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The religion of Blablaism recognises a small number of deities. Let's say three.

While, strictly speaking, it regards these deities as aspects of a single supreme god (a la Soft Polytheism), it's not uncommon for people to worship any combination of them. Some worship only one, others only two, and yet more worship all three.

Nobody worships the supreme god directly (unless you count those nasty Lalaist heathens from across the forbidden sea).

This variation is just as pronounced among religious leaders, with many of them fervantly worshipping a single deity, yet they will happily lead people who worship any combination of the other deities.

Why though? Why is it not in their interests to lead only people who favour their chosen deity/deities?

Likewise, Why is it not in people's interests to seek out religious leaders who favour their deity/deities?

What holds this religion and these customs together?

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    $\begingroup$ How about teachings, maybe in written form, that just states one should leave the others at peace and let them do their thing? Something along the line of: As long as one worships a single god, the supreme god is worshiped and all is well. This of course sometimes it can be complicated if someone wants to grab power and, as seen in ancient Egypt or Rome, may lead to conflicts, but for the most part religious people choose to follow what some great teacher has apparently said, especially if it is taught to them all their lifes. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 10 '17 at 10:16
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds an awful lot like Hinduism. $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Aug 10 '17 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to point out that your religion already has split, taking in to account those Lalaists across the sea. Unless they are the same religion. It sounds like a label game more than anything. $\endgroup$ – user151841 Aug 10 '17 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ It's called hinduism. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Aug 10 '17 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ Somebody @ me when there's an answer here that says, "Money." $\endgroup$ – Mazura Aug 10 '17 at 19:37

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I'm not very cognisant about soft polytheism, but I think I can give you some answers according to my knowledge of hard polytheism (see below) and trinitarianism. I strongly suggest that you research a doctrine about the nature of the Trinity deemed heretical by the early christian movement, named Modallism or Sabellianism. It kind of goes into what you're researching here.

Now, if we take this modallist "trinity" as a kind of surrogate of what you're asking here... you can't really worship the Godhead while saying to people that they are wrong about worshipping any mode of the trinity.

Why is this? Because, since the three "modes" of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) all are present on the same scriptures (according to the christian canon)... and since they are three "modes" of the same Godhead... then it follows that a modallist can't claim that it is wrong for someone to worship the Holy Spirit, even though that modallist has a preference for worshipping the Son.

(this is even truer for a truly trinitarian christian, but that is a little removed from your specific situation, though you could use it as an analogy: according to trinitarianism, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three different persons with the same substance of the Godhead and, even though there are churches dedicated to Jesus and churches dedicated to the Holy Spirit, you don't see them bickering about which is best)

So, to answer your specific questions:


Why is it not in their interests to lead only people who favour their chosen deity/deities?

  1. As I said, since every deity is a manifestation of the same god, this doesn't make any sense. It is like trying to sway people from venerating Our Lady of Sorrows so that they may venerate Our Lady of the Rosary. If it's the same person, what's the point?

  2. Also, ancient pagans had lots of concern about cosmic harmony. Maybe, you'd prefer to worship deity no. 1. But deity no. 2 is also a manifestation of the same god. If you worship deity no. 1 without regard for deity no. 2, you are "feeding" an aspect of the god without concern for the whole. This would produce imbalance... and the purpose of pagan religions was to achieve equilibrium.

For example, you may worship the deity that manifests the god's justice. That's fine and dandy. But if you worship only this deity, you feed the justice of the god, but not the god's benevolence (for example). This would result in justice without benevolence and hence tyranny. Chaos would ensue.

  1. Finally, maybe the god wants to be worshipped fully, without any aspect of the god being neglected (since every aspect of the god is the god him/herself). Therefore, if you worship only deity no. 1 and disregard deity no. 2, you'll displease the god that is, in fact, also deity no. 1.

The ancient pagans had altars for "The Unknown God", lest they would forget to worship some god and, therefore, incur his/her wrath. Every god should be pleased so that harmony would result. If any god was displeased, it was bad news for the mortals.

This doesn't mean that any single mortal must worship all the deities. But it does mean that every single deity must be worshipped by some of the mortals.


Why is it not in people's interests to seek out religious leaders who favour their deity/deities?

This question pretty much is answerable as the question above. Even though I think the peoples would (and should) seek the religious leaders that best address their specific concerns. That's unavoidable.


What holds this religion and these customs together?

Probably a council of priests representing every single religion of every single deity.

If you'd like, you could have a pontiff (the Latin pontifex means "bridge-builder" and was attributed originally to the Emperor, who was also High-Priest of the entire empire) that will have a privileged channel to the godhead and, therefore, arbitrate conflicts between the different religions, having the final saying and authority.

Or, instead of a pontiff... an Oracle of the Godhead.

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    $\begingroup$ The title pontifex preceded the empire. The creation of the pontifical college and office of Pontifex Maximus was attributed to a king, before the foundation of the republic. Pontifex Maximus did become one the numerous offices that the emperors traditionally held. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Aug 10 '17 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ @patricia shanahan: Thank you for your correction. I didn't know that. Cool. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 10 '17 at 13:24
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Society defines them all as one religion, that's what keeps them together.

That they worship various different gods in the pantheon is about their role in that society. Sailors worship the god of the seas, farmers fertility, young people love, there's a god for everything you need and every aspect of life.

Because all the gods in a pantheon have a specific role, they don't generally have trouble coexisting, sharing followers, or with people making sacrifices to different gods when in need, say a merchant about to take a long voyage.

The gods aren't just gods, they're gods with a job, a role to fulfill, and a reason to speak to one rather than another.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this just be full-out polytheism? $\endgroup$ – JAD Aug 10 '17 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @JarkoDubbeldam, the difference is only semantic $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 10 '17 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JarkoDubbeldam, let's say one is creation and fertility, one is travel and commerce, one is death and justice. Each has a group of special interest, while being needed by all at times. People would have a primary aspect and seek out the others in times of need. It's just division of labour, whether they're aspects of the same god or different gods entirely doesn't actually matter to an outsider. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 10 '17 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Where is War? What sort of self-respecting pantheon has no god of War? $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Aug 10 '17 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Dent7777 We only wage war to bring Righteous Justice to the Heretics. The fact that every country we have a land dispute with is also filled with heretics is purely coincidence. $\endgroup$ – Delioth Aug 10 '17 at 19:12
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My empirical answer is that the belief system you are describing is pretty much how Hinduism has worked for thousands of years:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trimurti

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are different deities and at the same time being manifestations of the same Supreme Deity. Different traditions in the Hindu system give priority to one or the other (or the same to all, or even to other Deities), see for example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism

The fact that Hindus of different traditions have been able to coexist for 1000s of years should reassure you that the system you have in mind is socially stable.

Disclaimer: I am not Hindu nor an expert in the field, my apologies for oversimplifying and I have no intention to offend any believer.

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    $\begingroup$ ^^^^ This. The only reason why I haven't talked about Hinduism on my answer, is because I'm not familiar with this religion enough to know if it applies to what the OP wants or not. But I also have the idea that what he is describing is hindu-like. So, if Hinduism works and doesn't "split", why would the OP's religion? $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 10 '17 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I would like to point out that the worshippers of the various Hindu gods never thought of themselves as Hindu until others, who had a completely different religion and pantheon (Christians) came and gave a name to all the things people in the Indus valley were doing, religion-wise. It's sort of like how people came up with the term 'Judeo-Christian' or 'Abrahamic religions' when they wanted to talk about Judaism, Christianity, and sometimes Islam, Mormonism, etc. All of these religions define themselves as different from one another, and in error or at best lacking in some respect. $\endgroup$ – user151841 Aug 10 '17 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @user151841 - There is a difference though. If I understand correctly (I well not), a Shivite doesn't think a Vishnuite is wrong, just different. A devout Christian thinks a devout Muslim is mistaken (although they may agree to disagree). $\endgroup$ – Martin Bonner Aug 11 '17 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBonner That's what I was trying to say, perhaps poorly, since I gave you the wrong impression. All of the Abrahamic religions think each other is wrong, or at least, in a severe misunderstanding (see the various Christian churches). But the Hindu "religions" don't see each other as wrong. $\endgroup$ – user151841 Aug 11 '17 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ Hinduism is AFAIK different from what the OP asked for, in that intellectual-religious scholars (i.e. some of the religious leaders) consider it monotheistic and in parts do worship the supreme god (or rather force/principle/metaphysical concept) Brahman (not to be confused with god Brahma) directly, while for the general populace it tends more towards hard polytheism (often depending on how intellectually-theoretical an individual approaches their belief and the corresponding teachings). Though, that difference might have little effect on stability $\endgroup$ – das-g Aug 13 '17 at 11:12
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Allow me to provide two real-world examples:

(1) The ancient Greeks/Romans. In this example, the culture remains intact even if the definition of "one religion" does not. There is a pantheon of gods. People believe in the existence of all, though they may prefer one over another. The gods are all related, such that there is a familial component that is recognizable and respected by mortal followers.

Was it perfect? Certainly not. There were jealousies between followers and even wars, so while society held itself together amidst polytheism generally, they were unable to do so ultimately.

(2) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are polytheistic. They believe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct individuals. Though schisms have occured within the church, none have occured due to differences in worship or regard of those three gods.

However, there is no tradition of arbitrarily worshiping any one of the three gods. Indeed, the Bible specifically teaches the worship of the Father in the name of the Son. It would be deemed heretical to even contemplate worshipping the Holy Ghost.

What these examples teach me is that permitting the arbitrary worship of any god within a pantheon will ultimately lead to self-destructive behavior without some outside force that can overcome jealousy and greed. People are, regrettably, naturally selfish. It takes no time whatsoever for the idea of "my god is better than your god" to take hold. We become frustrated when something good (understandably credited to said person's god) hasn't happened to us (why has my god forsaken me?) leading to all kinds of abberrant behavior.

And that's ignoring the greedy bounders who will happily whip up the pride one people have in the god they worship to engender hatred toward those people who worship another god simply because he wants the oil beneath their patch of grass.

So, to specifically answer your questions:

(1) Why is it not in their interests to lead only people who favour their chosen deity/deities?

If there exists a single "religious order" that specifically teaches its priests the commingled worship of all three dieties such that religious leaders will hold worship services for all three dieties, then it's plausible that unity could prevail. But, so long as it is not a regimented observance, preferences will eventually seep in, people will become offended that their god isn't worshiped with the same fervor as your god, and schism will occur.

(2) Why is it not in people's interests to seek out religious leaders who favour their deity/deities?

It always is in the best interest of people to seek out religious leaders who favour their preferred diety(s). Indeed, when the religious order is not organized to subdue it, people will tend to gravitate toward the most popular of those teachers and teachers will act, not in the best interest of the religion, but in their own best interests to gain popularity. These two behaviors will quickly build animosity between worshipers of one diety over another as teachers and followers alike begin to establish reasons for their preferences.

(3) What holds this religion and these customs together?

This society cannot remain unified without an external force that subdues the natural "human" inclinations toward jealousy, entitlement, pride, fear, greed, arrogance, and even hatred. It would be theoretically possible to create (as mentioned above) a religious organization that mandated the equal and unified worship of all three dieties that could impose the order necessary to avoid schism.

However, the history of Catholicism proves that even that is incredibly difficult. The schism that led to Roman and Eastern Catholicism was born of disagreements in very basic things including the language spoken during services and whether or not one was doctrinally orthodox vs. the other. These disagreements could not be subdued even within a church that had already agreed there was but one god existing in trinity.

My conclusion is that it is impossible for any religion permitting the arbitrary worship of multiple dieties to remain unified.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a nice answer if only because it expresses the problem I'm interested in better than my question. I've actually already got a solution in "my world", but it relies on a fantastical conceit. While I've no intention of removing that conceit, I got curious whether it was actually necessary, or whether such a situation could in theory exist in "the real world". Your answer pretty much sums up my initial thoughts (though a part of me is still hoping to be persuaded otherwise). $\endgroup$ – TheTermiteSociety Aug 10 '17 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Also, Mormons aren't polytheistic. While we believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate entities (I'm a Mormon), we only worship God the Father, meaning that while we believe Jesus and the Holy Ghost are divine beings, they are not directly worshiped. $\endgroup$ – A. Galloway Aug 11 '17 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ @A.Galloway: I'm LDS, too. Polytheism isn't defined only by the number of gods worshipped. It's also defined by the number of gods you believe in. It is perhaps the greatest differentiator between us and nearly all other Christian religions. They're monotheistic. We're polytheistic. If this is a conversation, let's take it into chat. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 11 '17 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Naw that's fine, you have a good point. $\endgroup$ – A. Galloway Aug 11 '17 at 23:07
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Let me bring up Ireland and Japan.

Disclaimer: I am not Japanese, I am not a practitioner of Shinto or Buddhism, and am no authority on these subjects. (I'm no authority or practitioner of ancient Irish beliefs either, but have a little more knowledge on that subject.) It is not my intent to offend, and I welcome any comments that point out any errors I have made.

Many people in Japan consider themselves to be both practitioners of Shinto and of Buddhism. This is not considered a contradiction. Buddhism is reserved for major events - birth, death, maybe other significant events? Shinto is how you live your daily life. Shinto deities are aspects of the world - a specific river, a specific forest. I don't know if there are Shinto deities covering all rivers as a concept, but there would be specific deities embodying the spirit of a location. I think there might also be a Shinto deities for your home?

In ancient Ireland, local fae would be honored in a specific glade. You would leave milk out for the fae that kept your home free from malicious spirits.

Anyway, translating this to your question. Perhaps I am a trader in your world. I pay homage to the spirit of my house and my shop. I pay homage to the spirit of my wagon, or possibly the spirits of the roads I travel upon. When I enter a friend's home or shop, I would take care to acknowledge the spirits that watch over my friend's space. Nobody would interpret these actions as me claiming to live at my friend's house. I am simply being polite to the spiritual owner of the domain. Walking into another's home without greeting the spirit would be unthinkable. Akin to entering your friend's home without knocking or waiting to be invited inside.

Let's expand to larger concepts. As a trader, I would worship whatever deity protected commerce, travelers, or possibly the Deity of Not Being Tricked. This is where I spend the most time. Now, say I get really sick. It could be appropriate to spend a little time at the temple devoted to good health. I would not pretend that I had always been a member of that temple. I would be greeting the deity of healing, acknowledge I had entered into his/her realm, and am announcing myself as an honorable person who intends to follow whatever behavior is expected for guests. It's good manners. I'm knocking on the door, announcing my presence, and hoping for the deity to welcome me in for a visit.

Why not worship the highest deity directly? Well, the phrase "ivory-tower intellectual" comes to mind. Such worshippers might be looked down on as acting like they are "too good" for the local deities. You are worshipping the mind at the expense of the body. You are doing the spiritual equivalent of wandering across a busy street with your face stuck in your phone, playing Pokemon Go, and you aren't paying attention to the physical world at all. You're going to get hit by a bus (spiritually speaking) acting like that. And the people around you are now forced to be slightly more vigilant on your behalf, while you go blundering around and thoughtlessly pissing off the local deities with your neglectful behavior. One angry river deity is not going to flood one specific home, it's going to flood the whole town. Respect is a must.

So why would there be a conflict or a split? It makes no sense for me to demand that my friend worship my home's spirit at the expense of their own. It makes no sense for me to demand that the farming village in the next valley give respect to the river that passes through my valley. I'm not there. They aren't here.

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That's not odd, nor unheard of in reality.

In human cultures who have/had polytheist pantheons, it was rather uncommon for people to worship all their deities equally, or even at all.

Whether you are taking Ancient Greeks, Nordics, Hinduists or Ancient Romans, to name a few, people worshipped mainly one or at most a few gods, mostly depending on their profession/cast and/or place of living.

Pantheons serve the purpose of offering specialized gods for specific elements of the world and abstract concepts.

For example, Greek soldiers had a major insentive in worshiping Ares, who was closely related with war and battle, or Athena, who was associated with war and wisdom. That's directly why Sparta, a very military city, was heavily worshiping Ares while Athenes, a city who valued having both a good army and excellent intellectuals, was entirely directed at Athena.

The Norse gods were also worshiped that way, and who interacted in which way with which god(dess) wasn't that much significant. Soldiers or farmers weren't supposed to have the same main deity as their Jarl (which would have looked quite silly and hypocritical, if I may...). That's a notion that appeared as we know it with Judaism and which was spreaded by the Christians.

In fact, Jesus was considered as another god when introduced among the Nordics, they mostly didn't care. And since Christians made it pretty clear that worshiping only the One True God was mandatory, and that converting other was the main goal, that's one of the reasons Christianism ended up winning the popularity game there : the local religion wasn't playing.

To sum it up, you can perfectly have people worship mostly one or a few gods from a pantheon of whatever amount you want to have in total. Just make them to be associated with distinct domains. A domain is a collection of abstract and concrete elements and symbols to recognize them easily, whether they are represented explicitly or directly by their symbols.

The attributes that should be present in your pantheon should be those that concern your civilization's culture. For example, they are not likely to have a deity responsible of the sea(s) if they live in the center of a wide continent, and if they do it will be a minor attribute or the domain of a minor god(dess). I believe I saw other questions about that pantheon you are created but don't remeber much about the humans behind it. Anyway, here are a few examples of attributes that could be in your pantheon's domains: (some may not apply while some are fairly common to all cultures)

Concrete stuff : Earth, land, crops, beasts, fire, thunder, wind, rain, mountains, sand, water, metal, alcohol, wood, plants, fishes, weapons, poison, specific animals (horses, boars, whichever may have a particular value for social, spiritual or economic reasons), tools, ...

These are things that can be directly seen and eventually touched. They are usually seen as the direct manifestation of a deity, a gift from it to mankind, his/her own body...

Abstract stuff : War, beauty, wits, strength, sickness, life, death, fe(a)st, intelligence, politics, madness, patience, curiosity, fertility, metallurgy, arts, hunt, medicine, knowledge, luck, sex, fate, happiness, hope, craftiness, fishing, magic, ...

These are attributes that are administrated directly by a deity, or on which a deity has at least some control : Some deities were said to decide who would die, when and how, while others merely gathered them when their fate came. Those are the backbone of gods and what determines who will worship them and why : One will worship especially the deity handling war in order to be victorious in one while his/her spouse would be likely to call for the deity of luck/fate/mercy so that his/her beloved comes back unharmed. A city that relies heavily on fishing to feed would have one of its biggest temple dedicated to the deity of fishing and sea (if not the biggest at all) while blacksmiths in that city would be unlikely to care much about it.

After you've gathered your pantheon's domains, you can begin to split them among your deities. Keep in mind that they don't have to be limited to one and only thematic. A god of war, conflict, forge and metal makes sense, it adds depth. A god of war and politics too. They can even coexist in the same pantheon. A god of mercy and death also has a good depth : in displays the fact that the culture who worships it doesn't consider death as a plague, but as a fate handled by a wise deity. Take advantage of that power to use the domains of your gods to implicitly present them, it can make your story give detail about its lore in a subtle and immersive way.

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Either

  • They don't worship the subset deities at all.
  • The Supreme or Unified Deity is conceived as being ineffable or too transcendental to be respective of anything so lowly as worship.

The differences between this “soft” polytheism and the other kind are entirely in the relationships between the deities. The distinction is not all that important to the worshippers.

Why hasn't the religion split?
Probably because there has not yet been any conflict or any rift of disagreement between the sects.

The likelihood of such a split occurring depends on how the sects of worshippers understand and perform the nature of their worship.
What are these practices?

  • meditations on the nature of the deity
  • artistic constructions designed to embellish or fortify the presence of the deitific aspects in their culture
  • services which the deity requires for sustenance — albeit lessening its position as a proper god, and making it more of a lord of the same nature as the worshippers

There are a few others too, but they are less distinctive.

Now, here is the real clincher: It is possible for there to be bickering, discord, competition, rivalries, or even direct hostilities between the sects, and yet not consider the religion to have been split.
Again, this depends on the natures of the unified deity and of the multiple facets in the soft polytheism, but it seems likely to me that anything short of outright denial and excommunication between the sects would be tolerable to your religion.
I.e. unless the priests of one god begin saying that the other gods aren't really parts of the unified deity and eventually forgetting that the other facets even were worshipped apart from their own, your religion continues to exist in a zone of stability near to the original state which you describe.

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This currently happens today and it goes by the name of Sports. Usually in a given country, there is a main "religion" like Football or Rugby. But within that religion, people decide to worship a different team for different reasons. Maybe they like that one better, or their antcestors always worshiped that particular team, or perhaps it's just usual for people of that area to worship a certain team. Either way, all followers abide to same same principles and costumes despite worshiping different gods.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer tends to belittle the societal importance of religion by comparing it to sports. They are entirely dissimilar, so it's not actually relevant to answering the question. You could also point out that people work at different jobs, or have different hair colors. It's true but irrelevant (and irreverent), because none of those things (including sports) fulfill any of the societal functions of religion. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Aug 11 '17 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ Don't they, thought? As someone who if both non-religious and non-sports-fan, I can draw many similarities. For many people, both are something they hold dear in their hearts and bring them joy. It's something they grab on in rainy days. It's something you follow without needing proof because you feel deep in your heart that it's the right thing to do. And finally, it's something that outsiders like me don't understand the fascination at all. Sorry if I'm belittling the importance of religion, but I think you'll find that through the ages sports events might have had just as much importance. $\endgroup$ – ecc Aug 12 '17 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ Well, religion and spirituality are two different things. Often a person experiences them together, but a person can neglect one in preference for another. I think athletic favor or indeed fervor satisfy the devotion aspect of religion, surely, but I think the other similarities are a result of comparison religious people who believe in religion but not a deity. So, you're not belittling religion so much as indicating others who do. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Aug 12 '17 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ Anyways. Could you add some more to your answer which analyzes how the often violent confrontations between fans of different sports teams does not always result in outright schism? I.e. separation of the teams to different leagues. Formal athletics have been compared to a more peaceful substitute for the martial and aggressive urges, so that is probably somewhere to begin. I.e. disagreements concerning the rules of a sport or eligibility result in separations, whereas preferences for one team over another demand that the teams meet in confrontation. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Aug 12 '17 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ It is easy to see how one who does not participate in either religion or sports can view them both as having many parallels, because they do. The largest similarity being the vast amount of human attention, resources, and energy being directed towards a specific goal of an organization controlled at a higher and higher levels of oversite that culminates in an elite governing entity. When you examine the differing goals and methods used to inspire the faith of their particpants to focus their energies to that goal that you can also appreciate how very different the two institutions are. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Aug 12 '17 at 19:55
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Another take - ohana meaning family.

"The concept emphasises that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another."

In relation to this pantheon of gods, is exactly like Uncle Bob and Aunty Moaner. At a family gathering you may be annoyed by constant hugs from one, but you still have to tolerate it because the other is your favourite.

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    $\begingroup$ So, tell me: Did you learn that one from Lilo & Stitch? Anyways, it seems to me that you are effectively saying that the gods themselves do not tolerate a split, whether by intervention or by mandate from the priests. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Aug 15 '17 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food yes. Does that make the point any less valid? The pantheon is a family, with marry-ins and the occasional fissure. But its still a family with all that entails. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Aug 15 '17 at 2:35
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    $\begingroup$ Not that I can see. I just thought I'd provide a perspective from a sidestep or two. Also, maybe suggest a way to relate it — ah, the pun of it all! — in a way that better helps the original question. :-) $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Aug 15 '17 at 2:39
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Many ancient polytheistic religions were actually accumulations of different local deities and cults, sometimes subsumed after conquests or sometimes imported via trade or other means. What seems to be important is the accumulation of these foreign deities fill local needs (the various legends attributed to the new god are more appealing in explaining the world in that aspect).

Culture is another important factor. Greeks were willing to adopt the local gods and cults of other Greek speaking peoples, but did not adopt the gods of ancient Egypt (despite being aware of them through trade and war since Mycenaean times). The Romans, on the other hand, seemed very accommodating, especially in the late Western Empire, where many "mystery" cults became well established alongside the traditional pantheon of gods. Christianity (and to a lesser extent Judaism) were difficult cases because adherents to those religions shunned the Roman ideals and were not accommodating (especially to the idea that the person of the Emperor was also a god).

So a homogeneous people may be willing to adopt each others local cults and deities, and a well established and very confident imperial culture may be willing to allow its people's to worship however they like, so long as the worship does not clash with the ruling culture's values.

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Everyone agrees that is essential that all aspects of the supreme god must be worshiped, and the wise founders of the religion foresaw that there could be imbalance or schisms. So they decreed that every three years there is a great festival in which everyone in the society is assigned, by lot, one of the gods that it is their duty to formally worship for the next three years: attending rituals, making sacrifices, etc.

They are still free to also worship the other gods as well if they wish, but must not neglect their assigned god. Most people are content to just worship whichever god they are assigned to; it is all in service to the ineffable supreme god anyway, but those who have a personal preference often continue to worship their favorite as well as their assigned god. And some people who are especially pious, and have the time and resources, worship all three.

Worshiping your assigned god is not just a religious duty but a social one, since the periodic remixing of the congregations prevents them from becoming political factions that would both distract from spiritual matters and be a divisive force in the society.

A priest is expected to perform the required rituals for any of the gods as needed. Where several priests are available they may divide up the work according to their personal preferences.

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The main purpose of religion is not, principally, to worship a god or gods, but to provide a social structure. A supreme god may be Authority for that religion, although that is not necessarily essential.

Religion provides structure and customs for society and may accommodate one or more gods or lower deities. Maintaining social structure and culture, however, is paramount especially if a civilization is to develop.

Maintaining a religion, therefore, generally works in everyone's interest, as does a pantheon of gods who are generally compatible. Indeed, a variety of gods actually allows subcultures also to develop with their own identity expressed through a patron god or saint accommodated into the pantheon.

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If the gods get on with each other, why shouldn't their followers?

If the gods are "friends" with each other, they'll instruct their followers to be "friends", too. They may even advocate worship of other gods within the pantheon.

Moreover, people tend to reflect the characteristics of the gods they worship. For example, if you worship a god of war, you're likely to value heroism, skill in battle, and so forth. So, if your gods are well disposed to each other, then their followers are likely to be well disposed towards each other, too.

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Consider the three as the idea of the God of All, the God of Part, and the God of None

Through the great answers above, you have many good suggestions for the Gods of All and Part: those will be worshipped by anyone wanting to be all-inclusive as well as those wanting to be specialized. I don't see much offered for the God of None, so this answer is mainly to be taken as adjunct to the other answers.

Many people choose to identify themselves as atheist or worshipping no god. They are, in effect, worshipping the God of None. This God wants no credit or accolades from its followers, yet will still respond to those atheists in a way such that the people feel they are acting in your world without any divine intervention. These actions will appear as though "luck", "coincidence", or "random events". If it's good, serendipity. Bad, misfortune. Life is what these people make it by their own willpower, and the God of None respects that and responds.

It is then not possible to worship the supreme God directly because the people cannot conceive of the concept where a divine being can be all, part, and none all at once. The Lalaists, however, are just fine with that concept, and then easily worship all three aspects via the Supreme God with harmony (no splinter groups needed in this case).

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  • $\begingroup$ This “god of None” sounds like something you'd see in a new Nethack revision. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Aug 15 '17 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food I can't speak to that as I had to look up what "old" Nethack is. Looks cool, but likely over my head, as I've recently discovered that computer people speak in languages many have never even heard of. I did find your comment interesting, though. I learned that Nethack is enjoyed, among others, by mathematicians. Once I posted this answer, for some reason I was struck with the thought to ask the Math SE people to translate this answer using math concepts, just for fun. Not sure that's a thing, though, or if it would be of enjoyment or value to anyone besides me. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Aug 15 '17 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food It's been a long time since I've tried using my elementary math skills, and I don't even know the names of some of the symbols some of the concepts would be called, but I'm going to show my ignorance anyway and give it a try. Maybe someone will take pity and a few moments out of their time for a very light mental break to correct my efforts. Anyone know what symbol means every possible part of a whole? The God of Many stands for all the different separate gods worshipped individually. Or perhaps this tangent belongs as a question on Math SE. They will think it's too weird?? $\endgroup$ – N2ition Aug 15 '17 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food Anyway, I thought it was nice that you commented about something that is enjoyed by mathematicians when I had already been thinking that my answer sounded like it was a strange sort of math problem, when I don't even normally think about math at all. Thank you for sharing your idea. I know someone who is smart enough to try that nethack game. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Aug 15 '17 at 18:23
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If you are asking what I think you are asking, I believe it is because Blablaism considers that the three are really one and the same. Take a name for example: [First Name] [Middle Name] [Last Name] All three are different parts of your name but all comprise your name. Maybe most people know you by your first name, some by your last name and maybe even a few by your middle. It is also possible that they know you by any multiple of them. They all represent your name, just different aspects of it. So in your example, Lalaism considers only [First Name] to be your name and neither [Middle Name] nor [Last Name] are part of it.

Hope it helps?

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting that you interpret that Lalaism considers only the first name. My interpretation based on OP constructs is that Lalaism considers each possible combination of each part of the name. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Aug 15 '17 at 18:29
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At the risk of sounding a little cynical...

These things would likely happen for the same reason most things happen in a religion.

Because SoAndSo said so...

SoAndSo may be a deity, holy book, profit, seer, oracle, theocratic leader, or what have you. They simply need to be a authoritative source that's accepted by the leadership or majority of practitioners of the religion.

Regardless of who SoAndSo is, once their decree has been accepted, as dogma, for a few generations, it'll be really hard to break it.

Humans have been martyred and fought long and bloody wars over these things throughout history, and it very often all boils down to what they were taught about what SoAndSo said.

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