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Religion in Exalted: Lifeless and Pale

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  • #46
    I'm a Christian.

    Despite this, I love Exalted, and one of my favorite ideas in 2e was a Zenith who's basically a gospel singer. Maren Juu (one of my characters) is a priest of the Unconquered Sun in truth; she sings songs of praise to him, leads others in these songs, and her entire Motivation is to lead all the people of Creation in a mighty chorus praising him. Even before she Exalted, she was a little like Saint Paul (except more musical).


    The Teller of Tales, and the Weaver of Dreams

    Behold! My 2e characters.

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    • #47
      The idea that faith means belief in the unverifiable or "Believing what you know ain't so" is largely the invention of modern religious thought in the face of scientific knowledge shrinking the space in which the God Of The Gaps can exist. Throughout most of history of Abrahamic religion, the idea of the Abrahamic God's unverifiability would be nonsensical -- theologians went to elaborate lengths to construct logical and philosophical "proofs" of God's existence or various true statements about God's nature, and the idea that such truths are somehow invalid because they're just thought experiments not backed up by empirically verifiable physical experimental evidence is, itself, an anachronism if you assume it's in place before the ascension of the formal scientific method in use today. For a long time, logical proofs were considered more sound than experimental proofs, not less so.

      Faith means trust. It is literally a synonym for trust. Hence "Breaking faith" as a synonym for betrayal or reneging on an agreement.

      Having faith in a god means having trust they'll hold up whatever end of the bargain you've been taught they've made with you or your culture.
      Last edited by Stephen Lea Sheppard; 12-15-2017, 02:30 PM.

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      • #48
        Originally posted by Voyd211 View Post
        I'm a Christian.

        Despite this, I love Exalted, and one of my favorite ideas in 2e was a Zenith who's basically a gospel singer. Maren Juu (one of my characters) is a priest of the Unconquered Sun in truth; she sings songs of praise to him, leads others in these songs, and her entire Motivation is to lead all the people of Creation in a mighty chorus praising him. Even before she Exalted, she was a little like Saint Paul (except more musical).
        Sounds like a good Zenith concept to me.

        (I don't think it's really "despite"; Exalted isn't an anti-Christian game. It's not Myfarog. Neither me nor the other Christian in our gaming group have ever found it offensive towards us really. Not being euro-fantasy means it avoids featuring an evil and somewhat anachronistic Christianity-expy. Exalted is nice and un-exclusionary. Which is somewhat deliberate, but I think also just a product of how much better researched the fluff is, so it avoids lazy stereotypes more than a lot of games do.)


        Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard
        Throughout most of history of Abrahamic religion, the idea of the Abrahamic God's unverifiability would be nonsensical -- theologians went to elaborate lengths to construct logical and philosophical "proofs" of God's existence or various true statements about God's nature, and the idea that such truths are somehow invalid because they're just thought experiments not backed up by empirically verifiable physical experimental evidence is, itself, an anachronism if you assume it's in place before the ascension of the formal scientific method in use today.
        A good point, and on top of that, many medieval people would consider it proved with (although they wouldn't use these words) verifiable physical evidence; after all, haven't lots of people personally witnessed miracles, angels, messages from Christ, etc, etc.


        So, to actually get back to the game (I don't really want to start a long argument about real-world religion), this is really no different from gods in Exalted, except that they are a)more in your face, b)more corrupt, and c)more likely to beat you up for insulting them.
        Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 12-15-2017, 03:17 PM.


        "Wizard of Oz, you really are a wizard!"

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        • #49
          Like I said, Marten Juu is a gospel singer. She loves to sing (and has an orichalcum guitar to back it up), she loves the Unconquered Sun, and she wants to share this love with everyone.

          It's even her Virtue Flaw, because she'll keep it up in places where it's a REALLY bad idea to let her faith be known.


          The Teller of Tales, and the Weaver of Dreams

          Behold! My 2e characters.

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          • #50
            I think the biggest issue with religion in Exalted (which is to say, piety, or faith in the gods themselves) isn't that the gods are too concrete. It's that they're largely presented as tedious, lying assholes. Terrible people being terrible can still be funny, but first and foremost they need to be interesting, and a lot of them come across as utterly-banal instead.

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            • #51
              I think there has been more religion in the game's past then is being credited (even if less than there could be, and hopefully there will be more in future), but not quite resembling the picture of religion suggested in the original post, because that picture is, if not a historical anomaly, then still not exactly universal. It's hard to be comprehensive about what constitutes religion, but I would still venture that much of the basic premise of the gods in Exalted doesn't quite lend itself to religion of the type and organisation that would be most familiar to a 21st century Christian. A lot of it is going to be more cosmopolitan or provincial, depending on where you happen to live, and religious fervor is going to be shaped a lot by the kinds of messages that these kinds of gods are generally selling.

              ​I mean, it's not all cynicism and mercenary intentions, but it's still not exactly been an environment in which preaching love and tranquillity has the most room to grow.


              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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              • #52
                Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post

                Having faith in a god means having trust they'll hold up whatever end of the bargain you've been taught they've made with you or your culture.
                ​Which also touches on how even Judaism and Christianity (I'm uncertain about Islam) aren't devoid of at least a bit of transactional rhetoric, considering the significance of that whole Covenant thing.

                ​EDIT: Actually, scratch that about Islam; even if I don't know how the religion refers to the idea of Covenant, I at least know that it includes a narrative in which Mohammad was called up to Heaven to be instructed on how frequently people were supposed to pray, and managed to bargain God down from the original, more extreme figure down to just five times.


                I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                • #53
                  The covenant is a very good point, and one I was thinking about before.

                  Since the covenant of the Old Testament is essentially "choose me as your only God, get blessings (tons of descendants, an awesome country, etc)" why is it not the same as how business-like gods can seem in Exalted games?

                  And I think this is somewhat similar to feudalism. You pay your tax to the King, he protects you and renders judgement fairly and whatever... and again, this doesn't quite seem business-like. In fact, a lot of medieval relations were based on these two-sided agreements, with contracts explaining what a lord and his vassal had as their duties.

                  So, I guess it must be the way it's portrayed. There's no particular reason why a god demanding worship in return for blessings should seem as business-like as it can be, it's just depends how it's shown.

                  I should also say that, partly this is a game thing. What I mean is, it often seems to boil down to even more of a business transaction in the game than it's portrayed to be. Perhaps that's because the Exalts are as powerful, or frequently more powerful, than the spirit they're talking to.
                  And negotiation. That's a somewhat non-religious idea (unless your god is a trickster-archetype. Or you are).

                  Originally posted by Thesaurasaurus View Post
                  I think the biggest issue with religion in Exalted (which is to say, piety, or faith in the gods themselves) isn't that the gods are too concrete. It's that they're largely presented as tedious, lying assholes. Terrible people being terrible can still be funny, but first and foremost they need to be interesting, and a lot of them come across as utterly-banal instead.
                  I'll be honest, while I don't think this is entirely true (there are some quite interesting ones... including assholes. Ahlat is well done, though he is absolutely an asshole), I have found it be a bit true. Generally speaking, I've found plots with gods a bit boring compared to other types of plot. You'd think it'd be the opposite, because of how varied they can be, but in the game I play I've never found plots with gods as interesting as plots with ghosts, demons, pure-bred Lintha, a crazed emperor, my own evil clone (the twist was that actually I was the clone all along!), a Dragon King cult, etc.
                  To the extent that I no longer am much interested in playing a shaman (that was my character for ages, but I just found the actual shamanic stuff not that riveting). The other players would tell me to go negotiate with some god, and I just did not care.

                  Similarly, in the game I ran, I could just never get as into the gods as NPCs as I could with exalts, ghosts, mortals, mutants, etc.

                  In fact, looking at the Scroll of Glorious Divinininity, I found the elementals much more interesting than the gods.

                  But... I can't quite put my finger on why I found them less interesting, tbh.


                  "Wizard of Oz, you really are a wizard!"

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                    Since the covenant of the Old Testament is essentially "choose me as your only God, get blessings (tons of descendants, an awesome country, etc)" why is it not the same as how business-like gods can seem in Exalted games?
                    The only substantial difference is that in Exalted the gods' own livelihood directly depends on you keeping your end of the bargain whereas Judaism doesn't typically consider G-d to be personally getting anything out of the deal (He merely wants you to keep up your end because reasons). Functionally, though, yeah it's pretty much the same thing.

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                    • #55

                      Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post

                      Admittedly, that is generally true, though if you read non-western fantasy you get slightly more, though that's difficult to access. Historically-based fantasy can be a bit better too (but then of course, the poor understanding of religion is even more obvious when it happens; if your fantasy religion doesn't really fit the real-world religion it's modelled off, well, it's just a fantasy world. If you're doing a fantasy story set in 1000AD England and you have a poor understanding of 1000AD English and Danish forms of Christianity, it's rather jarring).

                      But I think this is partially in the same vein as how fantasy protagonists tend to have very modern, secular worldviews generally. I mean, how often do you get a fantasy protagonist who is terribly sexist? Or hates a rival ethnic group? Or has an honour-based morality (okay, you get that a little, because it makes for drama, but not massively). Not to mention the genius characters who work out something we all know.
                      You only really get that stuff a lot if you read classical works of fantasy/drama.

                      I have sometimes seen somewhat decent consideration of religion in sci-fi, but that's a bit different.
                      Interesting to bring in sci-fi, as it does make me think of the comparisons and crossover between sci-fi and secondary world fantasy, where in both cases it feels like quite a few of the authors involved tend to be quite rationalistic thinkers who are, even within our social context, tending to be on the less devotionally religious side of things, and with more interest in rational construction (even as opposed to urban fantasy?).

                      Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post
                      The idea that faith means belief in the unverifiable or "Believing what you know ain't so" is largely the invention of modern religious thought in the face of scientific knowledge shrinking the space in which the God Of The Gaps can exist. Throughout most of history of Abrahamic religion, the idea of the Abrahamic God's unverifiability would be nonsensical -- theologians went to elaborate lengths to construct logical and philosophical "proofs" of God's existence or various true statements about God's nature, and the idea that such truths are somehow invalid because they're just thought experiments not backed up by empirically verifiable physical experimental evidence is, itself, an anachronism if you assume it's in place before the ascension of the formal scientific method in use today. For a long time, logical proofs were considered more sound than experimental proofs, not less so.
                      Not totally wrong, but I would argue you are edging towards simplification to imagine that before modern science, there was not a rich dialogue going on within theologians, about the importance of non-rational, and rationally unprovable, revelation. (Revelation and personal spirituality and faith in ideas that you cannot reason your way towards were not taken to be something that was unnecessary in the face of sufficient reason.)

                      The idea of faith as belief in revelation and personal experience of spirituality that overrides the rational is not ersatz modern development to cope with science; people in the past well before modern science were well aware that revelation and spirituality was radically at odds with rational experience, and they developed ideas around this which have long are part of religious faith.

                      (I'm struggling a little to not crudely represent this but it feels like in the raw form your have presented it you may have the risk of getting towards some kind of "Conflict Thesis" in which Christian or Abrahamic religion, after the birth of modern science, is seen as allied to a kind of force against scientific "progress", and the idea of "faith" - belief in living power of revelation and personal spiritual experience over the rational - is close to a kind of willful ignorance.)

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                      • #56
                        AFAIK then in old rome, ancient greek and what have you, then religion was very much a "tit for tat" deal. If worshiping god A didn't yield results, then you'd go worship another god to see if that worked any better

                        Rando rice farmers in the hundred kingdoms will thus likely only bother to worship their own local harvest gods, because... why pray to anything else? they probably don't need the help of any other gods.


                        Malfeas F'Tagn - go check out my epic MLP/Exalted crossover "The Scroll of Exalted ponies" @ Fimfiction

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                        • #57
                          Originally posted by Thesaurasaurus View Post
                          I think the biggest issue with religion in Exalted (which is to say, piety, or faith in the gods themselves) isn't that the gods are too concrete. It's that they're largely presented as tedious, lying assholes. Terrible people being terrible can still be funny, but first and foremost they need to be interesting, and a lot of them come across as utterly-banal instead.
                          Seemed to work just fine with the Greeks, who as I gather did a lot of their religion under a premise of threat by gods who were, well, jerks and held humans to higher standards than themselves. This is something of a trope I find in Japanese media as well.


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                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Blaque View Post
                            Seemed to work just fine with the Greeks, who as I gather did a lot of their religion under a premise of threat by gods who were, well, jerks and held humans to higher standards than themselves. This is something of a trope I find in Japanese media as well.
                            The Greek gods were portrayed as actually consequential, and also not as susceptible to getting murdered by the people they threatened as gods in Exalted. I'd like more reasons to interact with gods in Exalted in a non-murdery capacity, because when PCs get involved, the threat of divine retribution only goes so far.

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Thesaurasaurus View Post

                              The Greek gods were portrayed as actually consequential, and also not as susceptible to getting murdered by the people they threatened as gods in Exalted. I'd like more reasons to interact with gods in Exalted in a non-murdery capacity, because when PCs get involved, the threat of divine retribution only goes so far.

                              I mean...Diomedes nearly killed Aphrodite and Ares, Achilles killed a river god(or wrestled him to near death, I forget).


                              I did a lot of homebrew over here. PEACH.

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by Epee102 View Post
                                I mean...Diomedes nearly killed Aphrodite and Ares, Achilles killed a river god(or wrestled him to near death, I forget).
                                I said, "not AS susceptible"! Basically I'm looking for reasons for PCs to treat a god any differently than they would any other petty tyrant - reasons other than "you risk creating a power vacuum" or "mumble mumble Wyld something".

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