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Here are the facts.

  1. Existence beyond death is an unquestionable fact. Souls originate in the cosmic flow and return to it after death...usually. In very rare cases, a person who has enough will or spiritual power can avoid merging back into the source shortly after physical death. Such rare individuals may form bodies out of ectoplasm, which tend to look a little uncanny. If desperate or malicious enough, these souls may try and possess a person. Soul/body compatibility issues usually means this doesn't work out very well.

  2. The gods are immensely complex and powerful souls dwelling on "islands" within the cosmic flow. The most spiritually attuned individuals, usually priests, can channel the energy of their god. This providence takes on two forms, one of intuitive attuned/knowledge of things under their god's purview, and the ability to bless or curse through influencing luck. Fate, destiny, chance, and why things are the way that they are, are the result of the movements of the cosmic flow. The "gods", being great masses of spiritual power, influence the course of the cosmic flow simply by existing within it. Both forms of providence are stronger when they are used in alignment with that particular god's nature and will.

What I am specifically looking for are answers to the following questions.

  • How are the religious organizations likely structured, and how much political influence do they have?
  • What are the likely attitudes towards physical death?
  • What would funerary practices be like?
  • Are bodies just discarded or are they honored for the time that they served as a soul's vessel?
  • How do the people practice their faith? How do they honor their gods?
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closed as too broad by trichoplax, bowlturner, James, Samuel, Gilles Feb 10 '15 at 20:06

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I corrected a few typos but there are just too many. You could really do with proof reading this and running a spell/grammer checker on it. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 9 '15 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ Is resurrection something that can happen in your world? $\endgroup$ – James Feb 9 '15 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but it is rare. Once a soul has rejoined the cosmic flow it is no longer a discernible distinct existent. Capturing a soul at the moment of death then putting it into an artificial or duplicate body is how most resurrections work. $\endgroup$ – Trismegistus Feb 9 '15 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ According to your description, a soul does not survive after death in the way that most people would intuitively understand "survival". They become part of something else, but they do not remain individual, or maintain their personality, memories or motivations. If I've understood this correctly, that will have a large affect on the answers. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Feb 10 '15 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ If a soul does not relate to an identity but just becomes part of a flow that does not share any characteristics with the person who died, it would be helpful to mention that in the answer as it is not currently clear. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Feb 10 '15 at 16:56
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I'm going to handle the topic of the afterlife first, because I think it's the most important. A lot of people make the argument that if people 'really' believed in the afterlife, they would get themselves killed so they could go there. However, what these people neglect are the great poems and stories written about how much it sucks to go to heaven. The best example I can think of are Tolkien's Elves: they all eventually sail to Valinor (which just so happens to be where they go when they die), but even though they know they're going to a better place ,they still really hate to leave Middle Earth. That's the general argument: heaven is nice, but Earth is really good too, and once you leave you won't be coming back. Plus, there's the phrase "you can't take it with you", which in this context takes on a whole new meaning...

As for how people would deal with death, I had an interesting conversation with an old roommate once about his concept of the soul. Basically, for him, if anything of us survives after death, it's nothing like what we appear to everyone else. So, even if our souls survive, we must lose something when we die, and that's still something to be lamented. Like it or not, your body is a big part of who you are, especially in the context of your interactions with others, and your society will most likely understand that.

Add to all that the fact that dying is probably still really scary from an evolutionary standpoint, and I'd imagine most death practices will be very similar. That doesn't mean you're stuck with whatever rituals your personal culture does; our world has many different ways of sending someone off permanently, I'm sure you can find one that fits your needs.

As for gods, again I think things will shake out pretty much the same. To me, your gods sound way more abstract than the bearded guy most Christians think of; however, your world will most certainly anthropomorphize them. The 'cosmic flow' sounds like something scientists won't be able to accurately describe for millenia; until that time, people will make things up, just like they've been doing here. Not only that, but people will attribute to the gods things that they shouldn't: for example, regardless of whether or not the gods can hear them, people will pray, erect statues and churches, and burn cows, because the placebo effect and the joy of working together with a like-minded community will make them think it works.

What I'm trying to say is that not a lot has to change. This is just one of many possible answers, though, so hopefully if it's not what you wanted someone else will explain why leaving dead bodies where they lie would totally happen.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that people will still fear death, because merging with cosmic flow is essential nonexistence;from a very anthropocentric perspective. When you join the cosmic all, you see to a distinct individual. When all is one and one is all, there is no way for you to be you. You yea to cheat death, there is definitely going to be magitech transhumanism. $\endgroup$ – Trismegistus Feb 10 '15 at 16:32
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Exactly the same as Earth

Which is to say that for our entire history the majority of humanity has believed in some sort of afterlife, and spirits/gods. Proof isn't going to change how people believe, but it will impact how many people believe.

So just as Earth has a full spectrum, all the way from true believers to agnostics to atheists, you'll have the same. It's just that the spectrum of your belief will be more weighted toward the obvious end of the spectrum.

Note: I know atheists seem unlikely in your system, but consider that some people today don't believe in the moon landing, evolution or climate change. With humans, proof is not a guarantee of belief.

Edit:

To clarify, I'm not saying you'd necessarily be exactly the same as earth in that you'd have say, Christians and Hindus and Shintos and Sunnis. What I mean is that in general you will see the same spectrum of beliefs and practices - with obvious variation for individual gods - but weighed more toward the true believers end.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is an interesting answer (hence the upvote) but not accurate. A small piece of info on such a profound issue can have a huge impact. Merely with what he describes: none of our religons would be correct (polytheism for instance). Many more people would strive to be monks/nuns for their particular chosen deity. There would be institutions/cities/guilds built around holy sites like one of engineers around a engineering cathedral or a music conservatory at the palace of the great muse. Gambling would be more popular as it can be justified (he will give me this because I deserve it). $\endgroup$ – kaine Feb 9 '15 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ But would that stop believers in a mono-theistic (non-existing) diety from worshiping? Maybe they think the "provable" gods are just something on the angel/demon/spirit level, and the "true" god is unknowable? Or what if one of the god claims he's the only "real" one, and his worshipers are effectively monotheistic? And earth has stuff built around "holy" locations too, just because they're real doesn't necessarily change our behavior around them. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Feb 9 '15 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ Still not quite our current religions. $\endgroup$ – kaine Feb 9 '15 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted because it's a shorter version of my answer. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 9 '15 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaine you see a closer integration of society and religious practices in a world where at least some of priest can back up their claims? I ran across a concept like that in a world-building podcast. The priests of various gods formed trade guilds. $\endgroup$ – Trismegistus Feb 10 '15 at 16:24

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