Atheism and Roleplaying

I have been asked a time or two how I, as an atheist, can play fantasy roleplaying games that involve gods, clerics, and divine magic. The first part of the answer is very simple: its a game. If I can imagine myself as an all power wizard casting fireball, pretending to a believer isn’t much of a stretch.

There is also the fact that generally RPG gods have real physical effects on the world. The gods empower people with actual magic, actively participate in the workings of their churches, and even physically appear in the world (see Fitzban). Even different faiths acknowledge the existence of other gods; it is well established that all the gods exist. Disbelieving in a god when faced with that kind of evidence would be intellectually bankrupt.

The world of Athas of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting is an interesting study in religion. Mostly because it is a world with no gods, no true divine magic. Religion in the world takes two forms. The first is elemental worship, where people turn to the natural world for an illusion of control over the world. The second is the worship of the immortal sorcerer-kings. These corrupt rulers are men and women, merely pretending to be divine. This setup appears like a commentary on both modern organized religion (sorcerer-king = pope anyone?) and more ancient nature worship.

More importantly, Athas is a roleplaying world where atheists are the default. Most characters exist without any sort of belief system. Pragmatism is the rule of the day. The brutal world leaves no room for idealistic hopes of a divine savior. It’s a refreshing sort of honesty that is lacking in most roleplaying settings.  I like it.

-That is all.

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