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In a world after modern society has been completely demolished and history has virtually been forgotten, civilization still struggles to carry on as humanity rebuilds to something reminiscent of Late Antiquity Europe, complete with ruling dynasties and despotic monarchies. But say their religion is based around an unlikely survival of creating writings, a lone omnibus of novellas and short stories composed by a certain New Englander who goes by the name of Howard Phillips Lovecraft is the only source of information that people have of what the past was like.

The preface and cover of the book has been destroyed, thus eliminating the fact that the book may have been fiction to our distant primitive descendants who still are relatively literate. What factors would convince them that everyone's favorite author of cosmic horror today was instead a prophet proclaiming the rise of vile gods that could care less about humanity?

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  • $\begingroup$ Mira Grant's post-zombie-apocalypse Newsflesh trilogy almost raises Romero to legendary cult status (since he "taught" how to survive zombie apocalypses). Not exactly an answer... but worth thinking about. $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Sep 18 '17 at 17:25
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If you study the history of modern religions and cults, it really isn't difficult for this to happen. Someone finds the book and starts reading it. From here, there are two possible paths to it becoming a religion:

  1. As he reads, he realizes that he believes the book speaks a deep truth, and starts to tell other people about it. Word spreads, and bam! you have a religion
  2. As he reads, he realizes he can use the book to manipulate others for personal gain. He declares himself a prophet and starts facetiously telling people that the book is a religious account. Word spreads, and bam! you have a religion

The latter scenario is much faster, because the fact that he is lying allows him to do everything with total confidence. Lovecraft novels don't establish a clear religious structure or moral code of conduct, so a true believer would be uncertain of how to use the information. Is it safe to even speak the names of the Eldritch horrors? Would spreading his knowledge be blasphemy? On the other hand, the scam artist can simply start making up rules without fear that he is misinterpreting something. Whatever he says is now the rule.

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Wisdom, there has to be a certain amount of wisdom embedded into those books. There has to be a general way of life to live by. Maybe a moral code of sorts brought in by the characters or by the laws within the world itself.

Imagine a book like A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, WE know it's about a dystopian world because we have our world as a reference, but they don't. For all they know it's a good way to live by. Nobody's starving, fighting for land, the world is in relative peace.

What these people need is guidance, something that will tackle the issues they face. It doesn't matter how perverse the world or some of the ideas in the book are, if it tackles THEIR problems - which I'm guessing is hunger, war, etc. - then it's something they could go by.

Basically what a religion needs to bring is hope. Hope for change, be it personal or social. Even if the book is a fantasy book, if it brings that hope they will believe it. So long as there's some truth to a lie, it can still be taken as true. So long as these books hold some truths, people will believe in its veracity.

But it also depends on what angle your playing, whether it's a criticism toward religion or a comedy about the absurdity of whatever their religion will be, or a more personally focused book that analyzes people's thoughts and way of living in such a scenario, etc.

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Or do you mean how, as in literally how it could have come to that? If so, I suppose it only takes one person. Take all the religions, each of them have these distinct figures known as "prophets" or "saviors". There are few of them and yet millions follow the religions. All you need is somebody with the knowledge of these books; if they're certain of their message it won't be long before they have followers. The message would bring people solutions or hope. Eventually people would turn straight to the source. There would be arguments on the interpretation of the books and there would be ramifications of the religion.

In religion that tends to happen; the interpretation is a big issue, not just because of the translation but because of the time it was written. Slang, expressions and proverbs change over time and so they are bound to be misinterpreted.

Anyway, back to how, that's about it. It'll spread, and become a threat to the sovereigns, who will eventually conclude what all leaders of the past have concluded; religion cannot be vanquished but it can be manipulated. Through the incentive of rulers, churches can be built and the religion will be able to spread even more, even further... soon you have a large group of people following the religion based on nothing more than a piece of fiction. Of course you'll have the non-believers as well.

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This is the plot of the The Key of the Abyss: after an Apocalypse, only a few people survive, nursed by a big computer that should contain all the books in the word but, due to an avary, it only contained a collection of twelve short stories by Lovecraft.

His books have become the Bible and there are "believers of the 4th", "of the 9th" (just the order of the books in the computer) and the survivors (living in the ruins of our world) analyze them as if they were parables with an alegoric message.

There even heretics that believe they know the Truth from a mythical 13th "lesson".

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