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So here's what happened. One day, I was struck by a bolt of handwavium, and it caused me to become immortal (unkillable by any means). Shortly after that, a majority of civilization was wiped out by global nuclear war, and I got buried under tons of rubble for a long, long time.

I emerged from the rubble eventually, and encountered a small tribe of survivors who had somehow managed to rebuild a very simple civilization. Their initial reaction upon seeing me, alive despite my lack of protective clothing in a harsh, post-nuclear apocalypse landscape, was one of awe. They welcomed me into their homes readily enough. Their language has evolved slightly, but sufficiently rooted in English that I was able to communicate with them after a bit of trial and error.

I learned that they have no religious belief - the teachings of Christianity, Buddhism, or whatever have you did not survive the apocalypse. They are pragmatic people who seek simply to eke out an existence on a dying planet.

I am of slightly above average intelligence, unfortunately with no special skills or talents except for being immortal. I remember things from before the apocalypse, which no one else in the tribe does. With this, how do I establish myself as a living god among these survivors?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you invulnerable? Possess Deadpool levels of regeneration? Or just immortal? Cos if it's the latter and you push your luck too hard you might find out just how unfulfilling an eternal life as almost all of a severed head that's had the eyes and tongue pulled out then been buried in a tar pit really is... Oh yes, I have plans for your sort! ; ) $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Dec 22 '16 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Just don't let the girl bite you! $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '16 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ "They have no religious belief"--unlikely. It's possible that they would not follow the beliefs of any of today's religions, but they will almost certainly have some kind of myths, rituals, and belief in the supernatural. These have been identified as human universals. $\endgroup$ – DLosc Dec 22 '16 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ You claim to have no additional powers, but it seems you do. You were trapped and alone in what was presumably darkness for what must have been at least a few generations and you have not suffered a substantial mental abnormality? Any other human would. We are social creatures that will quickly begin to hallucinate and suffer significant mental degeneration without stimuli. It seems more likely that you have only been trapped a few weeks and the entire adventure you propose is a hallucination you are having. $\endgroup$ – GrinningX Dec 22 '16 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ What is the reason that people don't have any beliefs? Historically, an irreligious period is unknown. $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Dec 23 '16 at 11:42

15 Answers 15

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If you're happy taking a while to do it, just keep being you. You're an immortal in a tribal society that will have a very short lifespan. You alone can go outside into the wastes and bring back new tech, food, whatever. You alone can walk into an enemy village and not be killed. You alone remember the wisdom of ages past, and remember the histories of the village.

It really shouldn't take that long for you to become a godlike figure in the minds of the villagers without doing anything special, just keep helping out that tribe and occasionally throw in references to 'the time before all this' and they'll build godhood around you.

Note: This is a very Nordic/South American view of godhood. They won't assume you're all powerful (they know you aren't) and they likely won't assume you're the only one, but they will attribute deity-like traits to you. After all: You're unkillable

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    $\begingroup$ @Lope Eventually your captors will die, realising that all their efforts to hurt you were fruitless. They will come to accept your ascendant nature and join with the original tribe in magnifying your name, and thus you will bring peace to the long warring tribes and gain the title of 'He who suffered' $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 22 '16 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ OP specified I am immortal, not that I can't be hurt or that I don't feel pain. Can you imagine what lifetime of torture can do to human mind? They can release you after few weeks/months and you would just roam wilderness wide-eyed and blabbering nonsense for eternity $\endgroup$ – Lope Dec 22 '16 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Lope OP also specified "I got buried under tons of rubble for a long, long time." If his mind has stood up to being crushed under tonnes of rock in suffocating radioactive darkness for the last few aeons I'm pretty sure he can handle people with fire and sticks. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 22 '16 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Lope: at worst, you'd become the Mad God of the Wilderness. The OP does not specify what kind of god is expected. $\endgroup$ – Michael Schumacher Dec 22 '16 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ Acting as a mysterious provider of goods and services has historically been enough to establish godhood in some cultures: for a modern example, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult. $\endgroup$ – Gyu Eun Lee Dec 22 '16 at 22:09
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Just be "you" as hard as you can

But remember to stick to what you've got, it's important not to pretend to any power or ability that you don't actually have. You mustn't get into a position where there's a risk of "being found out" because inevitably they will.

However you're not bound by the primary restriction of their society which is the need to survive. That is enough for you to achieve a level of godhood.

When it comes to skills, you have time, plenty of time, to develop any skills you may choose to get. Maybe the first hundred generations won't consider you a god but when you have all the skills and you're still not dead, having given them technology they'd thought lost forever, you will gain a level of reverence appropriate to the old pantheons.

If nothing else, tribes tend to be gerontocracies and you're going to be the oldest by a long margin.

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  • $\begingroup$ AKA: Be your most authentic self? $\endgroup$ – Surprised Dog Jul 1 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Benjamin, yep, 1000 years down the line and still not dead, you're now defining to them what a god is. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 2 at 7:39
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Remember, C3P0 was able to assume deity status by being physically distinct, understanding the local's language, and pulling off simple levitation. If the tribes you encounter have reverted to oral stories to pass down their history, you could insert yourself into their lore by showing up in their village, performing an act of "magic," and then foretelling your own return in 3-4 generations from now. Keep on travelling from tribe to tribe, sowing the same legend in each tribe. Once your legend has been passed down for a few generations, return to each village and convince them to join a growing kingdom of your followers.

About the "magic," Arthur C. Clarke pointed out that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." After a nuclear apocalypse, there's bound to be some technology that's either barely inoperable (requiring a little repair-work to restore), or technology that's still functional, but stopped when it's operators died of radiation poisoning.

For instance, if you can find a source of running water, you could convince a village to build a water wheel, hook up an alternator or generator, and maybe cobble together a rudimentary electrical grid. By the time you make your way back to this village, they may have improved their standard of living substantially. Other technology worth resurrecting would be water filtration, or antiseptics. Both of those could easily double the survival rate of a post-nuclear-war tribe.

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The thing you've missed is that you now have unlimited access to the most valuable resource a human can have - time.

  • Since you are (assumed) a timeless immortal and cannot be killed via any means, you can learn and master every skill or trade out there
  • You can hone your skills and acquire wisdom beyond what a normal person would be capable of.
  • You can, quite literally, try anything and everything in the world and survive it. You can jump off of tall buildings and trees without dying, and do any number of inhumane things, thus proving your godhood.
  • Drink poison, prove you're not only invulnerable on the outside, but you're also impervious from the inside.
  • You obviously don't need air, being buried under rubble for years, which means you can swim underwater forever
  • Anything you do that defies normal human ability could be explained away by saying "Because I'm a god."

The simple things above alone would likely cause them to view you as a god already.

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Believe the lie and study human nature

As a storytelling motif, you should consider that your character has been buried in the ground for hundreds of years. Anyone who has been given a "gift" of immortality but has to sit locked in dirt/stone with nothing but their thoughts for all that time will inevitably go a little crazy.

Your character would spend a large portion of their time simply asking themselves "Why me?" They would likely begin to think that there must be some form of existing deity that gave THEM immortality, which makes THEM important and, even if they aren't an omnipotent, historically-eternal deity they are future-eternal and must be so for a purpose.

After having them spend another couple hundred years thinking about their situation, who knows what creative ideas your character could project onto themselves. In fact, they could conclude that if society still exists, and if they are one day discovered, their "wisdom" from thinking for hundreds of years is a gift that gives them impeccable judgement on all situations. Emerging from the ground, by the hands of other humans could be both a sign to mortals of your god-ship and "confirm" your characters suspicions that they were to become a god amongst men.

The easiest way to sell a lie is to believe it yourself. Believe it and act as such. If you think you are a god, you will act as a god.

The next step in this story could be to make it your characters godly-purpose to be a student of mortals. How do they behave with one another, how do they mold their lives around impending death and how do they experience love that inevitably ends.

You are now immortal and have the luxury of studying humanity for thousands of years. By learning tell-tale signs of human behavior, your character could exhibit a near omniscient gift by reading individuals subtle body language and knowing very-well what certain macro-events in history always tend to lead too.

Eventually, you could develop a near-prophetic "gift", being able to foretell events, some times decades before they occur. Your words would be revered and even though your words come from years of observation and recognizing patterns of human behavior, many would find it VERY hard to dispute your godship. You can't die and you're "always right".

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    $\begingroup$ With no special abilities, it is likely that you cannot remember more than a couple hundred years of your immortal life in detail. See also tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Ashildr $\endgroup$ – LeBleu Dec 22 '16 at 23:34
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Allow Their Best Warriors to Try to Kill You

Since you are unkillable by any means, simply tell them all of their best warriors should try to kill you. They will be unable to and be in awe. However, you should only allow them to perform acts on you that do not leave you helplessly imprisoned for all eternity, as pointed out by user vsz in the comments on this answer.

Really Show Them

If they fail to really do a good job of trying to kill you, try sleeping in a huge, raging fire. Bathe in boiling water. Let a huge boulder smash down on top of you from a mountain top. Swim in lava! Get cobras to bite every square inch of you! Let packs of radioactive three-headed psycho jackals attack you and laugh them off!

If that doesn't convince them you are godlike, then the radiation has destroyed too much of their brains to make them worth talking to.

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    $\begingroup$ If they start disliking your policies they can still grab you and tie you up, or bury you neck deep in cement and put you in a dark place. Enjoy eternal life without being able to move or see anything. Read "I have no mouth, and I must scream". $\endgroup$ – vsz Dec 23 '16 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz Well, that applies to any answer in this scenario, doesn't it? $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Dec 23 '16 at 23:33
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Assume typical mid-western american male status prior to the apocalypse event. Make your godlike character a bit of Military History buff who likes to maybe build stuff around the house. If the landscape hasn't changed too much this gives you a huge range of options.

1) Military history background would allow him to forge an unbeatable army by using the tactics of the Roman phalanx, Ghengis Kahn, English Longbowmen, etc. depending upon available resources. Lord God General will be his title! He will also have the advantage of knowing the advantages of military discipline in a hostile environment.

2) Handyman skills would be useful in both improving both village life and improving security and fortifications. In the era of HVAC systems we forget the potential of a sealed box wood burning stove for heating. It should be fairly easy to construct with primitive ironworks. If he knows anything about Rocket Stoves for cooking and heating, even better. He would also know the need for insulation, having paid many an electric bill. Also, gardening leads to agriculture. Title changed to Beneficent Lord God General!

3) If the local landscape hasn't changed too much, he might be able to find his way to a nearby deserted small town Library. He then becomes the Most Wise and Beneficent Lord God General.

The entire premise kind of reminds me of Robert Adams Horseclans novels. One of the main characters is Milo Morai. He's Highlander Style immortal and survives world war 3 and forges a new Horse based society. the book "A man called Milo Morai" details the first part of his journey.

Sounds like a fun story in the making!

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If pre apocalyptic information hasn't survived, invent the same things, that you have used in the past.

If you can come up (daily or weekly) with an Invention, like Leonardo Da Vinci, Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and bring Knowledge to them like Einstein and Darvin.

You'll be looked at as a god in no time, and you'll also be of use, to your civilisation.

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With difficulty

You don't have anything at all to offer the mortals except for you being unkillable. You'll most probably be most useful as a soldier, but even then, one unkillable soldier isn't likely to be of tactical advantage.

And you can't really declare yourself as a God to people who have no concept of Gods any more than someone in our age can declare themselves an alien from Dimension X.

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  • $\begingroup$ But we have the concept of aliens from dimension X. And with small tribe battles, one unkillable is of huge advantage. Its easy to break their formations, because you can just run through as some otherwise lethal cuts mean nothing. $\endgroup$ – user3644640 Dec 22 '16 at 13:16
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Remembering things is going to be almost useless if you can't use them to give some advantage to the survivors.

Cut out all IT and electronic knowledge, if the civilization is gone you won't have electricity to make that knowledge usable.

Do not show off too much. Give little help from time to time. Rely on construction science knowledge, show them how to build more robust huts, how to better insulate them agains climate and so on. Try to anticipate their problems so that they start to perceive you as able to "see the future".

But still you will suffer from the lack of any other specific power.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't cut the knowledge out entirely; you're immortal and will live to see the necessary infrastructure eventually. $\endgroup$ – Ray Dec 22 '16 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe, it is worth giving them the electricity? Just remember your Physics course and tell them about electromagnetism and conductivity. Show how to generate the electric current and how to use it for producing light and heat. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Shishenko Dec 23 '16 at 15:31
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Watch the Monty Python film 'Life of Brian'. A good explanation of how little it could take to be regarded as a deity.

The key fact is that different societies are different - the standard of 'proof' will vary hugely. For some societies, a different appearance (e.g. skin colour or hair colour) will immediately mark you as 'not them', and any further differences will be magnified. The trait you mentioned was immortality - details of how that works are important - whether it's invulnerability or Jack Harkness (Torchwood) style instant 'healing' of death. Healing has been a traditional 'magic' ability, and it is easy to convince others that they are temporarily healed - the placebo effect is very powerful, and if you can demonstrate super-healing with a suitable explanation (e.g. meditation, trance - I can teach you how to do it too! of course, you will have to practice, it's very difficult....)

However, the longer it goes on the more difficult it will become to maintain the illusion, unless you either actually have super-powers, or you set up a power structure that relies on you (think ancient Egyptian pharaohs - the entire system of goverment and priests relied on the population believing that the pharaoh was a god). Easiest to convince a few others that if they promote that if they say you are a god, they will be in positions of power, and they will convince others for you - disciples.

Bonus points - the 'Man from Earth' film would be very good background reading for this story - some interesting points and themes in there.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the examples Life of Brian and Jack Harkness. And welcome to worldbuilding.se. $\endgroup$ – Alexander von Wernherr Dec 23 '16 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ Peter.......I can see your house from here....... $\endgroup$ – NZKshatriya Dec 23 '16 at 21:13
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It very much depends on what you are going to do with them.

Obtaining the single goal of being considered a god should be simple:

  1. if you don't mind waiting some decades just live with them with a wise and supportive behavior
  2. if you are in a hurry, kill all other male (it should be feasible as they can't kill you).

This would turn you into a deity in a relatively small time with the price of human extinction in the long run (but note that if the survivors are too few, it's going to happen anyway).

edit
Obviously, the second option led you to "eternal" imprisonment.

However since nothing last forever (except you) you can:

  • wait a few generations to be freed by your grandchildren and restart with option 1
  • enjoy your detention: after all it's common among deity to be confined in temples
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about others, but I for one don't care whether or not part of this answer was intended as a joke. It's not a joke, it's not funny, and it's offensive. I've edited out the relevant section. I shouldn't have to tell people this, but sexism is not acceptable on Stack Exchange and will be dealt with accordingly. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 22 '16 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I wonder, would the same line worded so it was talking about men instead of women, be met with the same response? If not, that would be a form of sexism as well. But to OP: Option 2 does not work for the simple fact of everyone sharing an original male progenitor. $\endgroup$ – NZKshatriya Dec 23 '16 at 4:38
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I do not care enough to debate, but being the beloved father of 3 lovely daughters I can ensure you that my sentence was not sexist in any way. It's just measure! :-) However if you feel better with your heroic maiden-saving edit, I'm fine with that... $\endgroup$ – Giacomo Tesio Dec 23 '16 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ @NZKshatriya an unkillable one, actually. Yes, it's very unlikely it's going to happen... :-) (however do you know we all share a single female progenitor?) $\endgroup$ – Giacomo Tesio Dec 23 '16 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @GiacomoTesio People were offended and flagged your post as offensive because of what you wrote. I did not swoop in of my own accord; community members were upset by the phrasing. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 23 '16 at 13:08
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For me the major priority here is not mere being immortal but in full command of you corporeal and ethereal being so you can avoid being contained and god (a.k.a. you) forbid, being tortured. A major hallmark of the vast pantheon of old pagan gods was their ability to meld with and, in effect, become forces of nature. They could shape-shift, create forms, build and destroy and teleport around. If you want to be a god, be like the old gods. If we collapse into a post-apocalyptic, pre-modern state again then these are the type of entities that would sway the masses, especially if they prove their presence and demostrate their power.

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Immortality or "Power over death" is more than "Invlunerability" - that is mere "Superman", or more than "Normal man". Lift weights (in secret) and you can attain that.

Die, wait a couple of days, to be sure, and bring yourself back to life, uncorrupted - now, that's a hat-trick. If you can do that, I'll give you some cred toward Godhood, but I wanna see behind your curtain before I buy the "great all powerful Oz".

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Being just a plain immortal human being is not a superpower! As people mentioned before some of your "mortal" followers could easily make you buried alive again just to keep you close to them like a relic! Consider to maintain "doing fantastic things" acts into your living-god's repertory. To inspire fear also works great. But avoid to be caught, because you can just be tortured forever (because you are immortal)!

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