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View Full Version : 40k as a religion- thoughts?



Scopedog
10-10-2005, 08:43
Hi to everyone, I've been lurking on this forum for a while (and Portent before it) but I recently started posting.

What follows is all intended as an intellectual exercise and is purely hypothetical.

As a preface to my question, I'd like to explain what inspired it. I recently completed a 4-year tour with the U. S. military, but a couple months before I got out, I thought it would be cool to wear dog tags that said "Cult Imperialis" for my religion instead of the traditional options("Temple of the Savior Emperor" was too long to fit and I didn't want to abbreviate). It just so happened that I worked in the building where they produce dog tags en masse for new recruits and I knew the guy that made them, so it was no problem (his humor is a little irreverent like mine, and I think most people would have found the request at best sacreligious). I could theoretically have been reprimanded during an inspection for wearing dog tags that could be perceived as "in poor taste", but, like I said, I only had a couple of months left, so I didn't care and I got a kick out of it.

On to my question. Honestly, I don't play the 40k boardgame at all, but I'm fascinated by the novels and background books- particularly the religious component. In any case, I was thinking about how I could reconcile the possible existence of the official religion of the Imperium in our world without changing it too much.

The obvious idea is that someday the Emperor will rise to power and unite scattered interstellar colonies, but I'm not as interested in the Emperor's messianic potential as much as I'm compelled by his verifiable existence and immediate presence in the lives of Imperial citizens in the year 40,000 and beyond. Even more so the idea of the Horus Heresy that bound him to his throne, doomed to cast the Astronomicon forever. The idea that there is a "real" God on Terra with this type of back story reminds of the stories of Olympians and their trials and tribulations before the time of man.

The better idea I came up with is this:

What if the planet we're on isn't the real, original planet called Earth (or Terra)? What if we named it that based on a race memory of a planet that was known to be the cradle of human life by the prehistoric ancestors that originally settled this world? What if we're the offshoot of a small human colony cut off from communication with the Imperium and isolated by warpstorms somewhere in time after the Horus Heresy? Maybe Atlantis was the sole original colony, and most evidence of prehistoric high technology sank into the ocean with it. It's possible that we recall some inkling of the "Temple of the Savior Emperor" that was subscribed to by our ancient ancestors as another racial memory. Perhaps someday Orks, Tyranids, or Chaos will attack the Earth and we'll eventually be rescued(or purged) by an Imperial invasion force then be brought back to the fold.

Does any of this contradict fluff? Is there anything that "places" our solar system as *the* solar system that harbors Terra in the 40k universe? Obviously, Mars exists in 40k, but again, it could have been subconsciously named after the legend of the planet that was tamed by the cult of the Machine God. All of our legends and myths might be borrowed from pre-imperial myths and history brought by our ancestors.

Time is the biggest problem with these ideas, since we've been around in modern form for over 100,000 years or so, and even if Imperial settlers wiped out species like neanderthal and cro-magnon(which would explain how human-like creatures would have been in the fossil record for millions of years, yet real humans could have arrived more recently), they couldn't have arrived any earlier than around their year 20,000, which would mean that right now it's at least the year 120,000 in Imperial time.

I think this would be good fanfic fodder and I'd like to hear more ideas on the possible legitimacy of an Imperial religion in our world.

azimaith
10-10-2005, 08:52
I think the fact we have a 40k table top game basically kills it.

Not impossible, but not exactly likely either, as likely as "Dogs are actually all cybernetic demon squirrels in dog-bioarmor with such high technology its indistinguishable from our feeble technologies.." Can't be disproven but its not exactly something that would be taken seriously.

As for Cult Imperialis, go for it, sounds entertaining.

Orthodox
10-10-2005, 11:52
What follows is all intended as an intellectual exercise and is purely hypothetical.
- just to be clear.


The obvious idea is that someday the Emperor will rise to power and unite scattered interstellar colonies, but I'm not as interested in the Emperor's messianic potential as much as I'm compelled by his verifiable existence and immediate presence in the lives of Imperial citizens in the year 40,000 and beyond. Even more so the idea of the Horus Heresy that bound him to his throne, doomed to cast the Astronomicon forever. The idea that there is a "real" God on Terra with this type of back story reminds of the stories of Olympians and their trials and tribulations before the time of man.
I think the problem isn't your solution but your premise. The ethical and religious dimensions of the Cult aren't meant for literal application, because they're conceived rhetorically.

The Emperor has alot of parallels to various aspects of the Trinity, but the conceit is that for all His supposed divinity, the Emperor is of mundane origins and mundane preoccupations. This is something you've affirmed your self in referring to a continuing "verifiable exitence and immediate presence," and going on to illustrate His fallibility and mortality.

Orthodox christology holds that Christ is of one being, perfect in manhood and godhood. The Emperor is perfect also in "divinity;" shamanist harmony with the warp, and also having achieved physical and mental supremacy. He also is obviously a unified personality.

The trick comes when Jesus dies to save his chosen people from sin, he actually ascends to Heaven; but in a similar situation (this one largely of his own making) the Emperor doesn't really finish the job. He's not really awakened as the star child, or what ev, and while he may have descended to Hell in some sense or another, he didn't rescue anyone or sunder any gates while he was there. In some ways, the whole Eye of Terror deal and Horus' attack on Terra was more like the devil trying to break down the pearly gates.

Then consider the respective religions' soteriology. The Emperor's version is ultimately pragmatic; requiring a conquering hero who is unwaveringly faithful. Any deviance, or effort that is not ultimately devoted to Him (and consequently to humanity's immediate terrestrial concern) results in abandonment to the warp's predations. Most versions of christianity are at least a little more magnanimous.

Bottom line; from a real world perspective, the Emperor fails. Just now I used "terrestrial" as a synonym for rude or mundane, but in 40k terra is, as you said, an Olympian style anteroom to heaven. Your Olympian comparision is apt, because as any ****** junior college mythology course will tell you, myths like the greek pantheon featured deities with fallible human qualities to which ancient cultures could relate. The Cult is a figuritive illustration of how much it would suck to have a god that isn't really a god, and while it's very nice in context, it remains that being a pious servant of the ministorum is something subject to completely hypothetical conditions.

Randallw
10-10-2005, 12:09
What if the planet we're on isn't the real, original planet called Earth (or Terra)? What if we named it that based on a race memory of a planet that was known to be the cradle of human life by the prehistoric ancestors that originally settled this world? What if we're the offshoot of a small human colony cut off from communication with the Imperium and isolated by warpstorms somewhere in time after the Horus Heresy? .

I wouldn't be surprised if we havn't all considered it at one time or another. A friend and I were waiting for a movie to start once and we started debating the idea.

Krusk
11-10-2005, 00:10
Yeah, I have thought about it before. Although it might work as a hypothetical anyway because maybe GW garbled the deep seated memory in human history of the Imperium as they tend to do(Ie botch or garble things)

shutupSHUTUP!!!
11-10-2005, 00:43
what sort of ideal would this religion instil in people?

The emperor in 40k probably didn't want the imperium to turn out like it did from the fluff I've read, so would the religious ideals be virtous, or what we consider callous like the 40k universe?

gunhed
11-10-2005, 16:16
What if the planet we're on isn't the real, original planet called Earth (or Terra)? What if we named it that based on a race memory of a planet that was known to be the cradle of human life by the prehistoric ancestors that originally settled this world? What if we're the offshoot of a small human colony cut off from communication with the Imperium and isolated by warpstorms somewhere in time after the Horus Heresy?

That's the premis behind Battle Star Galactica isn't it? Except there, after leaving Kobold (the birthplace of humanity) and starting 13 colony worlds (Caprica, Aquaria, Gemini etc... and Earth) the main 12 colonies come looking for Earth (the 13th) as they've been nigh on exterminated and need somewhere to live.

Axel
11-10-2005, 17:20
Does any of this contradict fluff?

Time is the biggest problem with these ideas, since we've been around in modern form for over 100,000 years or so, and even if Imperial settlers wiped out species like neanderthal and cro-magnon(which would explain how human-like creatures would have been in the fossil record for millions of years, yet real humans could have arrived more recently),...


So you assume our real Earth is just one of the colonies settled in the era of technology, and lost contact some scores of millenia ago.

It seems not to contradict 40k-fluff, but imho you do have a problem with all the fossils to be found on earth. There seems to be a pretty complete development chain towards humans for the last several million years, and the DNS indicates that we humans and the rest of the life (ALL of it) on this world have the same roots. So you have to assume that either ALL life uses the same DNS and results in similar, nearly identical, development lines for your theory. That is, imho, highly unlikely. I rather would bet on winning the lottery every week for the rest of my life. You can solve the DNS-problem by assuming that DNS is artificially spread around in the galaxy by some process (not unlike the Orks) started some billion years ago, and whenever these proto-dns hits a suitable planet it starts to develope. This would result in nearly identical DNS on all planets. The development problem still remains, though perhaps the Old Ones have bioengineered all lifefilled planets into the same direction.

Good luck with that assumption. I rather support the idea of the spagetti-god, and expect that whereever the idea of creation is taught in denial of the evolution, the creation through meat-ball and pizza will find itself equally respected :rolleyes:

gunhed
11-10-2005, 20:12
Good luck with that assumption. I rather support the idea of the spagetti-god, and expect that whereever the idea of creation is taught in denial of the evolution, the creation through meat-ball and pizza will find itself equally respected :rolleyes:

At the risk of going "Off Thread", what's a spaghetti god?:confused:

Axel
11-10-2005, 21:47
At the risk of going "Off Thread", what's a spaghetti god?:confused:

There is this movement to challenge the creationsm-gang (those guys who claim that evolution should not be taught because it violates their interpretation of the bible) who introduced a new god that created the world by forming it from meatballs out of a large lumps of spagetthis (or something along that line). They declare that if the christian fundamentalists get the right to teach THEIR version of the creation in school, the spagetthi-version has the same right to be taught. Just teaching one religiously based version would be discrimination. Of course they do not object (like the creationsm-crowd does) if the matter is purely based upon the newest scientific knowledge, but IF religion comes in, they demand that theirs is respected, too :evilgrin:

DURENDIN
11-10-2005, 23:26
Ever read the Liber Chaotica? (aka the Black Bible). It's the collected edition of the Liber Khorne etc and is a facinating read. You have no problems with the parallels it draws with the "real" world. With Al-Aqaeda beheading people for fun or politics, I haven't decided if it's Tzeenchian manipulation of Islam or simply Blood and Heads for Khorne.

Since no religion agrees with any other, the concepts of the Warp and the Ruinous powers are just as valid as any of Satan etc. As for the Emperor? A messiah who guides humanity from the shadows and is our protector on Earth? Why not indeed? The "New Man" might indeed walk with us.

gunhed
13-10-2005, 16:57
IF religion comes in, they demand that theirs is respected, too :evilgrin:

Makes perfect sense to me. Either ALL views are acceptable or NO views are.

Krusk
13-10-2005, 19:16
Well. I see the evolutionary bits you speak of. I know the odds are bad, but say a situation like what you see in the hitchhikers guide series occured. IE colonists show up, and supplant apeish/pirmitive people, and get some of the DNA they had to boot, and then degenerate and start a society(s) that inspired myths around the world of divine beings like men, or semidivine/magical people. I think you can see where I am going with this. (discount in your evaluation that earth in that series was artificial, assume it existed naturally for the sake of my example)

gunhed
14-10-2005, 13:00
Hindu creation myths have stories about supernatural gods having massive battles amongst themselves in flying machines, and the Christian myths have a story about a war in Heaven amongst the supreme being and his chosen champion.

Perhaps scopedog is on to something here after all:p

Marshal Draziel
14-10-2005, 16:41
What man can fathom, he can whorship. what he can create, he can dominate.

What created man, can dominate man....