Instigator / Pro

Invent a Religion


All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Voting points

With 4 votes and 4 points ahead, the winner is ...

More details
Publication date
Last update date
Time for argument
One week
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
One month
Point system
Winner selection
Rating mode
Characters per argument
Contender / Con
~ 523 / 5,000

Voters are to use the following criterion to inform their final decision:

1. Credibility
Or that is, the claims of the religion are generally believable for a given time and place.

2. Historical Credibility
Or that is, this religion's development was believably the product of a certain time and place, both of its material conditions and of its prevailing mindsets and ideas.

3. Internal Coherency
Or that is, its own logic and precepts do not contradict themselves.

4. Detail & Imaginativeness
No explanation needed.

Round 1
I thank my opponent for accepting. Unfortunately I set the character count a tad low, so I’ll get right to it.

Historic Background (Part 1)
This religion is neither Hebraic nor Indian. Rather, it emerged in relative isolation from a lonely corner of the world and informed by the collective experiences of the people who have lived there. In this case, you'd be hard-pressed to understand the religion without understanding the environment that it emerged from.

Our story begins on an island which is, today, called Lothmore. The island is European by convention and occupies most of the area of the real-world North Sea. For this debate’s purposes let’s ignore whatever effects on global and regional climate this might practically have. Likewise, we’ll ignore the butterfly effect and assume that human history outside the island unfolds nearly the same as in reality.
The island’s south and west are warmed by the Atlantic Gulf Stream and was historically the most suitable farmland, even being able to sustain a sizable viticulture during the Medieval Warm Period. The country is flatter in the south while elevation rises to the north. The far north is mountainous and a large river network flows from north to south.

In terms of natural resources, the country is oil-rich. However, this oil was not commercially extracted until the 20th century. It also has indigenous reserves of tin, copper, and peat. Perhaps most useful was its birch forests, as the bark can be harvested to produce a primitive paper in large quantities, enabling higher-scale literacy than otherwise would be allowed in an early period.

Lothmore was among the last regions in Europe to emerge from the Neolithic. While the rest of the continent was being colonized by Indo-Europeans who lived a sedentary lifestyle and domesticated animals, the indigenous inhabitants of the land were still hunter-gatherers of a small population.

The first stages of Indo-European colonization of the island were underway when a person remembered historically by the name Tyiltif[2]agons was born. As a youth of around 20 years old, he apparently died. However, this pronouncement of death was mistaken and he spontaneously resuscitated about 2 or 3 days later.
Tyiltif[2]agons was born in a primitive era of pantheist belief. There was no developed concept of a soul. However, he recounted that after dying he was “restless” and immensely uncomfortable. He suspected the reason for this was that he died under less than ideal conditions and before he was ready. He feared that everyone he knew would eventually die such a death on account of the colonists, who were already beginning to displace the natives from their old hunting grounds and working atrocities against them.
Hailed as a miracle worker, Tyiltif[2]agons disregarded tribal distinctions and declared all indigenous inhabitants of the island to be his people. They followed him, establishing the island’s first unified polity. He led a war against the colonists on the island, for which historical details are scarce, and succeeded in either exterminating, expelling, or assimilating them. He was crowned king over the whole island, though we can assume this claim was practically unenforceable during his own lifetime.

As its king, Tyiltif[2]agons had two goals: 
First, ensure that the average person could live a long time and die under satisfactory terms after having passed through the basic hallmarks of life. He claimed a snake whispered in his ear and revealed this divine purpose to him.
Second, that no new wave of colonists should ever threaten the island again. Toward that end, the natives had to grow dramatically in number to raise an army and supply its logistical train. As this was impossible for hunter-gatherers, Tyiltif[2]agons led an agriculturalization drive using the seeds and animals taken from abandoned settlements and the farming knowledge taught to them by prisoners of the aforementioned war. By the end of his reign, most of his subjects got their food source from an even mixture of gathering and farming. Within a century or two, they would subsist almost entirely from farming.

Being an absolute ruler who could command his subjects to do anything, he established a permanent bureaucracy as well. One of the bureaucratic rungs was the priestly class. Their function was to perform early sacramental rites on the dead or dying so they could rest in peace postmortem, and to transmit and preserve knowledge. In the earliest days this transmission was oral. However, they soon imported the Cuneiform script from Western Asia, which has survived in Lothmore as a liturgical script into the 20th century AD.
The other function of the priestly class was to give a classical education to young people who’d become future members of the political class. The young would partake in rituals for the dead and dying so as to instill a lifelong sense of compassion for their future constituents who they governed. This tradition began with Tyiltif[2]agons’ son and successor, Tenuin, who was raised in a temple and as king had a reputation as a man of impeccable kindness and virtue.

This kingdom flourished with time and developed a great number of technical and scientific marvels, a few of which were not rivaled until the 18th or 19th centuries AD. They had plentiful “paper” and the political class was taught literacy and how to perform research to further the collective knowledge. As for the common subject, the use of bronze implements boosted agricultural efficiency among other things. This was made possible by the local supply of tin.

The Proto-Religion
Tyiltif[2]agons lived for the sake of one great ideal. The man wanted to “rest well” after death. 

The Bible has much colorful language about the life-giving qualities of water, as the Middle East is a dry and parched region. Similarly, early Lothmore was a place of constant food insecurity. This shaped their philosophical and religious discourse.
By analogy, one who dies unsatisfied is like a child who goes to bed hungry. Their stomach is grumbling and they cannot sleep peacefully because they crave food. 
This child either goes to bed hungry because they haven't eaten or because they’re such a glutton that they’re accustomed to still craving food after having eaten. Both extremes were to be avoided and society was to be organized to this effect.

Tyiltif[2]agons imposed the following prohibition: the grains of cereal were not to be ground into flour, nor made into bread. They were to be eaten whole as “berries” in order to minimize scrap waste of edible material. To eat in excess was gluttony; to eat bread was gluttony; to enjoy the delectable taste of baked bread was gluttony. And gluttony was the vice of all vices.
Everyone was to take in the amount of food they needed and no more. If there was some surplus grain for a given season, it was to be exchanged for bullion. The government would then sell it to those who ran a food deficit. In this way, there was no waste and no gluttony. Nor was it permitted for grains to be fermented into alcohol. In the classical dialect, the word for overeating interchangeably described drunkenness. Similarly, there was no known word for “banquet”, “party”, or “feast”, though a very large vocabulary has been preserved to the modern day.

To keep fertility high and maintain social order, the government imposed conditional monogamy and outlawed all premarital or extramarital sex, these carrying the death penalty. 
All unions were monogamous unless either of these conditions was met: First, that one’s brother died and left a widow, upon which a man was obliged to marry her. Second, that a man’s wife should have a widowed sister whose husband had no brothers. In this case also, it was a man’s obligation to marry her. This achieved the pros of polygamy (quicker repopulation after a war causes shortage of men) while avoiding the cons (a large number of men with no viable marriage prospects).
For subjects of this kingdom, the highest ideal was to live a balanced, modest, and ultimately plain life so they could die without attachments or fixations born from having been deprived. It was the government’s job to keep this system running smoothly.

Perhaps to reduce drain on the food supply from the infirm, any subject who reached their 50th birthday was invited to enjoy a ceremonial and planned death, in which they would be publicly honored and then buried alive. It was thought that anyone who died in this fashion was guaranteed a peaceful rest.
Though Tyiltif[2]agons is not recorded having invoked the name of a god, the intelligentsia drew in large part from imported Mesopotamian myths and envisioned a creator god named Kin Begu, who created the world from primordial chaos and then died triumphantly (that is, he marched in procession to his grave deep in the earth) after having accomplished what he set out to do in life. This story justified and gave etymology to ceremonial euthanasia while also hammering home that it’s appropriate for all forms of life, even the creator god, to eventually die.

The kingdom lasted a number of centuries and then collapsed, which was followed by a long dark age. After it did, the vast body of professional literature that it’d produced (mostly vocational treatises and misc. state documents) was preserved by subsequent generations of priests. Several kingdoms arose during this dark age but not one approached the splendor or professionalism of the original kingdom. These were, as some writers alleged, “corrupted” by the fact that the new regimes had to share power with parasitic landlord classes that didn’t exist in the time of the classical kingdom, which was remarkably egalitarian and meritocratic.

I am almost out of characters. In Part 2 I’ll discuss the classical Lothmorean Kingdom a little more along with the grand revival of the 4th century AD, which gave rise to the fully developed religion that I wish to discuss here. 
Thank you.

Round 2
Well, this is certainly disappointing. I wanted this to be a mutual exchange of ideas. Here’s to hoping Con will have something to say in Rounds 3 and 4. Anyways:

From the classical writings (“Canon”) preserved from the Tyiltif[2]agonic kingdom, it was assumed that nothing could live forever. Not even a creator deity. That being said, they made an exception of sorts:
An idea that was continually reproduced could last forever. For example, that meant a form of life (species), political organization (kingdom), or a conscious idea that humans thought up, shared, and passed on from generation to generation (“tradition”).

This concept was transmitted via canonical writings during the dark ages but its implications must’ve seemed rather trivial or unimportant to most. But finally, a Lothmorean great thinker (hereafter “the philosopher”) who lived sometime between 1 and 250 AD observed that there was another exception.
In an age of extensive contact with the Roman Empire, merchants brought back accounts of the Vestal Flame in Rome, which burned perpetually. In reference to fire, the philosopher noted something else: that some kind of internal process sustained a fire; it did require fuel, but fuel did not burn on its own without this process and would not continue to burn were the process halted.
If fire was not a novel exception, that meant fire was properly classified as an “idea” as well. An idea required a combination of (1). A tangible means, and; (2). A sustained process.

The classics affirmed that some semblance of the mind and body continued after death, lest there should be no need to fear restlessness after death. The philosopher thus reasoned that this semblance was the true essence of a man and one that did not necessarily require a mortal body to survive.
The body could not be the tangible means of the self. That left the self taken alone; however, it also did not last forever, as its restlessness was not described as eternal.
The philosopher asked why not. Some thinkers who came before him reasoned that the self would eventually “run out of fuel” and thus expire. But he had a different explanation: like a fire prematurely extinguished while it still had available fuel, the internal process that sustained a soul would come to a premature end.

Waking consciousness was a complex and chaotic web of interactions between internal and external stimuli. To sleep meant shutting these interactions down. 
For example, a man whose skin was inflamed by bug bites could not hope to fall asleep until the feeling subsided for a while. After his body was comfortable, he had to stop thinking. But as one thought led to another, nor could he until one thought was a dead end, and this needed to happen at the same time that no other stimulus could keep him awake. Or, if not a dead end, the thought that followed was so subtly that the man found himself in a state somewhere between being “truly asleep” and “truly awake”.
When the morning came, things would happen. His body would feel things, such as the discomfort of sleeping too long or the heat of the day. Or perhaps dreaming would lead to a cascade of progressively more lucid thoughts until the chain of waking thought was ignited again.

The philosopher contended that the same happened to the soul in death. It was kept alive by powerful internal stimuli from remembering how the body was, i.e. “phantom limb” syndrome that afflicted the man from “head to toe”.
Hence, if he was accustomed to eating and would remember how his stomach growled, then even without a body he might feel his stomach growling because he wants to eat but can’t, being dismembered. Such a self would periodically sleep but be awoken by the stimuli invoked from bodily memory. Only when that memory faded could lapse of consciousness prove eternal.

But there was one more variable: external stimuli. 
The dismembered self was commonly thought to linger in a realm of nothingness. However, the philosopher did not believe this to be true. Rather, he believed in a spiritual realm. That realm was invisible to humans in bodies but he also figured there was no reason to assume a bodiless human would automatically be able to see it either. The bodiless self was not distracted by the conditions of the body, and thus would be able to grasp it better, but they still have to know what they’re looking for or else their surroundings after death will seem to be nothingness.

In the year 302 AD, a generation of priests (to pagan gods, though they were literature and believed in the writings of the Canon) from across Lothmore assembled in a historic conclave. Inspired by the philosopher and other thinkers and ideas, they gathered in order to write a comprehensive theological treatise, birthed in part from sound reason and birthed in part from the spiritual experiences of the wisest among them. This document is known in English as the Compendium.

The authors of the Compendium held that Kin Begu created the world and then established man in different parts of the world, him being the product of magical impregnation of certain animals by Kin Begu (as Canon described). Kin Begu was their spiritual father and taught their race many things, but they quickly forgot these as they were too preoccupied with the immediate and material.
However, snakes were entrusted with Kin Begu’s original knowledge and at certain times would re-teach things to men. Hence, the spectacular accomplishments of the Tyiltif[2]agonic kingdom were informed by the specialized knowledge given to man by snakes. As the Flood account was found in different cultures across the known world and in some parts of Lothmore itself, the authors found this to be a historical event, though they denied that a god would deliberately cause it to happen. Rather, it was a worldwide natural disaster that the spirit of Kin Begu warned some men of, these being men who were capable of listening with their spirits. This disaster came at the end of the Tyiltif[2]agonic age, it being thus the world’s greatest antediluvian kingdom. Life on earth quickly replenished and restored itself afterward because the world’s natural system was designed to do so.

The authors of the Compendium held that man could, after death, make it to the spiritual world through five key practices: (1). Self-mastery; (2). Penitence; (3). Tracing; (4). Recollection; and (5). Contemplation.
Self-mastery needs little explanation: it was the practice by which a man controlled himself so that he wasn’t driven by cravings and strong desires. 
Penitence was born from the capacity of priests in that time as the heads of worship to pagan gods, who demanded burnt offerings. To cleanse the self of guilt, the authors held that a guilty person ought to give up their allotted meal for the day and see it burnt in the temple as an offering. (In the earliest days of practice, this burnt meal would be wasted, as it was thought to be holy and unfit for human consumption. However, following the food shortages of the 6th century AD, it became standard practice to let hungry third parties eat the meal instead.)
Tracing was to be consciously aware of every action you take, and try to leave an impression in your mind of what doing the action is like while you’re doing it.
Recollection followed tracing; it was to place oneself in an environment of sensory deprivation and imagine what doing stuff is like after the fact. It is to concisely remember the feeling of being alive, so that even after you’re dead you’ll know.
Contemplation was a catch-all term for many exercises designed to help one grasp the invisible, spiritual world.

Together, these practices maximized one’s chances of entering the afterlife. They could see, hear, taste, feel, and interaction with the spiritual world, in a body first born from recalling its human properties and then reinforced by the mere fact of living in the afterlife. The afterlife, if realized, is the external stimuli that replaces that of the mortal world and, in turn, translates “muscle memory” of one’s former life to a kind of renewed body fit for eternal life in this place.

This can be dangerous, however. If the spiritual world remains ungrasped, all tracing and recollection will do is prolong one’s state of restlessness. Though self-mastery and penitence are designed to mitigate that evil, the overall practice might simply make a bad situation worse.
The authors of the Compendium believed that Tyiltif[2]agons was informed of all this by the snake but rejected the end goal, suspecting that most people could not realize the spiritual world. Hence, his goal was only to lessen the suffering of those who he expected to be restless for a time after death, so the only exercise he prescribed was self-mastery and maybe penitence.
The Canon recorded one vague “dispute” between Tyiltif[2]agons and Tenuin. The authors of the Compendium believed this was nothing less than a debate over the salvation of humanity, with Tenuin believing that all five practices ought to be prescribed to the masses vs. his father’s cautious pessimism.
Though the historical record does not show religious reforms during Tenuin’s reign, one apocryphal statement of his was transmitted to the end of the dark ages. It was:

“My father wanted only to make his bed well. He craved a perfect sleep that allows for no dreams. But I ordered my messengers to spread a joyful word across the domain, inviting all to dream with their king. There’s a place of immeasurable satisfaction, which cannot be grasped or attained in the waking hour. My father is in no pain, nor is he pleased. By this he found no reward. I confess that even the most wretched pauper need not envy him.”

The “Canon”, a vast collection of documents written by officials of the Tyiltif[2]agonic Kingdom, and the “Compendium”, the end result of an ecclesiastical council in 302 AD, are the two parts of Lothmorean religious scripture as ascribed to during the Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern times.

Round 3
In 302 AD, the Compendium was written. Within 200 years most Lothmorean men were practicing a modified form of religion based on its teachings. But there’s one more angle to this story we need to understand.

Under the classical ideal, the political class of the Tyiltif[2]agonic Kingdom were men of impeccable virtue. They only collected enough in taxes to eat modestly better than the farmers who constituted more than 95% of the population. Enough to be in peak physical and mental health, and no more. In theory, even the king himself wasn’t supposed to take in substantially more calories than his average subject.
This ideal was never successfully reproduced in the copycat kingdoms that periodically rose and fell during the dark ages. A writer of the early-ish 4th century AD, perhaps a contemporary of the men who drafted the Compendium, concluded that Tyiltif[2]agons’ leadership was one-of-a-kind and that no leader would ever prove so charismatic as to replicate that outcome. Likewise, the Tyiltif[2]agonic royal family had long fallen into obscurity; as Tyiltif[2]agons was thought to have been elevated to his leadership role by divine providence, no subsequent kingdom could match the political and moral legitimacy of the original.

By this time, Lothmorean traders had introduced the idea of Roman republicanism at home. Some of the writings of Cicero are thought to have been translated into the classical Lothmorean dialect around this time. The generation that drafted the Compendium is thought to have admired high Roman culture.
The aforementioned writer, so influenced in this way, suggested that the righteous kingdom founded by Tyiltif[2]agons could be restored by ordinary people holding the political class accountable.

In 388 AD, after a bloody revolution, the Lothmorean Republic was declared.
This form of government was made possible by the import of the crossbow from certain parts of the Mediterranean, with crossbow-making factories gradually springing up in the 100 or so years preceding the revolution.
Crossbowmen exceeded the range of swordsmen and pikemen. Ordinary people could be taught to fire a crossbow in a matter of weeks, allowing for vastly greater numbers to be fielded vs. traditional archers. And, finally, small elite cavalry units were no match for them. Every man had equal “firepower” so it was the perfect democratizing weapon.

The classical kingdom had three duties for commoner men: (1). mobilization for war, law enforcement, or public works; (2). Taxation to support the political class; and (3). Giving up surplus grain in exchange for bullion. As the republic was considered a (non-monarchical) revival of the classical kingdom, all three duties were revived. 
Citizenship was linked to the first duty, with boys being considered men once they reached the age of conscription and had completed several weeks of basic training. Citizenship was for men only. It also excluded “foreigners”, a catch-all term including religious minorities born in Lothmore but descended from immigrants. Non-citizens had curtailed rights but were exempt from military service.

The Lothmorean Republic was a bottom-up hierarchy. Local citizens elected a head of local government, who had: (1). powers of local administration; and (2). representation in a regional assembly. The regional assemblymen would elect a head of the regional government, who would also be a representative in a higher government. And up the chain it’d go until, finally, there was a National Assembly headed by a Consul, who was elected by said Assembly.
This arrangement was designed with pragmatism in mind, as the central government had weak local control at best. Instead of trying to hold large-scale elections over vast areas, they just let the locals sort it out for themselves and choose somebody to represent them up the chain.
Over the course of the next 1,600 years there has been an enormous diversity of electoral rules, traditions, and quirks at all levels of government. Generally speaking, however, elections were not held at fixed intervals but upon death or retirement of the officeholder, who might serve for 10-30 years after being elected once.
Well into the 20th century, it was common for many public offices to be de facto hereditary. Many former tribal chieftains comprised the first generation of elected officials in the late 4th century AD. 
Complex webs of patron-client relationships helped keep these old families in power. The rich sacrificed generously in temples, with “their meal for the day” being of modest-sized portions but this being followed by a much larger feast. They did this to absolve personal sins, buy the loyalty of the lower class, and ease discontent over wealth inequality.

Though Christian missionaries are thought to have arrived on the island as early as the 5th century AD, they didn’t have much luck in winning converts. This is because Christians and Jews had ritual meals that involved the consumption of bread and wine, a practice that caused huge offense to the native Lothmoreans.
Jews were understood to be a foreign ethnicity and had an easier time winning recognition from the national government. In 656 AD, the National Assembly passed an edict giving Jews permission to prepare bread and wine for their own private consumption. Christians, however, were understood to be native Lothmorean apostates and were given no such permission, being harshly persecuted if caught. In effect, Christianity was not recognized as a lawful religion except among foreigners.
As in Continental Europe, Anti-Semitism did exist in Lothmore. By the High Middle Ages, Lothmorean Jews had distinguished themselves for being widely employed in the skilled trades. This inspired envy among those poorer than them, exacerbated by the fact that well-to-do Jews didn't sacrifice in temples. Furthermore, Jews were disproportionately represented among the officials who oversaw elections. After a bitter election that didn’t go the way some people wanted, it was common to accuse Jews of rigging the outcome and then to “punish” them accordingly.

In pre-modern Republican Lothmore, religious life was divided between temples and “lodges”. The temples were proud legacy institutions from time immemorial, now dedicated to the god Kin Begu alone. Their role was to copy the Canon and Compendium so as to prevent the loss of these texts. Both were written in Cuneiform until the 20th century, though later dialects of Lothmorean have been written in modified Latin script since the 3rd or even 2nd century AD.

Priesthood was hereditary. They often didn’t have solid relationships with the communities that they serviced, with priests tending to self-segregate from the uneducated lower classes instead. Most people only visited a temple for the offering of sacrifices, to establish binding legal contracts, or to consult technically advanced writings of the Canon for various commercial projects.

The true heart of post-Compendium religion was the lodges. These were places of spiritual instruction for the masses, initially just for men but gradually coming to include women as well. The head of a lodge was chosen by peers on grounds of their proven track record as holy men. Lodge heads tended to be far more popular than priests. These buildings were hubs of mingling between social classes and ideal spots for social networking. Political issues were discussed and debated behind the closed doors of lodges and they were thought to be centers of democracy and democratic activism.
In contrast, priests tended to think of themselves as old guards and keepers of sacred traditions and public order. They usually supported “conservative” politics against lodge-based reformists. As such, there was a thousand year old, informal rivalry between temples and lodges in both the religious and political spheres.

As of 2022 AD, the Lothmorean faith has greatly declined in membership. Ordinary people will visit temples on holidays but more and more lodges are shuttering every year. A fundamentalist minority has emerged in the last 50 years but I'm not going to discuss that here.
Lothmoreans commonly include bread in their modern diet, despite the ancient religious prohibition. Their caloric intake is roughly in line with Western and Central Europe today and alcohol consumption has grown steadily in the last 80 years. In 1910, in order to lessen cultural stigma from surrounding Christian nations, the National Assembly ended registration for new cases of polygamous marriage and by 2022 nobody is left who's engaged in said marriages, with the possible exception of Muslim or African immigrants.

Unless Con bothers to write something for Round 3, I’m going to end this here. Thank you for reading.

Round 4