Excerpt from the Core Book of FAITH: Religion
The Five Gods of the Universe are the most unique element of FAITH. No living being can say exactly what they are – five supreme entities sitting at the centre of Creation, a collective hallucination, or the manifest embodiment of belief itself – but few doubt they exist, or that they indeed affect the fates of mortals. Some try to deny their existence, but they cannot deny their power, even if said power can only manifest through their believers.
The Gods are the force behind every adventure, the hands behind the story, the power that makes heroes or monsters out of mortals depending on the one thing that belongs freely to every one of us – what we believe.
Some say there are as many Gods as there are minds, each God matching the being to whom they are connected. However, most people believe that there are only five Gods that take on many forms. Believers do not choose their God, nor do the Gods choose their believers. Instead, believers are linked to their Gods through their personalities. In FAITH, the Gods are not creators or allfathers. They are entities that surged from the collective conscience of beings that have found a similar reason to exist. The Gods came into existence at the very same time as their believers. Now, every new being that finds a reason to exist finds a similar God within him.
The Gods are powerful, but intangible; they exist only inside the minds of their believers, yet somehow they exist as a single entity in all of them. Gods have no body nor voice, nor do they have the capacity to affect the Universe directly. They can only do so through their believers, bestowing their gifts of power upon them, or taking those gifts away.
When two species meet in the vastness of space they know they will have at least one thing in common: they all have the same Gods.
Those who stay true to the path laid out before them by their God can expect great powers in exchange: abilities of a supernatural essence that defy reasoning or explanation. Throughout the centuries, different people from all species have studied the signs sent by the Gods and have written the commandments of each God accordingly.
Commandments: Rewards & Punishments
The Gods of FAITH are fickle beings. However, it is not rare for them to pay attention to their believers, who are the source of their power and their only way to mould the Universe to their desires. Gods can grant powers to their believers if they like their behaviour, or withdraw their support if their believers betray them.
Each God has a set of commandments that instruct followers on their God’s desires. While their specific interpretation may vary, it is commonly agreed that the Gods agree with many versions of the same concepts.
The wishes of the Gods are open to interpretation; as they lack a voice to speak, their desires are very much a matter of faith. Believers follow what they believe is just and it is proven that there are several correct interpretations of the commandments of each God.
Differences in beliefs are common between believers of the same God. Some differences are amicable, while others have driven different cults to war. Some religious wars have been fought by Soulbenders empowered by the same God on both sides. The common belief that explains this fact is that the Gods do not care much about the trifling differences their followers might have. They only care about making the world right in their own eyes, and in these wars they appreciate and support the righteousness of both sides.
The Nature of Gods
The Gods are the greatest power of the FAITH Universe, and its greatest mystery as well. Very few things are known for certain about them, apart from the fact they exist.
There are three principles about the Gods that most scholars agree upon, known as Da’ab’s laws after their first proponent, Iz’kal theologian Amir Da’ab:
- One: The Gods do exist, and there are no more and no less than five.
- Two: The Gods represent rational and moral values and philosophies.
- Three: The Gods grant unique abilities to some of their followers.
Other than the three Da’ab’s laws, nothing about the Gods is known for sure; not even their names, although Da’ab also created a system to give them universal names, which are generally accepted by all starfaring societies.
First Law: The Five Gods
There is ample evidence that Gods exist, mostly through their divine messages and the powers granted to their followers. Although they never communicate directly and only manifest their will or discontent through the powers they bestow, their influence is explicit and clear since there’s recorded history, and the near-universal agreement on their nature and power leaves no scientific doubt.
Most studies agree there are Five Gods, each of whom represents a very specific set of values.
- Ergon embodies cooperation, empathy, teamwork and social concerns.
- Hexia represents intuition, vision, learning, and self-improvement through knowledge.
- Kaliva is competence and competition, action and adaptability, strength and struggle.
- Vexal embodies change, freedom, passion, movement and hope.
- Ledger opposes all dogma and rules; He exists to undo whatever the other Four Gods do.
Second Law: Ideas Manifest
The most obscure and confusing of Da’ab’s laws is also the most important to understand the true nature of the Gods: they don’t rule over supernatural forces or the material world. They are the embodiment of philosophical tenets, ideas manifest, with powers made of pure belief.
Thus, each of the Gods represents a set of values or moral beliefs, which translate into expected behaviour. Theologians and believers call them Commandments. A God’s Commandments are guidelines to what His followers are expected to believe and how they are supposed to act. Believers are not supposed to pray or practice rites – they are supposed to hold their God’s viewpoint, defend His convictions and live by His set of values.
The Gods explicitly and visibly express their satisfaction with followers that obey their Commandments, and perceptibly punish those that don’t. This confirms that, whatever the Gods are, their ideas can, and do, alter objective reality.
Third Law: Divine Powers
When a God is pleased with His followers – that is, when their convictions match the God’s Commandments particularly closely – He grants them physical, visible manifestations of their faith. That is, the followers’ beliefs start altering and reshaping reality itself.
A very devout person can start noticing that time, space, matter and energy bend to accommodate his views – he can make the universe be as he thinks it is. In other words, if you believe hard enough, your belief affects reality.
Followers that manifest these powers are known as Soulbenders, as they use their own faith – their souls – to bend reality to their God’s Commandments.
Most soulbending powers are rather small manifestations, like having eidetic memory, unnatural reflexes or short-term premonition flashes. As the Soulbender’s faith grows or becomes more focused, his powers increase in effect and impressiveness; a Soulbender may slowly discover he can levitate or read minds, for example. Powers above such levels are practically unknown, as mortal imagination and faith can only go so far. However, in a few very rare and extreme cases – of very rare fanatic zealots with extreme beliefs – soulbending powers can become unbelievable feats of reality alteration, such as matter transmutation or shaping the thoughts of others. There seems to be no upper limit to the powers a God can grant to His followers, except for the Soulbender’s conviction itself.
There are as many different theories on the nature of Gods as there are people thinking about the subject; the following are the most accepted, and it’s likely one – or more – of them is the truth, even if it remains undiscovered forever.
Five living entities: It is entirely possible the Gods are true cosmic entities, members of a godlike species of unimaginably evolved beings, pushing their own agendas and ideas on mortals. Perhaps they are playing a game against each other, or perhaps they are waging wars using mortals as their pawns. Perhaps they are testing their different sets of values to pick the best; or the best two.
If the Gods are actually five living beings, it’s unlikely they have discernible bodies – no mortal in the universe knows what they look like; they have never manifested physically. There have been, of course, thousands of artistic representations of the Gods’ possible appearance, but it’s unlikely that mortals can actually perceive them.
Gods made of thought: One of the most common assumptions about the Gods is that they didn’t create their dogma, but were actually created by it. As sentience appeared in the universe, it created belief, and so the thoughts of millions of intelligent beings somehow coalesced into five entities that more or less embodied the five most prevalent and encompassing of these beliefs.
Thus, when a soulbender draws on divine abilities, he is not actually empowered by some faceless superior entity, but by his very own beliefs – and the beliefs of every sentient being in the universe.
The Gods, thus, would become nothing but a classification – and manifestation – of the five most common or prevalent belief sets in the universe.
Universe made of thought: A weird but widespread theory is that theology should not concern itself with the nature of Gods, but with what their existence says about the nature of the universe. If five absolute schools of thought can reshape reality, it can only be because reality is itself nothing more than an idea.
It’s not that the Gods reveal the power of thought – it’s that they reveal that thought created the universe. Reality as we know it is nothing but perception, and Gods are a manifestation of it; thus, when we focus our perception, we alter reality itself.