Magic is controlled by religious institutions

JohnDoe9838

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Context: I am thinking of a stereotypical medieval fantasy setting.

Drawing some parallels with reality, religion has had an important weight in the history of humankind in its function of directing and moralizing people: forbidding attitudes, establishing by force a series of unbreakable moral laws (I mean, unbreakable for common people, the Church can send these rules to hell if it suits it), sexually repressing, initiating witch hunts.
(I am thinking mostly of religions related to Christianity, my little western mind does not allow me to think of other parts of the world).
It would not be strange to think that an institution with so much power would prohibit magic to the common people to ensure its hegemonic exercise of power.

I just think a story dealing with religious repression regarding magic would be interesting.

This is not limited to a group of commoners resisting and learning magic clandestinely, but also how the world of the story would change if religious institutions started to lose their power to other nascent institutions or some natural disaster (a State that starts to take shape and wants to break away from the Church, feudal lords who start to own large tracts of land and people and start to dislike giving religious tribute, some pandemic that leaves the world in ruins and starts a mass apostasy, that sort of thing).

In the case of the pandemic, if religious institutions accumulated all the knowledge about healing magic.... Would they let people die simply to control them, so that their health must always depend on the Church? Would all the hierarchies that make up these religious institutions agree to this? Couldn't some of them rebel by teaching these secrets to ordinary people, founding resistance groups?

I can also imagine a sort of medieval dystopia (with some elements of modern dystopia) where the Church subjugates absolutely every aspect of ordinary people's lives through magic.

Another possible scenario is that this leads to fights between many religious institutions with their different interests, resulting in feuds ranging from battles with hundreds of thousands of deaths to skirmishes between two religious people in a tavern.

Hell, do you want to write a love story between two individuals of different religions amidst all the repression? Go ahead.
You want people to use magic for sex in rebellion against religious repression? I guess you can too.

I think making magic almost taboo would give a sense of intimacy to people, as if that magic was part of them and the Church or Churches were cutting off this part of them, depriving them of their full potential. So magic would have a deeper meaning than just being pretty lights and destructive attacks (nothing wrong with that, I love it when a character blows up half the city with a superpower).

Also the use of magic would have its strong moral implications: could magic be used as a method of contraception? Would religions forbid this? Would they punish those who did this to themselves? If this contraception magic started to become public knowledge, how would it affect population growth? Would it age the population, reducing the labor force or religious adherents?
 

Leficios

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The thing is, if the church wills it, they can just go, oh, I received a divination yesterday! (Although they didn't)

My god says that magic isn't allowed! Then poof, everyone can't use magic.

There is one other thing that can rival the church. And that is the Royal Family/King.

While religion is something people believe in, loyalty to the King is absolute most of the time.

The church drives people into what they want to do using faith. Take that faith out, and they're just a bunch of idiots.
 

longer

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You know what would be really groundbreaking? Organized religion not being completely demonized. Sure they have plenty of problems: corruption, repression, and bigotry. But many religions, especially those that preached compassion, did further the cause of egalitarian beliefs.

For instance, the Catholic church was very big on reducing slavery and treating slaves with a level of decency. Well, they also owned the most slaves in all of Europe, so irony. But instead of having organized religion completely oppress people from magic, have them be the people who teach magic, a bit like how they were the ones that taught literacy in many cases. Sure they might have extremely stubborn views about how magic is to be used and learn, but you can always include factions within the religion that believe either in greater freedoms or increased control. A bit like real life.
 

JohnDoe9838

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You know what would be really groundbreaking? Organized religion not being completely demonized. Sure they have plenty of problems: corruption, repression, and bigotry. But many religions, especially those that preached compassion, did further the cause of egalitarian beliefs.

For instance, the Catholic church was very big on reducing slavery and treating slaves with a level of decency. Well, they also owned the most slaves in all of Europe, so irony. But instead of having organized religion completely oppress people from magic, have them be the people who teach magic, a bit like how they were the ones that taught literacy in many cases. Sure they might have extremely stubborn views about how magic is to be used and learn, but you can always include factions within the religion that believe either in greater freedoms or increased control. A bit like real life.
The realization was like a slap in the face, but the idea of a religion being.... just good? It hadn't crossed my mind
I think my disdain for these institutions is showing hahaha.
 

Topgun1908

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The realization was like a slap in the face, but the idea of a religion being.... just good? It hadn't crossed my mind
I think my disdain for these institutions is showing hahaha.
I mean fantasy novels also have the trope of "The church is always evil." They're either corrupt, worshipping an evil god who wants to destroy the world, or just there in the background serving no good or bad purpose.
 

longer

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The realization was like a slap in the face, but the idea of a religion being.... just good? It hadn't crossed my mind
I think my disdain for these institutions is showing hahaha.
Well in my post I was much more on the lines of "religion does both good and bad since it is not inherently good nor evil." But yeah, I've noticed a lot of people seem to have a hateboner for religion. That or I've met way too many reddit atheist that I went from being neutral on organized religion to very slightly favoring it.
 

RavensDagger

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Well in my post I was much more on the lines of "religion does both good and bad since it is not inherently good nor evil." But yeah, I've noticed a lot of people seem to have a hateboner for religion. That or I've met way too many reddit atheist that I went from being neutral on organized religion to very slightly favoring it.

To be fair, saying that 'it's not inherently good nor evil' isn't quite right. Religions are founded on... basically lies. Sometimes they're purposeful, and meant to help people cope with difficult situations (generally people turn towards religion to assist them in difficult times), but the assistance they give is nonetheless built on falsehoods that make those who believe them feel better.

Explaining to a child that their dead pet is going to heaven and is going to be in a happier place might make that child feel better, but it's fundamentally untrue.

I don't know if this means I have a hateboner for religion, I'd like to think that I don't, but I can't look at any religion and think to myself that they're inherently good. And that's long before we look at the tendency for religious organizations to concentrate power and privilege.
 

Echimera

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You know what would be really groundbreaking? Organized religion not being completely demonized. Sure they have plenty of problems: corruption, repression, and bigotry. But many religions, especially those that preached compassion, did further the cause of egalitarian beliefs.

For instance, the Catholic church was very big on reducing slavery and treating slaves with a level of decency. Well, they also owned the most slaves in all of Europe, so irony. But instead of having organized religion completely oppress people from magic, have them be the people who teach magic, a bit like how they were the ones that taught literacy in many cases. Sure they might have extremely stubborn views about how magic is to be used and learn, but you can always include factions within the religion that believe either in greater freedoms or increased control. A bit like real life.
Only after actively creating, supporting and offering a justification for the worst system of slavery we've seen on this planet.

I can't think of any instances where the catholic church, or any other large organized church, was the instigator of actual social progress, rather than jumping on the bandwagon after a change of that sort has already become the consensus in society.
Or, looking at current cases, still silently supporting discrimination, doing nothing to end it besides maybe giving the occasional noncommittal statement before going back to business as usual.

Organized religions, emphasis on organized, tends to work for the interest of their leaders, and these often don't actually align with the interests of society as a whole.
 

Zirrboy

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You know what would be really groundbreaking? Organized religion not being completely demonized. Sure they have plenty of problems: corruption, repression, and bigotry. But many religions, especially those that preached compassion, did further the cause of egalitarian beliefs.

For instance, the Catholic church was very big on reducing slavery and treating slaves with a level of decency. Well, they also owned the most slaves in all of Europe, so irony. But instead of having organized religion completely oppress people from magic, have them be the people who teach magic, a bit like how they were the ones that taught literacy in many cases. Sure they might have extremely stubborn views about how magic is to be used and learn, but you can always include factions within the religion that believe either in greater freedoms or increased control. A bit like real life.
Since they were somewhat selective in their choices regarding what to carry on most ancient literature in Europe was later retranslated from Islamic scripts, but at the time, they were hoards of knowledge.

Most schools were part of monasteries. Which makes the "magic in the hands of the church" idea not entirely far-fetched, since you did have to pay to get said education. (I do vaguely recall a small sponsorship aspect, too, but don't hold me to that)

On the other hand they also used said knowledge for others.
A big part of central Europe used to be swampland. The ones who knew how to dry them to meet increasing soil demands were monks.


Today, these functions are either privatized or in the hand of state, meaning that the church has lost most of its worldly legitimization, with past and present moral shortcomings further lowering that image.

I don't like the church, past nor present, but the prevalence of "meh evil church" in fiction leaves me in a similar position to yours as far as novels are concerned.

It's right up there with "no easy solutions, we must grow from our losses". I hate the thought of being under someone's control, but is a false utopia really always worse than an ugly truth?

Explaining to a child that their dead pet is going to heaven and is going to be in a happier place might make that child feel better, but it's fundamentally untrue.
It's not necessarily, though.

I don't believe in any form of afterlife, but there's no definitive prove that there isn't one.
 
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longer

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Religions are founded on... basically lies.
Or the fever dream of some dude tripping mad balls in the middle east.
Explaining to a child that their dead pet is going to heaven and is going to be in a happier place might make that child feel better, but it's fundamentally untrue.
This just leads into the morality of lies, truths, and simply not speaking about the matter. There's a time and place for all of them as well as situations where each choice is outright detrimental. So it really depends on your personal moral values to dictate how you feel about it. So let's not debate it and just accept that everyone holds their own opinions on the matter since I really don't think we'd get anywhere.
Only after actively creating, supporting and offering a justification for the worst system of slavery we've seen on this planet.
Considering how societies before and after the Atlantic slave trade have been able to create incredibly unjust systems of power I really don't think religion is the sole cause. Sure religion is often used as a very effective justification and is sometimes the instigator, but I think the economic and political situation in Europe in the age of discovery was more than conducive to having individuals commit great atrocities in either the interest of state or self.
I can't think of any instances where the catholic church, or any other large organized church, was the instigator of actual social progress, rather than jumping on the bandwagon after a change of that sort has already become the consensus in society.
The Catholic church played a major role in liberating Poland from communism and preserving polish national identity, for better or worse. Organized religion was also integral in preserving knowledge in Europe during the dark ages, such as monks in Ireland writing numerous poems and many local traditions were put to text. I do not deny that they were also responsible for extinguishing knowledge they deemed as "heretical" or altering things to better suit their purpose. And let's not forget that many East Asian religions were responsible for rampant sexism in their respective countries, though they also strongly advocated for peace to varying degrees of success. My point is organized religion has done both good and bad, but what we're trying to find in a debate is the rough ratio of bad to good.
Organized religions, emphasis on organized, tends to work for the interest of their leaders, and these often don't actually align with the interests of society as a whole.
Strongly agree, but I think this isn't a religion only problem. Regular governments, businesses, and even charities have been shown to demonstrate such behavior.
 

NonReal

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Okay since you're basing this on the Christian church, then please take a look at the church's history.
The 'witch hunt' for example. Originally the church didn't care much for magic. They treated that mostly as a superstition. Only After the Black Death, did they start the whole thing. Also, it was not a decision of the institution itself, but the populace that took the previous superstition and blew it out of proportion, forcing the church to try to adapt to the situation and redirect people's anger trying to avoid civil war in a plague torn Europe. Was it the best idea? Obviously no, but it was a desperate decision made in desperate times.
People like to throw shit at church for holding back progress and science. That's a blatant lie. In Christianity, God created the entire universe, so the church thought that discovering the truth of the world, and scientific pursuit was their duty and a way to get closer to God. Some of the greatest thinkers in history were Christians if not outright priests. Without Christianity, scientific progress would be actually slowed by a few decades if not centuries. I don't see the reason why in a fantasy world they would not do the same. Say that "tangible" magic (not the superstitions from our world) are a gift from God and just roll with it.
Every single law codex in the western world is directly created from the Christian moral code. In fact, the entire modern concept of morality is a legacy of millennia of Christian teachings. Ironically you wouldn't throw shit at religion for its faults if a civilization that was brought on Christianity didn't decide that it's a bad thing in the first place.
There are countless examples of the good impact that Christianity had on humanity. In the same vein, since it's fundamentally a political institution, there are countless bad examples. But if you decide to curse at it, at least find a good reason why, and don't repeat generic arguments that are not based on facts.

By the way, before someone tries to make it personal about me, I'm a Deist, not a Christian.
 

Bloodysin28

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Context: I am thinking of a stereotypical medieval fantasy setting.

Drawing some parallels with reality, religion has had an important weight in the history of humankind in its function of directing and moralizing people: forbidding attitudes, establishing by force a series of unbreakable moral laws (I mean, unbreakable for common people, the Church can send these rules to hell if it suits it), sexually repressing, initiating witch hunts.
(I am thinking mostly of religions related to Christianity, my little western mind does not allow me to think of other parts of the world).
It would not be strange to think that an institution with so much power would prohibit magic to the common people to ensure its hegemonic exercise of power.

I just think a story dealing with religious repression regarding magic would be interesting.

This is not limited to a group of commoners resisting and learning magic clandestinely, but also how the world of the story would change if religious institutions started to lose their power to other nascent institutions or some natural disaster (a State that starts to take shape and wants to break away from the Church, feudal lords who start to own large tracts of land and people and start to dislike giving religious tribute, some pandemic that leaves the world in ruins and starts a mass apostasy, that sort of thing).

In the case of the pandemic, if religious institutions accumulated all the knowledge about healing magic.... Would they let people die simply to control them, so that their health must always depend on the Church? Would all the hierarchies that make up these religious institutions agree to this? Couldn't some of them rebel by teaching these secrets to ordinary people, founding resistance groups?

I can also imagine a sort of medieval dystopia (with some elements of modern dystopia) where the Church subjugates absolutely every aspect of ordinary people's lives through magic.

Another possible scenario is that this leads to fights between many religious institutions with their different interests, resulting in feuds ranging from battles with hundreds of thousands of deaths to skirmishes between two religious people in a tavern.

Hell, do you want to write a love story between two individuals of different religions amidst all the repression? Go ahead.
You want people to use magic for sex in rebellion against religious repression? I guess you can too.

I think making magic almost taboo would give a sense of intimacy to people, as if that magic was part of them and the Church or Churches were cutting off this part of them, depriving them of their full potential. So magic would have a deeper meaning than just being pretty lights and destructive attacks (nothing wrong with that, I love it when a character blows up half the city with a superpower).

Also the use of magic would have its strong moral implications: could magic be used as a method of contraception? Would religions forbid this? Would they punish those who did this to themselves? If this contraception magic started to become public knowledge, how would it affect population growth? Would it age the population, reducing the labor force or religious adherents?
there are gigatriallions of these in japans and credit and fanfiction and most mainstream shit.
 

SakeVision

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You know what would be really groundbreaking? Organized religion not being completely demonized. Sure they have plenty of problems: corruption, repression, and bigotry. But many religions, especially those that preached compassion, did further the cause of egalitarian beliefs.

For instance, the Catholic church was very big on reducing slavery and treating slaves with a level of decency. Well, they also owned the most slaves in all of Europe, so irony. But instead of having organized religion completely oppress people from magic, have them be the people who teach magic, a bit like how they were the ones that taught literacy in many cases. Sure they might have extremely stubborn views about how magic is to be used and learn, but you can always include factions within the religion that believe either in greater freedoms or increased control. A bit like real life.

History discussion:

The catholic church was the proponent of slavery even in Europe, it's called a feudal system, and the slaves are called the serfs. It was especially vile in eastern Europe, where the lord could kill his own serf without consequence, and they were traded like livestock.

This practice was supported by both the catholic church in commonwealth and orthodox church in russia. Polish chlopi and russian cholopi weren't emancipated until 1864 by tsar Alexander II. However, despite the legal change, the serf caste remained impoverished and dependent on wealthy landlords. That being said, the orthodox church remained closely associated with aristocracy, so when the October revolution began, they were treated equally as enemies of the people.

Speaking of castes. Indian caste system is justified by religion.

Major Islamic countries, theoretically following quran and having an organized caste of priests associated with the state, such as Ottoman empire, practiced slavery on a mass scale.

And let's not forget the aztec empire, where they took slaves to sacrifice them to postpone the apocalypse.

The point is, organized religion was most often a proponent of slavery and rigid social structures.

Other than that, I wouldn't mind seeing a positive organized religion portrayal in fiction. It's fiction, after all.
 

AKnightWithaKnife

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here is kinda the issue if your fanytsy church is based of the catholic chruch then it wouldnt make sense for them to restrict magic. in the Catholic Church a priests job is to under stand the work of God and share with the masses. so if magic were real that would problay have a monastery who only spends their time desiccating and understand magic while teaching others
 

Zirrboy

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here is kinda the issue if your fanytsy church is based of the catholic chruch then it wouldnt make sense for them to restrict magic. in the Catholic Church a priests job is to under stand the work of God and share with the masses. so if magic were real that would problay have a monastery who only spends their time desiccating and understand magic while teaching others
With some benefit for them.
They made little efforts to enabling their followers to read the bible themselves for a long time after all.
Which, in said belief about learning the truth about god's creation, was taken as the container of all knowledge, provided you were able to understand it well enough.
 
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AKnightWithaKnife

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With some benefit for them.
They made little efforts to enabling their followers to read the bible themselves for a long time after all.
Which, in said belief about learning the truth about god's creation, was taken as the container of all knowledge, provided you were able to understand it well enough.
well for a long time most people didn’t come across a book. In fact bibles weren’t common place until the late 1700s
 

Zirrboy

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well for a long time most people didn’t come across a book. In fact bibles weren’t common place until the late 1700s
And written and copied in latin.
Which, suprise suprise, was only taught in monasteries.

Of course there were undeniable hindrances from having everyone read it, but they also made use of their interpretative authority and weren't the most enthusiastic when it came to popularization once the means, such as printing presses, did exist.
 

NonReal

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And written and copied in latin.
Which, suprise suprise, was only taught in monasteries.

Of course there were undeniable hindrances from having everyone read it, but they also made use of their interpretative authority and weren't the most enthusiastic when it came to popularization once the means, such as printing presses, did exist.

You do realize that paper was introduced to Europe only in the 13th century? And it took three other centuries for it to become commonplace. Including two centuries it took to invent the printing press.
Before that commonplace was parchment. Made from animal skin and very, very expensive. Everyone was very selective about its usage, not to mention that every book was a work of art made over the course of weeks.
 
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