Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Atomic Dawn: Religion

Religion (or at least Spirituality) is extremely important to civilization. Its holds peoples together despite pressures of war, disease, torment and death. And it is no different in the Mutant Future. Though Atom Bomb cults (ala Beneath The Planet of The Apes) and similar are amusing, they don't have the depth of more thought out religions.
In the setting of the Atomic Dawn, most of the religions of the setting are real-world religions, though often changed somewhat to accommodate the new conditions and sentiments of the world. Most priests, shaman, druid or guru found in a community will be amongst the only folks likely to have any sort of amassed knowledge. Whether this is in the form of actual books (literacy), computer databanks, or knowledge passed on from teacher to pupil, this knowledge will be very important.
In the Atomic Dawn, being someone who has some schooling, is perhaps literate, and hopefully has his communities best interests at heart, is a big deal. People live very close to death, and any help tey can get is appreciated.

Religions of The Atomic Dawn

Christianity, Catholicism
This pre-apocalypse religion is very active in the present age. Though with Rome long since sunk beneath the rising Mediterranean, regional branches of the Church have had the luxury of determining their own policies. At present, there are two Popes, one in the Merican city of Alamo City (San Antonio, TX) in the Alamo Empire, the other in New Madrid (Madrid Spain). Thankfully the distances of these two prevent direct conflict so far.
The Catholic Church of Atomic Dawn is far more "Medieval" than its modern counterpart. Life is tough, hard and laced with disease and death, and the church pulls no punches. Nowadays, priests can marry and women can be deacons (but not priests) though the church is once again full of "mysteries" that are not regularly told to the common folk. And reading of the Bible is not encouraged, as it is taught only one properly trained can really understand it.
Catholic Saints: A great many saints and teachers are revered by the Catholic Church. But the following are of particular interest, having their own orders and movements within the church:

Saint Agatha and Saint Peregrine (Patron Saints of Cancer Victims)
The horrors of radiation and chemical poisoning are widespread across the mutant future, and so reverence of these saints is fairly common. Shrines to both saints are commonly seen in or around places of healing.

Saint Christopher (Patron Saint of Mutant Humans)
A giant of ancient times, sometimes depicted with a bestial (dog-like) face, Saint Christopher is quite popular amongst mutant humans, particularly Goliaths and other giant mutants. Christopher teaches the value of hard work and honesty as well as the active pursuit of evil-doers. Members of this order are usually humbly attired in clothing well suited for use in ward work.
Mutant humans may become monks, friars, nuns and even priests of the Order of Saint Christopher, and as such this order has a wide range of specialties at their disposal. Being semi-military in bent, warrior clergy of St Christopher can be found aiding in battles against the wicked such as bandits, evil spirits or more potent evils.

Saint Cyprian (Patron Saint of Psychic Mutants)
A saint said to have been a pagan occultist who repented of his ways. He and his followers are focused on converting magicians and pagans, and seeking to thwart the efforts of evil spirits. In a world with Plane Shift, and critters from other planes, this is a very busy order. Psychic mutants will be numerous in service to Saint Cyprian.
Note: Saint Cyprian is often called upon by those seeking Saint Deaths aid (see below), as his knowledge of dark spirits and risky ventures is of use when dealing with such an unpredictable spirit.

Saint Dimpna (Patron Saint of Insanity, Rape and Incest Victims)
Monastery/Orphanages dedicated to this saint are dedicated to aiding victims of sex crimes and madness, both all too common troubles in this age. Such places are often tended and guarded by a great many mutants and very angry women, who being victims of terrible cruelty, take to their mission with unusual zeal.

Order of Saint Death/Santa Muerte (Our Lady of Shadows)
Saint Death appears as a skeletal woman, clad in a long robe and carrying a scythe and a globe or scale. A wild and frightening spirit, whose patronage can be bought with binding oaths that cannot be altered at a later date. She is very popular as a protective spirit, as few wish to cross her. Mutants of all sort are welcome amongst monks dedicated to Saint Death, particularly those with precognition.
Walking Dead are frequently seen in temples dedicated to this saint, and the monks and priests of this order seem to have a strange affinity with these creatures. To really terrify your players, including undead monsters from Labyrinth Lord as servants of
Saint Death can be devastating. Creatures such as Wraiths and Wights are particularly useful and thematic though I suggest changing the "only hit by magic weapons" to "only hit be lasers" or something similar.

Order of Saint Fiacre (Patron Saint of Mutant Plants)
St Fiacre is most renowned as the patron saint of growing food and medicinal plants, and is much loved by mutant plants. He is commonly depicted as a fierce, druid-like man dressed as a gardener. Members of this order often look more like herbalists and gardeners, wearing plain clothing and good boots when not barefoot.
Holy sites dedicated to this saint are always gardens. Though they are tolerated as worshipers and even allowed to be monks and friars (non-cloistered monk), mutant plants may not yet become priests.

Saint Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Mutant Animals)
Saint Francis is renowned for his gentle, loving heart and his compassion for animals, mutant and otherwise. Saint Francis and the Franciscan Order are very popular amongst mutant animals, who can gain rank as monks and friars (non-cloistered monk) within the order. Mutant Animal priests do sometimes exist but are very rare.

Other Religions
These other religions can be found in one form or another in the Atomic Dawn setting. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Mutant Lords (DM's, GM's, Storytellers) are encouraged to make up their own pockets of belief.

Ancestor Worship
Reverence of particularly popular and heroic ancestors could take the form of genetic screening and fear of birth defects amongst pure humans and human-looking mutants. Some examples of ancestor worship could take the form of iconic characters from our world such as Chuck Norris, Oprah, George Washington or others.


Animism
Worship of the land and its "spirits" is a very common form of spiritualism in Atomic Dawn. The land itself is even more fickle and dangerous as it is now, with mutant beasts and predatory or even intelligent plants to have to deal with. Animistic wise-folk (shaman, witch doctors, Shinto priests etc) in the setting usually possess a vast array of knowledge concerning local mutant types, seeing them as avatars of the spirit world. Deals struck with local mutant creatures, including offerings of food, trade goods and the erecting of shrines are common.


Baptist Christians
One thing you have to say about Baptists, is that they know their Bible. So I don't see them losing their knowledge of their faith, though with regional deviations. In remote towns and back woods communities are the most common locales for baptist communities. These communities are often a bit cautious of outsiders, but generally good folks. Mutant Animals and Mutant Plants will never be considered to have souls amongst these sorts, though individuals might feel differently. Mutant Humans are okay, but really weird powers are feared.

Islam
These are very tough people. Dedicated, smart and willing to fight to the death for their beliefs. Regions where this faith is strong are always clean, highly organized and highly literate. Xenophobia is common in such places, though certain allowances are made for Christians and Jews as "People of the Book." Mutant animals and plants are seen as soulless creatures, and mutant humans held in suspicion, though in some communities they are tolerated.
Judaism
Nothing so puny as a complete global meltdown can stop the papa of Abrahamic faiths! These folks will certainly be around, and widespread to boot. In the age of Atomic Dawn they are more more "Old Testament" than politician though, having a distinctly warrior/nomad culture. Mutants of all stripes are not tolerated within the faith of Judaism, but are not normally persecuted. The Jewish faith has much to say about cleanliness and community, so even in the Mutant Future, those of the Jewish faith will be clean and highly organized.


Monster Cults
Sometimes something awful lives nearby and demands worship and sacrifice. This can be mutant creatures or horrible otherworldly beings. Most communities are powerless to oppose such beings and thus serve these creatures to the best of their abilities. These communities are not always happy for attempts at rescue, as fear of reprisal for failure is intense.
Priests or priestesses dedicated to such religions are usually amongst the most depraved creatures imaginable, joyously sacrificing food, livestock and people to whatever fiend they serve.

Mormonism
Mormonism is alive and well in the Atomic Dawn, centered around the bustling city-state of Eden (central Missouri). They are clean, organized folk who prize creativity and education, and as such have a strong core of community. The tradition of polygamous marriage so often denounced in the modern world is again very popular amongst Mormons, and draws little or no disdain amongst the folk of the Atomic Dawn.
As animals and plants are held to have immortal souls in the Mormon faith, mutants are accepted into their faith, though always in a lower tier of leadership.

Old Deities (Pantheons etc)
Worship of ancient gods such as the Greek, Norse or Aztec pantheons has had a resurgence in the age of Atomic Dawn. Mix-ups of these and other religions are very common with a mis-matched pantheon from differing nationalities. Some though, are quite pure, and hold to ancient teachings of the Greek, Celtic or other gods. Mutants of all sorts will be welcome amongst these folks, but Androids rarely are (save cults dedicated to Vulcan or similar beings).

Scientism
Using science as a religion is nothing new in our world or in post apocalyptic stories. Such groups use scientific language to explain away transcendent, unprovable aspects of being such as the soul, afterlife and morality, taking on the role of religion. This is really a form of Materialism, and is an occult belief from the Enlightenment period.
The "science" of scientism takes on the feel of alchemy, with mystical concepts and equations mixed with medicine, engineering and chemistry. One doesn't have to look far for research in these matters, from Newtons ritualism, Blavatsky's Theosophy, Hubbards Scientology and the more extreme forms of the modern Green movement.

Human Sacrifice
Not at all uncommon in the age of Atomic Dawn, though variation do occur amongst different groups. Catholic Christians and Muslims frequently call for the death of those who use harmful psychic powers or seek to commune with dread spirits (which do exist in Atomic Dawn- an up and coming article), killing such people in gruesome fashion.
Animism frequently calls for all sorts of sacrifice (as all things are thought to have souls) from rocks, and plants to animal and human sacrifice. Ancestor worship often calls for the burnt sacrifice of objects or creatures desired by the dead ancestor, including wives or favored servants.

Witch Trials
Fear of psychic mutants and disease would has given rise to a new era of Witch trials and killings in the Atomic Dawn. Elaborate and brutal methods for extracting confessions from suspected witches would be just as cruel and impractical as from the past though some true detecting may exist in regions with appropriate groups.
And its not just Christians of Muslims who are guilty of this practice. Fear of witches is widespread amongst all cultures.
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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan