Author Topic: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas  (Read 12255 times)

Incognito

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Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« on: July 11, 2013, 05:34:39 AM »
This topic has been discussed many times over the years. Superficial searches on the current and old GDB's have not revealed much on the subject, except the generic "find out IC". In any case, it's not a bad idea to review something from time to time.

Here's the issue:
Zalanthans apparently don't believe in Gods (as far as generally-available documentation points out).
Zalanthans apparently believe in (or against) powerful beings (who are understood to be currently alive.)
Certain portions of the Zalanthan population revere deceased ancestors / tribe members.
Certain beings who exhibit magickal abilities, do worship an "element".
A few pockets of beings do worship some larger aspects like "the land" or "nature" etc - but this isn't wide-spread.


The surprising (or illogical) part is:
Since the dawn of time, Zalanthans have no references to elemental deities.
Zalanthans do not seem to worship the Sun or Moons either.
Nor do Zalanthans worship any religious figures either based on race, creed or geographical location.
There is no concept of "good" and "evil" or "heaven and hell" or "salvation and damnation" in the Zalanthan psychology.
There is no personification or idolization or characterization of the elements. (i.e. I believe in "fire" - not "fire god" or "fire deity" or "some sort of manifestation of a higher pyro-based being".)
Zalanthans have not come up with the concept of a "higher being" or "higher power".


An absence of any of these sort of references, seems to indicate a deficiency in Zalanthan thought process since the dawn of time.
Don't Zalanthans think about where they've come from? Or who made them? Or where do they go once they die?
Don't Zalanthans contemplate why they have less and others have more? Why their crops died, and the neighbours' survived?
Don't Zalanthans believe in superstitions and luck?
Can people who are so technologically, psionically, magickally and commercially evolved, remain so blatantly backward spiritually?


Is this naturally possible, realistically? Or is it something that has been specifically and purposely omitted from the game?



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musashi

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2013, 05:45:49 AM »
It's a conspiracy perpetrated by the Evangelicals of the United States.

Once the game gets really popular they'll turn around point to it and say:

See that's what you get when you have a world without God, murder corruption and betrayal!
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HavokBlue

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2013, 06:16:50 AM »
If your neighbor's children are healthier than yours, they're probably wealthier. Or maybe they're a witch, and they've put a curse on you by sneezing in your direction.

If, despite being perfectly healthy, you come down with an illness, it was that merchant who you called a necker for being so cheap with his coins. He obviously used foul magick to poison you.

If, despite being perfectly healthy, your neighbor's annoying children come are suddenly infected with the plague, leaving everyone else in the tenement plague-free... the Highlord is smiling upon you and rewarding you for all your prayers and hard work.
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Qzzrbl

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2013, 06:20:31 AM »
Hmm.... This might be worth looking into!

In either city state, I can see the lack of spirituality. They're ruled by God-Kings, and putting your faith in anything else could well get you branded a heretic and dealt with accordingly-- and it's been that way since as far back as anyone can remember. Nobody in their right mind would deny love and devotion for their saviour King under a templar's gaze. I could see sun and moon worship in Tuluk though, as who else would give us such gifts of light than our almighty Muk Utep? Same goes for the black moon, in Allanak.

But what of people in Red Storm or Luir's?

Oh, and there's a whole page in the helpfiles dedicated to superstitions and whatnot. ;)

Lizzie

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2013, 07:22:16 AM »
I don't know if it's been retconned since I can't find it, or if it's just not yet been included on the new website. But there was a magick roleplaying doc at one point. It alluded to the concept of religious belief in Zalanthas. Note this doesn't mean religion. One can have a religious belief, and not categorize themselves into any particular religion. Sort of like, in real life terms, one does not have to be a Wiccan, in order to be a pagan. But Wiccans are pagan.

Religion implies a belief system, and in Zalanthas, it's not systemized. But there are religious beliefs. That's why there exist zealots who genuinely and sincerely worship Tektolnes and give their respects every morning at the steel dragon.

Note also that superstition and religious belief might be connected, but they are not the same thing. You can have superstition without a religious belief system. Bad things happen means the sorcerer-king of the other city caused it. Monumentally good things happening is the result of your sorcerer-king's benevolence. In Luir's, it's because the family Kurac is mighty. In Red Storm it's all about the Sandlord. The most high and mighty of each area gets the credit, and their enemy's most high and mighty takes the blame. And when you don't want to credit/blame the most high and mighty, then you can credit/blame a magicker or an element. They share almost equal responsibility for all the ills of the Known. When there's a nasty sandstorm that lasts for weeks, then it's obviously because Whira and Ruk are tossing in the furs again.

As to specific points: the previously aforementioned docs implied (though seemed pretty intentionally absent of clarity) that the elements themselves might be worshipped by some as deities. The player was left to roleplay their character's personal belief how they saw fit. Yes, Whira and Ruk and Nilaz etc. are elemental planes of existence where the elements come from. But - who's running those planes? What power or powers exist, to ensure that these planes don't come crashing down to the Known one day and explode the planet? Is there an answer? Is there even a theory? THAT is left to the player to decide.

And so yes, there is certainly room for individual religious beliefs about the elements. But there is no documented indication of any -organized- religious beliefs about the elements. Perhaps *that* is something you could explore (or create) IC.

Also, your Rinthi might very well believe in a higher power. But he'll also know to keep it on the down-low because any reference to anything other than Tek being the big-guy-in-charge would get him noticed. And for a rinthi, being noticed means being dead. There's no reason why you, as a player, can't have a character attempt to create a *system* of beliefs - aka an organized religion. You just have to accept that it probably will fail. Not guaranteed to fail unless the staff chimes in and says "thou shalt have no belief systems about anything, ever, anywhere in the game, period."

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Delusion

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2013, 07:54:34 AM »
Do you perhaps mean this, Lizzie?

http://armageddon.org/help/view/magick%20power

"The names of the powers, old folklore has it, are the seven great horns of God (though this reference, and the concepts involved, are hotly debated by scholars all across the Known World), and their names call the spirits to service."

Nyr

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2013, 08:42:12 AM »
From searches on the subject, I think there's a little more than "find out IC" out there.  At least one of these had to be moved to Archives (it was in Ask the Players, a now-defunct board).  As a side note, if anyone recalls particularly great discussions from Ask the Players, let me know.  I'll be going through there and moving the best ones over to Archives.

A link that has players discussing it in depth, from 2005
Ask the Staff post from 2010:  Religion in Allanak
Related player discussion originally in the Ask the Players forum from 2010
A player-created, player collaboration document on religion in Zalanthas:  2010
Note that I didn't really think that collaboration was the way it should go and commented as such there.

Some pertinent points I thought were worth a quote:

City-State: god = sorceror king.

Tribals: they have various beliefs and things that they worship already.

Kurac: spice?

I don't understand why you would think it necessary to have any of those things officially determined.

Develop your own liturgy.  The absence of an official documented one doesn't mean that you can't make one or even submit it.
Develop your own standard prayers.  See above.
Develop your own standard form of worship.  See above.
Develop your own beliefs about the god kings.  They could be wrong.  If heretical, they may get you killed.  Welcome to Zalanthas.
Develop your own holy days.  You can even do an RPT and invite people every year for it.
Find out a way to show your devotion yourself. 
Figure out why Muk Utep and Tektolnes don't explain officially who and what they are.  I'm not sure this would be IC for many characters, though.
Find out what goes on in the temple of the dragon yourself.  Can't see anything but a fountain and a white-robed templar?  When did these white robed templars appear?  Why are they there?  When did this happen?  You can figure all of this out by browsing the website at the very least.

Saying that you can't do these things is a cop out.

Players play what they want to play (within the reasonable boundaries of documentation); this stuff isn't documented because it's up to the players to determine it.

The one area I'd point out as a conflicting point is that Muk Utep and Tektolnes have no reason to explain what they are, and that Muk Utep and Tektolnes do appear to establish their worship in a de facto manner (there is nothing else to legitimately worship in a popular, open way in either city-state, therefore, they are worshiped).  Tektolnes has a temple devoted to him.  Devotions are done daily.  Utep's City is as full of zealots as Allanak, so how does this happen?  Make your own connections here.
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Nyr

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2013, 08:57:41 AM »
The surprising (or illogical) part is:
Since the dawn of time, Zalanthans have no references to elemental deities.

I doubt the rulers of either city-state would encourage that, so any such references would be something that would be stamped out or "underground."

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Zalanthans do not seem to worship the Sun or Moons either.

See above.

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Nor do Zalanthans worship any religious figures either based on race, creed or geographical location.

See above, except in the case of tribals where this actually isn't true.

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There is no concept of "good" and "evil" or "heaven and hell" or "salvation and damnation" in the Zalanthan psychology.

Unless you're a noble or a templar or even a family member of a great merchant house, your life essentially does not matter.  Good and evil are relative as it is and I think most Zalanthans would understand that or act on that.  Feel free to develop your own superstitions in-game, just recognize that there's no official ones that tie all or most Zalanthans together.

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There is no personification or idolization or characterization of the elements. (i.e. I believe in "fire" - not "fire god" or "fire deity" or "some sort of manifestation of a higher pyro-based being".)

This can be done on a personal basis if you'd prefer or if your character wished to do so, but otherwise, the reason is "see above."  There are at least a few logs that hint at this, too.

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Zalanthans have not come up with the concept of a "higher being" or "higher power".

They see the evidence of "higher power" in the city-states they dwell in, and both city-states actively would and do stamp out anything else, so...

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An absence of any of these sort of references, seems to indicate a deficiency in Zalanthan thought process since the dawn of time.

Nope.

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Don't Zalanthans think about where they've come from? Or who made them? Or where do they go once they die?

They sure could, and any widespread beliefs that would approximate a religion would (again) probably not be in the best interest of those in power, therefore it would be stamped out.

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Don't Zalanthans contemplate why they have less and others have more? Why their crops died, and the neighbours' survived?

Yeah.  If you have less and you're not highborn, it's because you're not highborn.  Highborn have more because they are better than you.  Higher social class people have more because they are better than you.  If your crops died, you'd probably blame some superstition that you are free to create.

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Don't Zalanthans believe in superstitions and luck?

We have a whole page on this.  I'm porting it over from the old site as we speak.  Edit:  Done!

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Can people who are so technologically, psionically, magickally and commercially evolved, remain so blatantly backward spiritually?

Yes, I think so.  Most of them.

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Is this naturally possible, realistically? Or is it something that has been specifically and purposely omitted from the game?

Realistically, yes.  See:  North Korea.  As for whether it has been specifically and purposefully omitted, there are references to that as well in some of the above linked posts...mostly that having religious conflict is boring and predictable.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 09:09:40 AM by Nyr »
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Desertman

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2013, 10:02:16 AM »
In my opinion the main difference is that in real life we live in a no-magic world. We have no other choice in terms of "finding a greater power to cling to like a crutch" when our lives are garbage and we can't hack it on our own. We have no choice but to look on high to the "heavens" for some mystical fantastical answer to it all.

That is where we get our comfort and our hope IRL, when we just don't have anywhere else to turn. (A lot of us anyways.)

In Zalanthas, you only need to look down the street to the nearest magic wielding templar of doom to find your "power greater than yourself that you can't explain that is there to protect you". You want to look a little further and you find a power so great that even those templars bend a knee to them and worship them unfailingly.

For a commoner, you have "Gods" among "Gods" to worship in your every day life in Zalanthas, just take your pick.
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ShaLeah

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2013, 11:48:56 AM »
Morning Devotions negates this post. Heathen!
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Cutthroat

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2013, 11:55:44 AM »
The sorcerer-king cults of personality in either city can basically serve as a religion to a character. How "religious" characters are about the Highlord/Sun King can vary widely, but most people need to at least feign piety. It's also different between Allanak and Tuluk - in Allanak you have devotions and talking about what Tektolnes has done, and in Tuluk you have Muk Utep to talk about and praise. They can have different qualities so they can even be worshipped differently.

Some tribes and groups might worship things that come a bit closer to earlier RL religions. There's probably not going to be an equivalent to Abrahamic religions IG (equal both in belief structure and widespread-ness - like Nyr said, any sort of belief system that doesn't have the Tektolnes/Muk Utep seal of approval is probably going to need to be hidden well). That arguably makes the setting more unique, instead of necessarily lacking for something.

Morrolan

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2013, 01:09:41 PM »
There's probably not going to be an equivalent to Abrahamic religions IG (equal both in belief structure and widespread-ness

Abrahamic religions require literacy among the priestly class. They also have an underlying idea that there is one universal truth for all places and times.

They are very unlikely to show up in the world of Zalanthas.
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Desertman

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2013, 01:19:12 PM »
Yeah, I thought I read somewhere that one of the main reasons that modern day religion is as deeply ingrained into our culture is due to the fact it came about when literacy was not common place. As I understood it, the "written word" was something that only the upper crest of society had access to create and as such among the common folks, starving, enslaved, and in general living a peon lifestyle, it had a very reverent appeal in their minds.

If someone so high up the chain of society took the time to write it down in that mystical scribbling it must hold a great amount of merit.

I had always kind of assumed that making literacy illegal was just one of the tools of the ruling castes in Armageddon to keep the peons stupid, and to keep them in awe of such a thing of power. The ability to read/write is an extremely powerful tool to any cult that wants to spread its word to the uninformed and uneducated masses.

Such is the way of real life history, such is the way of Zalanthan practice. 
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MeTekillot

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2013, 01:47:58 PM »
too bad they don't realize an educated populace is an extremely productive populace
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Qzzrbl

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2013, 01:52:32 PM »
too bad they don't realize an educated populace is an extremely productive populace

The aristocracy needs strong backs to further themselves.

Not strong, independant minds.

MeTekillot

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2013, 01:54:17 PM »
You don't need to feed a strong back so much if it figures out how to work more efficiently.
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Desertman

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2013, 01:57:03 PM »
You don't need to feed a strong back so much if it figures out how to work more efficiently.

Back food = Whips.
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Qzzrbl

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2013, 01:59:12 PM »
So long as the important bellies are full, I don't think they care.

Besides, a noble/merchant house covers nearly every aspect of anything, from construction to banking, to large-scale wars. Even parties and good times.

All the education is in the right places to keep stuff running smoothly while keeping the common man under an oppressive thumb, for the most part.

Back food = Whips.

Hah!

catchall

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2013, 02:30:05 PM »
Yeah, any abstract notion of "education" or "literacy" being universal goods because they increase "efficiency" strikes me as simply an ideology of modern capitalism where we basically worship money and economic growth.  I'm not even convinced it's entirely true.  Literacy is generally believed to have been like Zalanthas-level low in ancient Egypt.  But they still built the pyramids, the Sphinx, tombs full of dazzling artifacts, etc.

Even if it's true, and most Zalanthans would use literacy to increase their productive capacity (instead of just consuming tons of crappy pulp fiction, which is what people in the real world mostly did when literacy began to spread), how productive does the populace need to be?  Resources are scarce on Zalanthas. Why would the powers that be want Amos Commoner to become more efficient at extracting them?  The city-states have large free populations with a substantial mercantile class that isn't easily economically micromanaged and has considerable freedom of travel, meaning they can take their efficiently extracted resources elsewhere.  The city-states also aren't attempting to rapidly expand their boundaries, requiring some boom of educated architects.


Back on topic to the question of religion, it seems we're using a very modern conception of religion (up to and including a modern conception of ancient religions).  It's been quite common over history that monarchs are viewed as gods, or the representatives or manifestations of gods.  When the monarchs actually do possess overwhelming supernatural might, as on Zalanthas, it's no longer even necessary for them to be middlemen for some higher power.

Delirium

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2013, 02:37:31 PM »
Yeah, any abstract notion of "education" or "literacy" being universal goods because they increase "efficiency" strikes me as simply an ideology of modern capitalism where we basically worship money and economic growth.  I'm not even convinced it's entirely true.  Literacy is generally believed to have been like Zalanthas-level low in ancient Egypt.  But they still built the pyramids, the Sphinx, tombs full of dazzling artifacts, etc.

I feel compelled to mention that this is because they had educated aristocracy and lots and lots of slaves..
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LauraMars

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2013, 03:58:11 PM »
I feel like I'd prefer morning devotions in Zalanthas to the painfully awkward morning devotions I was dragged into as a child.
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racurtne

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2013, 04:11:30 PM »
Yeah, any abstract notion of "education" or "literacy" being universal goods because they increase "efficiency" strikes me as simply an ideology of modern capitalism where we basically worship money and economic growth.  I'm not even convinced it's entirely true.  Literacy is generally believed to have been like Zalanthas-level low in ancient Egypt.  But they still built the pyramids, the Sphinx, tombs full of dazzling artifacts, etc.

I feel compelled to mention that this is because they had educated aristocracy and lots and lots of slaves..

I feel compelled to mention that scholars now believe the pyramids/etc were not built by slaves but rather by normal people as a form of civil service. It appears that they were compensated for their time working on the project (one way in which they were compensated was BEER), and they rotated people in and out of the work.

Edit: Hmm, seems this hypothesis was discarded amended by some and the new theories involve lots of skilled laborers rotating in and out. Still, the massive numbers of slaves hypothesis has been pretty well discredited in recent years.

http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html?page=0,4 For those interested.

On topic: Bow down before the dragon, heathens!

Edited again for Patuk's comment below, because farmers working on the pyramids seems to be ruled out for the most part. Chinese silk, however, was often produced by the daughters (almost exclusively, silk production was done by women) of small-medium sized landowning farmers.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 05:22:14 PM by racurtne »
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chrisdcoulombe

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2013, 04:45:09 PM »
While grasping an ancient alter the figure in the black moon patterned robe says in sirihish: All hail the glory of the black moon, bringer of the kryl.  The sorcerer kings betray you, it is the black moon that gives us our power and we shall rise up with greater power.

The figure in a black moon patterned robe says to you in sirihish as he reaches for a dulled obsidian blade:  We offer you as a sacrifice, but you will be blessed by the black moon.  You are not the first, but you are one of his children and shall be rewarded.  Go to him!

The figure in black moon patterned robe utters an incantation

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Patuk

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2013, 04:48:23 PM »
Yeah, any abstract notion of "education" or "literacy" being universal goods because they increase "efficiency" strikes me as simply an ideology of modern capitalism where we basically worship money and economic growth.  I'm not even convinced it's entirely true.  Literacy is generally believed to have been like Zalanthas-level low in ancient Egypt.  But they still built the pyramids, the Sphinx, tombs full of dazzling artifacts, etc.

I feel compelled to mention that this is because they had educated aristocracy and lots and lots of slaves..

I feel compelled to mention that scholars now believe the pyramids/etc were not built by slaves but rather by normal people as a form of civil service. It appears that they were compensated for their time working on the project (one way in which they were compensated was BEER), and they rotated people in and out of the work.

Edit: Hmm, seems this hypothesis was discarded amended by some and the new theories involve lots of skilled laborers rotating in and out. Still, the massive numbers of slaves hypothesis has been pretty well discredited in recent years.

http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html?page=0,4 For those interested.

On topic: Bow down before the dragon, heathens!

Farmers in lots of places labored(and labor) on non-food related things. The chinese made silk, the egyptians made pyramids.
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Barzalene

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Re: Seeming lack of religion on Zalanthas
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2013, 05:16:43 PM »
There's probably not going to be an equivalent to Abrahamic religions IG (equal both in belief structure and widespread-ness

Abrahamic religions require literacy among the priestly class. They also have an underlying idea that there is one universal truth for all places and times.

They are very unlikely to show up in the world of Zalanthas.

Actually for years Jewish law was maintained by oral tradition, I believe.
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