.
- He gifted the world with Destructive magic: spells related to fire and lightning and the ability to raise and control the dead.
- He seeks to destroy the world and its inhabitants out of jealousy. He is angry because Leda took the dwarves away from him to protect them from his wrath.
- "The Holy Judge"
- He created the humans, based on his own desire to learn. Humans are more changeable than the other races and are curious, seeking new knowledge instead of sticking to old ways.
- He gave the world Control magic. The ability to move objects, to predict events, and to scry to obtain knowledge.
- He judges the dead, deciding whether they should go to Leda's heaven or be cast into the abyss where Appolyon is imprisoned. He also rewards his followers with knowledge and, with that, wisdom.
- "The Creator"
- She created the world as a barrier to protect the three races from Appolyon, and to stop him from returning. She created the elves as a graceful and long-lived race. The elves revel in life and creation, and refer to their god as "Leda-Aurora" - Creator of Light.
- She gave the world Creation magic to grow and heal. Only the god herself has the power to create matter, however her followers can use her magic to heal wounds and to encourage growth in living things (the elves use this magic to enchant trees to grow into houses, and to sustain vibrant life in their woodlands).
With these three gods, there comes a religion in the world. There are few who doubt the existence of these gods, since without them magic would not be possible. Any person studying the arts of magic can learn basic spells, but it takes true loyalty and devotion to be able to use the magic gifted by a particular god. Training mages can choose to follow either Dusan or Leda and spent years in study in wizard towers. The religion is based purely on these two gods, since anyone found to follow the ways of dark magic is punished with execution. Dwarves rarely use magic, since their affinity to destruction constricts their abilities with other types of magic. They despise Appolyon and worship Leda, their saviour, however few Dwarves have the ability to become true mages.
Here's the catch
Everything you have read so far is what is believed by the elves, dwarves, and humans. It is in fact only half-true. The truth goes as follows:
- Appolyon seeks to destroy the world not to seek revenge, but to free the races from their prison. He wants them to return to their home and re-populate the abyss with life and matter.
- Leda created the world out of selfishness. It is a prison to contain the three races for herself and Dusan to share.
- There is no heaven. When a soul dies it simply wanders the world, imprisoned there forever.
- Dusan is the one with true control. He whispers to people in their dreams and influences events in the world. He also manipulates the gods themselves, pitting Leda and Appolyon against each other for his own amusement.
What affect does this have?
Mages worship gods, the people follow the mages. If the gods are corrupt, what effect does this have? Leda and Dusan are both evil, imprisoning the races on earth while Appolyon is attempting to free them. The higher you get in the church, the better you get to know your god. Since the gods can choose who to bestow their magic onto, this means that the most powerful mages of creation and Control are corrupt people. people who sympathize with their respective gods. The leaders of the church lie to the people to gain favour. How can i represent this?
The actual question, finally
How can a corrupt religion such as this control so many people? How do you appear benevolent and holy and mislead people at the same time? What sort of political systems would be best suited to this religion? How can I lie to literally everyone, and still have complete control over them?
*On the subject of creating races. Yes, i am aware that a god of destruction does not simply create Dwarves. My answer to this is that the three gods worked together. The universe contained energy and matter. Leda created life, Dusan formed bodies to contain it, and Appolyon added death to make the races precious. With this prototype, the individual gods then put some of their own characteristics in to create the three races.