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View Full Version : Atheists in a generic D&D world...



Alcino
2007-11-29, 02:41 AM
My players are going to spend some time in a city where the intellectual arts are at their finest. The noble and burghess social classes are over-represented and most of the magic industry revolves around convenience, such as self-cleaning heated carpets and the such.

In such a liberal place, I want to have two groups of people, all respectable, intelligent and socially recognized with opinions that, while nothing special in modern society, are downright unsettling in a D&D setting.

First of all, I want an atheist movement, whether organized or not. I want to have philosophers who argue that there are no gods and that even divine magic can be explained without resorting to the presence of gods. Obviously, those people are tert'ly wrong, especially in my campaign context of religious war (Heironeus followers vs Hextor followers, two adjacent nations).

Instead of myself enunciating arguments against the D&D pantheon's existence, I want to hear your pure, unbiased opinion on the subject. What would your arguments be?

The other group would be called the Society for Science, in some sick use of the word "science". They're a high-class organized club with regular meetings and discussions and certain political weight. Its most renowned member is a prolific non-magic surgeon who argues that getting healed by divine magic is putting yourself in unknowable debt. While not an atheist, he definitely opposed to direct divine intervention.

Simply put, this group sees magic in general as something very unnatural whose long-term consequences would be similar to what the modern world currently fears about global warming. As a quick example, evocation spells keep bringing extra energy in this world, and spells can create stone or metal that comes from nowhere and stay forever.

One could argue that for every Firewall, there's a Wall of Ice and that every Wall of Stone meets its Disintegration, but the Society believes that until the effects of magic and its supposed balance can be properly studied, the world should ban the use of magic or risk an eventual catastrophe.

Among my player are a druid, a sorceror and a favored soul, so they're bound to have frictions with those two groups -- especially if the sorcerer goes with his plan and rents a mansion to throw a high-class reception.

Sstoopidtallkid
2007-11-29, 02:50 AM
The atheists can argue that all manifestations of divine power are actually drawing from an internal power pool similar to a sorcerer, just influenced by faith and with different results. All visitations are illusions created by the same power, which is limited not by faith, but by how much power you believe you have.In fact, you should have one who has divine power of some chaotic god with the trickery domain. He uses this as "proof" of there being no gods, since he doesn't believe, but in reality the god is helping him to unbalance the current society without him realizing it.

Mikeavelli
2007-11-29, 02:57 AM
Well, you've already got the Athar from Planescape to base a philosophy on as far as a lack of gods goes, they've got nothing to do with the balance of introducing more energy into the world from nowhere, but here's the godless arguement;

"Gods" exist, there's no doubt about that. Clerics recieve spells of healing and such from them in return for faith, miracles happen, and hell, if you're playing in the campaign of a pretty new DM like the last one I had, they take bodily form and interact with people left and right! If you feel like it, you can take a hop, skip, and a jump up to the planes and chill with your chosen god on their home plane.

Ergo, it's safe to say they exist, and faith is a little more about choosing which one to worship instead of whether or not to worship at all.

However, a different point of view says that yes, while they exist, they're not "gods" at all. Those omnipotent beings that grant mere mortals spells are powerful, yes, but they're not gods, they didn't create anything, and those that claim to have done so are .

As far as evidence is concerned, the fact that you can get spells from faith in a concept as opposed to a specific god seems to imply it's the faith that's important, not the god.

also, [i]gods can die. This may have never happened on your world and be a moot point, but the classic D&D view of gods is that they wither away and die when too many people stop believing in them.

And I'm spent.

Jack Zander
2007-11-29, 02:58 AM
Well their biggest example would be clerics without deities but ideals. Clerics simply believe in something so strongly, that their faith in that idea is manifested into magic. They have an inner power that is channeled and strengthened through their faith. They believe they have the power, and so they do. I think, therefore I am.

graymachine
2007-11-29, 03:03 AM
I think you problem you are encountering here is thinking that atheists would argue against magic in a D&D world. This is exactly opposite the case. Since there is repeatably verifiable evidence of the existence of magic, no real atheist would deny it. Obviously, it is part of the natural world, whether arcane or divine. In fact, atheism would use it to make an even stronger case against god(s) than simply using natural reason; for example, one would point to clerics being empowered by "concepts" as equally well as by "gods." This obviously shows that the power actually comes from the individual and that person simply needs a focus, however irrational, to channel their abilities.

If you choose to level out your atheists, I would suggest the Ur-Priest PrC. While, as an atheist, I find the alignment requirement of the class as being evil, frankly, offensive, it is a good place to go with empowered, philosophical wise men. I would recommend, though, getting rid of the alignment restriction all together, as I think all alignments are capable of reason.

Hawriel
2007-11-29, 03:03 AM
I never saw a wall of fire or ice or stone as some thing that just pops into being. Wizards cannot creat some thing from nothing. Thats the povince of gods if they existed. I would see some one in your scientific rational movment would argue that. To creat a wall of stone it does not pop into being I would naturaly think that it would be constructed from what ever earth was available. If that material was not stone already than the spell would take what ever dirt, mud, clay, sand what have you and reconfigure it into stone. A wall of fire is easer. Thats magic yanking physics by the short hairs. Firewall like any other fire spell creats heat that will do what ever the spell effect calls it to do. The spell manipulates molicules to the point whare the friction causes combustion. Ice works in revers. It would gather together any water or other liquids in one place. Then slow the liquid molicules down creating ice. thats just my take on how magic would work in that sercomstance. Sence your athiest peaple still believe in and use magic even though they dont believe in gods. A cleric would be another form of wizards to them. with a massia complex. I can see thoughs peaple having this kind of conversation. God made it so my wifes operation worked and she is going to totaly recover. Well Im sure the doctors who when to med school for eight ears and have been practicing for 20 years who performed the 8 hour operation might have somthing to do with your wifes recovery.

Human Paragon 3
2007-11-29, 03:04 AM
Well their biggest example would be clerics without deities but ideals. Clerics simply believe in something so strongly, that their faith in that idea is manifested into magic. They have an inner power that is channeled and strengthened through their faith. They believe they have the power, and so they do. I think, therefore I am.



Not only that, but an Archivist can cast spells out of a "prayer book," tapping into "divine" power from any deity or ideal without believing in ANYTHING. I think this points to an internal or possibly arcane source for divine power.

One other school of thought could be that the "gods" exist, but they are in actuality very powerful mortals and they've done nothing to earn the adoration or prayers of intelligent, free-thinkers. Really, they just inspire mindlessness (the flock), buck-passing (give yourself up to a higher power, "god" wills it), and bloodshed (my god is better than your god!).

Both of these progressive, "enlightened" views, or any described by the learned posters above, could be the flavor of the week philosophy for your sophisticated atheists.

Mewtarthio
2007-11-29, 03:07 AM
First off: Is there actually any downside to magic in your world? I mean besides things like "people exposed to fireball spells tend to develop sever, possibly fatal, burns." I'm talking about any unexplained or unintended downsides, be they as dangerous as Whitelight Shakes (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3098490&postcount=77) or simply as inexlicaple/unintentional as Spelltouched feats (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/buildingCharacters/spelltouchedFeats.htm) (sure, it's beneficial, but if a potential side effect of barkskin is that your skin gets thicker in sunlight, people will get worried). If so, they'd be bringing this up as evidence of how dangerous magic is.

If not, I honestly don't see them getting very far. It's like those people who claim cell phones cause cancer: It might be true, but most people are willing to take the risk. Basically, I've got these reasons:
Magic is convenient. Cure light wounds is much more helpful than any mundane healing, from bleeding and leeching to bed rest and modern drugs. Nobody wants to give that up.
Magic is widespread. There is little you can do to avoid magic short of excising yourself from society (at least at mid-to-high levels; your average commoner will do just fine). It would be like going without electricity in the modern world: It can be done, but you will be virtually unable to interact with anyone else in a manner that's considered "normal."
Magic is powerful. People in power don't like being challenged. These people in power can assassinate you with magic and use magic to cover their trails. They could dominate you to make it look like an accident. They could disinitigrate the body so it just looks like you've gone missing. They could use programmed amnesia (at really high levels) to make you argue for their own side.


That being said, this antimagic group could get some following among people not normally exposed to magic. If you've got a lot of low-level villiages with little magic in the world, they could find support there. If there's a dead magic zone somewhere in the world, they'll have their own city there. If there's a race in the world that cannot use magic (I believe it's called the Karsites?), those guys will join. From a strictly economic perspective, it makes perfect sense: If you can't get it (or don't want it) anyway, you might as well deny it to your competitors. From a strictly psychological perspective, it still makes perfect sense: Man fears what he cannot understand, and it's difficult to understand something you can't use, so they're bound to believe that magic is either dangerous or immoral.

Note that, if possible, you can try to mitigate the above points by including strong technology that closes the power gap. Throwing in downsides to magic makes it even better, since people tend to avoid excess risk: If a certain herbal concoction, along with a day of rest, can help you recover swiftly from wounds, people will take it over a healing spell that could potentially go horribly awry and make you explode.

Kultrum
2007-11-29, 03:24 AM
In all technicality aren't the D&D "gods" little more that hyperpowerful outsiders with delusions of grandeur? I've played more that one atheist based on this assumption.

ZebulonCrispi
2007-11-29, 03:30 AM
I had a friend who played an Atheist in a high-magic setting once.

It went great until a goddess of chaos heard about him.

graymachine
2007-11-29, 03:34 AM
I never saw a wall of fire or ice or stone as some thing that just pops into being. Wizards cannot creat some thing from nothing. Thats the povince of gods if they existed. I would see some one in your scientific rational movment would argue that. To creat a wall of stone it does not pop into being I would naturaly think that it would be constructed from what ever earth was available. If that material was not stone already than the spell would take what ever dirt, mud, clay, sand what have you and reconfigure it into stone. A wall of fire is easer. Thats magic yanking physics by the short hairs. Firewall like any other fire spell creats heat that will do what ever the spell effect calls it to do. The spell manipulates molicules to the point whare the friction causes combustion. Ice works in revers. It would gather together any water or other liquids in one place. Then slow the liquid molicules down creating ice. thats just my take on how magic would work in that sercomstance. Sence your athiest peaple still believe in and use magic even though they dont believe in gods. A cleric would be another form of wizards to them. with a massia complex. I can see thoughs peaple having this kind of conversation. God made it so my wifes operation worked and she is going to totaly recover. Well Im sure the doctors who when to med school for eight ears and have been practicing for 20 years who performed the 8 hour operation might have somthing to do with your wifes recovery.

Apologies if I misinterpreted; cutting through these spelling errors is like venturing into the darkest heart of Africa.

I would point out that the "rational movement" as you put it, still starts from the same vantage point as atheists in the real world start from: The burden of proof isn't on them. A theist asserts that there is a god (pick one, they're a dime a dozen) and the rationalist, to coin your phrase, asks for proof of this god (keep in mind that god doesn't mean, in this context, a certain stat block, or some certain level of magical power; it means the absolute maker of all that is.) The Theist casts some clerical spells and says, "Ha! There's your proof!" The rationalist scoffs and says, "Is that all?" and cast the same spells, being a cleric of Truth (at least as he see it to put people at ease.) Then the rationalist Plane Shifts to Sigil for kicks and watches him try to incorporate his beliefs (which are primitive from the perspective of any Planeswalker) the greater aspects of the D&D cosmos.

The point that these rationalists would rest on is that the burden of proving their believes (assertions about the nature of reality) falls on the theists. No proof means no serious consideration, at least as a sane being. If there were proof these rationalists would be the first to convert.:smallbiggrin:

Saint George
2007-11-29, 03:34 AM
In all technicality aren't the D&D "gods" little more that hyperpowerful outsiders with delusions of grandeur? I've played more that one atheist based on this assumption.

This would be the idea I would go with. How do you have any proof that what you are talking to is a god? It could just be some big ol' thing from beyond the stars with way more magic than you.

There was a great article in Dragon about this at some point... they even had a prestige class that devoted itself to fighting these "outsiders". It was sort of like a monk that could banish with a touch. I think the capstone power was a punch that could actually cut a cleric off from their god. Man, I need to find that magazine...

Sstoopidtallkid
2007-11-29, 03:36 AM
I think lawful and good would be the most upset. Lawful because he is disturbing the way things are and good because he is removing moral constraints from peoples minds. I could see a chaotic deity backing them for the sheer hell if it, and protecting them from the other gods.

graymachine
2007-11-29, 03:37 AM
First off: Is there actually any downside to magic in your world? I mean besides things like "people exposed to fireball spells tend to develop sever, possibly fatal, burns." I'm talking about any unexplained or unintended downsides, be they as dangerous as Whitelight Shakes (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3098490&postcount=77) or simply as inexlicaple/unintentional as Spelltouched feats (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/buildingCharacters/spelltouchedFeats.htm) (sure, it's beneficial, but if a potential side effect of barkskin is that your skin gets thicker in sunlight, people will get worried). If so, they'd be bringing this up as evidence of how dangerous magic is.

If not, I honestly don't see them getting very far. It's like those people who claim cell phones cause cancer: It might be true, but most people are willing to take the risk. Basically, I've got these reasons:
Magic is convenient. Cure light wounds is much more helpful than any mundane healing, from bleeding and leeching to bed rest and modern drugs. Nobody wants to give that up.
Magic is widespread. There is little you can do to avoid magic short of excising yourself from society (at least at mid-to-high levels; your average commoner will do just fine). It would be like going without electricity in the modern world: It can be done, but you will be virtually unable to interact with anyone else in a manner that's considered "normal."
Magic is powerful. People in power don't like being challenged. These people in power can assassinate you with magic and use magic to cover their trails. They could dominate you to make it look like an accident. They could disinitigrate the body so it just looks like you've gone missing. They could use programmed amnesia (at really high levels) to make you argue for their own side.


That being said, this antimagic group could get some following among people not normally exposed to magic. If you've got a lot of low-level villiages with little magic in the world, they could find support there. If there's a dead magic zone somewhere in the world, they'll have their own city there. If there's a race in the world that cannot use magic (I believe it's called the Karsites?), those guys will join. From a strictly economic perspective, it makes perfect sense: If you can't get it (or don't want it) anyway, you might as well deny it to your competitors. From a strictly psychological perspective, it still makes perfect sense: Man fears what he cannot understand, and it's difficult to understand something you can't use, so they're bound to believe that magic is either dangerous or immoral.

Note that, if possible, you can try to mitigate the above points by including strong technology that closes the power gap. Throwing in downsides to magic makes it even better, since people tend to avoid excess risk: If a certain herbal concoction, along with a day of rest, can help you recover swiftly from wounds, people will take it over a healing spell that could potentially go horribly awry and make you explode.

I'm confounded: where does this idea that atheists would deny the existence of magic, if it were provable, come from?

graymachine
2007-11-29, 03:41 AM
I think lawful and good would be the most upset. Lawful because he is disturbing the way things are and good because he is removing moral constraints from peoples minds. I could see a chaotic deity backing them for the sheer hell if it, and protecting them from the other gods.

Well, I don't think any deity of D&D would back this group, as they are ultimately gunning for them. Furthermore, morality has nothing at all to do with believing in gods. In fact, believing in such things breeds the grounds in which the most horribly immoral things are done.

Shadowdweller
2007-11-29, 03:46 AM
As perhaps hinted at previously, I think you might be better off with a society that rejects deities rather than one that does not believe in the existence of deities. Arugments or lines of thought might run something along the lines of "Deities are nothing but metaphysical parasites." (Steal power from mortals in the form of prayers); or "We have no need of any save ourselves to make our society function."; or even "We bow before nothing."

Well, I suppose it's easily possible to have large populations that are simply delusional (as is the case where people don't believe in something that is a fact of life) but...I guess I just personally find the above more compelling.

graymachine
2007-11-29, 03:52 AM
As perhaps hinted at previously, I think you might be better off with a society that rejects deities rather than one that does not believe in the existence of deities. Arugments or lines of thought might run something along the lines of "Deities are nothing but metaphysical parasites." (Steal power from mortals in the form of prayers); or "We have no need of any save ourselves to make our society function."; or even "We bow before nothing."

Well, I suppose it's easily possible to have large populations that are simply delusional (as is the case where people don't believe in something that is a fact of life) but...I guess I just personally find the above more compelling.

Shadow's suggestion here seems like the best one; given that the "deities" can be proven to exist (regardless of them not being truly divine), such a society would probably view them as parasites. The other road, which I disagree with as well, that everyone's simply delusional seems to be a bit beyond the pale. A society that revers reason would seem to be least likely to be delusional en masse.

Sstoopidtallkid
2007-11-29, 03:53 AM
Hey, I have nothing but hatred for most religions, I'm just trying to say how the gods themselves would react to this.

graymachine
2007-11-29, 04:00 AM
Hey, I have nothing but hatred for most religions, I'm just trying to say how the gods themselves would react to this.

As far as I understand the metaphysics of D&D, the deities don't determine the alignments or, for the most part, enforce them directly. Therefore, the deities' reactions are pretty much irrelevant, given their famous policy of non-interference.

Sstoopidtallkid
2007-11-29, 04:09 AM
No, but churches do, and the good churches have more influence than evil ones in D&D, so good gods would be hurt more than evil ones by the atheists interference.

Fuzzy_Juan
2007-11-29, 04:09 AM
Well...given the history and lore of DnD...anyone who is an athiest is kinda thick...as Gods are very prolific and tied to a great many things. People have even 'proven' that the Gods truely exist by visiting them in their realms, their avatars visit occasionally...

An 'athiest' as we know it, one who denies the existance of any 'god' is pretty dumb since they can and do show up...they are in fact there...it does not require faith, it is knowledge.

Now...Dragon Magazine had an article at one point for Athar Dragon Magazine #287, p.45-6...they were clerics who abandoned their power and have forsaken their gods...they say the gods are false and that there is a greater power than even the gods. I think...at 3nd level of the prestige class, they gain back their spellcasting ability and start to gain various immunities and bonuses against the divine magic of other spellcasters. I think they even get domains again. They are able ot tap into the cosmic power that feeds the gods and as such say that if mortals can tap the sam power, that the 'gods' are just mortals who have reached levels of power normal mortals have yet to achieve...sure they are from other planes of existance...but that doesn't mean that they are not just like men...It fits into the whole 'overgod' theory hinted at in many parts of DnD lore.

Note...when it comes to the gods, there have always been two wild cards what seem to know more than they let on...one is a good diety that is fairly obscure...the other is Asmodeus. Legend says that Asmodeus as we know him is mearly an avatar...that the true form of Asmodeus is that of a giant dragon/serpent that fell shortly after creating the cosmos...cast down by the other who helped him create all and maybe some of the first gods...It is said that when he fell, the crater became the nine levels of Hell, that the rift below Narsuss(sp?) actually holds his true body...hints of his massive divinity come from his blood...when spilled, the drops become perfect pit fiends. In the same book where the roumor is mentioned...it also said that if anyone ever voiced such an opinion...they usually met a very gruesome demise very soon afterwards.

Nowhere Girl
2007-11-29, 04:14 AM
One other school of thought could be that the "gods" exist, but they are in actuality very powerful mortals and they've done nothing to earn the adoration or prayers of intelligent, free-thinkers. Really, they just inspire mindlessness (the flock), buck-passing (give yourself up to a higher power, "god" wills it), and bloodshed (my god is better than your god!).

Interestingly enough, a similar line of thinking to this very one informs one of my characters' behavior (specifically Naenre, my faithless drow), although she's not really consciously aware of it as such yet.

To respond to the original post, though, and speaking as an atheist myself, I'll have to partly piggyback on what graymachine said: no truly rational atheist is going to deny the existence of magic in the face of overwhelming evidence of its existence. What you need to do is to decide where, in your world, evidence to support what people believe is sorely lacking. That will be where atheists begin asking questions.

If the gods regularly pop in for lunch or to smite the odd mortal, no sane person is going to doubt they exist. Thinkers might still ask questions about what the true nature of those "gods" really is (assuming such questioning won't immediately lead to being struck dead, in which case everyone will very quickly and fearfully shut up ... or else die and then shut up), but they're not going to stand there and insist that nothing just showed up and wiped out an army when everyone was right there watching it happen.

By contrast, if no one's ever actually seen one of these alleged gods, well ... that's an entirely different kettle of fish.

Another thing to consider is the difference between "strong" and "weak" atheism. I'm a "weak" atheist (also often called agnostic), which basically means I don't believe simply due to a lack of evidence, the same way I don't believe vampires or dragons exist. If I met a dragon tomorrow, naturally I'd revise my opinion of dragons. If I'd never seen a car or any reasonable evidence for the existence of cars before, I might doubt cars exist, but as it happens, I see them every day. If modern science hadn't already proven they exist, I'd doubt the existence of atoms if someone brought them up. This is logical and is the same reason I don't believe there's really a living version of Strawberry Shortcake.

"Strong" atheism is the type of atheism that actively seeks to prove there isn't a god (or gods, as polytheism deserves at least a passing mention). I think it's a highly irrational way of thinking and makes even less logical sense, on the whole, than believing in something (such as a god or gods) without sufficient evidence.

There's also a good Wikipedia entry on the subject.

Finally, I apologize to anyone I might have offended. My intent was only to give the OP somewhat useful (I hope) feedback.

graymachine
2007-11-29, 04:24 AM
Well...given the history and lore of DnD...anyone who is an athiest is kinda thick...as Gods are very prolific and tied to a great many things. People have even 'proven' that the Gods truely exist by visiting them in their realms, their avatars visit occasionally...

An 'athiest' as we know it, one who denies the existance of any 'god' is pretty dumb since they can and do show up...they are in fact there...it does not require faith, it is knowledge.

Umm. It seems you didn't understand what I was talking about. You seem to be promoting the idea that something can call itself a god, display certain powers which many other things in D&D can do, and that makes it a god. If this is an acceptable argument to you then I have some swamp land I want to sell you:smallwink:. I don't doubt, from the D&D atheist's perspective, that plenty of people have encountered these beings that call themselves 'gods' that are no means divine. By virtue of the proven existence of magic, something this person would consider a natural force, then it seems reasonable that such beings (impostors to the throne, as it were) would exist. Furthermore, the D&D deities could never prove their divinity since they would never be able to break the mechanics, as it were. I'd ramble some more, but sleep is calling.

Nowhere Girl
2007-11-29, 04:31 AM
Umm. It seems you didn't understand what I was talking about. You seem to be promoting the idea that something can call itself a god, display certain powers which many other things in D&D can do, and that makes it a god. If this is an acceptable argument to you then I have some swamp land I want to sell you:smallwink:. I don't doubt, from the D&D atheist's perspective, that plenty of people have encountered these beings that call themselves 'gods' that are no means divine. By virtue of the proven existence of magic, something this person would consider a natural force, then it seems reasonable that such beings (impostors to the throne, as it were) would exist. Furthermore, the D&D deities could never prove their divinity since they would never be able to break the mechanics, as it were. I'd ramble some more, but sleep is calling.

Just to piggyback one more time, interestingly enough, in the anime One Piece, there's a character named Enel who insists he's a god and has seemingly godlike powers. He could very easily convince anyone in our modern world that he's a god with the power he wields.

He's not. He's just a guy who was empowered by something called a Devil's Fruit and has a head full of faulty wiring. That's it.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-11-29, 04:32 AM
In a "generic" D&D world, where the gods are assumed to physically show up every so often, and where there are likely to be elven eyewitnesses of the last manifestation, together with the ability of high-level magic to open a gate to a deity's home plane, I don't think atheism as it exists in our world is possible, not on any large scale or timeframe.

Once an atheistic movement reaches a certain size or has existed long enough, someone with enough power to travel the planes will try to prove that gods don't exist by traveling to the "supposed home" of a god, only to find that hey, there's the god who's existence they've been denying - assuming, of course, that the gods haven't already decided to put the threat to rest and manifested in front of the atheists already.

A society might conceivably refuse to worship the gods, but denying that they exist is just plain stupid, assuming a "generic D&D world", and to be a true atheist, you have to deny that gods exist.

herrhauptmann
2007-11-29, 04:35 AM
Alcino, I'd recommend doing some research on the late 18th and early 19th century philosophers. Especially American Colonials, and the French, who were the first to have little day parties discussing things of the philosophe viewpoint.

Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Robespierre and others are good people of the age to examine.

Accersitus
2007-11-29, 04:51 AM
It is important to define what a god is.

1.In many settings the deities are manifestations that are created by
sentient beings. These deities rely on faith to give them power, and
without sentient beings believing in them they fade away into oblivion.
An example of this is the chaos gods in the warhammer world that are
manifestations of the negative side of the feelings of the sentient beings.
Although they are powerful entities, this kind of deity is limited by believers
and the power of it's aspect in the world. Divine spell casters of a deity like
this would most likely use their own power when casting spells since
they are part of what made the deity(depends on how sentient/independent
you make this kind of deity. If it's a truly sentient being, it could focus the
power it gets from it's followers and give it to the casters, or the deity
could just be a collection of the knowledge and power of the believers,
and all the divine casters draw their power from their collection)

2.The other kind of deity is the omnipotent all powerful god (or group of gods
who embody the different aspects of creation and have total control of
their aspect) who created the world/universe. This deity would not need
believers to maintain it's power, but it would most likely require the
deity to grant powers to it's worshipers. These clerics could also use
their own power when casting spells, but it could be both ways.

3.Other than this you have the option that divine casters are just casters
who draw their power from a different source(druids/rangers from nature,
arcane casters from some kind of background radiation(magic) that exist in
the world, and cleric/paladin from some other kind of energy.

In my opinion the debate would go around theories similar to the
3 scenarios, where the atheists debate either the third point, or the first
point where the deities are just a manifestation of our collective minds,
and not omnipotent beings.
Since the divine spells can come from just the power of the individual
in all 3 cases, it's hard to prove/disprove the existence of deities.
Spells that communicate with deities can be easily explained in the
2nd part, can be explained in the first part if you for example say
that the deity knows all that the believers it was made from knows
or more, and need quite some explaining in the third part.
In my opinion the first option is the best since it's very flexible.

AslanCross
2007-11-29, 04:53 AM
Now...Dragon Magazine had an article at one point for Athar Dragon Magazine #287, p.45-6...they were clerics who abandoned their power and have forsaken their gods...they say the gods are false and that there is a greater power than even the gods. I think...at 3nd level of the prestige class, they gain back their spellcasting ability and start to gain various immunities and bonuses against the divine magic of other spellcasters. I think they even get domains again. They are able ot tap into the cosmic power that feeds the gods and as such say that if mortals can tap the sam power, that the 'gods' are just mortals who have reached levels of power normal mortals have yet to achieve...sure they are from other planes of existance...but that doesn't mean that they are not just like men...It fits into the whole 'overgod' theory hinted at in many parts of DnD lore.


The Athar are a movement of former clerics who only reject the known gods as pretenders. They are not truly atheist, as they believe that there is a/an omnipotent deity/set of deities/force (whom they call the Great Unknown) that is responsible for the actual creation of all existence. They believe that the deities who are currently alive (as well as those who have died) got their divinity from something called the Crystal Cask, which predated the gods as they are known.

There is, however, what seems to be a truly atheist subsect of Athar, who believe that even the Great Unknown is a cosmic scam. They wish to embrace "the true knowledge of reality," which according to them is that there really is no god at all. However, the Planar Handbook says that nobody truly knows what these rebel Athar believe in.

BTW: The Athar are based on the Astral plane. They have observatories from which they view the corpses of the dead gods there. Apparently they get a kick out of it. :smallconfused:

graymachine
2007-11-29, 04:57 AM
In a "generic" D&D world, where the gods are assumed to physically show up every so often, and where there are likely to be elven eyewitnesses of the last manifestation, together with the ability of high-level magic to open a gate to a deity's home plane, I don't think atheism as it exists in our world is possible, not on any large scale or timeframe.

Once an atheistic movement reaches a certain size or has existed long enough, someone with enough power to travel the planes will try to prove that gods don't exist by traveling to the "supposed home" of a god, only to find that hey, there's the god who's existence they've been denying - assuming, of course, that the gods haven't already decided to put the threat to rest and manifested in front of the atheists already.

A society might conceivably refuse to worship the gods, but denying that they exist is just plain stupid, assuming a "generic D&D world", and to be a true atheist, you have to deny that gods exist.

Arg, the ghost of poor reasoning wrests me from my sleep. So, a short rebuttal to this line of thinking. I put the IRL you in a time machine loaded with (functionally indestructable) tools for pretty much everything in the modern age and, to go even a step farther and in a matrix-move, use a computer to give you the most complete education possible. Then I set the dial for the Bronze Age, break the machine so it can't come back, and wave bye. Bu all of the arguments I've heard thus far, I've just made a god since it's willing (assumably) to call itself that and has the power to back it up. Plus people can go to it and say, "Wow, Jim-bob the Drunken Hillbilly is really really here! I guess that makes him really a god!" I feel a sense of accomplishment in having my hand in the making of the being, or at least one of the being, that causes everything to come into existence. The fact of the matter, though, is that there is nothing divine in this situation, except maybe me, since I'm spending my time going around making gods. Well, I think my point is clear enough not to draw it out. So, Deus ex quiesco.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-11-29, 05:14 AM
Umm. It seems you didn't understand what I was talking about. You seem to be promoting the idea that something can call itself a god, display certain powers which many other things in D&D can do, and that makes it a god. If this is an acceptable argument to you then I have some swamp land I want to sell you:smallwink:.

Here's my rebuttal:

Can mortals automatially get a natural 20 on every roll they make? Deities of a certain power level can. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#alwaysMaximizeRoll)

Can mortals grant spells without any effort whatsoever? Deities can. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#grantSpells)

Do mortals have portfolios? Deities do. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#portfolio)

Can mortals perform multiple actions related to their portfolio as free actions in a single round? No, because mortals don't have portfolios. Deities can. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#automaticActions)

Some more things that deities can do, RAW, that mortals can't:

Alter Reality (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#alterReality) - It's like a better version of wish.
Divine Creation (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#divineCreation) - Can mortals create living beings out of nothing? No? Deities can.
Know Secrets (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#knowSecrets) - Can a mortal figure out how you lost your virginity and what your first word was just by giving you a once-over? Deities can.
Supreme Initiative (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#supremeInitiative) - Can mortals go first, every single time? (Hint: The answer is "No," because even Batman still has a finite number of spells per day.)


Arg, the ghost of poor reasoning wrests me from my sleep. So, a short rebuttal to this line of thinking. I put the IRL you in a time machine loaded with (functionally indestructable) tools for pretty much everything in the modern age and, to go even a step farther and in a matrix-move, use a computer to give you the most complete education possible. Then I set the dial for the Bronze Age, break the machine so it can't come back, and wave bye. Bu all of the arguments I've heard thus far, I've just made a god since it's willing (assumably) to call itself that and has the power to back it up. Plus people can go to it and say, "Wow, Jim-bob the Drunken Hillbilly is really really here! I guess that makes him really a god!" I feel a sense of accomplishment in having my hand in the making of the being, or at least one of the being, that causes everything to come into existence. The fact of the matter, though, is that there is nothing divine in this situation, except maybe me, since I'm spending my time going around making gods. Well, I think my point is clear enough not to draw it out. So, Deus ex quiesco.

We're talking about D&D gods, graymachine, not a RL hypothetical, and D&D gods are governed by certain rules. Here (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/divineRanksPowers.htm) are the relevant (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm) links (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/divineMinionsDomainsSpells.htm). Read and enjoy.

And you know what happens because of those rules? It means that in D&D, we can tell when something really is a god, and when it's just calling itself a god.

So, getting back to your scenario - sure, I could call myself a god, and be worshipped as a god by those poor deluded Bronze Age shmucks. But if you statted me out, I'd just be a low- to mid-level expert with a lot of skills and equipment. Not a Divine Rank or Salient Divine ability in sight. Therefore, by the power of RAW, your argument is defeated.

Sstoopidtallkid
2007-11-29, 05:20 AM
But would you be able to appear a god? Yes. Actually, illusion spells can probably accomplish that much. IC, there is nothing stopping you from being worshipped as a god, and nothing saying the gods are anything more than epic batmen from a commoner's perspective. And if you combine that with the internal power-pool for clerics, you have a logical explanation for deities that any in-game scientist might believe.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-11-29, 05:24 AM
But there's absolutely no RAW indication for an internal power source for clerical powers. Pure concepts and ideals can have an independent existence quite easily in D&D. Indeed, what the hell are archons, angels, eladrin, demons, yugoloths, and devils, if not independent incarnations of alignment ideals?

Oh, and in case anyone is confused, "generic D&D" = "D&D according to RAW" because the RAW is the generic base from which all variants etc. spring. The moment D&D does not conform to the RAW, it ceases to be generic.

Sstoopidtallkid
2007-11-29, 05:31 AM
Of course, but he is building the world with gods and delusional atheists, as close to generic as he can with those constraints, and we have offered fixes. Plus, to paraphrase one of my favorite stupid arguments that my favorite stupid people use, no indication does not mean it is not the case.

Plus, you are forgetting rule 0.

Mr. Friendly
2007-11-29, 05:31 AM
Well, since you seem to be using Greyhawk deities as a basis in your world....

I would say the leaders of the atheist movement are most likely Tharizdun worshippers, or at least serve his cause (with or without their knowledge). As for their beliefs.... Um... well... doesn't the Gate spell or Plane Shift pretty much shut down their arguements?

Atheist: There is no God!
PC: *poof* Gate > Solar
Solar: What up?
PC: S'up.... Can you take up to see God real fast, or get God to pop his head in? This dude says he doesn't believe.
Solar: Sure man... *wish*

The "Magic is bad" people... well that's a toughy. Quite frankly its a perfectly rational belief. Look at all the bad stuff that happens from magic...

Still, their POV, valid as it may be, will never be majority unless people start seeing real consequences.... In Dark Sun, defiler magic is obviously bad... you make a big ring of ash when it happens. In your world though... with nothing else to go on.... it would be like telling an American in the 1950s that driving his car would destroy the Earth. People today are more willing to believe it, but back then with virtually 0 evidence?

Lord Iames Osari
2007-11-29, 05:36 AM
Ah, Rule Zero. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the minute you use Rule Zero to change what rules apply to your game, you're no longer playing with the Rules As Written (since you just changed them using Rule Zero), and are thus no longer playing generic D&D. Therefore, invoking Rule Zero does not help you in the slightest in this discussion, which is about generic D&D, which is D&D according to the RAW. :smalltongue:

Fuzzy_Juan
2007-11-29, 05:48 AM
Arg, the ghost of poor reasoning wrests me from my sleep. So, a short rebuttal to this line of thinking. I put the IRL you in a time machine loaded with (functionally indestructable) tools for pretty much everything in the modern age and, to go even a step farther and in a matrix-move, use a computer to give you the most complete education possible. Then I set the dial for the Bronze Age, break the machine so it can't come back, and wave bye. Bu all of the arguments I've heard thus far, I've just made a god since it's willing (assumably) to call itself that and has the power to back it up. Plus people can go to it and say, "Wow, Jim-bob the Drunken Hillbilly is really really here! I guess that makes him really a god!" I feel a sense of accomplishment in having my hand in the making of the being, or at least one of the being, that causes everything to come into existence. The fact of the matter, though, is that there is nothing divine in this situation, except maybe me, since I'm spending my time going around making gods. Well, I think my point is clear enough not to draw it out. So, Deus ex quiesco.


I believe the failing point is the definition of 'God'. In our real life terms 'God' is a being of immense power, sometimes omnipotent and typically extraplanar, that takes an interest in the goings on of the mortal world. These beings have powers beyond the 'normal' and beyond the extraordinary. It is up to the DM in dnd weather the 'gods' used have ascended, helped shape the world/universe. if they require worshippers for their power (or just like them), and all sorts of little things. Yes...in a DnD world, any sufficiently powerful being could claim to be a 'God', and even a powerful lich might be taken for one...with enough belief...they may even attain godhood...oh wait...that happened...

Some archfiends and demon lords are hailed as Gods, yet they are not actually gods by the rules. In game terms, a God is a being that has a divine rank and grants worshippers spells in the form of divine magic and domains...their connection with their portfolio alows them uncanny knowledge and command over all aspects of their portfolio.

In this case...any being sufficiently powerful could claim to be a 'god' but be false...what matters is if the being has followers, grants spells, and has a portfolio and a divine rank. Unfortunately, only the spell granting is 'checkable' and then you have to rely on the priest to be truthful...the rest could be argued that it is some other thing and not divine power...or that 'divine powers' as written in the book are only called 'powers of the gods' because they are so much more powerful than anything people can normally do.

So really, we are just falling over definitions...

remember, 'gods' in DnD are not like the Christian God...they are more akin to the greek/roman gods. They represent aspects of the world, the welfare of men, ideas, vocations, etc...The gods in DnD are often the aspect incarnate, or a being that has become so tied up with an aspect of the world that they have merged their essence with it...perhaps because they created the thing, or they are the source (a source) of an idea...maybe they are the idea of the epitome of something given form.

People in the DnD world have given established terms on what is and what is not a God...the ignorant are sometimes fooled, but those learned in religion and other arcane matters will know a 'god' as they define one when they see one. Is it possible that their definition of what a 'God' is is flawed? Absolutely. But what is typically not up for debate is that creatures that meet these certian criteria are classified as 'gods'. If it helps...we can label them 'uberfish' since that lacks the connotation that 'god' has. Could what they call an 'uberfish' just be a really powerful extraplanar being...yeah...the understanding of the uberfish and how it relates to the mortal world might be up for interpretation...but the label is pretty much there.

So...we are really dealing with the nature of the beings that mortals in DnD label as 'gods'. Where do they really come from? What is the real extent of their powers, their influence, their interest in the mortal realm. Did they really shape the world, or did they just take an interest in it? Did they shape the greater cosmos? Is there a greater power? Do they get power from their followers...if so...can anyone do it? Can the Gods be killed/replaced...and if so...what does that make the new 'god'.

Yeah, I get how a dnd athiest would just see divine magic as the borrowing of power from a powerful extraplanar being by devoting some of your power to it. Your deepening commitment and faith allows you to merge with the being more and more and tap into their powers even more. A Wizard/sorcerer draws power form within, or by manipulating the fabric of reality, whereas the 'cleric' sells their soul, their own 'divine spark' to an extraplanar being in exchange for the ability to channel their powers...in essence, they made a pact with a demon by a different name. An athiest in DnD would see druidic magic as proof that divine magic is just borrowed magic from a greater power...the druids tap into the energies of the world and use that for their spells...as they become more in tune with nature, they gain more and more power over it.

Athar decide to take that idea a step further and look for the same source of power that fuels those that people call 'gods'. They eventuall learn to tap into the cosmic energy and as such are once again able to channel 'divine' magic.

Delta Nu Delta
2007-11-29, 06:36 AM
I think the Fuzzy Juan is quite right... most of this quibbling is over semantics. If you wanted to represent a rationalist movement in D & D, I don't think atheism would be a good term for it - while the term in the real world may be analogous to a D & D one, it just doesn't really carry over. Here are some of the questions they may pose for the rest of the world though...

What do the gods actually do that is different from other extremely powerful planar beings?

Why can clerics of ideals cast spells equal to clerics of gods?

Did the gods actually have anything to do with the creation of the world?

Given that these beings exist and are powerful, is it actually in our best interest to have anything to do with them? It seems they cause a lot more trouble than they solve as a result of their constant scheming and battles.

Do the gods actually bring fortune to their followers? It seems, routinely, that followers of specific gods are routed, killed, maimed, burned by dragons, and brain borked by illithids. It seems they only are able to work their will through mortal agents, who we've already established can have equal power without the "divine."

Based on the above, is there a point to spending resources on building temples, statues, and alters to these things?

Again, I just don't think atheism is a good term for the movement. If you were transplant any atheist into a D&D world, they would immediately revise their ideas. Atheism is not an active belief in "no-god" - it's simply a statement that the evidence for one is lacking.

The problem with these definitions is, as Fuzzy Juan pointed out, the power gradient is a very smooth slope from mortal, powerful being, on up to diety - the line drawn is relatively arbitrary for what the designers consider a "god," and it would be even more blurry for an inhabitant in the world.

SoD
2007-11-29, 06:40 AM
I'd go with the Terry Pratchett idea of atheists. I remember one guy who prooved that there were no gods, just before that unfortunate incident with the lightningh storm...

Basically, there are two types of atheists, dead and lightning-proof.

Delta Nu Delta
2007-11-29, 06:47 AM
<== Lightning proof thus far.

(Also, allow me a quibble: No atheist tries to prove god doesn't exist - they simply assert that the evidence for one is lacking. It's impossible to prove something doesn't exist - you cannot prove unicorns don't exist - you can simply say the evidence is lacking. Like a previous poster stated - atheists do not shoulder the burden of proof.)

To the OP,

I just reread your actual post and I thought I'd respond to that...

As far as a game idea, it seems like it would offer a lot of interesting things for your magic heavy group to deal with. It would give them powerful, wealthy enemies who, while they may not be bent on their immediate destruction, would probably not wish them well. It seems like it could be a lot of fun as far as social dynamics go as well.

As far my reaction to it, I can't help but feel like it's a parody of modern day politics and ideas. Which is fine for your game, of course, so long as none of your players feel particularly put out by it.

Xuincherguixe
2007-11-29, 07:02 AM
How Shadowrun handles magic, is that your own beliefs are what matters. Were there really gods, (or at least really powerful spirits)? It was always left open.

Also I forget if it was complete divine or deities and demigods but it suggested that the spells of divine casters come mostly from themselves. This may contradict other things, but at least there is some precedent.

You could have it so that belief creates gods, and maybe even several versions of the same god for when there are differences in opinion. Or, maybe this averaged out thing.

hewhosaysfish
2007-11-29, 07:07 AM
I see gods in DnD as being a bit like kings/emperors/high priests/archmages.

If you, Joe Peasant, live in a big city, you might be lucky enough to see him waving from a carriage or a balcony, ir riding past on a horse. On the other hand, it's quite plausible that you might never see him in you entire life. Never the less, enough people have seen him that you can accept his existence. The lord you rent your dirt from may actually have met him.

If you "He doesn't exist. That royal proclamation could have been written by anyone" then everyone will look at you as if your mad.

If you say, "He's not a king, he's actually just a powerful noble that other nobles obey, who commands the armies, recieves all the taxes, makes the laws and wears a crown" then everyone will look at you as if your an idiot.

If you say, "He does not deserve to rule. He is greedy/selfish/tyrannical/incompetent/uncaring. We would be more prosperous/safe/free/generically better-off without him!" then you just might have a revolution on your hands...

Fuzzy_Juan
2007-11-29, 07:20 AM
I see gods in DnD as being a bit like kings/emperors/high priests/archmages.

If you, Joe Peasant, live in a big city, you might be lucky enough to see him waving from a carriage or a balcony, ir riding past on a horse. On the other hand, it's quite plausible that you might never see him in you entire life. Never the less, enough people have seen him that you can accept his existence. The lord you rent your dirt from may actually have met him.

If you "He doesn't exist. That royal proclamation could have been written by anyone" then everyone will look at you as if your mad.

If you say, "He's not a king, he's actually just a powerful noble that other nobles obey, who commands the armies, recieves all the taxes, makes the laws and wears a crown" then everyone will look at you as if your an idiot.

If you say, "He does not deserve to rule. He is greedy/selfish/tyrannical/incompetent/uncaring. We would be more prosperous/safe/free/generically better-off without him!" then you just might have a revolution on your hands...

A great analogy...

Roderick_BR
2007-11-29, 07:39 AM
That's a though one. With clerics resurrecting people, wizards failing in learning how to heal, and divine interventions, it's hard NOT to believe in deities, or at least, very powerful outsiders.
What would happen is that said groups would call clerics a different kind of wizard. That would cause conflict as clerics would be called charlatans, wizards would think that clerics are "hiding the good stuff" as some sort of secret specialized spells, and the clerics themselves would be resentful of people not believing in greater powers, when they get their gods (literally) looking over their shoulders.

Alternatively, divine magic could be treated as some sort of natural force, like said in the OP, and that clerics pretty much draw power from said forces like druids do, not actually needing a real deity, only a faith.

OR, make them like the White Mages from some Final Fantasy games, where clerics are just a different type of wizard, with different restrictions and a different spell list, and religious orders are not unlike arcane schools, they just teach faith and specific spellcasting ability, rather than relying on an actual god existing.

mostlyharmful
2007-11-29, 07:53 AM
(Also, allow me a quibble: No atheist tries to prove god doesn't exist - they simply assert that the evidence for one is lacking. It's impossible to prove something doesn't exist - you cannot prove unicorns don't exist - you can simply say the evidence is lacking. Like a previous poster stated - atheists do not shoulder the burden of proof.)

Your Quibble isn't infact correct.

"There is no God" = Atheist
"There is no evidence of God" = Agnostic

There are people that passionatly dispute that god does NOT exist, they have a variety of philosophical and epistimalogical arguements. Doesn't mean I agree with them but there you go.:smallwink:

There are people (such as my self) that are quite prepared to accept their own ignorance and say "I don't Know", we are Agnostics not Atheists. :smallsmile:

BlackStaticWolf
2007-11-29, 08:26 AM
Your Quibble isn't infact correct.

"There is no God" = Atheist
"There is no evidence of God" = Agnostic

There are people that passionatly dispute that god does NOT exist, they have a variety of philosophical and epistimalogical arguements. Doesn't mean I agree with them but there you go.:smallwink:

There are people (such as my self) that are quite prepared to accept their own ignorance and say "I don't Know", we are Agnostics not Atheists. :smallsmile:

Actually, his quibble IS, in fact, correct. It's your correction that's incorrect.

You're mis-identifying the positions. Allow me to explain... there are four basic positions with regard to belief:

1. Theist - An adherent of some religion or a believer in some deity. It really doesn't matter which.
2. Agnostic - As you said, the position of the agnostic is "I don't know whether a deity exists or not."
3. "Weak" Atheist - This is the position that you've mis-identified as agnostic. This position in essense states: "The evidence offered in support of the deity is unsatisfactory, therefore I remain in the logical default position of negation of the claim." This position does NOT say "I don't know," as the agnostic does, but it ALSO doesn't say "The deity doesn't exist," as the strong atheist does.
4. "Strong" Atheist - This position states outright: "Deities do not exist, and no evidence exists that would be sufficient." The position goes beyond mere negation of the claim and is, in fact, a claim of its own.

warmachine
2007-11-29, 08:34 AM
Alas, the common usage of 'atheism' has deviated from the dictionary definition. The dictionary.com definitions allow either positively asserted denials or refusal to draw any conclusion. The dictionary writers haven't taken into account the position in between.

Mr. Friendly
2007-11-29, 08:38 AM
I agree with mostlyharmful. Go to FARK or other message boards with religious debates and you will find more than enough "crusader" atheists who champion the likes of Dawkins and essentially present the opinion that anyone who believes in God is delusional/insane or has a mental defect.

I'm not saying this is representative of all atheists and there are plenty of atheists who have a "live and let live" philosophy that is fine for everyone to get along.

That being said, generally speaking, when atheists care enough about atheism to form actual organizations about it and hold rallies and the like, they are beginning to cross (or have crossed) the line from "I don't believe in God" to "It's wrong for anyone to believe in God".

Some people qualify Atheism as encompassing two points of view: Pure Atheism and Agnosticism.

I think Agnosticism falls entirely on it's own. (It always used to, I suspect that at some point either Agnostics or Atheists or both got together and decided to share numbers to make their respective groups look bigger)

Atheism then is divided into two camps:

Camp 1: I do not believe in God. This is the basic atheist who simply does not believe in God, no more, no less. Other peoples beliefs are their own.

Camp 2: I do not believe in God and neither should anyone else. This is what I call radical atheism or fundamentalist atheism. These are the people who passionately need to prove that God does not exist. This is a large portion of the "Atheist movement" who feel it is important to tell everyone there is no God, they tell kids there is no Santa and there is nothing spiritual or magical.

As a personal note, if I were any of these, I would be an Agnostic. What I really am is a Deist. That is I believe in God, but no specific doctrine or religion; I have my doubts about God occasionally, but I am too rational to say de facto there is no God. If I were a D&D Cleric, I would be a deity-less Cleric with the Luck and Protection domains.

What a rant!

/roll 1d20 +1 (Cha) +2 (Diplomacy ranks)....

warmachine
2007-11-29, 08:49 AM
At the risk of derailing this thread, it is a mistake to confuse an atheist's belief in the accuracy of atheism with action that should follow from this knowledge. The former is a belief of metaphysics and the latter a belief of politics. In my case, I am a 'weak' atheist, concluding no god by default, but agree with Richard Dawkins that theist religions should be removed.

Atheist fundamentalism can be described with a two dimensional graph, not a one dimensional line.

Stephen_E
2007-11-29, 09:25 AM
Here's my rebuttal:

Can mortals automatially get a natural 20 on every roll they make? Deities of a certain power level can. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#alwaysMaximizeRoll)

Can mortals grant spells without any effort whatsoever? Deities can. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#grantSpells)

Do mortals have portfolios? Deities do. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#portfolio)

Can mortals perform multiple actions related to their portfolio as free actions in a single round? No, because mortals don't have portfolios. Deities can. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineRanksAndPowers.htm#automaticActions)

Some more things that deities can do, RAW, that mortals can't:

Alter Reality (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#alterReality) - It's like a better version of wish.
Divine Creation (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#divineCreation) - Can mortals create living beings out of nothing? No? Deities can.
Know Secrets (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#knowSecrets) - Can a mortal figure out how you lost your virginity and what your first word was just by giving you a once-over? Deities can.
Supreme Initiative (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/divine/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm#supremeInitiative) - Can mortals go first, every single time? (Hint: The answer is "No," because even Batman still has a finite number of spells per day.)



We're talking about D&D gods, graymachine, not a RL hypothetical, and D&D gods are governed by certain rules. Here (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/divineRanksPowers.htm) are the relevant (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/divineAbilitiesFeats.htm) links (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/divineMinionsDomainsSpells.htm). Read and enjoy.

And you know what happens because of those rules? It means that in D&D, we can tell when something really is a god, and when it's just calling itself a god.

So, getting back to your scenario - sure, I could call myself a god, and be worshipped as a god by those poor deluded Bronze Age shmucks. But if you statted me out, I'd just be a low- to mid-level expert with a lot of skills and equipment. Not a Divine Rank or Salient Divine ability in sight. Therefore, by the power of RAW, your argument is defeated.

And you are making the classic error of mixing up metagame knowledge/mechanics with in game knowledge.

All these mechanics that you talk about DnD Gods been able to do that mortals can't is all metagaming. You know gods can do this because you read it in a rulebook. You know mortals can't because you read it in the rulebooks. From the in game observors view their is no such thing as someone always been able to get a natural "20" or any of the other things you mention. And their is also no proof that mortals can't do such things.

In game characters don't have access to the rulebooks, so if you refer to the rulebooks to prove that gods exist in DnD you're basically conceding the argument that an athiest movement in DnD is entirely rational, and not at all stupid. The only reason we know that they're wrong is that we've read the rulebooks.

I'm currently playing in Savage Tides (Greyhawk) with a Athiest Druid. And I'm talking hardcore Athiest. So far as he's concerned all the thiests are suckers been conned by extremely powerful entities. He sees himself as getting his power from tuning in to the magical energy that is all around and put out by all living organisms. He doesn't make a habit of pointing this out since he doesn't see any profit for him in doing so, but then he's a NE halfling raised by Dire Wolves and has been known to refer to travelling companions as "emergency rations". Enemies killed are simply "rations".:smallbiggrin:

Stephen

AKA_Bait
2007-11-29, 09:28 AM
(Also, allow me a quibble: No atheist tries to prove god doesn't exist - they simply assert that the evidence for one is lacking. It's impossible to prove something doesn't exist - you cannot prove unicorns don't exist - you can simply say the evidence is lacking. Like a previous poster stated - atheists do not shoulder the burden of proof.)



The usual semi-accurate rehash of philosophical positions colored by which position and semantic you prefer.

A quibble back, many atheists actually do attempt to prove that god does not exist by refuting the logical possibility of the existence of god. See J.L. Mackie's wonderful article "Evil and Omnipotence" and if you'd like see a refutation of part of it, and the that claim that there is no burden of proof on the 'there is no god' position, look in the most recent or next to most recent issue of journal Sophia for an article titled "From the Middle Out" by yours truly.

But that's an aside, back to your regularly scheduled topic:


Umm. It seems you didn't understand what I was talking about. You seem to be promoting the idea that something can call itself a god, display certain powers which many other things in D&D can do, and that makes it a god.

Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court anyone?


And you know what happens because of those rules? It means that in D&D, we can tell when something really is a god, and when it's just calling itself a god.


Indeed. Doesn't mean that there is no basis for atheism though. Remember that Atheism can be construed as simply the position "I do not believe god exists". There can be Atheists that hold that position easily in the D&D world as a matter of course, marshalling the various arguments that have been made, accurate or not within the D&D world for the purpose of weakening the gods. Divine ranks are granted on the basis of number of mortal worshipers. An atheist can go around saying, and believing after enough self convincing, that there are no gods because mortals can become gods. If enough people buy the philosophy... the atheist will actually be proven right.

Fhaolan
2007-11-29, 09:30 AM
There is also the point that in a D&D-style world atheism would take a slightly different turn that in RL. It's not that the entities called Gods don't exist, it's whether they are really GODS. Afterall, there are high-level wizards, extraplanar creatures, etc. Especially at epic levels, the common man isn't going to be able to tell the difference between these things.

What is it that makes a God a GOD, and not just an extremely powerful outsider?

Xuincherguixe
2007-11-29, 09:35 AM
Maybe the things that don't actually need worship are the real "gods" :P

philippos
2007-11-29, 10:02 AM
I think this may show that you need another name for the group rather than atheists just to avoid the tangents.

but the argument that superpowerfull beings are not necessarily gods works pretty well in d&d, but they are you know like unto gods....


anyway you should figure out the motivations for these groups financial, political and spiritual and that can help guide you. what is the magic as technology level of the setting vs the technology as technology that the "science group" planer protection agency or whatever you call them, would need to be on par with magic.

also on Pratchett "It's hard to say that gods don't exist when they have a habit of going to atheist's homes and breaking their windows" er or something like that.

warmachine
2007-11-29, 10:18 AM
It might be worth considering the term humanism, which generally considers the welfare of all humans (or in AD&D, all sentient beings), not any particular tribe or race. I regard Hieroneous as a humanist. Mind you, may be harder to shock players with that one.

AKA_Bait
2007-11-29, 10:45 AM
I think one of the important things to remember when setting up a belief system is that it needn't be right, it merely needs to sound plausable enough for people to buy it. I think there are plenty of 'atheist' arguments on this thread already that are plausable sounding enough for there to be a group of intellectuals who think it's correct. I mean, consider some of the things that RL intellectuals believe (Libeniz followers for example, outside of mathematics that is) and you can get a decent idea of how wide a range of belief that covers.

Aquillion
2007-11-29, 11:10 AM
Atheists in D&D are entirely plausible, and their position can even be described as rational.

It comes down to a simple matter of definitions: What is a 'god?' The books say that anything with a divine rank is a god; divine power is a set of very, very nice SU and EX abilities.

A D&D atheist, though (as well as D&D theists -- a "no god but Ao" style monotheist, for instance) would argue that those things do not actually make a god. Simply being powerful is not inherently divine; after all, an epic wizard can produce equally impressive (often more impressive) effects. There are artifacts that exceed the powers of the so-called "gods" themselves. Something like Ao can deny them their powers in a blink.

Sure, these so-called gods can grant powers to their followers. So what? A wizard with the right spells can grant powers to their familiar in just the same fashion. An epic wizard or Sarrukh can grant much, much better powers than most gods offer. Wizards can bring back the dead with Clone or Wish; there are many non-divine items (e.g. philosopher's stone) that can achieve the same effect. They can heal with Wish or Limited Wish, too, while people like Bards can heal cheaply and easily without any divine source at all.

This doesn't mean that the atheist necessarily thinks that the gods are all epic wizards playing tricks on people. D&D Atheists can accept the existence of "gods" as described in the PHB, accept that they have all the powers it describes for them, accept that these entities are worshipped and did all the things that their followers said they did; they would simply argue that, even with all that, these are still merely outsiders with a bunch of magical abilities, no more actually 'divine' than a pumped-up Djinn or similar magical entity.

To understand this perspective, imagine the 'D&D monotheist' who accepts only a single omnipotent god. Say that someone from our world who followed such a religion was suddenly thrown into the D&D universe -- would they immediately start worshipping D&D deities? Of course not. To them, a god is omnipotent, and without that the D&D deities are merely pretenders. Powerful pretenders, sure, pretenders who it's dangerous to offend by saying this to their face -- but the same is true for the king, the local high-level wizard, and the dangerous thug with a knife you meet in an alleyway. Simple power does not make someone a god.

The D&D atheist is just like the D&D monotheist, rejecting anything short of omnipotence as simply not divine; except that they disbelieve that the omnipotent deity exists.

Delta Nu Delta
2007-11-29, 11:44 AM
I agree with mostlyharmful. Go to FARK or other message boards with religious debates and you will find more than enough "crusader" atheists who champion the likes of Dawkins and essentially present the opinion that anyone who believes in God is delusional/insane or has a mental defect.

This is true. This does not change the definition of atheists, it is simply a sample of how atheists behave. Atheism makes no positive claims. It is not a world-view. People who describe themselves as atheists supply these individually.


That being said, generally speaking, when atheists care enough about atheism to form actual organizations about it and hold rallies and the like, they are beginning to cross (or have crossed) the line from "I don't believe in God" to "It's wrong for anyone to believe in God".


Now this...this I actually fine downright offensive. There are many atheists who organize so that they can increase awareness of the fact that atheists are not baby eaters. There are real and demonstrable prejudices people hold against atheists. It's annoying to deal with - trust me. Some of these rallies are an attack on theism, a lot of them aren't.


A quibble back, many atheists actually do attempt to prove that god does not exist by refuting the logical possibility of the existence of god.

While some atheists do this, we should acknowledge this isn't necessarily indicitive of atheism in general. I'd say most atheists attempt to show that the evidence presented for the existence of God is lacking, and thus reasonable to conclude that one does not exisit. That looks to many people as if they're trying to prove god doesn't exist. We're slicing things pretty thin at this point, but I think it's an important difference.


See J.L. Mackie's wonderful article "Evil and Omnipotence" and if you'd like see a refutation of part of it, and the that claim that there is no burden of proof on the 'there is no god' position, look in the most recent or next to most recent issue of journal Sophia for an article titled "From the Middle Out" by yours truly.

Do you have a linkey for us lazies?

Ganurath
2007-11-29, 11:48 AM
A member of the atheist movement could argue that divine spellcasters are meerly a form of sorceror that strengthens their magical ability to a competent level by drawing upon the devotion of others since they don't have the inborn ability to evoke such strong magic unaided like true sorcerors. Odds are this member is a sorceror.

Mr. Friendly
2007-11-29, 11:50 AM
Now this...this I actually fine downright offensive. There are many atheists who organize so that they can increase awareness of the fact that atheists are not baby eaters. There are real and demonstrable prejudices people hold against atheists. It's annoying to deal with - trust me. Some of these rallies are an attack on theism, a lot of them aren't.

Well, I did say generally and not all or always. It's just been my experience. I wasn't trying to be offensive. Just saying that, in my experience, atheists who feel the need to rally together seem to frequently take it a step beyond simply proving they don't eat babies.

AKA_Bait
2007-11-29, 11:58 AM
While some atheists do this, we should acknowledge this isn't necessarily indicitive of atheism in general. I'd say most atheists attempt to show that the evidence presented for the existence of God is lacking, and thus reasonable to conclude that one does not exisit. That looks to many people as if they're trying to prove god doesn't exist. We're slicing things pretty thin at this point, but I think it's an important difference.


My only point here is that you tend to categorize the atheist position as not making any affirmative claims. That's true in some cases and not in others. The blanket claim that it doesn't make any is just as false of a subset of atheists as it is true of others. As to if it is the majority, I don't know any Reuters Polls on the matter ;-)


Do you have a linkey for us lazies?

I have some but you will need a JSTOR account for Mackie (http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0026-4423%28195504%292%3A64%3A254%3C200%3AEAO%3E2.0.CO% 3B2-2) and a way to access Springer stuff (many colleges have free access to both databases) for mine (http://www.springerlink.com/content/4m4478122l755640/). You know, unless you want to pay a bunch of money.

littlechicory
2007-11-29, 12:00 PM
I did get away with playing an agnostic cleric at one point. Laughingstock of the party, but...

kjones
2007-11-29, 01:06 PM
Wrenching this thread back OT, the BBEG of one of my recent campaigns had a worldview that could be considered humanist. Basically, he believed that the gods had no right to rule over the mortal realm, and that for humanity to fulfill its true destiny, the gods must be destroyed. He was only a mortal, but was trying to assemble the power required to assault the outer planes, a la The Golden Compass.

I think this is the sort of mindset that you want to work towards. Have these people advocate the position that reliance on gods makes humanity lazy and complacent, that mortals should act of their own free will and not on the orders or suggestions of their gods. You mentioned a big religious war in the campaign world; have them use that to further their cause by pointing out all the death and destruction that are caused in the name of the gods.

It would help to have a very specific conception of what, exactly, the gods *are* in your world. In the aforementioned campaign, the pantheon had the standard D&D gods (Corellon Larethian, Boccob, Vecna, Pelor, etc.) but these gods had only come into power after an event known only as "The Reckoning", in which they rose up and overthrew the old gods, who were actually the Greek pantheon. The nature of the Reckoning was never made clear to my players, but the idea was similar to that of the Titanomachia in Greek legend, where the Greek gods overthrew the Titans. The implication was that the gods weren't actually omnipotent beings, though they tended not to directly interfere in events beyond the Outer Planes. Rather, there was sort of an infinite cycle in which new gods would arise to overthrow the old. This BBEG was trying to stop the cycle, since the mortal races tended to be destroyed in the process of overthrowing.

Finally, real-world atheism doesn't really apply in this situation. Real world != D&D world.

Yakk
2007-11-29, 01:26 PM
Go to www.errantstory.com -- in it, most of the mortal major pantheon's "gods" are merely ridiculously powerful magical constructs.

The idea is that magic exists, and "divine" magic is the result of the small amounts of individual magic, warped by faith, producing a spontaneous magical construct in the form of a "god". Some manage to grab the power that the god embodies and use it to cast "divine" magic.

Others use their raw potential, and simply cast the spells themselves.

Under this view, believing in a god results in your own personal power being used to support that god, rather than being able to use it yourself. Ie, if you aren't a cleric or a divine caster, worshipping a god is giving away a chunk of your "mana" for divine casters to use!

Instead, you should cultivate your own mana, or share it with people who you personally pick. The Gods are merely a shadow of what mankind could do if they used their power consciously.

The "Scientists" need not be called Scientists. Call then "natural philosophers" -- that was the name of Scientists before they where called Scientists.

Natural Philosophers divide the universe into the "magical" and the "natural", and they study the natural. The more fanatic among them consider "magical" things to be evil in and of themselves -- but not all of them agree. Most do think that "natural" is better than "magical", and somehow more fundamental.

Almost all of them hold that "magic" is a dangerous act whose consequences civilization doesn't understand.

There can be some overlap between the "Humanists", who hold that the Gods are mana-thieves from believers, and the "Natural Philosophers", who study and prefer the "Natural" world to the "Magical" world, but they can disagree just as strongly.

Many of the "Humanists" will be wizards, sorcerers or wanna-bees. "Natural Philosophers" tend not to be. Some fringe "Natural Philosophers" try to study the interaction of magic and the natural world.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-11-29, 02:43 PM
And you are making the classic error of mixing up metagame knowledge/mechanics with in game knowledge.

All these mechanics that you talk about DnD Gods been able to do that mortals can't is all metagaming. You know gods can do this because you read it in a rulebook. You know mortals can't because you read it in the rulebooks. From the in game observors view their is no such thing as someone always been able to get a natural "20" or any of the other things you mention. And their is also no proof that mortals can't do such things.

In-game observers may not be able to know that someone always gets a natural 20, but they'll be able to see that someone wildly succeeds at everything they attempt, which is what a natural 20 represents.

While a mortal may be able to mimic that for a certain period of time, they will not be able to keep it up in all circumstances and indefinitely. Gods can.


In game characters don't have access to the rulebooks, so if you refer to the rulebooks to prove that gods exist in DnD you're basically conceding the argument that an athiest movement in DnD is entirely rational, and not at all stupid. The only reason we know that they're wrong is that we've read the rulebooks.

But in-game characters can be assumed to have a basic understanding of how the world is supposed to work, much like all humans alive have a practical understanding of physics, and people who study those rules for a living (wizards and clerics) would have a much deeper knowledge. I'm not saying that Joe Shmoe could necessarily tell the difference between a true god and a faker, but a wizard or a cleric of sufficiently high level could.

Hell, a 9th level wizard could prove that the gods exist all by himself. contact other plane (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/contactOtherPlane.htm) is Sor/Wiz 5, with a duration of Concentration. In a generic, high-magic world like D&D, the results and traits of this spell (including its rate of success) would be known, in-character, by a wizard who studied the spell (and since generic D&D wizards gain their magical ability through study, and study alone, we can safely assume that our wizard has studied the spell).

Our wizard holes himself up in safe place, wearing a ring of sustenance (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/rings.htm#sustenance). He then prepares and casts contact other plane, choosing to contact the Astral Plane.

The spell allows you to ask one question per round, as long as you are concentrating on the spell. The spell's duration is Concentration, with no upper limit. With the ring of sustenance, you no longer need to eat and only need to sleep for 2 hours every day in order to regain spells, leaving the other 22 hours available to concentrate on the spell. Our wizard will ask, "do gods exist?"

22 hours = 1,320 minutes = 13,200 rounds. Therefore, our wizard can ask 13,200 questions every day. That's probably enough to do a statistical analysis, but let's give him a week of casting contact other plane and concentrating on it for 22 hours per day, asking 13,200 questions per day, every day, just to be sure. That's 92,400 questions asked and answers received - assuming our wizard makes the DC 9 Int check every time, which shouldn't be too difficult for a wizard that focuses on Intelligence.

Anyway, our wizard, having studied the properties of this spell, knows that 44% of the answers will be true, 23% will be "I don't know", 21% will be false, and that 12% will be random.

So now our wizard, having made notes of each answer he received, analyzes his data. Since this is generic D&D, we have metagame knowledge that gods exist, which means that we know that 44% of the answers will be "yes".

If our wizard feels like doing a control, he can duplicate his week of questions, this time asking the Astral Plane, "is water wet?" If he gets the same percentage of truths, unknowns, lies, and random answers (and he will, because that's how the spell works), then he will have proven a) that using contact other plane to ask the Astral Plane a question yields the correct result 44% of the time, and b) that because 44% of answers to the question, "do gods exist?", when asked of the Astral Plane, came back in the affirmative, gods must therefore exist.

And this is an experiment that any good atheistic wizard can duplicate, and get the same results.

Therefore, I have just proven, in-character, that gods exist in generic D&D.

Alcino
2007-11-29, 03:57 PM
Oh God... so many replies... cool. I'll clarify a few things first.

The setting is "generic". Gods existed before Meterial Plane creatures and supervised their early evolution. So the gods exist no matter waht the mortals think. Also, I'm using the deafult pantheon (with extras where necessary), so gods can very well "come into existence" even after the beginning of all things. It's a lot like Order of the Stick's view of things, especially in Start of Darkness

However, since the times of Corellon vs Gruumsh and the likes, gods have not really interacted with the mortals. They do give the clerics their power and did bestow some "divine" weapons and armor (pretty much using the Legacy system on this one, but with a little Fire Emblem flavor) as recently as one or two centuries ago.

Also, while I pretty much respect all the rules for magic item prices and similar things, my campaign world's evolution has exploded since the first real wizards mastered magic. The biggest cities are not very old and the political partition of the world is similar to just before the Romans conquered a big part of it. Many problems that plague the typical D&D world have been solved in the last century, making my world much more safe and similar to the modern world. Dragons mostly live in reclusion, dungeons have pretty much all been discovered and cleared and random monsters between two peaceful cities are so rare people don't fear travelling.

Yes, many elves have lived through the "dark ages" and are now flabbergasted by the "renaissance" and "magical revolution". They're as wary as they'd be if they lived in our modern world.

No, actually, people do fear travelling, but only because Heironeous's followers are constantly skirmishing with Hextor's, having been at war with them for about 150 years. Both nations are relatively insignificant in the world and adopt the Fabian train of thought, avoiding decisive battles whenever possible and being all honorable about it. Since the spread of arcane magic in particular is pretty recent, armies are gradually moving from Roman-like battle tactics to modern tactics like staying behind cover and all that, and the war might soon enter another decisive phase if my players decide they want a go at it.

But I digress. Anyway, while these two armies are strongly tied to their respective churches and have many clerics and paladins in position of power, their gods are pretty much happy with giving spells according to level. Even Lucid, the lost divine sword given to the founder of Heironeious's nation, is in need of repair and a good reinjection of arcane magic (old magic weapons lose their charge over time... modern ones don't). From a game balance perspective, it makes it possible for the player favored soul to wield the sword, but from a story perspective, it shows just how much the gods are removed from this world.

Keep in mind, the good guys have a few permanently summoned lantern archons and the such, and the evil people sometimes summon devils and the such. So there's still that.

I could go on for ages, but I'll stop there for the setting. Ah, there's one last thing: it's a low-power world, similar to Eberron but with PC classes not being exceptional. And it's high-magic. So level 10 characters are really special and, if prepared, can defeat small regiments/villages. The allied and enemy generals are around level 14.

Now for a few choice quotes. I'd include all those I've copy-pasted in my notes, but I'd go over the character limit.


"In fact, you should have one who has divine power of some chaotic god with the trickery domain. He uses this as "proof" of there being no gods, since he doesn't believe, but in reality the god is helping him to unbalance the current society without him realizing it."

Can't afford to pass this up.

"In all technicality aren't the D&D "gods" little more that hyperpowerful outsiders with delusions of grandeur? I've played more that one atheist based on this assumption."

"If the gods regularly pop in for lunch or to smite the odd mortal, no sane person is going to doubt they exist. Thinkers might still ask questions about what the true nature of those "gods" really is (assuming such questioning won't immediately lead to being struck dead, in which case everyone will very quickly and fearfully shut up ... or else die and then shut up)."

"I see gods in DnD as being a bit like kings/emperors/high priests/archmages."

Those three posts really show how flimsy the assumption of godhood is.

"Sure, these so-called gods can grant powers to their followers. So what? A wizard with the right spells can grant powers to their familiar in just the same fashion."

Bam! Defeats the powerful "only gods grant spells" argument.

"Hell, a 9th level wizard could prove that the gods exist all by himself. Contact other plane is Sor/Wiz 5, with a duration of Concentration."

That may very well be one of the theists' most powerful arguments. And based on statistics? My inner mathematician shivers in pleasure.

"I never saw a wall of fire or ice or stone as some thing that just pops into being. Wizards cannot creat some thing from nothing."

I can't agree with that. Evocation spells, by definition in RAW, create energy from nothing. If that's an understood fact in my world, my "scientists" have cause to worry.

"It would be like telling an American in the 1950s that driving his car would destroy the Earth.

Exactly.


Atheists

For the record, I'm a strong atheist, and while it's a fact that my D&D atheists are deluded, they do make strong points. And no, they are not smited for their blasphemies. And while we're at it, the campaign's BBEG, which is not the almighty enemy emperor not close to him, is a humanist. A clearly, unremediably evil humanist, but still.

I also realize that "atheist" takes on a different meaning in D&D. I don't want my atheists to be parodies of the modern world; in the perspective of campaign design, they're there so that players see just how much time the city's elite have on their hands regardless of the war. They're also useful for meaningless interaction, providing useful insights, doing their high-profile jobs, creating enmities and being invited to receptions. Their interest is mostly interesting discussion every few days or so, and extremism is not condoned by the group. So it's really for flavor and they won't be at the center of the campaign at all.

Still, I've read too many compelling arguments to not treat them seriously. Obviously, their main argument is that "god" is a baseless, useless and biased distinction between differing power levels. Another compelling one is, "Religious war over several generations, anyone?"

After reading through the replies, I am more convinced than ever that "atheist" is the right term: the word simply means "without god(s)". I've decided my atheists' opinion and belief is that gods are nothing exceptional and the world would be better off wihout them -- especially since no god is ever needed to play even a cleric to its fullest.

Still, while their position is "atheism", the group still needs a name, and "humanists" would fit perfectly. These people are smart and polite, and a positive name (for humanoÔdity) is much better than a negative one (against gods).

So some of them would argue about the definition of "god", some about the motives of the "gods", some about their desirability... I want them to have conflicting viewpoints and play devil's advocate.

Clearly, I want a member to be a deluded cleric of a god of trickery. This is way too interesting to pass. He would surely be a prominent member.

Another member could very well be a sorcerer, especially since many of my players' most interesting enemies (peronality- and flavor-wise, and I'm basing this on player feedback) are sorcerers in the employ of the enemy army. Dunno how the enemy clerics would like that, though.

And a planewalker or some similar class. He's be a great authority on the subject.


"Scientists"

Seems like they'll be less important -- and less interesting for the campaign -- than I thought.

I wasn't really happy with their group's name, but the suggestion of "natural philosophy" fits perfectly.

Again, different members of the groups have diverging opinions on some matters. Here, some believe that magic should be banned outright while others only recommend prudence while its worldwide consequences are be studied.

Also, sometimes they're totally against the atheists, but they agree strongly on some matters.

Hmm... I need more material if I want to flesh them out.


P.S. I went to the FARK messageboards. Episodically, over the years. I know what you mean.

Prometheus
2007-11-29, 05:04 PM
Sounds like your atheists are more akin to misotheists/maltheists/antitheists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltheist), they believe that the entities described as gods do in fact exist, but their authority is challenge and their contribution to society is disputed. Certainly a Good aligned maltheists would prefer to see the effects of a Good diety than not, and an Evil aligned maltheists would prefer to see the effects of a Evil diety than not, but both would have in common the belief that they think that the world would be better off were their no gods at all.

As an atheist myself, I think many atheists go overboard when they think all wars with a religious difference would be prevented had the world been historically atheist. Wars happen for more reasons than that. However if you would like to demonstrate how these atheists/misotheists are irrational, you can have them hold that the primary reason to reject the gods is that it would end the earthly war between Heironeus and Hextor.

Stephen_E
2007-11-29, 06:18 PM
In-game observers may not be able to know that someone always gets a natural 20, but they'll be able to see that someone wildly succeeds at everything they attempt, which is what a natural 20 represents.

While a mortal may be able to mimic that for a certain period of time, they will not be able to keep it up in all circumstances and indefinitely. Gods can.

Couple of points.
1) A natural 20 means nothing beyond a 20 on anything other than combat. A person with +20 in tumble who rolls a 10 has tumbled better than someone with a +1 who rolls a 20. People often houserule otherwise, but generic RAW 20's aren't spectacular successes.

2) Your average Joe Bloggs isn't going to tell any difference between someone with a +40 in a skill and a God who always gets a natural 20. Aside from the fact that unless the God actually has better than +20 in the skill his natural 20 is still getting a lesser result. The same way I can't tell the difference between a perfect gymnastic performance and a near perfect gymnastic performance.

3) Even if their was a noticable difference if you watched long enough, none of those aethists are ever going to be around a God long enough to notice. What? Tou think Gods put on performance shows to persuade athiests otherwise.





But in-game characters can be assumed to have a basic understanding of how the world is supposed to work, much like all humans alive have a practical understanding of physics, and people who study those rules for a living (wizards and clerics) would have a much deeper knowledge. I'm not saying that Joe Shmoe could necessarily tell the difference between a true god and a faker, but a wizard or a cleric of sufficiently high level could.

Most humans alive have f-all practical understanding of physics, and people who study physics ecetre and have a greater understanding tend to fall into those who somewhat arrogantly assume they know it all, or have the wit to look down at those whose shoulders they stand on and recognise how little they understand, and how much of what they think they understand may not be correct. The 3 steps of learning are - "Don't know", "Know it all, or know the info is out there", "Don't know it, and know they don't know it, but learn what they can as best they can".


Hell, a 9th level wizard could prove that the gods exist all by himself. contact other plane (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/contactOtherPlane.htm) is Sor/Wiz 5, with a duration of Concentration. In a generic, high-magic world like D&D, the results and traits of this spell (including its rate of success) would be known, in-character, by a wizard who studied the spell (and since generic D&D wizards gain their magical ability through study, and study alone, we can safely assume that our wizard has studied the spell).

Our wizard holes himself up in safe place, wearing a ring of sustenance (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/rings.htm#sustenance). He then prepares and casts contact other plane, choosing to contact the Astral Plane.

The spell allows you to ask one question per round, as long as you are concentrating on the spell. The spell's duration is Concentration, with no upper limit. With the ring of sustenance, you no longer need to eat and only need to sleep for 2 hours every day in order to regain spells, leaving the other 22 hours available to concentrate on the spell. Our wizard will ask, "do gods exist?"

<lost of exposition and number crunching>

And this is an experiment that any good atheistic wizard can duplicate, and get the same results.

Therefore, I have just proven, in-character, that gods exist in generic D&D.

Wrong. You've just shown that the sources that Contact Other Planes reaches either think that a god exists, or a significant group of those sources are conspiring to create the impression that they exist.


Indeed since the spell supposedly contacts gods any self-respecting wizard would be fully aware of the pointlessness of asking someone claiming to be a deity whether deities exist.

And if you're claiming a 5th level spell can make a God answer truthfully against its will I can only laugh at the weakness of your "Gd" concept, as will any wizard. "I'm a 9th level Wizard and I can forces gods to answer my questions truthfully" doesn't really cut it as a convincing concept. If your hypothetical 9th+ lev wizard goes to the athiest society and tells them that he knows gods existed because he cast a spell that forced them to tell him the truth and asked them, he'll get laughed out of the meeting.:smallbiggrin:

Stephen

Xan
2007-11-29, 06:36 PM
One other school of thought could be that the "gods" exist, but they are in actuality very powerful mortals and they've done nothing to earn the adoration or prayers of intelligent, free-thinkers. Really, they just inspire mindlessness (the flock), buck-passing (give yourself up to a higher power, "god" wills it), and bloodshed (my god is better than your god!).


Just take the Lovecraft idea. The "gods" aren't gods but merely extremely powerful beings that are beyond imagining. They aren't gods, but they are so powerful that the general population thinks of them as gods. They came over from someplace else
it could work.

Autumn Blooming
2007-11-29, 08:17 PM
My players are going to spend some time in a city where the intellectual arts are at their finest. The noble and burghess social classes are over-represented and most of the magic industry revolves around convenience, such as self-cleaning heated carpets and the such.

In such a liberal place, I want to have two groups of people, all respectable, intelligent and socially recognized with opinions that, while nothing special in modern society, are downright unsettling in a D&D setting.

First of all, I want an atheist movement, whether organized or not. I want to have philosophers who argue that there are no gods and that even divine magic can be explained without resorting to the presence of gods. Obviously, those people are tert'ly wrong, especially in my campaign context of religious war (Heironeus followers vs Hextor followers, two adjacent nations).

Instead of myself enunciating arguments against the D&D pantheon's existence, I want to hear your pure, unbiased opinion on the subject. What would your arguments be?

The other group would be called the Society for Science, in some sick use of the word "science". They're a high-class organized club with regular meetings and discussions and certain political weight. Its most renowned member is a prolific non-magic surgeon who argues that getting healed by divine magic is putting yourself in unknowable debt. While not an atheist, he definitely opposed to direct divine intervention.

Simply put, this group sees magic in general as something very unnatural whose long-term consequences would be similar to what the modern world currently fears about global warming. As a quick example, evocation spells keep bringing extra energy in this world, and spells can create stone or metal that comes from nowhere and stay forever.

One could argue that for every Firewall, there's a Wall of Ice and that every Wall of Stone meets its Disintegration, but the Society believes that until the effects of magic and its supposed balance can be properly studied, the world should ban the use of magic or risk an eventual catastrophe.

Among my player are a druid, a sorceror and a favored soul, so they're bound to have frictions with those two groups -- especially if the sorcerer goes with his plan and rents a mansion to throw a high-class reception.

(darnit, had 4 paragraphs and then refreshed!)
Since most people already covered atheists in this thread, I figured I would throw in a few thoughts on the "scientist" group. First, as someone else suggested, "natural philosophers" is what scientists used to call themselves and definitely has a stronger fantasy feel, so I would suggest that as a name.

Second, here are two possible ideas for what would cause them to dislike magic at best, and hate at most.

Idea the First: Magic is based off a resource that is either non renewable or with limited renewability, a la Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away. In other words, eventually, magic will stop working because it's all been used up, so don't use it unless you really have to, since using it faster will cause to end faster.

Idea the Second requires that you keep the second law of thermodynamics true in your campaign setting. In which case, using magic to accomplish a task will cost energy to perform any task, and can cost produce more waste heat than performing it naturally. In other words, doing something with magic kills the universe faster than doing it without magic.
An interesting side effect of this idea is that casting a spell would probably pull energy from the nearest source; so while all the spells cast throughout history may only take seconds or years off the life of the universe, it will take thousands of years at best off the life of the earth. And if it ever pulls energy from the sun, you would be in for interesting times, since stars have a rather delicate balance. Pull too much and you could cause sun spots, solar flares, and even cause it to go nova prematurely, which would give you one world, extra crispy.

Most people probably wouldn't worry about this, since there's no way the end of the universe is coming in their lifetime, but if a divination pointed to the sun toasting the planet in the not so distant future, it might cause some people to worry and encourage people to stop using magic.

Also, evocation would be devastating since it's creating matter. Since matter is only super compressed energy (think e=mc^2 for conversion factors) it would be the most devastating kind of magic in existence.

Another possibility is to use some variant of paradox from the Mage WoD game. Splicing that together with curse imbalance from Rachel Morgan and Tru Calling gives us: using magic changes reality away from what it was meant to be. Too much magic usage warps our world so that the world walls thin and things from other dimensions can get in. Things like aberrations, demons, devils and slaad.


Finally, to the person who suggested using statistics to prove that the gods are real, it's highly unlikely that they would accept that unless they have complexity theory from developed to the point that we do now; otherwise, there's no way they could know that they aren't just hitting a really unlikely set. After all, statistics does allow for streaks in data.

Alcino
2007-11-29, 10:18 PM
"Too much magic usage warps our world so that the world walls thin and things from other dimensions can get in. Things like aberrations, demons, devils and slaad."

While I was mostly thinking of the first possibility you mentioned, this one fits perfectly with my secret overarching plot that's been there since the beginning yet happens so much in the background the players have no idea it's there.

The BBEG, the evil humanist, pretty much maintains that war brings technological/magical/magitechnological progress faster than anything else. And since the followers of Heironeous and Hextor want nothing better than to wail on each other forever...

He fully believes some kind of demon/aberration/etc. invasion is inevitable at some point, so he hopes equipment, training and tactics will have evolved enough by then. He leads a centuries-old organization and is not its first leader.

The players are not aware of that group's existence even though they have been influenced by it on a few occasions. Introducing them to the menace of a potential invasion will do wonders for my BBEG's credibility.

(Still, I'm more working on the enemy emperor right now. Gotta make it an interesting fight.)

Changing subjects, I think the proof by Contact other plane is extremely strong... but only in a world where statistics are fully developed. I've thought about it, and after about two seconds of reflexion, I realized that no, it's not the case here. Oh well, at least it's one less argument against my atheists/humanists.

Stephen_E
2007-11-29, 11:01 PM
Changing subjects, I think the proof by Contact other plane is extremely strong... but only in a world where statistics are fully developed. I've thought about it, and after about two seconds of reflexion, I realized that no, it's not the case here. Oh well, at least it's one less argument against my atheists/humanists.

Not really.

Think of it like this. Joe Bloggs tells me Alcino is a god. As proff he offers me a internet address for you and claims you'll be forced to tell me the truth "x%" of the time. I contact you by that email address and you say "yes, I'm a god". Am I seriously supposed to take that as proof that you're a god?

Contact Other Planes opens up a line to the gods (look it up. I kid you not). Having the people claiming to be gods say they're gods doesn't constitute proof by any rationale standards!

Stephen

Aquillion
2007-11-30, 01:39 AM
In-game observers may not be able to know that someone always gets a natural 20, but they'll be able to see that someone wildly succeeds at everything they attempt, which is what a natural 20 represents.

While a mortal may be able to mimic that for a certain period of time, they will not be able to keep it up in all circumstances and indefinitely. Gods can.

...

If our wizard feels like doing a control, he can duplicate his week of questions, this time asking the Astral Plane, "is water wet?" If he gets the same percentage of truths, unknowns, lies, and random answers (and he will, because that's how the spell works), then he will have proven a) that using contact other plane to ask the Astral Plane a question yields the correct result 44% of the time, and b) that because 44% of answers to the question, "do gods exist?", when asked of the Astral Plane, came back in the affirmative, gods must therefore exist.

And this is an experiment that any good atheistic wizard can duplicate, and get the same results.

Therefore, I have just proven, in-character, that gods exist in generic D&D.You haven't. You're still missing the basic point of contention here. A D&D atheist of the sort we're describing isn't simply rejecting specific gods, or rejecting individual divine powers; he is rejecting the idea of gods, the entire conceptual framework by which most people look at entities to evaluate if they are divine or not. He argues that the standards other people use to celebrate specific individuals as deities are debased and meaningless -- D&D gods can be killed, for one thing. It isn't even that hard overall. They can lose their powers. It's hardly a stretch to have someone say that either of those things makes something non-divine; if it has finite powers, it is not "God" in the sense that many here, in the real world, would use the term. Applying that in D&D, at least for the philosophically-minded, makes perfect sense; then it's just a matter of whether or not you believe in the omnipotent sort of god people some believe in here (and, in fact, it would be harder to believe in that god in most D&D worlds. A few have visible overgods, but most don't; in most D&D worlds, there aren't any established religions or holy texts for omnipotent deities. Philosophical characters who followed this route could still choose to be Atheists or Deists, but outside a few settings with visible overgods it would be hard to argue that there is an omnipotent deity actually interfering in the D&D world; if there is one, they're going to great lengths to hide themselves.)

Our D&D atheist does not deny that (say) Palor gets natural 20s on everything. He denies that that makes Palor a god.

Contact Other Plane is similarly limited by language and the ability to ask questions. If you ask 'is XYZ a god?' or 'are there gods?', you will get answers based on the debased meaning of the divine that our D&D atheist does not accept. He would ask, instead, 'Is there a true, omnipotent God according to the definition I accept?' The answer he would get is uncertain, depending on whether or not the deities in question know the answer, whether your current D&D universe actually has such a deity, whether or not an answer is even philosophical meaningful, and so forth.

It is possible, even, that there is no definition that this atheist would accept; they might simply feel that 'god' and 'divine' are inherently debased terms without concrete or valid meanings.

To use a real-world analogy, the DM is in complete control of their D&D universe; they created it, and they can do absolutely anything they want to it or within it (although their players might walk away if they get bored or annoyed). They cannot be killed, harmed, or affected by anything within it. Does that make them a god? Obviously not, and yet we have touched here on essentially everything that we would commonly accept to make something a god. The only conclusion is that the category of 'gods' is flawed and meaningless.

Real-world religions generally answer this problem by saying that divine things are beyond human comprehension, and that we must therefore ultimately accept divinity entirely on faith. There's no way to know whether a vision comes from gods or demons, say; that's where faith comes in. But in a D&D world, it's unlikely that very many religions have gotten that far, theologically speaking... after all, you don't have to muck around with philosophy as much when you can call down thunderbolts on a whim.

Alcino
2007-11-30, 01:41 AM
Verily, the contact other plane argument, as initially formulated, is no proof by itself.

But unless all the "gods" of the pantheon and even the elementals that can be contacted by the spell rally to mislead you, the systematic use of contact other spell as an unreliable information-gathering tool can provide a basis for serious statistical studies.

Much knowledge of the world could be extracted from such analysis, eventually leading to the truth about everything.

Of course, this is false if either:
- The gods and elemental rally against you.
- The mathematical tools have not been developed.

In my campaign world, mathematics are not advanced enough, but...

...

Hey, I just had an idea. The natural philosophers could very well use this method to gather information about the secondary effects of magic!

Autumn Blooming
2007-11-30, 02:04 AM
Verily, the contact other plane argument, as initially formulated, is no proof by itself.

But unless all the "gods" of the pantheon and even the elementals that can be contacted by the spell rally to mislead you, the systematic use of contact other spell as an unreliable information-gathering tool can provide a basis for serious statistical studies.

Much knowledge of the world could be extracted from such analysis, eventually leading to the truth about everything.

Of course, this is false if either:
- The gods and elemental rally against you.
- The mathematical tools have not been developed.

In my campaign world, mathematics are not advanced enough, but...

...

Hey, I just had an idea. The natural philosophers could very well use this method to gather information about the secondary effects of magic!

The problem with Contact Other Plane is that a) they don't know the percentages (easily fixed with a baseline question, but still) and b) even if they did know the percentages, whoever the results work against can claim that "Oh, you just hit a lucky streak where all the liars showed up at once to validate your claim". IANACT, but I'm pretty sure that only in VERY recent years has complexity theory proven that the longer you go, the lower the chance the outsiders are lying, to any acceptable chance you want. In other words, while it makes *intuitive* sense that they aren't lying after a while, the math to *logically* prove it is much more highly advanced.

In other words, whichever side the Contact Other Plane benefits will tout it as proof, and the other side will deny it proves anything. So throw it in if the party is at some kind of event and you need dialogue for NPCs to debate the issue.

Personally, all three of the ideas I mentioned I think are really cool, although I would love to see the party members' faces when you tell them that casting spells too much will blow up the sun.

I'm also not convinced that the natural philosophers would use Contact Other Plane to learn the hazardous effects of magic, since, and this is kind of a key point here, Contact Other Plane is magic.

philippos
2007-11-30, 02:51 AM
contact other plane is magic and the Natural Philosophers might not use it themselves, but if the Human Destiny Movement or whatever they are, has used it and published the results or if some other magic user has done studies into it they may have access to that information set.

I imagine that some in the Natural Philiosophers might have high ranks in Know (arcana) etc. maybe even some ex casters that have reformed by being convinced. Or it was a caster that discovered that the spells he/she/it was casting was causing side effects and when studied led to an unsettling discovery.

also generic d&d means lots of races, so how does the Humanists or Human Destiny Movement treat them.

how do the Natural Philies feel about inherently magical beings?

Lord Iames Osari
2007-11-30, 03:16 AM
Most humans alive have f-all practical understanding of physics

I'm not trying to misrepresent your argument, but it seems to me that this paragraph is summarized by this sentence, so I'll respond to it.

Oh really? Gee, I guess normal people have no idea that bigger, heavier objects are harder to move. I guess people have no idea that things tend to fall in a downward direction, toward the largest object in the immediate vicinity. I guess people don't notice that ice, when warmed, turns from a solid into a liquid, and when further warmed, into a gas. Really, I had no idea people were so ignorant. Thank you for letting me know.


Wrong. You've just shown that the sources that Contact Other Planes reaches either think that a god exists, or a significant group of those sources are conspiring to create the impression that they exist.

Indeed since the spell supposedly contacts gods any self-respecting wizard would be fully aware of the pointlessness of asking someone claiming to be a deity whether deities exist.

The spell description - the rules which govern what the spell does and does not do - states that you receive a true answer a given percent of the time. It doesn't say "the powers you contact give you an answer which serves their own mysterious purposes," it says that the powers answer your question truthfully, with a falsehood, an 'I dunno,' or they make some random crap up. Those are the only options according to generic, RAW D&D. If you change that, you're changing the rules of the game, and you are therefore not playing generic D&D and by extension no longer relevant to this discussion. Have a nice day.

Oh, and by the by - the spell description says that the spell contacts the powers of another plane:


Contact Other Plane (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/contactOtherPlane.htm)
You send your mind to another plane of existence (an Elemental Plane or some plane farther removed) in order to receive advice and information from powers there.

You only get gods if you contact the Outer Planes - and you'll note that in my example I specifically contacted the Astral Plane, not the Outer Planes, because contacting the Outer Planes is contacting gods and I knew somebody would raise the argument you just did. Take your own advice and go read the spell description (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/contactOtherPlane.htm).


Contact Other Plane (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/contactOtherPlane.htm)
{table="head"]Plane Contacted|Avoid Int/Cha Decrease|True Answer|Donít Know|Lie|Random Answer
Elemental Plane|DC 7/1 week|01-34|35-62|63-83|84-100
(appropriate)|(DC 7/1 week)|(01-68)|(69-75)|(76-98)|(99-100)
Positive/Negative Energy Plane|DC 8/1 week|01-39|40-65|66-86|87-100
Astral Plane|DC 9/1 week|01-44|45-67|68-88|89-100
Outer Plane, demideity|DC 10/2 weeks|01-49|50-70|71-91|92-100
Outer Plane, lesser deity|DC 12/3 weeks|01-60|61-75|76-95|96-100
Outer Plane, intermediate deity|DC 14/4 weeks|01-73|74-81|82-98|99-100
Outer Plane, greater deity|DC 16/5 weeks|01-88|89-90|91-99|100[/table]


And if you're claiming a 5th level spell can make a God answer truthfully against its will I can only laugh at the weakness of your "Gd" concept, as will any wizard. "I'm a 9th level Wizard and I can forces gods to answer my questions truthfully" doesn't really cut it as a convincing concept. If your hypothetical 9th+ lev wizard goes to the athiest society and tells them that he knows gods existed because he cast a spell that forced them to tell him the truth and asked them, he'll get laughed out of the meeting.

I claim no such thing. I claim only that the spell can force other, lesser beings to tell the truth.


Contact Other Planes opens up a line to the gods (look it up. I kid you not). Having the people claiming to be gods say they're gods doesn't constitute proof by any rationale standards!

Wrong. See above.


Verily, the contact other plane argument, as initially formulated, is no proof by itself.

But unless all the "gods" of the pantheon and even the elementals that can be contacted by the spell rally to mislead you, the systematic use of contact other spell as an unreliable information-gathering tool can provide a basis for serious statistical studies.

There is no allowance made by the RAW for this to happen. You can change this if you wish, but keep in mind that you will be diverging from the generic D&D this thread is discussing.


Much knowledge of the world could be extracted from such analysis, eventually leading to the truth about everything.

Of course, this is false if either:
- The gods and elemental rally against you.
- The mathematical tools have not been developed.

As for the first, see my rebuttal above. The second is an obstacle on which the RAW is silent, so it's really up to your individual campaign world.

One question, though: historically, the first atheists and deists came after or around the same time as the invention of calculus. And the cultural ability to question the existence of what has heretofore been an accepted fact implies a pretty sophisticated society of thinkers. So why are mathematics not that advanced yet?


You haven't. You're still missing the basic point of contention here. A D&D atheist of the sort we're describing isn't simply rejecting specific gods, or rejecting individual divine powers; he is rejecting the idea of gods, the entire conceptual framework by which most people look at entities to evaluate if they are divine or not. He argues that the standards other people use to celebrate specific individuals as deities are debased and meaningless -- D&D gods can be killed, for one thing. It isn't even that hard overall. They can lose their powers. It's hardly a stretch to have someone say that either of those things makes something non-divine; if it has finite powers, it is not "God" in the sense that many here, in the real world, would use the term. Applying that in D&D, at least for the philosophically-minded, makes perfect sense

No it doesn't. Assuming that these atheistic characters have been growing up in the D&D world, what basis do they have for what is or is not divine other than the standards of their world? It makes no sense at all to say, "Well, what everybody else calls gods don't have characteristics X, Y, and Z, which no so-called god has ever had or claimed to have, and so therefore there must not be any gods."

It's like someone from a society that's only ever been exposed to red apples saying, "Apples are green. None of the things other people call apples are green, they are red, so therefore, apples must not exist." It's nonsensical.


The problem with Contact Other Plane is that a) they don't know the percentages (easily fixed with a baseline question, but still) and b) even if they did know the percentages, whoever the results work against can claim that "Oh, you just hit a lucky streak where all the liars showed up at once to validate your claim". IANACT, but I'm pretty sure that only in VERY recent years has complexity theory proven that the longer you go, the lower the chance the outsiders are lying, to any acceptable chance you want. In other words, while it makes *intuitive* sense that they aren't lying after a while, the math to *logically* prove it is much more highly advanced.

In the generic, high-magic world of D&D, why wouldn't they know the precentages? They've been using the spells for thousands of years, in many cases. And even if they didn't, I included a baseline question in my scenario.

As for your other argument, well, I'm no mathemetician, but since this can be done ad infinitum, all you need to do is keep repeating the experiment. Unless your opponents want to claim that you get liars every single time, eventually you'll have a preponderance of evidence. You can even use a variety of baseline questions, if necessary. You can challenge them to perform the same experiment and prove their claim by getting different results. It doesn't seem too difficult to me.

philippos
2007-11-30, 03:56 AM
I think, Lord Iames Osari, you are making some good points here. But I have some questions, as to the percentages of true/false/don't know/random are we assuming that this is the likelyhood of this type of answer given any question? Which with the number of questions you posed for the experiment should garner the same percentages when compared to one or, better yet, several baseline calibration questions. For an individual question that effects the plane being asked couldn't the percentages be changed(circumstances etc)? Or is that not RAW? Do we assume no DM and a comparison of stats/rolls?

And even if we get consistant results in the casting there is that pesky habit people have of ignoring or disregarding proofs for a wide range of reasons selfish, stupid and otherwise. So even if the casting plan works, will the results be trusted?
Even if several other people repeat said experiment and document it. It can and likely will be ignored, unless it also makes some other impact on the world that cannot be brushed aside.

As to the understanding of physics as a level 1 commoner today: I don't know that things are attracted to the nearest massive body, I know that "things fall down." I don't know that all things (regardless of mass) fall at the same speed not allowing for air resistance. All this was new information at some point and quite a few people don't know it now. And this stuff isn't even magic, which would maybe be particle physics. It is also a question of how much knowladge even casters have of the mechanics of magic. Is it considered an art (doing it by the "feel") or a science (doing it by the "numbers")? That answer might differ depending on the type of caster soc vs wiz or not.

I think I got side tracked a bit but....

Manticorkscrew
2007-11-30, 07:10 AM
Can you use 'Contact Other Planes' to answer abstract questions? Especially those that have more than one answer, or those that have no answer? It would kind of destroy the mysteries of the settings if you could ask "What can change the nature of a man?" and 44% of the time you would get a 'correct' answer. :smallconfused:

The reason that the 'atheists in D&D' question is pertinent is that culturally, most D&D settings are versions of modern-day America with magical and fantasy trappings added in. The problem is that most world-builders don't really consider the effects wide-spread divine and arcane magic would have on culture and philosophy. But then, the 'main' D&D settings have to be quite vague about these things so that DMs have the freedom to do what they want within the setting.

Gods are like Elves, Dragons and Manticores; just another of the delightful creatures that DMs like to use in their games. Even if atheists as they exist in real life probably could not exist (just like religious people as they exist in real life now probably could not exist, but that's another post) in a D&D world, there are a number of religious positions that might arise instead:


Such as the Godsmen in Planescape. They knew enough of the 'science' of the Planes to know that Gods were more powerful than mortals, but not all-powerful. And though some Gods had a hand in making the individual planes, they hadn't made the multiverse. And so they posited the idea of an ultimate being, a source for the entire multiverse, and much of their philosophy was built around worshipping and trying to find out more about that. (OK, this is my interpretation of their beliefs. And it's very simplified.)
Those who don't have any strong beliefs in the Gods, thinking that if they don't do anything to antagonize the Gods, they'll be left in peace. (Like Roy in OOTS, or Valygar in Baldur's Gate). Traditionally, people like this would be dealt with pretty harshly, which seems pretty spiteful on the part of the so-called 'good' Gods. I guess Gods just have a deep-seated need to be loved.
Those who are fed up with the Gods and other higher beings meddling in everything and wish they would be left alone (Babylon 5, anyone? This is also a strong theme in the Malazan Book of the Fallen.)
Those who aren't really very religious/faithful, but wish to take advantage of the rules of divine power. Especially if the campaign setting allows mortals to "ascend". For example, both of John Irenicus's plans in BG2 hinged on this.
Those for whom the power and priveleges that come with being a high-ranking member of the Church is more important than faith. Particularly prominent in religions where the Gods don't pay much attention to the day-to-day running of the Church (e.g. many of the religions of Eberron. And this is common in real life, whenever a religion has some actual temporal power.)
Those who are powerful or influential enough that even the Gods have to step carefully around them. E.g. Elminster or Halaster, of Forgotten Realms. It's hard to imagine them being particularly awed by any higher being. In fact, if the individual is of an enquiring turn of mind, they've probably deciphered some of the deeper mysteries of the world... and if the Gods step out of line, they're in trouble.


Hmm... that gives me an idea for a campaign. What would happen if the Patron God of one nation actually manifested and killed the King of another nation?

Stephen_E
2007-11-30, 07:20 AM
I'm not trying to misrepresent your argument, but it seems to me that this paragraph is summarized by this sentence, so I'll respond to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_E
Most humans alive have f-all practical understanding of physics


Oh really? Gee, I guess normal people have no idea that bigger, heavier objects are harder to move. I guess people have no idea that things tend to fall in a downward direction, toward the largest object in the immediate vicinity. I guess people don't notice that ice, when warmed, turns from a solid into a liquid, and when further warmed, into a gas. Really, I had no idea people were so ignorant. Thank you for letting me know.

Since what you're talking about isn't what I call practical physics I make clear what I do call practical physics. Practical physics is understanding what's happening. When giving simple tests to US university students who weren't taking science but had to do a maadatory basic science course for their degree, they found that huge amounts of them couldn't draw a simle diagram of the movement of the Earth, Moon and Sun in relation to each other (yes, significant numbers had the sun go around the earth). People didn't know which fell faster, the heavier or lighter object.

I remember watch a Bruce Willis movie where he was on a horse chasing a terrorist on a motercycle and it culminated in the the terrorist riding off the the top of a skyscraper and landing on the rooftop pool on a much lower skyscraper across the road. The Horse refused to follow. I commented that the horse could've probably made it since given the short run it probably would've reached the same take off speed. My 160+ IQ flatmate who was a senior analyst for a Govt Dept insisted this was rubbish as the horse was much heavier. Lack of basic practical physics knowledge. As materials such as liquids, solids and gases get cooler do they expand, shrink or stay the same. Most people don't realise thatgravity is a two way process and that things don't just fall "down" but also fall towards any close massive objects. Do you really think most people understand that that the air you breath can be cooled into a liquid or solid, or that you can cause gases to become liquids by putting under pressure, and why, and what consequences this has.

The answer is no. Most people have very little practical knowledge of physics because they never use it after the brief bits they get exposed to at school. Yes, peole are ignorant. There is an awful lot of knowledge out there and people tend to only track the stuff of interest or of everyday use. Most people have little or no understaning of electricity for example, basic physics, but since plug it in and turn the switch will give them everything they need to know most people no damn all.

I'll cover the rest of your post tommorrow.

Stephen

Cuddly
2007-11-30, 07:26 AM
"What can change the nature of a man?" and 44% of the time you would get a 'correct' answer. :smallconfused:

A Helm of Opposite Alignment.

Mr. Friendly
2007-11-30, 07:32 AM
Since what you're talking about isn't what I call practical physics I make clear what I do call practical physics. Practical physics is understanding what's happening. When giving simple tests to US university students who weren't taking science but had to do a maadatory basic science course for their degree, they found that huge amounts of them couldn't draw a simle diagram of the movement of the Earth, Moon and Sun in relation to each other (yes, significant numbers had the sun go around the earth). People didn't know which fell faster, the heavier or lighter object.

I remember watch a Bruce Willis movie where he was on a horse chasing a terrorist on a motercycle and it culminated in the the terrorist riding off the the top of a skyscraper and landing on the rooftop pool on a much lower skyscraper across the road. The Horse refused to follow. I commented that the horse could've probably made it since given the short run it probably would've reached the same take off speed. My 160+ IQ flatmate who was a senior analyst for a Govt Dept insisted this was rubbish as the horse was much heavier. Lack of basic practical physics knowledge. As materials such as liquids, solids and gases get cooler do they expand, shrink or stay the same. Most people don't realise thatgravity is a two way process and that things don't just fall "down" but also fall towards any close massive objects. Do you really think most people understand that that the air you breath can be cooled into a liquid or solid, or that you can cause gases to become liquids by putting under pressure, and why, and what consequences this has.

The answer is no. Most people have very little practical knowledge of physics because they never use it after the brief bits they get exposed to at school. Yes, peole are ignorant. There is an awful lot of knowledge out there and people tend to only track the stuff of interest or of everyday use. Most people have little or no understaning of electricity for example, basic physics, but since plug it in and turn the switch will give them everything they need to know most people no damn all.

I'll cover the rest of your post tommorrow.

Stephen

Um, what country do you live in? I admit, I live in one of more backward and anti-intellectual countries in the world and I am pretty sure everyone here who has been through at least High School (or gotten their GED) understand:

The orbits of the planets
Cooling effects on objects
How gravity works

Humans, as a whole are stupid, sure that's a given. We are a race of psychotic apes. I think however one can generally find a majority group that will understand basic physics. Perhaps not all will have literal 'by the book' answers and definitions, but they will at least have an intuitive grasp of how it works.

Aquillion
2007-11-30, 07:42 AM
No it doesn't. Assuming that these atheistic characters have been growing up in the D&D world, what basis do they have for what is or is not divine other than the standards of their world? It makes no sense at all to say, "Well, what everybody else calls gods don't have characteristics X, Y, and Z, which no so-called god has ever had or claimed to have, and so therefore there must not be any gods."That's a terrible argument. If philosophical thought worked that way, we would still all believe in animist tree spirits and Zeus. Yes, the majority of people simply accept whatever religion they were raised with and grew up around; but not everyone does. Introspective, philosophically-minded people do challenge religious dogma from time to time. Socrates, in fact, presented essentially the argument I presented above, attacking the concept of his nation's gods not simply by disbelieving their myths but by challenging the prevailing concept of 'divine'.

All it takes is the merest thought of omnipotence -- the slightest, single person considering it for a moment -- and the entire D&D divine metaphysics are blown out of the water completely. Once you've accepted the bare possibility of an all-seeing, all-powerful deity, the so-called gods of the D&D are, inevitably, going to look like frauds and imposters, no matter how many spell-like abilities they can pull to support themselves. You can't seriously argue that nobody would ever think of it there; people have thought of it here, repeatedly.

Grey Watcher
2007-11-30, 11:28 AM
Red Watcher: This thread started out on the safe side of a fine line. Discussing the religious views of characters within a campagin setting with respect to fictional gods is acceptable. Dragging in real world religions, even if only by way of comparison, is over the line. A whole post devoted to attacking or defending the real-world position, is most definitely over the line. I'm going to hope that the original poster got some useful information, because this thread has to be locked now.