Thus Spake Zargrabowski/ImperfectGodsAndWorship

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Let me clear this up. The key thing to remember is that, with the exception of about a dozen gods, there's nothing even slightly numinous or transcendant about gods in the world of Exalted. They are fallible and often quite imperfect.

The Immaculate Philosophy's outlook on spirit veneration is that people who "worship" a god who isn't transcendant in nature are either dupes, criminals or the victims of extortion. There is a calendar of worship for the various gods and the monks follow it and lead everyone in the regular festivals, because prayer is the payment by which man honors the divinities who make up the world.

However, if you are constantly praying to a specific divinity, then either that divinity has convinced you it's bigger than it is, you want something special from that divinity, or that divinity has threated to make you regret not praying.

Say I "worship" Ahlat, God of Blood and Cattle in the cheesy D&D sense where he's my one and only god. Am I doing it because Ahlat has convinced me he'll make me a tassel on his cloak in the hereafter and thus give me some form of immortality? From the PoV of a genuine celestial buraucracy, that's incredibly criminal. He just tricked a mortal into giving up their place in the eternal cycle of life and become part of his panoply, and he got them to beg him for it and sacrifice to him for it again and again. That's totally unacceptable.

Say that I think I'm going to get a miracle out of my worship of Ahlat. That's just as bad. Now Ahlat is on the side of the guy making the biggest hekatombs. So much for destiny and being the impertial moderator and incarnation of Celestially mandated destiny, now he's just a crooked official taking bribes. If he takes your sacrifices and doesn't give you anything in return, a) who are you kidding, huh? and b) even if he's true to his station, he's also basically a ripoff artist.

And finally, if he's initiating the exchange, he's now just a celestial extortionist. "Give me your daughter as a virgin wife or I'll see to it she meets a few hundred good men when they sack your kingdom." Super.

Ideally, the Celestial Bureaucracy would self-police, but it doesn't, and it hasn't for at least a millenium. So instead, the Immaculates have basically drawn up what they consider to be an equitable calender, and that's what everyone worships by. If the people or the gods get out of line, a detachment of monks whips them into shape. That is how the Immaculate Philosophy regards the Little Gods. Obviously, the main book isn't clear enough on this, because even some of the writers babble intermittently about some kind of "Old Faith" where people were "free to worship the gods" before I shush them. In most places in Exalted, if you're worshipping gods directly, there's nothing "free" about it.

Geoffrey C. Grabowski
Exalted Developer, WWGS


Sorry, I'm still a bit confused, to anyone that can help: does the Immaculate Philosophy lead their followers in the worship of -all- the gods, in a regular cycle, thereby keeping the gods sort of placated? Or is their schtick that only the big guys, the Incarnae and whatnot, should be worshipped, and that's the 'regular festivals' referred to above, and all the little gods don't get any direct worship and they damn well better be happy with it or some Air-Aspected Immaculate is gonna come down there and beat your ass, so help us Pesiap? -- DigitalSentience

The smaller gods tend to be localized in nature, so the festivals would vary by location. For instance, if you live in Juche, you'll attend the worship of the Juche City Mother, but not the City Father of Lord's Crossing. - Quendalon
The Immaculates lead people in the Worship of all the major dieties, and probably a few "Intermediate" dieties. If they're lucky and kiss a lot of you-know-what, the minor dieties might get a side mention in the occasional Sermon at a small regional festival. Otherwise, they go to Yu-Shan and live off generalized prayers and subconscious thanks, get a job working for one of the Heavenly Bureaus, or wander around unemployed in some heavenly slum. At least, that's the impression I got from the Sidereals book -MeiRen

Now, what confuses me is the outlook of the Immaculate Philosophy with respect to the Unconquered Sun. E:DB pretty much makes it clear that he isn't worshipped in the Realm. On the other hand, I don't know how even the Sidereals could get away with bad-mouthing him... and he's still the most powerful god, so he must be widely prayed to, yes? Or is it that he's prayed to in the Realm but not worshipped? -szilard

As I understand it, power and being worshipped doesn't necessarily have a 1-to-1 correlation with the gods. While the Unconquered Sun would be more powerful if he was actively worshipped, this would just be a boost to his base power level, which he has because he's the God of the Sun, Giver of Light, Shining Over All. - AliasiSudonomo

I had a discussion about this on IRC because I'm confused as to why mortals pray. What's their motivation? It was said on IRC that it's respectful thanks to the gods for running Creation. The corrupt Bureacracy does make it a very quid pro quo business these days, but disregarding that, I don't see why mortals would pray if it is like Grabowski says and the gods don't pay for pray, either through benefits or by withholding trouble. So, why do mortals pray? Resplendence

its human nature? *shrugs* Humans seem to do quite well at worshipping things even when they arnt sure they are existant, so I dont see why knowing that the great dragons of the sky do exist should stop them from showing proper deference - Kraken
Human nature or not, in the real world people generally expect some benefit from their faith, be it enlightenment, eternal life or simply not having to burn in hell for all eternity. My point is that it's usually quid pro quo, but Grabowski just described how it's not. Resplendence
Well, I look at it as something like this. With the Hypothetical Perfect Bureaucracy, mortals pray to various deities because said various deities do important stuff. They keep Creation running. They keep the universe as we know it from exploding or something. When mortals pray to Heaven, they're ensuring that life as they know it doesn't cease to be. With the bureaucracy the way it is now, if you don't pray to Ahlat, Ahlat will kick your ass. Instead of paying taxes for basic social services, you're now paying the big scary man with a gun so he doesn't tie you to the back of his motorcycle and drag you up and down the interstate. You're promising Don Corleone a favor so he'll bump off the two frat boys who beat and raped your daughter. That sort of thing. It's more personal and more direct, but it's also not the way the system is supposed to work because the god isn't supposed to be paying attention to individual problems, but his domain as a whole. KitBox
There remains the problem of Grabowski's many comments as to why this is not the case, except for with corrupt gods. Sure, you pray your 30 seconds each day just to do your part to keep the universe from ending. But why make an extra effort if all you ever get is the same basic package? Why is it illegal for a god to pay for pray, as long as it doesn't reflect badly on his duties? It seems illogical to me that there is in fact a spiritual economy of a kind set up, but it's illegal to use it. Resplendence
Oops. I think I talked about something utterly tangential to what you were talking about. Serves me right for reusing something I said in the chat. :) I think what I should have said is that direct quid pro quo is technically illegal because gods have much better ways to use their time for the good of Creation than doing favors for the (relatively) small number of mortals who pray to them more than the average. Or something like that. It's a question of efficiency from a Human Resources perspective, I guess. KitBox
I think you danced around it the first time without ever hitting it dang on. Basically, Gods need prayers to keep things running, the same way Governments need taxes to keep things running. If no one pays the taxes, the government collapses; if no one prays, the heavenly government collapses. But on an individual level, there's no real reason to pray - its a classic (if bizarre) 'TragedyOfTheCommons' problem. So the Immaculate Monks go around and play IRS, forcing everyone to p(r)ay. At the same time, they prevent Gods from responding to unofficial prayers. Its a kind of "An effective Government has a monopoly on the use of force" type of thing. If you wanted to substitue a Libertarian, "pay for services" approach, you could - it operates that way out in the Threshold. The problem is, such systems tend to heavily favor the rich and/or corrupt. (Sorry if this was a bit long-winded) -MeiRen
Example: Unless there is a grand purpose behind every raindrop that falls on Creation, which sounds silly, the gods of rain would logically have to make arbitrary decisions about where some of their rain falls. As long as they don't neglect their duties and leave regions in draught to get fat on places with rain cults, why not let rain that can basically fall anywhere not fall on those who want it the most - i.e. on farm land? Or are the gods perpetually strained for time and power? Resplendence
I don't think it's particularly silly for each raindrop to be planned for, actually. This is the Celestial Bureaucracy we're talking about, after all. : ) They make rain fall somewhere because that's what their supervisor told them. At least, that's how the perfect system was meant to work. Of course, the Exalts in charge of your cropland that isn't getting enough rain could certainly send an appeal up the ladder, and based upon its merit or lack thereof the Grand High Poobah of Weather Patterns might make a slight adjustment. KitBox
Creation runs without the gods' direct intervention. Their official duty is to act as observers of their domain, and if there's a problem, they let their boss know so someone can come fix it. Or they'll get an order from above to fix it usin' their powers. Obviously there's a fundamental force of entropy that works against Creation that the gods have to keep check on. All I'm really saying, though, is that if a rain god leaves his domain, the rains will still come. They just won't be guaranteed. So yeah, draughts might happen, but so might floods. Or things might continue forth nicely as they had always been. But the rains won't leave because the gods who are just supposed to keep an eye on them leave.

Its kinda crazy, but I think in the First Age, though the gods have all this incredible power, they're not supposed to touch a damn thing, instead just report it to the authorities so a Solar can direct a Dragon-blood to take care of it. I guess its similar to how humans can go study gorillas in the wild, and really shouldn't mess with them at all, but can become tempted to slaughter invading predators to protect them or to trap them and sell 'em for big moneys. They have power, but they should just take notes. --UncleChu who fears this post is completely irrelevant or went without saying

I really like the taxation and government theory. To extend it, you pay taxes so the government runs. You rarely see what it does, merely that things happen, and you like it. Sure, you can go to your city councilman, leave 10,000$ on the table, and mention that you'd really really like it if your business had a zoning exemption, but they don't have to care. That's how praying works - you leave the money on the table, say what you want, and leave. In a perfect government, no one needs to do this, as everything is already being done for the 'best good'. Thus, if your lot is zoned one way, well, that's for a reason, and it shouldn't change. Even if it doesn't matter how your lot is zoned in the big picture, by accepting a bribe, that official is essentially bringing the entire actions of their office under question. Even worse, when you go to the local military officer (Ahlat) and ask that he deal with your zoning problem, that isn't his purview. So he either ignores your request, or actually does something about it. Since zoning isn't the purview of Ahlat, he's got to get 'inventive', eventually convincing his armies of cattle to migrate across the street, removing the need for your area to be deemed a cattle-preserve. Thing is, he's not in charge of zoning. He doesn't know that the other side of the street is to be used for grass preservation, and that said grass has been cultivated for centuries to be drought-resistant. He doesn't know that in 2 years, the area will suffer a drought, and that people will die because he moved his damn cows. Sure, if the Celestial Bureaucracy had infinite staff (and sometimes it seems like it does) someone would have noticed this problem, but unless you check every action, every day, you'll miss some of it. And then you've got to call down the Sidereals to fix the stupid snarl of some baby dying due to starvation, even though that baby will lead an army against the Fair Folk in 27 years. Damn Ahlat - why did he have to take the bribe in the first place?

GreenLantern, you're brilliant. Scary brilliant. Let's hold hands.--UncleChu
Thanks! Here's another theory, hopefully just as brilliant: How does the UCS stay in charge, even though he's got no prayers coming to him? Simple - because he's the President. It's his thing. Just because he's not collecting the money, nor making the tax laws, nor even really doing anything, he's the big, glorious, figurehead. It's his policies, vision, and direction, that make things go smoothly. After all - you wouldn't want to disappoint the UCS, would you? As for the Maidens, they're more like the legislative branch - actually implementing things, putting Creation in order, and coming up with 'task forces' to deal with problems. Putting it another way, the UCS (if he were doing his job) would get up on his soapbox of infinite glory, and rationally explain to you that by not doing your job just so, you're really helping the terroris^h^h^h primordials^h^h fair folk. And dang if he ain't convincing. Guess you better go do your Primordial-assigned job, because that's the Sun's job - keeping everyone else doing theirs, and doing it well. He was made for a reason, and that reason is to be the guiding light of Creation. But now he's addicted to heroin, and well, that stinks. -- GreenLantern