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In this world there is only one pantheon of gods. They are human in form, and exist in another dimension connected to the material plane. One god sits at the top and rules over all creation, with the other gods being subservient to him. They spend their days making sure everything in reality funotions the way it should (sun rises and sets, gravity and physics work, etc). They also must defend the material plane from things that exist outside of reality, such as eldritch abominations. They are in a constant war defending creation from these monsters.

All nations are aware of the ongoing war, and that gods are real. Since they keep busy fighting for humans, it is difficult for the gods to find the time to run the day to day tasks of world empires, and they rarely visit the realm. It is very rare for people to meet the gods. Instead, they select their most devoted followers to rule in their stead. These followers communicate with their gods directly, and rule with their authority. Nevertheless, there are different empires with their own unique cultures. Every religion is based in some form of the original faith.

How is it possible that religious diversity and culture could exist in a world where the gods are active?

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    $\begingroup$ Death-god complaining to war-god & fertility-goddess: "Damned! That's your 9999th years in a row crowning best god and goddess of the year, what's ur secret?". Both gods:"marketing!" $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 9 '17 at 6:27
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They can also interpret words in different ways. If gods aren't there often enough to correct it.

The fact that this pantheon appears from time to time on earth doesn't mean that there can't be another higher/different one that will manifest/is prevented from manifesting by this one/manifesting only to his followers(or at least they believe so for some reason. All of these facts can be true or some people may believe that they are true.

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It would seem that they could have different sects that believed in their gods, but leaned more toward worshiping a specific god more than others.

The other option is that people could believe gods that spoke to them were actually demons attempting to lead them astray, and in this case they would come up with their own ideas about reality.

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I cannot see any problem here at all. If we consider the followers of different gods to be essentially fans, we only need to look at fan cultures and followings to see that any number of popstars, footballers, movie stars and various other cultural icons can be supported and worshipped.

Sometimes these are local celebrities, sometimes cultural, often there are other reasons why fans follow. Fans form fan clubs, but these are not much different to cults and sometimes can be disturbingly similar.

Why should god worship be any different?

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How is it possible that in our world there are three religions with different cultural and religious practices that worship the same god? Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are based on the same tradition, but their interpretation and customs diverged. A lot of differences are rooted in differences in climate, food sources, political and economic regimes.

Exactly the same can happen in your world. As the population grows it settles in more and more remote regions. New climates require changes in lifestyle and habits. People adapt. Languages change. As time goes on they forget where they come from.

Your priests keep the religion going. They incorporate into rituals elements that keep the society they supervise stable, or healthy, or more complacent, or... whatever they need. After several centuries you get several religions with their distinct rituals and traditions. One religion encourages monogamy, another prohibits certain foods, the third one preaches universal love and compassion.

Since humans are no help in the ongoing war, gods do not see mortals as worth their attention. They check in from time to time (just to make sure that physics still works and humans haven't destroyed each other) and go back to their usual godly business.

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You needn't "invent" anything.

In all polytheistic cultures there are "sects" worshiping one or the other deity, even if all are believed "real". Also very minor deities as Nymphs or Dryads are known to have their followers (sometimes very influential; see the legends about Nymph Egeria and Numa Pompilio (second King Of Rome)).

It is absolutely normal to have some different religious twist in polytheism.

OTOH we manage to have more than one monotheistic religion only because the "One and Only" God apparently doesn't care much about who and what is said "in his name".

You can "simply" postulate different kingdoms elected to worship mainly one or other the God (while respecting all of them, of course); this is what happened in ancient times, as Athens was named after Athena (Minerva) and Sparta worshiped mainly Ares (Mars) (curiously those were two "War Gods" Mars well-known for battle prowess, while Athena was more about strategy and all other "non-strictly-physical" aspects of war).

Having your Gods not to interfere much with everyday life helps, but it is not necessary if you add the rule (taken straight from Hellenic Paganism) "One God cannot undo what another God did".

You should have all leeway needed to make an interesting plot.

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I have a similar setting and here's what I did:

There are many gods and they do communicate with some of their followers. Those are the so called minor gods.

There is also a greater god. This one god is theorized to be just like our God, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. However, he never shows himself and no one knows if he really exists, not even the minor gods.

The minor gods do not agree on everything. In fact, they are currently waging war between theirselves.

There are also some minor gods who do exist, but for various reasons do rather remain occult. Just as is the case with the greater god, some people believe in them, some don't.

Making the situation even more complex, there are numerous angels. Every one of the angels has pledged his loyalty to one of the minor gods, but they may have objectives of their own.


So, how do you choose in who you believe?

For starters, you can only believe in something that has not been proved to be true. This means that everyone in my setting has to decide if they believe in the greater God and in some of the occult minor gods.

In contrast, you can't choose not to believe in the minor gods which are showing themselves. They exist and there's no discussing that. This means that people choose who they will follow, not who they will believe.

Many of the minor gods (and angels) have different opinions on various matters and act accordingly. If you agree with them, you might consider yourself a follower of their religion. If you dislike what they do, you may simply stop going to their temples and instead start supporting one of their rivals.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer feels overly specific to your story, so that it might not helpful to the OP. $\endgroup$ – Braydon Sep 8 '17 at 20:57
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Hmm ... there are a number of avenues you can take here. From your description, the gods only appear to a few individuals. Any proofs or miracles they perform will be a tougher sell the farther you get from the big capital cities.

I can imagine in the countryside there might be all sorts of other religions. If the demonstrated religion (DR for short) is ... jealous ... the other religions (OR) will have to be subtle. Expect a lot of cults of saints, or devotion to local nature or household spirits. The latter can probably survive even in the cities I'd imagine.

Another source of religious diversity is interpretation. Different communities or even countries might have very different ideas of which facets of the DR to emphasize. Think about our world, where you have so very many different spins on Christianity. You might have one group be very "Old Testament" in their approach, emphasizing whichever of the DR gods are the most rule-bound and stern. The nation next door might be specially favored by some more merciful DR goddess. Imagine the sneers of derision back and forth between citizens of these two communities. "Pansies!" "Savages!"

I hope this helps!

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