A Religion's Followers - The Art of World Building
Nov 192020
 
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Becoming a Follower

Many religions have no requirement for becoming a follower. This is the easiest route for world builders as our work is essentially done. People can believe in a god or religion without ever attending church, praying, or giving outward sign of their faith. Others will do some or all of these things and become part of a community that bolsters itself through shared belief, regularly seeing each other at places of worship. None of this requires much development. But we might want a religion that requires specific acts that are witnessed before someone is allowed to officially join the church. This could include:

  • Donations of money, food, or possessions
  • Visible adherence to requirements for dress, prayer, food/alcohol, and more
  • Missionary work to spread the word
  • Sacrifice (of lifestyle or killing of something, or someone)

That list is in rough order of severity, and the farther down it we go, the more this religion impacts the life of the follower, since killing people can lead to the killer’s imprisonment or death. Going so far can cause the individual to feel more heavily invested in their beliefs, and this degree of devotion is one reason a religion might ask such things; not only does the believer demonstrate the strength of their faith, but the extreme act, once committed, makes the belief that much stronger. The god we’re creating a religion for can suggest sensible alternatives that make these decisions easier. Consider their attributes, what you’d like to achieve with this religion, and how you will use it.

Leaving

In religions without formal admission, departure is a choice and nothing more. But in others, one might need permission to leave the church. Members might be questioned (even tortured?) to find out why they want to go. They might be banned from entry into that religion’s holy sites thereafter. If a tattoo or other permanent mark was affixed upon joining, this might be altered to make them a pariah. A more benevolent religion is more lenient, naturally, and may allow for return one day, whereas a nefarious one might condemn someone to death for merely being suspected of wanting to leave.

Expulsion

Only religions that formally accept members are likely to expel them. The obvious reasons are failure to adhere to the teachings and behaviors mandated in that religion. Being seen with those of opposing religions, or conversing with them, or having friends, lovers, or children with them, could even be considered a sin. We can invent whatever heresy makes sense for our deity, based on their attributes. The stricter the religion, the easier for this to befall someone. In the more extreme cases, the person could be put to death simply to sow fear in others, or to hide that this has occurred from outsiders (who might perceive the religion as losing its hold on people – dead men tell no tales), or simply because the deity, like a god of death, demands it.

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