An incoherant little essay on the place of religion in Sol…
“There are still religions, both new and old. The concept of God has had a few alterations made to it as the map has expanded, but if anything the bold new frontier has only bolstered the spiritual need for some sort of greater being. To some, that being has already arrived, and is now reaching out its ruby hand from the planet Humanity has never meant to leave…” – HSD1.0 29
Religion provides explanation where none exists…Vectors did not face many of the questions early humanity faced as it tried to come to terms with its own existence. To them, their bodies, their existence…was rather neatly stored and cataloged in computer files….there were few questions about the nature of the universe that Vectors could not answer scientifically.” – Ext1.0 182
Hands down, the dominant faith in Hc Svnt Dracones is the consumer culture: a year structured around mass media events and staged seasonal buyspot opportunities. In a conversation about holidays on the HSD Discord Channel, Pierce Frazer suggested that for the most part holidays are “seasonal occasions, mostly marked by artificial product shortages and surges.” In a sense, vectors themselves are a product, and much of their culture is an accessory pack.
One of the concepts in the Hc Svnt Dracones worldview is that vectors/humanity have had a clean break with their past. 15,000+ years of human history, with its legacies of racism, genocide, sexism, hula hoop fads, vague guilt, entrenched institutions, sports teams, and definitely established religion, gone in a nuclear blaze. It’s a neophile utopia: everything that was holding us back is over there, let’s make a second earth and do it right.
That being said, in RPGs, fiction, and real life, religion is a powerful cultural mover, one that seems to come naturally to humans. The overwhelming sense of transcendence, of connecting with something powerful and universal, may be a part of our psychology (see Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct), and the seeds of magical thinking are in every person who secretly believes that the printer senses stress and only fails if you’re on deadline. Humans believe things, and they like ritual and marking life’s important moments. And ultimately, even a shark-shaped vector that’s chosen to live hunting neo-salmon on Venus is still, fundamentally, human. Exploring humanity is what Hc Svnt Dracones is about.
The medical megacorp Progenitus may not have developed a theology, but they almost certainly have revival meetings with positive, life-affirming messages, songs, and coffee break afterward. Progenitus corptown culture may have a strong parallel to the Unitarian Universalist church, which has made a religion out of a sort of unfocused charitable liberalism, using the world’s mythologies as the subject of Sunday services (1).
Progenitus inserts itself into everything. Debates, policy, product announcements, you name it. It’s come to the point that a movement of Progenitus ships has been nicknamed ‘a crusade,’ as they don’t typically move en-masse unless it’s to go rain on someone’s parade and deface them in the public eye…Progenitus employees [will] move heaven and Earth to bring aid to anyone who needs it, there is almost always a social message attached. They don’t typically miss a chance to inform everyone else of how much better they could be doing.” – HSD1.0 p47
On the one hand, huge reserves of passion and commitment. On the other hand, a lot of snark from the rest of the corporations. The picture we see of Progenitus is kind of like the Red Cross and Salvation Army merged and got space ships.
Progenitus draws heavily from earth mythologies in its naming conventions. It’s not hard to imagine them reviving Greek and Roman religion as a working mythology–heavily sanitized, of course! From experience with neopagans and geek.culture, there’s no line at all between a joking embrace of a religion and identifying with it. Inevitably, the stories of gods become gods themselves.
Transcendent Technologies, Inc.
The last, best hope for paranoid superstition in the year 2700: life on TTI’s base on Jupiter’s ice moon Europa is, at the very least, deeply weird. Don’t go outside when Jupiter’s overhead. Don’t make eye contact with it. There’s suggestions of other bits of obsessive-compulsive oddity on Europa, all in a perhaps hopeless attempt to ward off the influence of whatever’s lurking below the ice ocean or churning in Jupiter overhead.
Given that TTI’s namesake is a barely understood technology that relies on arcane crystal geometry, waving a dead chicken, and vague hope, it’s only one step away from religion anyway. The Nephelim Codex previews from the Lorebook seem to suggest a TTI that’s based on the Reformed Church of Lovecraft: Cryptical manuscripts filled with mad ravings used as the basis for a system of magic-as-science, qliphothic science from the left-hand path of physics. (2)
The big canon discussion of faith (and faiths) in HSD is on Ext1.0 p.175. The narrator, Elsie, and her monstrous guide pick up and discuss a symbol of the Universal Sanguinists, a TTI cult. Here and there we find mentions of “legitimate” faiths in HSD. Vectors, it seems, are tolerant of new ideas, but Elsie points out that corporate executives might not trust a religious vector with their secrets. (3) Many faiths, Elsie suggests, are “humanist.”
This word can have two meanings. Here, Elsie uses it to describe 700+ year old faiths–let’s call them the 700 Club–carried over from Earth. Any of them are likely, but Mass-market Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and free-wheeling Neopagan spirituality seem like the most likely to jump planets in a major way.
It’s hard to imagine the young vectors escaping religious influence entirely. Even if they were raised in cultural isolation–and we know they weren’t, MarsCo gave them Terran cartoons and children’s programming (HSD1.0 p.15)–a policy of isolation doesn’t work. In 600 BC Pharoah Psamtik attempted to find out what the true language of humanity was by isolating children from all language. Surprisingly, the true language of humanity was Hebrew…a language shared by the babysitter.
We can imagine that the 700 Club would have been transformed by the following forces:
- The major living representatives of their faiths would have been scientists and support staff willing to make the move to Mars, or part of the later wave of the hemivector evacuees of Earth. (4) This would tend to select for educated people without strong fundamentalist, counter-science beliefs. And the financial legacy of the religions was left on Terra (Ex1.0 180): faiths making the jump to mars would do so without an infrastructure.
- While the documentation for major religions may have survived (certainly all religious texts would have been a part of the early culture dumps), their context did not. As a rule, vectors have a few layers of insulation from their human history. “Ancient practices” wouldn’t be valuable simply because they had always been practiced. In a sense, the entire wealth of religious observances and ritual would be looked at under the razor of “Is this a useful cultural artifact, or just a story?” The cruft of centuries would be archived as quaint custom, and the concept of “sacred” would be subject to serious review. Additionally, weird para-religious artifacts like “Festivus,” without context, might grow in strange ways, without the context of parody.
- No priests, at least at first. It’s highly likely that very few individuals whose role was to preserve religion made the jump to Mars. Maybe a few made it during the hemivector escape, but the numbers would be small, and subject to MarsCo’s review process. Any priests who made the journey would have to play well with others.
- Pop Enculturation: Without the concept of “sacred,” pop culture representations of faith may become at best free-interpretation metaphor, at worst, completely muddled. God, Jesus, Santa might get merged (and now that rabbits are a sentient race, let’s add in the easter bunny) within a single tradition, even without allowing for bleed-over between faiths. A little example from the real world: the story of “A Christmas Carol” (Scrooge, three ghosts, etc.) transformed Christmas: in a sense, Dickens invented Christmas.Now, consider how little screen-time the story of Jesus’s birth gets, compared to the apparent rule that every sitcom and cartoon has to have one episode with the “three ghosts of Christmas” story, and how frequently Santa, Jesus, and, oh, Ronald McDonald are depicted in media…
- Shake well and add 700 years. The amount of transformation a faith can have in 700 years is unimaginable. The Protestant reformation was less than 700 years ago. The transformation of society by the Renaissance had a pattern repeated in vector history: Academics fleeing the fall of Constantinople brought all the precious knowledge they could carry with them. While some ideas might survive from the original 700 Club, no institution can survive the 750 or so years of vector history without being completely transformed.
Mass-market Christianity: Christianity as it’s expressed in 20th century pop culture–a rough-and-ready idea of the life of Christ, forgiveness and sin, and a few key observations like Christmas and Easter–seem like easy translations into 2700 AD. With the deep and inarguable power of science in Vector life, 20th Century Catholicism and deeply fundamentalist faiths might not translate well except as micro-movements, and anti-consumerist faiths seem like they’d slowly wither away (And the Petrine Succession took a hit when the bombs fell). Over 700 years of cultural drift, one question that vectors might wrestle with is “what species is God?” That question may make some versions of Christianity more about humanity than inherited from humanity.
Hinduism: One of the most popular religions of India, and likely carried over by scientists to the Martian colony. It would be impossible to summarize Hinduism in a short blurb, but the concept of a cycle of rebirth plays well in a setting where Earth itself is, in a sense, reincarnated, and the idea of karma and reciprocity, an inner divinity, and a dizzying array of gods that seem to change and evolve would translate well.
Wiki discusses the four objectives of human life: Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, all of which seem like they’d adapt well into the HSD world. In particular, Artha (virtuous pursuit of prosperity) and Kama (the virtue of the enjoyment of life) leave a safe space for corporate consumerism and pleasure-seeking, traits that a corporate-based culture would cheerfully cultivate and emphasize…perhaps to the detriment of the ethical side of the faith.
Buddhism: This faiths’ tolerance of other people’s spiritualities and acceptance of science is a big asset in a multicultural society. Buddhism tends to de-emphasize wealth and the physical world, which would make a devout Buddhist stand out in a consumer culture. But simultaneously, it’s an ancient tradition that can help vectors who feel out of touch or outside the corporate life come to terms with their sense of isolation. Massively reducing Buddhism: life is suffering, and clearing one’s self of pointless cravings and material pursuit helps reduce that suffering, and ultimately, frees the Buddhist from the life/pain cycle. And again, a reincarnational theology works well in the HSD story. Overall, Buddhism is a strong counter-note to the values of vector society, but not one that restricts or alienates a player character.
Islam: I confess, I haven’t read up on Islam enough to attempt a blurb here. Its emphasis on charity, good work, and self-discipline seem like ideas that would transcend time. However, as a religion with a focus on the sacredness of text and specific ritual, and as well a strong sense of place and nation, it seems like a faith that would be maimed by its translation into space and losing its roots. Liberal Islam stresses the equality of humanity, and to what degree the Islamic faith embraced vectors as human, the goodwill generated there may have preserved the faith across 200 million kilometers. It may be that the most positive elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity become an Abrahamic core of a new faith: “Many of the monotheistic religions merged over time, as their message became more muddled and the memory of humanity grew more distant…” (Ext1.0 p.180)
Neopaganism: A flexible basket of ideas cobbled together from world mythology, environmentalism, ancient traditions, and modern reinterpretations of same. Net.culture’s general dislike for mainstream institutions gives Neopaganism a leg up, and it’s a very personal, disorganized faith that can survive abuse that would destroy a hierarchical church. Plus, it’s only as demanding as it needs to be. In HSD, the roots of corpernation culture are in large part the the neophilic net community we have today, and in transitioning to Mars, become disproportionately represented. Popular neopaganism is a story-rich faith that isn’t very demanding, and most importantly, is very adaptable: neopagans can take apart their faith like a box of Legos, and generally have a strong religious toolkit to put it back together and reconfigure it. Like the other 700 Club faiths it would lose the legitimacy and context of its pre-christian roots (traditions that claim a deep ancestry like Wicca, Druidism, or Heathenism might not survive), but overall, the general neopagan basket could easily have scattered the seeds for another Gerald Gardner or William Wescott to give it a new face for a new millennium.
Humanist Faiths #2
Though there’s not a lot of evidence for it in HSD, the concept of a “legacy of humanity” cult (or at least a progenitor race) is a common enough one in sci-fi. Some vectors are born with powerful racial memory of ancient Terra (see the “Legacy Memory” motivation, ex 1.0 115), and the void that these vectors feel might manifest as something like a religion. It’s easy to imagine an isolated cult of humanity. Their relationship to the Terran Palemen (a monstrous Terran creature that might or might not be humanity’s other heir) would be an interesting idea to explore.
Overall, the dominant view of humanity by vectors is a mixture of nostalgia and mild contempt. The vectors see their culture and species as an evolution and improvement, but tend to regret the knowledge and history lost. Neither of these lends itself to overt worship, though.
(Ext1.0 p.177) Transcendent technology provides the setting’s great unknown: evidence of worlds beyond our understanding and control. As a fundamentally unknowable source for deep mystery, understanding, and power, Transcendent technology has spawned a great many faiths: “I think TTI accidentally invented a dozen different religions when Transcendent Implants showed up.” Fraser points out that Transcendent Technology is a major transformative moment for Vector faith: the first time they have encountered a force that cannot be explained. (Ext1.0 p.181)
- Universal Sanguinism (Ext1.0 p.176): a Transcendent faith that looks toward Biotech as the source of all truths. Please see the Lorebook for more information, the material on TTI takes this to its manic extreme. Sanguinists look inward to look outward, and build better tools to look inward. Their love of research and open collaboration takes the place of worship. Symbols include blood and thorns: truth is contained in the blood.
- The Machine God: (See Ext1.0 p.113, “Zealot”, for more discussion on this one.) There is a god, and the vectors have invented it. Like the Transcendent faiths, some believe that there is a divine being at work in the universe, and the vectors created it, or perhaps awakened it. Or alternatively, that through AI, biotech, and TTI’s research, we will discover the divine. Whether this entity is a new and benevolent Apollo or an amoral destroying Nyarlatothep, society has not yet determined. Some vectors want to hasten this being’s arrival.
Worship of the alien. On Terra, this manifested in “World Contact Day” and other benevolent alien concepts from the New Age movement. In HSD, xenolatry tends to show the game’s horror roots: aliens like the Whispers are the dark horror behind the universe’s curtain, and must be placated and feared. This sort of dark misotheism seems to breed left-hand satires of religion more than actual long-term worship, outside of the dark cults of horror fantasy, but Terran history has its share of millennial cults and dark charismatic leaders: while maltheism may not be sustainable as an organized faith, it can fuel niche communities and short-lived cults.
- Rapturists: (Ext1.0 p.177) Several new religions turned up after the Whisper invasion of Luna and the transformation of earth into a red, crystalline mass. One of these is the Rapturists, a millennial cult informed by old Terran apocalypse cults that believes that something powerful will emerge from the transformation of Terra…
- University Cults: (Ext1.0 p.177) Hinted at by Elsie, and very much in line with Lovecraftian research into “things man was not meant to know,” academics in some institutions may be trying to contact Something Beyond. this may be unique to (or at least more common to) Transcendent Technologies, as Elsie, the lead character in the color section of HSD Extended, is a character heavily influenced by TTI.
Breaking the Wheel
A radical isolationist Grotto with its roots in a Buddhist monastic tradition has reached the conclusion that the endless pursuit of wealth is the enemy, and the Ledger has codified this. They have all either donated their Ledger’s proceeds to some other organization–maybe to Progenitus’s efforts, maybe to a dangerous charismatic leader–or simply opted out and trashed their Ledgers. Their financial invisibility makes them able to operate under the corp’s noses–they’re not worth the notice, or perhaps actually are literally “zeroed” to the corps, invisible to them. Short term, they are working to free vectors from their ledgers (willingly or unwillingly), and long-term, are working to end the ledger entirely, through means legal or otherwise.
The Hidden Righteous
According to the Talmud, there are 36 special people whose existence preserves the world. Like the story of Job who must find “10 righteous men” to preserve the city of Sodom, these humble, righteous people’s presence prevents the world from being destroyed.
Obviously, that didn’t work, at least not for Terra, but the trope of the hidden 36 carries through a fair bit of speculative fiction. Incorporating the 36 into your campaign obviously requires a thread of Hebrew scholarship extending back to ancient Earth, perhaps in the form of a scientist/rabbi. Preserving a piece of lore and a tradition, and passing it on to a very select group of vectors (a cabal of elderly lions would be an obvious and tropey choice.) The paradox of passing on this lore to something with an animal shape, within a faith that gives humanity jurisdiction over the animals, would not be overlooked.
One holiday that might crystallize this myth into a Playable Moment is the Jewish festival of Purim, a celebration of the Jewish people’s escape from a plot to annihilate them all. Jewish (and therefore Christian) scripture as a recurring Old Testament pattern of togetherness then scattering: The Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Tower of Babel, destruction of the Temple…perhaps the destruction of Terra is one more scattering.
(1) I’m not trashing the Unitarian Universalist church, I consider myself one of them. I think it’s safe to say that they’ve made a religion that’s more about progressive values than any specific mythology, and are a good model for a post-religion faith: a bit sanitized, but still serving the important church needs for community and life roadpost marking.
(2) The “qliphoth” in Kaballah is a sort of shell around the tree of life that receives its divinity second-hand. Since it’s by definition separated from the divine, it can be associated with evil, the basket in which demonology falls in Kaballah. In White Wolf’s Mage: The Ascension, Qlippottic magic is the depraved and evil version of magic.
(3) In game terms, a character’s Allegiance scores may not be able to rise in a corporation if their faith conflicts with their corporation: for example, TTI is secretive, and the Universal Sanguinists have an open community of shared knowledge. A GM running for a religious character might want to consider a mechanic like “Allegiance” for a smaller group. The Sanguinists won’t have the resources of a Megacorp, but they are likely willing to share what they have with a loyal member. In a points-based game like GURPS, the character might be able to purchase traits like “Influence” and “Ally Group” as a trade-off for an effective cap of her Allegiance score. HSD doesn’t have a strong advantage/disadvantage system, but it might be a good model for characters with deep ties to counterculture-type communities.
(4) HSD1.0 p.18: In an attempt to avoid nuclear war, or survive it, Terran scientists created a hybrid race by “vectorizing” already-born humans. Many of these “hemivectors” were able to evacuate to Mars, bringing with them resources and supplies. Importantly, these refugees were well aware that they were fleeing a dying world, and this would have informed what cultural resources they brought with them. And whoever these hemivector evacuees were, they or their parents were able to swallow the genetic pill of transforming themselves into a type of vector, and made it through MarsCo’s screening process, which would tend to weed out some pro-human radical philosophies, as well as screening out individuals deeply tied to their national origin and loyal to Terra Firma and the concept of nations.