Never discuss politics or religion. That’s the social norm, right? That warning needs to be considered here too. We’re going to talk about religion - fantasy religion, but still religion. So we’re all warned.
I’ve discussed before that living in the USA in the twenty-first century, I don’t fully know how to role-play characters who live in a world where there are many gods and they are all real. I’m not suggesting that there is no God in the modern world! But there are not multiple pantheons of gods who are directly and intentionally making their presences known.
So what would it be like to live in a world where there were gods and the magic of the gods could be channeled / is channeled on a regular basis? What would it be like to go to church and have your services to the god of life, knowing that the next cathedral over people were worshipping the goddess of the sea, and down the block the god of magic. The only way I can think of it, is to sort of compare it to the various Protestant faiths. At least in the modern world, Methodists don’t attack Lutherans. For the most part, they respect that the other guys are not stupid or foolish for their beliefs. They might think their rites and understandings are better than the next group, but they aren’t enemies.
But that’s a bad analogy. Think about how religion affects everyday life. We have Saturday and Sunday off because of religion. We call the morning meal breakfast because of religion. The main reason they invented publishing was to print religious books. The publishing of lies about the Roman Catholic Church became one of the biggest industries in Protestant Netherlands (while controlled by Catholic Spain). That’s where all the BS you think you know about the Spanish Inquisition comes from. Clearly, religion is a major force in the world.
But how different is it? I don’t pretend to understand the Asian religions, but they don’t operate as the Judeo-Christian or Muslim religions do, and yet we don’t seem to have a problem in our cosmopolitan cultures (not with the Asian religions at least). So would it be all that different?
This topic probably deserves its own graduate studies paper, so let’s focus on only one aspect and see what you think. Services: how people go to church to worship. In Fletnern, the day is only 21 hours long and most work shifts are 8-10 hours, so there really isn’t a lot of time to spare. I don’t believe that farmers (the vast majority of the population) could stop into a church every morning for services, but at the same time, certain types of farmers cannot take a day off either - I’m thinking mainly of shepherds and dairy farmers who need to care for their animals every single day. Wheat farmers may be able to take a day off once a week for religious observation, but would they? Keep holy the Sabbath is a Judeo-Christian idea, right?
Well, lacking a better model, here is what I have done in many of my smaller towns. If the town is smaller, but still able to support a church ...
Sideline for math: assume that the people “tithe” 5% - then you would need 20 families to support a “priest”. Assume that the priest needs to maintain his home and the church, and you can assume that at 25-30 families you can have a church in a community. I typically assume 8 people to a family - mom, dad, and six kids. So a small church should be available in any community of 200-250+. Each family needs a farm of some 30ish acres, so that’s 900 acres. Call that 1.4 square miles, which takes up a circle about four thirds (1.33) of a mile across. Meaning no one is walking more than 2/3s of a mile to get to a centrally located church. Absolutely believable to me. All of this type of stuff comes from Urban Developments, if you’re looking for that.
back to a smaller town with a church ... A small town like this will only have one church, and everyone will have been raised in the same religion. No variances here. They will all celebrate the same religious holidays and service days. So once a week (once every ten days in Fletnern), they will take the day “off” to celebrate. But this has to be much more than just go to church in the morning and have a roast chicken for dinner. On the holy day, the community comes together for religious services. Any peddlers or other merchants in the area will know which day is church day in the various towns, and will show up at the church to sell their wares. The church would have to be on the main road, because it is the only place in “town” that everybody goes to. So we wind up with morning services and a market of sorts. Depending on the culture, some join together for “lunch” or return to the family home.
So how does this filter back into the cities? Pretty similar, except that now there are religious services going on every day. On the day your religion celebrates, you take the day off of work and attend services. The markets circle around to the various churches on the right days, so if it’s Braday and you want fresh produce, you go to the church of Braken (whether you are a church member or not). Businesses run by a single family will close for that one day, and their customers will be expecting it. Businesses with multiple employees would schedule folks to handle things while the others are out. So without an overwhelmingly powerful religion in the area, business will run every day, even though some might close here or there.
This makes sense to me. I grew up in a time (not that long ago) when businesses were closed on Sunday (and Thanksgiving). Many restaurants that were not closed on Sundays (due to their reliance on church goers going out to eat) would be closed on Monday for the family to rest. I’ve been running this model for a few years now and it does seem to be working. But then again, think about how much effort I put into figuring out this one tiny aspect of a fantasy religion and culture. I have a long way to go!