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In a world I am building, gods exist; they are extremely powerful, omnipresent and active. While thinking up some larger scale empires for the world, I realized that their gods would be so powerful that a theocracy would be the best government by default, whether it be under a God-Emperor or a High Priest. The problem is I still want other forms of government to be viable.

How can non-theocracies exist in worlds with powerful active gods?

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    $\begingroup$ Do the gods possess human-like emotions and tendencies? $\endgroup$ – Cradle2theGabe Oct 26 '16 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ To echo others, there is no natural reason that gods or priests would want to run day to day government. Even in places like ancient Egypt and Sumeria, and King David's kingodom, and divine right monarchies and modern Iran, there is a basically secular government administration and priests can tell the government they're screwing up but generally don't run things top to bottom. With more than one god, the establishment issue would be about not offending one god to the detriment of another, instead of about not offending one believer to the detriment of another. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Oct 27 '16 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Related : How can there be different religions in a world where gods have been proven to exist? $\endgroup$ – Autar Oct 27 '16 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ Why aren't anthills run by humans? $\endgroup$ – David Schwartz Oct 28 '16 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidSchwartz Whether or not that answers the question depends on what type of gods we're talking about. Humans have more than enough power to destroy an anthill (... with proper planning...) but don't have the ability to apply it finely enough to truly control one. Certain interpretations of "gods" - including most interpretations of the Christian deity - are truly omiscient and omnipotent, implied to be interfering in tiny ways all the time. These gods could scale up their tiny interferences to control a city as openly or secretly as they like. $\endgroup$ – Tin Man Oct 28 '16 at 22:19

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I see two options here.

Gods care about small set of rules

If there is something like the ten commandments, or another arbitrary set of rules, and gods simply don't care as long as you aren't breaking them, you don't need a theocracy. The government will be interested in incorporating these rules into law, but then you need more laws, and people to do work. Collect taxes. Make sure public latrines aren't full. Mend the roads. It's boring. Boring for deities, boring for priests.

Gods believe in humans

A free-will deity might actively oppose any theocracy. Other gods might see a line of kings as his children,. Maybe monarchy started as theocracy with a demigod king and now that god wants them to have their fun? The God of Friendship might require decisions to be made unanimously, listening to his human friends. So on and so forth.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, I especially agree with the first statement : why would all-knowing/mighty/whatever gods care about social hierarchy ? They could have some core values that they would try to force onto humans (and even then, why ?) but then those core values could conflict with another god's and thus I think the gods would be much more concerned with themselves (infighting ?) than with the realm of puny humans. $\endgroup$ – Riff Oct 27 '16 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Your description of a God that isn't a needy despot is preposterous! /s $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Oct 27 '16 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ Just a thought, but ruling might be contrary or ill-suited to the god's nature. Consider a trickster god or a god of death. I also imagine a god of war would make a good US president. It's not like he's interested in or cares about the rest of the politics. $\endgroup$ – ricksmt Oct 28 '16 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ I have always said that I can't believe in a god small enough to matter... $\endgroup$ – keshlam Oct 29 '16 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ All I hope is that there is a god of game who has people settle disputes through games. The background of the gods in "No game, No life", is pretty good. Basically a war to decide who rules and then someone who wasn't particapating won. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Oct 29 '16 at 19:56
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This situation is very much the case in Terry Pratchett's Discworld universe:

It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going round to atheists' houses and smashing their windows.

And yet the nation of Ankh-Morpork was historically ruled by kings, and more recently, a tyrant - not by a high priest.

And the reason why is rather simple: there are many high priests, serving many different Gods, and they don't like each other very much. Should one God gain dominance over the nation, another (or many others) would oppose him in some fashion, typically resulting in a series of unfortunate situations for the main characters.

Not to say that some nations are not theocracies, but they seem to be the exception to the rule in the Discworld universe, and are prone to various upheavals caused by the corruptible nature of man.

In the end, as the creator of that universe, you will have to make this decision for yourself.

Is one religion going to be so militant that it will conquer all others, and claim a territory specifically dedicated to the worship of their God?

Or will people, fearing the disfavor of some overlooked God, worship all of them equally, and thus coexist in a nation which must then be ruled by a theologically impartial ruler?

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    $\begingroup$ In fact, one book describes a Theocracy that slowly became a Tyrany without anyone noticing and how the God of the Theocracy went back into power, usurping his own "High Priest". $\endgroup$ – Aron Oct 27 '16 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Aron Watch out for falling turtles! ;P $\endgroup$ – Shaamaan Oct 27 '16 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure Discworld is a good example here. Because Discworld does not have much deep consistent logic behind it's working—it works the way rule of funny, or any other trope that came to author's mind at the moment, dictates. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Oct 27 '16 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ By far my favorite of the Discworld novels. I've always really enjoyed that view of theology, and would strongly encourage the OP to read "Small Gods" for details. $\endgroup$ – dcsohl Oct 27 '16 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec - in a way you're right, but at the same time, the overall effect dies apply. The Gods are "fighting" each other in various ways, and thus no one God can really seize the day. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Oct 27 '16 at 18:35
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If the gods are opposed to one another, or involved in shifting alliances and plots against one another, chances are they're going to cancel one another out. Is the advice we're getting from the God of Rain better or worse than the advice from the God of Wind? Is the God of the Sea telling us to build ships because that's really the best option, or because he's having a bit of a tiff with the Goddess of the Plains? If I seek to placate the God of Wine, my barley harvest gets destroyed by the God of Beer. That kind of thing.

A theocracy would make sense if the gods are working together, or if they rule clearly defined territories. If the Great God Andy is dominant in the plains, a theocracy on the plains would work well - but probably not if they're in the mountains, where the Great God Bill holds sway.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually conflict between gods are is going to make more theocratic governments as the gods will want any advantage or the others and would want more humans minions. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Oct 27 '16 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ But that conflict is also going to drive at least some humans away from the gods, not wanting to have anything to do with them because it's too dangerous. $\endgroup$ – Werrf Oct 27 '16 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ any humans driven away would be easy prey for any god look to increases his army of minions. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Oct 27 '16 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ "Shifting alliances" ensure that no individual god becomes God, and any theocracy will find itself being sabotaged by the gods who have been slighted. This is actually a very old trope. I suggest you read The Odyssey. Odysseus is favored by Athena, and opposed by Poseidon. Zeus helps Odysseus leave Calypso's island, but sinks his ship after his men kill Helios' sacred cattle. Some of the these stories go way back. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Oct 28 '16 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ If the Gods don't get along - say, God Bob and God Gary get into a tiff - than being a theocracy devoted to Bob is far more dangerous than being a secular government. Gary is far more likely to smite your politicians in an opposing theocracy. (Is the Secret Service equivalent expected to protect leaders from smiting?) $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Oct 28 '16 at 16:06
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Because that's what people want

Take the Bible as an example: God brought the people out of Egypt to the promised land and gave them everything. The High Priest was the sole judge, who would inquire God about the decisions to take.

However the people didn't like that and asked for a king to rule them. Since God gave them freedom of choice and doesn't like to impose His will, He let them have what they wanted (although He suggested who had to become king)

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a great answer, although I think one important note might be that the Israelites objected to theocracy on the grounds of abstraction. They wanted a physical guy who would be the one to give commands, lead them in battle, etc. So if your gods don't like to hang out in physical form and act like a king, you'd have a similar situation. $\endgroup$ – Dustin Oct 27 '16 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ You should develop that into an answer. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 27 '16 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Dustin They HAD a physical guy (actually two, the High Priest and his vice) but still wanted a king to reign over them. $\endgroup$ – algiogia Oct 27 '16 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @algiogia - No, that wasn't really the role of the priests (all of them, not just the high priest). Yes, the priests could/did act as judges, and probably some sort of right to interpret/impose laws, but didn't really have the calling to lead an army, impose taxes (tithes are something different, like the rest of the kingdoms), etc. The priests also didn't represent a central "government", like you would expect with a king. $\endgroup$ – Clockwork-Muse Oct 27 '16 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer, but I would change it a bit. The biggest factor is not so much that this is "what people want", but rather that in The Book, God is very respectful of people's free will. If they do not want Him as their king, He reluctantly, but respectfully steps aside, even as he warns them that what they are asking for is going to turn out really bad for them. And the people wanted to be like the nations around them - king envy - who did not have to answer to an almighty god, but to a king of flesh and blood, one of their own. We all have a streak that hates external authority. $\endgroup$ – user11864 Oct 28 '16 at 15:30
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How can non-theocracies exist in worlds with powerful active gods?

This depends on whether your "extremely powerful, omnipresent and active" gods interfere very much in the affairs of mere mortals directly or not. The fact that they are "omnipresent" indicates that all the gods in this world will be everywhere all the time. None of your animus locus usual stuff of local deities ruling the roost in this particular neck of the woods. Their influence and power will be everywhere. That sets in play an interesting dynamic.

Basically if any gods are in conflict with one another that conflict will be expressed throughout the world simultaneously. The people in one kingdom won't be able to appeal to their deity to protect from some other deity because both deities will be present anyway, and equally active.

This suggests one reason why non-theocracies are possible. Because there is no advantage appealing to any one deity, all deities will have influence equal to their power and activity. This will allow mere mortals to go about their business, making decisions, getting on with their lives, and basically behaving as if the gods didn't exist. Because the gods will be simply part of the background, in fact, they might as well be part of nature.

Unless -- This is the major caveat. Unless the gods interfere directly in human affairs. But why? Individual human beings are smaller than microbes to omnipresent gods. For example, planet Earth has a surface area of 510.1 million square kilometres, and a human being occupies about one to square metres or roughly one-five hundred billionth of the Earth's surface area. Even the largest empire may only occupy one percent of Earth's surface area. Hardly worth noticing.

Now the OP hasn't specified that his gods aren't omniscient, but in this inquiry we can assume that the gods are capable of immense oversight and surveillance of the microbes that swarm and multiply on the surface of their planetary stamping ground. However, why should they pay much attention to these microbes. Oh yeah! There is the prevalent concept that the gods need us to believe in them for their ongoing existence. There is all sorts of fancy analysis that can applied to this notion to disprove it. But simply it's piffle! It's a notion based on our overweening delusion in our own self-important in the cosmic scheme of things. Frankly we're microbes compared to planetary scale deities. There's no good reason for deities to meddle in human politics.

Theocracies may arise in the ordinary way that theocracies arise. Human belief kicks combined with politics feeding into the usual power struggles and this may make theocracies a more likely form of government, but it may not necessarily make them inevitable. Most especially if the gods don't directly run nations or even use individual humans as their agents, then it might look like the extremely, omnipresent, and active gods may only look like an active nature.

This makes non-theocracies possible because theocracies might not be inevitable, so they can exist in worlds with powerful active gods. However, this ultimately depends on what kind of activity the gods get up to, but if the gods go around and appoint emperors and empresses of their choice in voices of thunder and lightning accompanied by earthquakes and rains of frogs, then all bets are off.

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1) What do the gods want from the people? What can they gain from the government being aligned with them?

2) What do the people want from the gods? What can they gain from the government being aligned with a god?

Maybe not atheist government but possibly anti-god government? Less about "Do they exist?" and more about "Are they really the good guys?" You may get someplace where anyone who worships any god is persona non grata with the government. Which I can see some gods being pissy about, unless they only need belief and not necessarily worship. I guess the question is whether your gods need support from nations/governments or only individuals? I seem to think an institutionalized religion, taught in public schools and so on, would benefit a particular god enough to have them putting it on their wishlists. What benefits do the gov/nations get from having an institutionalized religion or worship of a particular deity?

In D&D the way it works is believers or priests or whatever offer worship and faith (belief) which for lack of a better word the Gods consume or eat to gain power or strength or whatever. Why do they need power? The same reasons as humans: to fight with each other and because they have an built in desire to survive. Gods with no followers or priests are considered dead gods and cannot have much effect on the world. In return, the God gives the believer or priest divine power in the form of spells or miracles or what have you. The government might be anti-gods (a tax on all churches and worshippers!), pro-gods unilaterally (don't care what faith you have but you must have one or pay the tax), or pro-/anti- particular gods for reasons of special contract (what do we get for making yours our official religion, rewarding your worshippers and punishing your detractors oh Goddess of Puffy Clouds?) or grudge (you killed 10,000 people, Great God of Necromancy, so we're outlawing your worship in our nation because you suck).

Off Topic: Honestly, I want to see a God of All Undead in a country run by super old vampires, built by hard-working zombies, pestered by ghouls, et cetera. Maybe some humans in that nation would be little more than cattle. But what if the vampires were long-term breeders of humans with excel charts of who was bred from whom to best boost rates healthy children? They might offer bonuses for marriage, maternity leave, stay-at-home moms, and so on. What if they only killed the elderly or the terminally ill or something? What if they had a national version of the red cross where they offered the surplus to help the sick or injured? Blood donations required from all eligible citizens every ninety days? Guaranteed food to make sure citizens are healthy enough to make regular blood donations? They might end up being a better place to live in a lot of ways than some of the human nations run by despots who aren't as reliant on the populace living long and healthy lives. In that set up, a dead relative might serve a year or several as a menial zombie before being permanently put to rest. You'd be surprised what people can get used to in a couple of generations. (Trying to be an ambassador to that nation from the other human run nations would be terrifying. I'm assuming cultural bias against the nation would be strong.) Plus, even though you don't like your human nation's homeless indigent population disappearing near the border of the vampire nation (publicly at least) it would make some things easier for you: A) what to do with the homeless or the poor and B) getting rid of your enemies. See National Geographic's article called "When Death Doesn’t Mean Goodbye" for an interesting real life example of how that might work.

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  • $\begingroup$ A wonderfully wicked imagination displayed in your off-topic section. Plus one for that alone. Welcome to Worldbuilding, Samantha, I can see you're going to enjoy yourself here. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 27 '16 at 4:16
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A much shorter answer that the rest, but a good point I think:

Theocracy is a form of government with a god as its ruler. Logically, a world where gods are powerful and apparent would lead to there being few atheists, but that doesn't mean gods must rule (every) society. On the contrary, if the gods desire worship, I think those worshiping sincerely and not under compulsion of law would be more pleasing to (at least some of) them.

Some more egotistical gods may, of course, establish a nation for themselves, but only because it gives them glory among mortals. They already have power, which is what rulers and tyrants typically seek when establishing kingdoms.

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The Gods Don't Care

To the immortal, mortals and their societies are little more than an ant farm, an amusing distraction between the pondering of beings of vast comprehension.

Indeed, the gods may even openly show their disdain for mortals and their acts of worship. The immortal may grow bored after centuries of affection and the burning of heretics at the stake. They find that letting the mortals go about their ways lends to more interesting events than predictable cycles of worship and the occasional dissent. They could even take bets on whether a given disastrous calamity drives a group of mortals towards greater cooperation and compassion for each other, or if it results in tribalism and hoarding.

There could even be mischievous pranksters that enjoy the torment of mortals to prove a point or even just for laughs. This is not too far removed from the Old Testament story of Job, whose limitless affection for God drew the suspicion of the then-angel Satan, who convinced God to ruin Job's life to demonstrate that Job's faith was dependent upon his good fortune. Job's faith was unshaken regardless of the tragic acts that God forced him to endure. After a while, God got a little sick of Satan and kicked him out of Heaven, but apparently Satan seems to be enjoying his new gig in the underworld, and many depictions of Satan are of a malevolent trickster that messes with humans for his own amusement.

Parting thought: American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was a deist, believing fully in God, but that after creating the Heavens and the Earth and sacrificing His only son and so on, left humanity to go off and do interesting things that only an infinite immortal could understand. Although he was deeply religious, this belief strongly influenced Jefferson's commitment to a separation of church and state.

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    $\begingroup$ Jefferson said he was a deist. Having a deep respect for the majesty and mystery of this world is not the same as being deeply religious but it looks the same and this is often exploited by atheists who know that snide remarks about "your invisible friend with magical powers" will incite pitchforks and flaming torches. $\endgroup$ – Peter Wone Oct 30 '16 at 9:46
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Deus Ex Machina

(humor intended)

Not all Gods see governmental domination of humans as desirable or useful. Others have agendas, and as such a theocracy may prove useful for a period of time, or even be the desired goal.

On the other hand, some may actually believe in separation of church and state for their own purposes and reasons.

This is, of course, completely separate from what any humans (or other sentients) may desire, believe, or attempt to do.

Just by way of example, in the real world Judaeo-Christian religion, the scripture Isaiah 2:3 is sometimes taken to mean that there shall be two capitals and a separation of church and state, depending on which sect of Judaism and/or Christianity one adheres to:

Isaiah 2:3

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Others, of course, interpret this to mean a World Theocracy, while yet others combine the two concepts.

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look back at history, the Israelite strongly believed in the God, he was part of everyday life of an Israelite. For them it was not a matter of belif but fact. But they still were not quite a theocracy because of the rules in the Jewish law that dictated that a king could not be a priest and vise versa. This created a form of separation of church and state. It put a limit on the power of both the priesthood and the kings. your governments could have a similar rule to prevent a "god empire or a ruling priest hood" from forming. Religion leaders would still be much very powerful no matter what government you had of course but it could not hold direct political power.

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Theocracies Still Take Political Sophistication

If you look at the medieval period and the Renaissance, you can see an example of a society where, in people's minds, a god did exist (as a matter of fact) and yet most governments were monarchical. Recognizing the enormous challenge of having the church in charge of both divine and secular affairs, the Catholic Church opted for a division between secular and religious power (albeit one where the Church was still more important). Look at what happened after a few centuries of the Church acquiring property through the Templars--the king of France shut that down and claimed all their assets.

Going even further back in time, the Greeks and the Romans "knew" that the Gods existed and they still didn't organize themselves along theocratic lines.

Aside from many of the points raised in other answers, there's a question of the political sophistication of the society in question. How organized are their social systems? A theocracy is actually a fairly sophisticated form of political organization, requiring an organized clergy (ie - a bureaucracy), a set of rules, and a enough power to concentrate military force in a single government.

There's some leeway here - you can have theocratic governments with various degrees of political concentration, but even a theocratic democracy requires a certain degree of political organization that any given society may not have.

Anyway, hope this helps.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, yannenkar, & for a good first answer. Excellent point about political organization. Even in a world where active deities are present, it still takes political structures in action to make a theocracy. Commonsense, really. Plus one from me. Look forward to more answers & questions from you. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 27 '16 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ Glad to have you on board. You will enjoy yourself here. This was a good start. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 27 '16 at 22:49
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Some thoughts on this scenario

1) Gods are basically strong armies

This means that there are a number of models you could use for non-god-led nations. Like Switzerland, you don't necessarily need to be able to beat everyone (or anyone) in a fight to be a country that other people want to keep around in its current state. We'd assume that they don't have any gods that particularly want to control the country.

What about a situation where there is one who'd be interested?

2) People might want a physical, human leader

Like I said in my comment above, people might want to be led by other people. And not just "I'm a direct pawn of God who parrots his words" but someone physical with agency of their own. If you're looking at medieval-type societies, this might extend to someone to lead them in battle, etc. (cf: the bible and Israelites asking for a king) Now, if your gods have the tendency to hang out as normal-looking people then this problem would be solved. But as an author it's easy to make drawbacks to this situation ie "They knew if they assumed corporeal form it would open them up to mortal injury and loss of omnipresence".

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"Gentlemen, gentlemen, come to order!" After a moment of settling, "As per the agenda, the Esteemed Mr. Smith has the floor. Mr. Smith?"

"Thank you, Mr. President." Mr Smith gathered himself, preparing to say what most likely would lead to years of warfare and the deaths of thousands of his countrymen. "Esteemed Colleagues, now, after the Year of Hardships, there are some things we can say," and he proceeded, ticking off on his fingers these points: "One: We have met the gods. Two: They are jerks. Three: So are their priests, paladins, ascetics, and other lunatics who spread their worship. Four: No country can survive under the fickle and idiotic management of those misanthropes. Five: It is unavoidable that this Continental Congress must take as a core principle that" and closing his hand into a raised fist, with which he punctuated his final words by pounding on the table in from of him, "the whole lot of them can Go. To. Hell!"

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Dictionary.com's definition of Theocracy includes:

Theocracy: 1. a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities. 2. a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission.

While I agree with many points of the other answers, I would also suggest that the definition of Theocracy includes a presumption that your super-powered god is not going to turn up and start handing out instructions and awards, along with sores and lightning bolts. Sure, point 1 allows for the possibility that he or she will do so, mostly for the case where average humans claim to be gods, but I don't think anyone actually expects the appearance of All Powerful God A to happen, not the dictionary writers, nor the ruling priests. I would suggest that Theocracy is really either rule by a human claiming to be a god with priests interpreting his or her wishes, or rule by priests claiming a divine commission - the essential point being that there's no actual active divine being in the ruling mix, laying down the law and smiting people.

I would further suggest that if you have a god actively running a state then that would be a different form of government, perhaps a divine monarchy.

Monarchy: 1. a state or nation in which the supreme power is actually or nominally lodged in a monarch. 2. supreme power or sovereignty held by a single person.

The fact that the monarch has god-like super-powers is neither here nor there to the definition, though it may well affect the day-to-day reality of the situation.

Of course such a change would allow for some adjustment to some of the answers above, though most of them would stay the same.

Not least, how does the appearance of a god affect how he or she is perceived?

If they are human shaped, then one might start to see them as a super-powered variant on humanity.

Are there limits to their powers (perhaps due to other gods)? So maybe their powers are super, but not god-like - there will be disappointments.

Over time, given humanity's ability to adapt to almost any situation, I would suggest that at a minimum, those close to the gods would start to see them as 'less-than' - what effect would that have? What actions would they take?

And there are other effects, which I will leave to your imagination.

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The gods are not stronger than humanity as a whole

The gods might be powerful – but not all-powerful. They are (relatively) few, and humans are many. It is quite possible that all societies were theocratic...up to a point, when humanity became too strong for the gods to maintain control of by force. I am not talking about individual heroes here. Rather, humanity could simply be so numerous as to be able to hurt the gods by a combination sheer force of numbers and modern technology.

This would limit theocracies to areas where the ruling god or gods had at least some support.

The power of modern technology could be an interesting twist. I can easily imagine a world in which the gods were far more powerful than humanity (or at least sufficiently powerful to keep humanity in check) – right until humanity developed the technology to allow it to revolt against its masters. Gods that could crush a rebellion armed with spears and bows could struggle against one armed with guns, and be totally obliterated by one armed with tanks, aircraft, and – the most destructive of all modern technology – nuclear weapons.

This is especially true if the gods are unable to either hide, teleport (or move faster than vehicles), or escape to another realm or into space. In such a case, the gods are essentially sitting ducks, subject to being huge targets. Yes, they might be able to absorb a large amount of firepower – but humanity has a lot of firepower. And if the gods have even one vulnerability, you can be sure that some scientist somewhere will find it.

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Vulnerability If you them not immortal, or vulnerable to physical and/or magical pain, that could cause some of them to stay more in the shadows. Giving rise to differing strategies. Being the active head of a nation would be a high risk, high reward strategy, while restricting one's worshipers to back country/ underground or secret society would be a low risk, low reward strategy. The higher risk is created by exposing oneself to potential death, or to injury, resulting in a loss of respect from the worshipers, and thus a loss of power.

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Some Humans are rebellious by nature? Isn't that a good enough reason for a non-theocracy to exist in a world where Gods exist and are active?

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Theocracy makes sense if something is to be gained by it. Quite possibly nothing will be - in that case it won't have a compelling reason to be the form of government.

Example - perhaps humans figure out that actually, (a) gods exist but (b) they don't seem to want or seek anything from humans, or offer anything to them. Urban foxes know cars exist, we know volcanoes exist - the presence of forces beyond our own, doesn't seem to automatically command a religious approach to them. (While we did worship volcanoes, its worth noting this was at best, only when we assumed it would achieve something, or when there wasn't a better object of praise around the diesphere...)

Gods may also have agendas far different from humans', so that what they do and care about is completely lacking in human relevance in most cases. Perhaps all one needs to know of the gods is how to recognise when a divinely initiated event is likely to happen so as to not be in the vicinity (think tornado warnings - "yesterday Odin turned the sea blue near the city, residents advised to leave for the hills for a week in case of some untoward event')

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How about a group, or many groups, of people who don't think gods should be worshipped or obeyed at all? These societies may believe that humans are who they are and should be able to live under their own rules.

This brings forth a conflict: How do the gods feel about this? If you have a pantheon, it may be interesting to have some gods who think humans should be allowed free will to do this, while other gods feel that these societies should be forced to worship them. This would create a conflict among extremely powerful beings who are matched in power.

Another source of conflict could exist between these independent societies and the worshipping societies. They could have delicate politics, occasional wars, cultural prejudice against one another, etc. Maybe the theocrats see the independents as decadent or ungrateful, and the independents see the theocrats as gullible or weak willed? Or any other dynamics you choose, honestly.

Another option would be that, for some reason these independent societies conquered the right to live outside of these gods' rules, for example by performing a long or arduous task for these gods, or because a mischevous or neutral god proposed a challenge to them and they completed it, gaining the blessing of this particular god to live outside of every gods' rule.

I think godly politics would be very interesting to your story, depending on how your gods think and behave.

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Theocracies rule in the Absence of Gods (or Absence of Interference by Gods, which can be hard to differentiate). A national government defines a social framework. Religion defines a social framework. While governments rule by the will of a group of people (that group never being all Ruled, mostly not even contemporaries of the Ruled). Theocracies rule by the Interpretation of Gods will by Priests.

Now in a worlds with gods manifest, are there priests? Go into a library, buy a self- help book on contacting Zarg The Wholesome, and list Her your wishes. The ones that please Her get fulfilled, the others... don't please her. Now someone eats green peas in public. You don't like it. You go: "Zarg: is eating green peas ok with you?" No you don't. If Zarg dislikes green peas, there's literally infinitely many ways for a god to have known about it and done something about it.

So now it's about you and the pea-eater. Gods do not have a stake in it. The conflict of interest is compleyely secular, and you are left with politics to achieve your will. Find people similarly bothered by peas, pass legislation, etc. . There might be some legislation about doing smiteable things in huge crowds, similar to bringing a gun to shoot youself in a big crowd, but mostly the governing will either take all gods into account, or not reference them at all.

Think about gravity: No laws against letting things fall upwards, because thats covered by a great unyielding force. Lots of laws about not letting things drop on people, building stuff to code so it doesn' t drop on people, etc. You wouldn't calk that a Gravicrecy, would you?

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protected by Community Dec 30 '16 at 16:45

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