At PoD, the world exhibited an enormous religious variety, with tens of thousands of small tribes and nations venerating various gods and spirits in countless ways. Christianity was slowly spreading throughout Europe and the Middle East in spite of persecutions. The single largest religion in 251 CE was Buddhism, which just expanded Eastwards across China and South-East Asia and would reach OTL Korea, Japan and Indonesia in the next centuries.
In OTL, the 17 3/4 centuries which have followed saw the rise of two monotheistic religions to global hegemony, made possible by their becoming new state religions of Empires, Kingdoms, Sultanates and Khanates: Christianity and Islam.
In this timeline, after Decius` continuing persecutions and the achievement of religious freedom in the Roman Revolution of the 260s, Christianity never became Rome`s state religion. Rome`s former state religion, on the other hand, became merely one among competing cults and took its own path of development, which has continued into the present.
The seven major world religions of this timeline are (ranked by number of adherents:) Buddhism, Lysianism, Atlanto-Caribic Animism, Christianity, Watuism, Judaism and Tengrism.
|Name||Distribution Area||Deities||Supreme Goal||Social / Cultic Organisation|
|Buddhism||South, South-East and East Asia; Asambadha Anuttara; Taipingyang islands||none (but locally syncretised with animisms and Hindu deities)||escaping the cycle of eternal suffering (Sansara) caused by desires and achieving nothingness (Nirvana)||monastic sanghas, sanghas of the laymen|
|Lysianism||Europe; Middle East||none (but locally syncretised with animisms, Zoroastrian monotheism and polytheisms)||restoring harmony, joy, order, life, creation and the reign of light by overcoming sorrow, chaos, violence, destruction and the reign of darkness||temple schools; otherwise a private religion, but syncretised with cults which feature priests, witches, shamans etc.|
|Atlanto-Caribic Animism||continental Atlantis; Caribia||animistic, pantheistic or polytheistic||maintaining the natural balance of life?||communal (roles for shamans and laymen)|
|Christianity||Northern Africa; Arabia; South-East Europe; Norway||monotheistic||redemption granted by the merciful God --> eternal life in Heaven||churches (roles for bishops, priests and laymen)|
|Watuism||Southern Africa||monotheistic-animistic||maintaining and being in accordance with the supreme force (of life)||communal (various roles)|
|Judaism||Taino islands; Eastern Europe||monotheistic||redemption granted by the merciful God --> eternal life in Heaven||communal (roles for rabbis and laymen)|
|Tengrism||North Asia||monotheistic-animistic||maintaining the natural balance of life and being in accordance with the supreme force of life||communal (roles for shamans and laymen)|
The Development and Characteristics of Buddhism OTL vs. ATL
In OTL, Buddhism takes roots in China after 250 and expands into Korea, Mongolia, Japan, and South-East Asia. In many of these societies, it syncretises and reinterprets local aniministic, polytheistic, pantheistic and even monotheistic cults and various rituals and practices. In India, its place of emergence, where it had kept a relative orthodoxy over almost a millennium, it becomes marginalised due to the rise of Hinduist imperial monarchies and Islamic conquests.
In this timeline, Buddhism remains powerful in India, and along with the new schools that arise from the contact with Taoism, Shintoism, Bön, Tengrism, and Tai and Malayan beliefs, it also develops schools that absorb Zoroastrian, Bantu, and Judaeo-Christian influences.
Due to the relative paucity of monarchic patronage in the minarchistically constituted Indianised world of this timeline`s first millennium CE, schools which combine contemplation with work or martial training and schools like Amitabha are strengthened in this time.
In the second millennium CE, Buddhism comes under pressure from growing areligious groups, but also gains ground among former followers of the various astika Hindu religions on the Indian subcontinent. Various schools propagate a cleansing of the Buddhist doctrine of all "superstitions" and syncretisms. In China, it was brutally oppressed for half a century under the early Ming Dynasty, but recovered to some extent.
Today, Buddhism has a huge variety of schools. It is still a central part of Southern, Central and Eastern Asian culture, and it has found followers and exerted influence in Europe, Central and Southern Africa, Asambadha Anuttara (OTL Australia), the islands of the Taipingyang (OTL Pacific Ocean) and the East Coast of Atlantis (OTL North America).
The Development of Iranian, Roman, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic Cults and their Submergence into Lysianism
Iranian and Greco-Roman cults have left a great cultural heritage in OTL - Zoroastrianism has influenced the Judeo-Christian concepts of a God-Satan antagonism and a Heaven-and-Hell; Greek mythology has inspired European literature, the sculptures of Greco-Roman deities have inspired European art; Roman Saturnalia have inspired carnival celeberations. The Northern polytheisms have been comparatively forgotten. All of these religious traditions have been almost (in the case of Zoroastrianism) or entirely (in all other cases) wiped out and replaced by a culture dominated by Christianity in OTL. A key moment for this development was the elevation of Christianity from persecuted minority to state religion in the Late Roman Empire in the 4th century - and the later rise of Islam in the 7th century.
In this timeline, the Roman Republic and the Gallo-Roman Empire remain religiously pluralistic. Christianity (see above) does not become dominant in Europe, and Islam remains an insignificant sect with a handful of followers mostly in Roman Egypt.
As a consequence, all the above-mentioned cults survive and modernise in their own ways.
Zoroastrian cult underwent the first major reform movement after PoD in the late 5th and early 6th century, when Mazdakism - a movement which in OTL was successfully oppressed by the Sassanid ruling class - became dominant in Persia, Choresmia, Balochistan, Sistan, Albania, Atropatene, Tabaristan, Quhistan, Carmania and Quzestan. Exiled Mazdakists brought the religion to Kerala and Madagascar. Mazdakist Zoroastrianism reduced the role of the clergy, simplified many of the old rituals, and stressed good communal life, good conduct and sharing one`s belongings. It inspired an egalitarian republic which was not quite as proto-communist as that of the Simonist Christian Imaziyen, but certainly exceeded the equality found in the Roman Republic. Mazdakism influenced many other religions: it inspired Tengrist (in Mongolia and among Eastern Turks) and Christian (Paulicianism) syncretisms.
Another major wave of Zoroastrian innovation was Lysianism, a religion or rather a philosophy developed by Lysia, a Kurdish priestess in the 15th century. ///elaborate here///
Germanic, Celtic and Slavic cults continued to exist. Intense contact with a religiously pluralist Roman Republic sparked the development of the syncretic religious cult of the Lausai among Germanic groups from the late 4th century onwards, especially among the Suebes. It reflects Roman social debates of the time (especially about ecological and military threats to their way of life) and combines Christian elements and traditional Germanic religion.
The Lausai creed inspired an antagonistic response from Northern Germanic societies, who rejected the reinterpretation and began a scripturalisation of their creed, which came to be called Odinism. The Kingdom of the Svear supported and shaped this cultic development and conducted religious wars against Lausai nations in the South as well as against Olavist Christian Norway in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Apart from these systematic innovations, Celtic, Greco-Roman, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic cult slowly syncretised under the influence of Roman and Gallo-Roman commercial, political and cultural dominance from the 4th to the 14th centuries: overlappings among the pantheons were widely observed and deities were "translated" into one another, myths were compared and similarities were found in the views concerning an "otherworld", place- and family-based animist beliefs etc. Just like in OTL, Brahmins began to reinterpret local deities as reincarnations of a common Hindu pantheon and collected a common mythology in the Puranas in the first millennium CE in OTL (and to some extent in this timeline, too), Roman philosophers of religion, Celtic neo-druids, Svear and Ranic priests and others had slowly worked towards a "European synthesis" of the religions, who all came under assault by a creeping atheism in the modernising societies.
The "solution" to the common crisis all these cults faced in the age of the Industrial Revolution, which brought a redefinition of family and gender concepts, was their submergence into Lysianism, which was completed in its present form towards the middle of the 16th century. Orthodox (non-Lysian) Germanic, Celtic, Roman, Slavic or Baltic cult still exists, but it has become a small minorities in all of these countries.
Religious Developments in Atlantis and Caribia (OTL Americas)
The Development and Characteristics of Christianity OTL vs. ATL
Christianity showed both centralising and decentralising tendencies at PoD: On the one hand, there was the monepiscopal principle and the growing authority of the Bishop of Rome. On the other hand, there was an increasing number of (often Gnostic) sects, different translations etc.
In OTL, this tension was resolved in favour of centralisation. Christianity became a state religion in the Roman (later Byzantine) Empire, and later in hundreds of other states, too. Within each of the few large spheres of influence, doctrinal homogeneity and orthodoxy were fostered, while the doctrinal differences between West and East, for example, became fuel for political and military conflicts.
In this timeline, Christianity does not become a state religion in the important Roman Empire. While it does become a state religion in smaller states like Aksum, Sheba, Armenia, Lasika and Iberia, and also the socially dominant and compuslory creed of the Berbers and Sub-Saharan people proselytised by them, the development of Christianity is characterised by its continuing role as a bunch of minority sects in the increasingly wealthy and powerful Roman Republic. Greco-Roman Christianity continued to flourish both as a popular and an intellectual movement. Christian communities in the Roman Republic gradually moved away from the monepiscopal structure in the 4th to 6th centuries, creating Presbyterial Councils instead. The delineation of their communities and the creation of new ones tended to follow the political borders between civitates, the foundational units of the Second Roman Republic. Doctrinal schisms remained omnipresent, and large towns like Antiochia or Alexandria sometimes had twenty or even thirty different Christian communities, each with their own Presbyterial Councils, each building their own church, if they could afford it, and each with their own theological schools, some of which were small and intellectually irrelevant, while others rivalled the collegiate academies.
In the breakaway Gallo-Roman Empire, Christians continued to be persecuted for many decades until the more centralised Gallo-Roman Empire began its strategy to domesticate the cultural threat posed by Christians by establishing a state-controlled Celtic Church. Its founding father was St Kinnon. Celtic Christianity never really became a state religion, though, and neither was it embraced by large groups. It remained a religion of the educated (formerly druidic) elites.
While Christians remained minorities in the Roman and Celtic Empires, Christianity became a national state religion in Aksum and Sheba. In the Caucasus, St. Gregor converted Lasika and Iberia and founded the supranational Gregorian Church, which was supported by both kingdoms and later also by the Armenian Kingdom, but remained a supranational and suprastatal organisation and the common culturan bond which united the various ethnic and linguistic groups of the Caucasus. In all these countries with Christianity as official religion, councils sorted out doctrinal controversies and established orthodoxies - albeit a different one in each of these countries, who all spoke different languages and even wrote in different alphabets, including translations of the Holy Writ, which took on a different canonical form in all five countries. As a state religion, Christianity retained its monepiscopal nature and centralisation prevailed here. The Church played an important role in the definition, stabilisation and cohesion of all these nation states. Religious reform movements and conflicts, like the rise of Paulicianism, therefore always meant a threat to the existing social order, which was evident in the case of Armenia, where civil war prevailed in the late 6th and early 7th century, in which neighbouring countries and even the Chasars intervened.
Christianity`s politically radical, anarcho-communistic branch - the Jewish Christian version was named Simonism, while its proselytising Berber variety was named Agonistici - contributed greatly to the success of the Roman Revolution. Its popularity among the Berbers soon spread beyond the Roman Republic to the desert nomads and oasis dwellers of the Sahara, who successfully proselytised and conducted crusades among the populations of the Sahel. From the 4th to the 9th century, Agonisticism spread to the Soninke and brought down the Empire of Wagadu, and to the Tubu, bringing down the Empire of Kanem. The Mossi, Dogon and Tallensi converted peacefully, too. Agonisticism also found some followers in Gao, Agisymba, Bornu and among the Sao, Bagirmi, Hausa and Banza, but it also encountered massive resistance here. Both traditional polytheistic divine kingdoms and city republics based on an adapted version of Agonistic Christianity faced repeated Imaziyen crusades in the 9th and 10th centuries. Ultimately, the Sahelian Syncretism converged into the Samailan branch of Christianity under the leadership of the city of Gao, who led an alliance which finally established independence from the Berber and Tubu in the 11th century.
During the social upheaval and disorientation caused by recurring Black Death pandemics in the 11th century, various ultra-orthodox literalist and aggressively proselytising denominations were founded: the Lukianists in the Greco-Roman sphere, and the Olavists, who united Norway and built the first and only Christian nation state in the Germanic world. While Lukianists later re-integrated themselves into other communities, Olavist Christianity has remained Norway`s state religion into the 14th century, and its system which combines a strict hierarchy with broad local participation remained intact even after the political structures separated themselves from it and established parallel democratic institutions.
Today, Christianity shows a huge variety of denominations. There are more than a dozen different Biblican canons. Miaphysitic, trinitarian and arianist creeds co-exist, and so do redemptorist and pelagianist. Simonism and Agonisticism have shaped Christianity and turned from revolutionary to ultra-conservative groups and halfway back, while initially reactionary groups like the Lukianists and the Olavists developed, over time, into solid foundations for liberal societies.
Over time, Christianity has become a predominantly African religion, since more than two thirds of its adherents live in Africa. Here, too, the great and costly religious wars of Christianity - between Samailans and Masunists, between Imaziyen and Aksumites etc. - were fought (in contrast to Central Europe in OTL). In the Mediterranean and in more northernly European societies, Lysianism has replaced Christianity as the most influential scriptural religion from the 15th century onwards, since it proved more adaptive both to the modernisation of society and to popular demand for syncretisms with the polytheistic and animistic traditions. But Christianity is also still the major component of Caucasian cultural identities (in its Gregorian variety) and also of Norway`s cultural identity.
Religious Developments in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Development and Characteristics of Mosaic Religions OTL vs. ATL
In OTL, Judaism is almost the only surviving Mosaic religion, with approximately 13,000,000 adherents, or 0.17 % of the world`s population. Samaritans, Mandaeans and Sethians have almost or completely died out. Judaism has suffered from its long diaspora and marginalisation by the two larger monotheistic world religions: first Christianity (in the Byzantine and Roman Empires and the latter`s successor states, in Southern Arabia at the hands of Aksum, then in other European or Europe-dominated societies), then Islam, too (in Arabia, Persia, Central Asia). In the diaspora, the Judaist faith has taken the shape of Rabbinic Judaism, which, during the Ashkenazim period of renaissance, branched out into reformed, conservative and orthodox groups. Jews are spread across the whole world and share this history of marginalisation and persecution. Only a couple of decades ago have they found(ed) their own nation state.
In this timeline, Judaism does not become a huge religion, either, because its proselytising sects continue to distance themselves from Judaism (like Christianity), but it has over 40,000,000 adherents (approximately 3 % of the world`s population) and is the main religion of the islands in the Taino Sea (OTL Caribbean), Roman Tauris and the adjacent Slavonic regions (OTL Crimea and Southern Ukraine) and parts of Roman Palestine.
Two important differences in historical development account for this altered fate:
- the Roman Principate was overthrown in a revolution in the 260s, in which Jews partook actively and fought alongside urban militia from the Hellenised towns, Egyptian separatists, Christian rebels and many others, and which resulted in the constitution of a religiously neutral, culturally pluralistic and decentralised Roman Republic, where Jews were free to return to Aelia Capitolina / Jerusalem and constituted one of the pillars of the republic,
- and the conversion of the Bosporan Kingdom and later also masses of refugees from the Gothic Empire during the Hun invasion to Judaism. The Taurean Ostrogoths became the world`s leading seafaring nation and spread their Rabbinic version of Judaism Northwards along the rivers Borysthenes and Tanais and into the pontic hinterland as well as to India, West Africa and Atlantis.
From these two factors, two rivalling Judaist confessions emerged: At the beginning of the 4th century, a Jewish majority in the civitas Aelia Capitolina decided to build the Thrid Temple. A few decades later, refugees from the Gothic Empire converted to the Rabbinic Judaism popular among their Taurean "hosts". From the 4th century onwards, thus, Judaism is divided into two major branches:
- At the beginning of the 4th century, a Jewish majority in the civitas Aelia Capitolina decided to build the Thrid Temple, which became the spiritual and theological centre of Judaism in the Land of Israel. Here, the priestly caste (kohens) regained and retained their important functions, yet dozens of continuously developing theological schools developed, too. The Jews of Jerusalem and the Levante in general enjoyed increasing economic wealth, and religious orthodoxy waned among the general population, with new radical sects appearing once and again. No orthodoxy of the Oral Law develops here; the Judaist faith in the Land of Israel changes over time. (Radical sects like the Essenes flourished for many centuries, and there are still Essenic monasteries in Palestine and Egypt today, for example.)
- Judaism in the (mostly Greek-speaking) diaspora, on the other hand, becomes centered around a different Rabbinic canon, to which more and more Koiné Greek texts are added after PoD. While appearing more grassroots-like at first, with no privileged roles for priests, Koiné Greek Rabbinic diaspora Judaism proved to be the more orthodox variety over time, clinging to more dogmatic interpretations of the Oral Law. While Judaism in the Land of Israel continued to be socially revolutionary and on the left wing of the Roman political landscape, Koiné Greek Rabbinic Judaism, whose main followers were Ostrogoths from the 370s onwards, developed a social philosophy akin to OTL Calvinism, which contributed to their market-oriented social outlook.
Both major strands of Judaism experienced developments throughout history. Rabbinic Judaism has branched out into various theological schools in the second millennium CE, with more liberal groups living on the Taino islands and more conservative groups living in the pontic region. Judaism in the Land of Israel has become more conciliatory vis-a-vis other Mosaic groups like Samaritans, Mandaeans and Sethians, with which intermarriage has long become permitted.
The Roman civitas of Samaria is still the spiritual and social centre of Samaritanism, which has approximately 120,000 adherents. Almost 200,000 inhabitants of various Palestinian, Syrian, Arabian and Egyptian civitates identify as Mandaeans, whose religion has absorbed a great amount of Lysian influences over the past five centuries.
The Development and Characteristics of Tengrism OTL vs. ATL
In OTL, Tengrism, the native belief of the Turks and Mongols, has died out - replaced by Buddhism in Mongolia, Islam in Central Asia and Orthodox Christianity in Russia.
In this timeline, the emergence of a unified Turkic nation state (Turkestan), which, allied with Eran, has come to control almost all of Northern Asia, is closely tied to the survival and modernisation of Tengrism. Over time, Tengrism has repeatedly absorbed Iranian influences, first Manichaeistic, then Mazdakist, then Lysianist ones - a cultural transfer facilitated by the common monotheism of Zoroastrianism and Tengrism. Tengrism has nevertheless retained its animistic, non-scriptural nature. In recent centuries, global communication has fostered the exchange between Tengrist beliefs and practices and those of other animistic beliefs, e.g. those of Great Perm, Atlantis or Sub-Saharan Africa.