K is for Kings – Worldbuilding Religions

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Ah, theocracy. A theocracy is defined as a government where either a deity is the ruling power, or the priests of a religion rule as a representation of the deity.

There are several ways this can play out in conjunction with the development of your world, cultures, and religions.

Even in situations where a religion is widely accepted culturally, there will still be those who do not adhere to those beliefs. You must consider what it might be like to live in that type of society for any of your characters who either believe the core tenets of a religion but not with the entirety of doctrine, or for them to not believe in that religion at all. In some theocracies, it may be deadly for either of those situations to become known.

While not being a true theocracy, a government can also hold elements of theocracy if the head of the government is determined by divine right. Divine right can look like anything from the throne passing down through a particular bloodline because of the decree of a deity (or the representative of a deity, such as a priest or prophet), or that by the act of ruling one is considered to be a deity themselves.

Theocracy can be an effective form of government, but it can also be taken advantage of by tyrants.

If the ruler is perceived to be a deity (whether they truly are or not) then heresy and apostasy become not only a religious crimes, but state crimes as well, thereby becoming treason. Treason is not a crime taken lightly anywhere, and in historical times it almost always carried the death penalty with it (and still does, in some places).

Even a rebellion were to take shape that was just in its reasoning, it may be limited in scope simply because the inhabitants of the world may not be willing take up arms against a god.

Worldbuilding Exercises

  1. What role does religion play in government in your fictional world? Describe some ways that religion has influenced government.
  2. If your government is a true theocracy, were there any religious events around its creation?
  3. Conversely, is your fictional religion regarded as anti-government? Does participating in that religion put its adherents in danger?

Leave a comment below if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!

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