Flintlocks & Fireballs
Religion within the Empire
The most important thing to say about religion in this setting is that nobody knows for sure whether gods are real.
That is to say, a lot of people think they know for sure, because they’ve been told since they were young that their god exists and is watching them. And a lot of people don’t know for sure but have faith, because people are terribly complicated beings. But priests don’t gain supernatural powers from their faith, nobody has ever seen an angel, and churches have lightning conductors on their rooves.
The Church of the Emperor Incarnate
The only religion permitted in the Empire for some time has been the Church of the Emperor Incarnate.
The Church worship the Divine, a spark of which manifests in most humans’ souls. The Divine is what gives people consciousness and the will to do good. Because only a spark is present, the soul is not able to determine what is truly right, and can be tempted by evil. When somebody dies, the spark of the Divine inside them is released to rejoin the nebulous cloud of the Divine, while their soul is freed to silently observe the aftermath of its death in peace and harmony.
The Church believe that the Divine manifests more fully in the Emperor’s bloodline, and in crowning a man Emperor allow him to fully connect with the Divinity inside him. When a new Emperor is crowned, the sum total of that Divinity passes onto his heir. Thus all Emperors are able to speak with the voice of the Divine, each with greater perfection and clarity than the last. An Emperor can speak Divine Truths, and these become part of the Church’s dogma until a later Emperor corrects them (the later Emperor being better connected to the Divine).
As for nonhumans, Church dogma maintains that they cannot cultivate the Divine inside their soul, but by their actions they can shape the world to the will of the Divine if they are “properly guided”. In practice, this basically means that it’s theologically sound to keep dwarves as slaves and treat them horribly provided you’re using them to enact the Church’s will.
The Church have no creation myth. They believe that the world existed independently of the Divine before it came, and that the world was inherently wicked and sinful. Only the Divine’s presence in sapient beings allow us to transcend this. Through our actions, we shape the world into a form which is less wicked and sinful, and thus empower the Divine.
Now Emperor Leder is a bit of a special case in the Church’s theology, because he wasn’t a descendent of the previous Emperor; nor was his coronation sanctioned by the previous Emperor; nor did he even have the old Emperor’s crown, a key component in the coronation. This caused something of a schisming within the Church. The majority were pragmatic enough to side with Leder and declare that the Divinity had passed on to him anyway; Leder was pragmatic enough to throw his full political weight behind them. A number of unauthorised (and, now, illegal) sects maintain that Leder has no special connection to the Divine and that the Divinity will pass onto the next suitable heir to be crowned; or that the Divinity is gone forever; or that they have held a coronation of their own with the true crown (which they have, but they’re not showing it) and the Divinity has passed onto an individual from their church. Nobody is quite sure where the true crown really is, but you can be sure that the Church and the Empire are combing the land for it, and that a significant number of fakes are already out there.
Being the only game in town, the Church is powerful. It tithes worshippers, sells indulgences, and has its fingers as deep in the political game as you would expect. It is also obsessed with stamping out other faiths: in its early days, an Emperor declared as a Divine Truth that any other faiths weakened the power of the Divine, and since then they have been fervently hunted down.
The Empire bans all religions but the Incarnationists. Here are some things that will get you arrested for heresy:
Religions of the Sapients: Orcs, elves, goblins and kobolds all had their own faiths. These are all gone now, their holy texts burned and their idols melted down for gold.
Dwarven ritual: Dwarves don’t have a religion as such, but their traditions and rituals of thanksgiving to their ancestors could be construed as something similar. Every part of a dwarf’s life is awash with tradition: there’s a correct way to eat, to wash, and to sleep, and all of the most important moments in a dwarf’s life must take place below the earth. To this end dwarf cities held a number of underhalls cut out of the ground for marriage ceremonies, funerals, and so on. The Church of the Incarnation classed these as heathen chapels, and filled them all in, though it’s likely it didn’t get them all.
Many surface dwarves have been coerced into converting to Incarnationism with promises of better treatment, though it’s doubtful that many of them pay it more than lip-service. A number of dwarves converted voluntarily, figuring that any faith was better than none, after their underhalls were filled in and they were no longer able to keep to tradition.
Cults of fiends: A lot of fiends will, for some reason or another, gather worshippers. They have their own reasons for this. Ursagi do it for protection; eyebeasts do it to gain more people to torture and torment; naga just seem to want worship for the hell of it. Obviously, the Empire comes down on this like a ton of bricks, and enforces the death penalty for association with fiends.
Senescense, and the Old Faiths: The South once had a pot-pourri of different faiths, polytheistic, monotheistic or entirely atheistic. These were beaten down as the Empire expanded and Incarnationism rolled out until they flowed together into a new faith called Senescense. Many of the Old Faiths have been forgotten, but some remain half-remembered in tradition or in ancient artworks.
Certainly, the Old Faiths are no longer practiced today except under the mantle of Senescense. Senescence takes all the known gods of the Old Faiths as a single pantheon. Dwarven ancestor-worship, nonhuman faiths and even some atheistic faiths have a place in the Senescent pantheon, with founding members, prophets or even figures from parables being deified; with the Incarnationists’ efforts to scour away the histories of the Old Faiths it’s difficult to tell which is which anyway, and really the only thing that you can guarantee two Scenescents will have in common is their defiance of the Church of the Emperor Incarnate.