|This article, Religion, written by Lordofmonsterisland, was voted as the Most Unique Concept of 2011 in the Fourth Annual Halo Fanon Wikia Awards.|
|This article, Religion, was written by Lordofmonsterisland. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
Since the beginning of sentience, there has always been an inborn need to explain the universe and to find some meaning beyond simple physical existence, and more often than not this need flowered into a religion of some form, worshiping a god or gods and usually accompanied with a large amount of stories and parables, as well as explanations of the creation of the universe and the obtainment of the afterlife. As time progressed, the ideals of monotheism and atheistic orders would become more common, though polytheism would continue to survive alongside its' contemporaries, though not quite as prominently.
Though religion was formed as a way of finding solace and obtaining spiritual peace, it came to be used as a justification for war as well: for Humanity on Earth, time and again wars and massacres would rise up because of religious discrimination - ranging from the Spanish Inquisition to the work of Islamic terrorist groups in the late 20th century to the Star Riots of the 2160's - and the Covenant would continuously use its' religion, the Great Journey, as means of which to convict and suppress other races, waging holy wars that would either incorporate the races into the lower castes of society, or drive them to extinction. It was because of these tendencies to at times authorize bloodshed that multiple attempts to completely outlaw religion would be made among the galaxy's races.
For Humanity, there had been numerous governments throughout history that had evoked state religions, leading to either the state or the religious system to persecute those who believed differently, with such instances lasting into the 21st century. However, the true end-all-be-all attempt came in the 2170's, when the fall-out of the Star Riots brought mass protests from numerous anti-war groups, as well as groups of atheists that felt their right to not have a religion was being threatened; numerous attempts and petitions were made and sent to the UEG's Department of Justice, but all proved to no avail, as after the Supreme Court of Justice finally relented and held the infamous “Religion vs The People” case, a three-fourth's majority of the Court stated that it could not justify the outlawing of religion among the people, as such was beyond their jurisdiction. Despite the firmness of the Court's statement, several radical groups attempted to kidnap members of the Court and hold them hostage until religion was banned; this attempt, as well as the other violence-based demonstrations that ran concurrently, were all thwarted with the assistance of the Colonial Militia. Though there have since been other attempts to ban religion within the UEG, all attempts have still failed, and an anti-religious movement of such magnitude has yet to arise again.
The anti-religious movement of the Covenant was not only long in the coming, but much more subtle and harder to notice or define: in the aftermath of the Great War and through the Great Schism that followed, the Separatists began to struggle with the lack of any form of spiritual guidance or purpose, a quite prominent facet of their everyday lives that had been torn from them in the turmoil of the Schism. So, while many of the Sangheili questioned whether or not they should involve themselves in religion again, some of the more devout members of the race began introspective vigils, the end result of which was the birth of many of the Great Journey's post-Schism denominations. However, even as a large number of the Sangheili flocked to fill the theological hole within their spirits, an equal number continued as atheists, soon widely known as The Unbound by the rest of the Sangheili.
Despite these attempts at killing religion off, however, religion continued to persist, and thrive even: most of the denominations practiced had survived for over 600 years at the least, with numerous new religions having become popular over the course of the 26th century, some controversially so. Now not only confined to one species, but mixing the beliefs of different cultures together, even more religions and sects began to develop, with the most prominent example being Jitjism, the second most popular religion of the Unggoy, whose tenets combine the Covenant beliefs with those of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, attracting numerous followers from those religions as well.
To summarize the essence, or even the mere history, of religion is a monstrous task of near impossible proportions, and no attempt can truly do every idea justice. As such, the document that follows is not meant to be viewed as a definitive collection or dissertation over the topic, but rather an overview or synopsis, a guideline on the path to understanding the greater picture wherein merely the highlights are touched upon.
Religion has existed for as long as any can remember, with nature worship arising in the prehistoric era where it was immortalized in a handful of cave drawings and later oral traditions, while the Covenant and other species likewise had ancient forms of worship that affected their later beliefs and traditions. For humanity, the early religions would shape the structures of ancient civilizations, family structures and beliefs about the universe at large, while for the Covenant it would shape each species nature before the authority of the Prophets bound them all to religion of the Sojourners. While the Covenant continued to spread its religious genocide across the cosmos, mankind would experience religious variations and civil wars, killing many while saving others, with entire religions rising and falling in the course of decades. Religion would have profound effects elsewhere as well, most notably among the Machina, where the church dominated society until the Cybernetic Revolution, which ended with the church's defeat and the banning of religion.
A major topic before the Great War, religion would come into play even more in the post-War era, as the species began to intermingle or clash. The metaphorical east met west, ideas fought for dominance, some mingled while some battled, and new concepts were sparked throughout. No matter what governments or social groups tried to accomplish, religion remained a key factor in the daily social changes of the galaxy, whether it be relations to other species, changes in government views, analysis of other cultures, or other aspects. Further still, the views continued to become more and more varied, with more religions and more viewpoints appearing every year.
In every war or conflict that arose, there would be some form of religious revival, and all the groups rose to the occasion, even allying with one another at times to support devastated populaces. Some would form permanent alliances, others would deny what the religions shared in common. The threat of death and what came after would remain an issue those of the late 26th and early 27th centuries, and while social movements would try to deal with it, religious ones would answer the majority's call. Even during peace, when religions were accused of causing turbulence and disturbances, no amount of political manipulation could result in a restriction or downfall of religion.
Time and again, it has been observed that while science and other natural fields are key components to society and life, religion is just as important of one. Without religion, many cannot find a purpose to live, and the institution's removal leads to the downfall of civilization, as proven multiple times. To some, this is proof of the power of God; to others, it is merely a proof of Karl Marx's statement that "religion is the opiate of the masses," (Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes).
Important Concepts and Terms
What follows is a brief list of key terms and concepts used by many of the religions of the galaxy. While some overlap, many of the concepts have unique meanings and are key to the understanding of certain religious movements.
- God is a term that is often used by religions, but with varied meanings in almost every case. In some cases like Christianity, God is the one, eternal being that created all of life as we know it, whereas in others this one God is served by lesser gods that he created. Some religions are polytheistic, such as Hinduism, the Followers of Kig Yeth or the Sojourners, wherein there are multiple gods of varying power, but with none that are powerful enough to dominate all of existence. Still other religions use "god" as a term to describe a being who has achieved spiritual ascendance, or alternatively they use the term to describe supernatural beings that have no traditionally "god-like" features whatsoever, serving as nature spirits in religions such as Shintoism.
- Often separated into multiple sections, or in a never-ending cycle of stages, a life after the current one is a general rule among religious movements. Although not absolute, the concept appears in many religions, and generally consists of a realm for the righteous and one for the damned, and occasionally an in-between phase. The most common forms of afterlife realms are either Heaven and Hell (as well as Purgatory), and the many variations of them, or the Shadow World and the Great Flame. Notably, some religions
- Despite the mass differences between the many religions of the galaxy, there is, with only a few exceptions, some form of hierarchy that help guide, lead, or control the religion's laymen. Priests, pastors, shaman, Sangheili Magi, and many others, they are elected on a number of terms, from power to wisdom, age to achievements, and a dozen other concepts. Some times they are teachers, and sometimes they are rulers, while others they are merely examples of what to strive toward.
Gods of the Covenant
Before the Writ of Union, during the era of the Covenant and after the Schism, Sojourners, Covenant and many of their splinter religions, worshipped the same collection of gods, referred to The Pantheon. There are literally thousands of named gods, and groups of tens of thousands of unmanned gods. While their names different, many of them came from interpreting the ancient texts, so many of the gods are incredibly similar.
- : Regarded as the central warrior god of the Pantheon, Kalmaras is the perfect ideal of a warrior. He's honourable, skilled, possessed of cunning and wit, a skilled strategist and is dedicated to the protection of those under his protection. Its not uncommon for many Sangheili warriors to pray to him before battle, or have prayers, psalms, or quotes of Kalmaras imprinted on their armour, weapons and vehicles.
- : Once an equal to Kalmaras, and his sworn brother, war eroded his psyche and drove him mad, and in his madness, he had to be imprisoned. Regarded as the evil side of war, Uratak is also known to be very powerful, albeit poorly focused, and dedicated to the destruction of his enemy. Storm Covenant cults would worship him heavily as their waking god, the Ur-Didact.
- : Wife of both Kalmaras and Uratak, at different times, Almata is regarded as the goddess of wisdom, science, the home and of women. Sangheili and San'Shyuum regarded her very differently, with the Sangheili seeing her as a goddess only relevant to women, who would pray to her for protection, and admired to follow her example of being a wise consul, with a fierceness all of her own, whereas San'Shyuum treated her as a central god, pray to her for inspiration and guidance in academic endeavours. During the war, worship by the San'Shyuum declined sharply, while after the war, many disparate Sangheili prayed to her for guidance. The Storm Covenant cult prayed to her as the wife of their waking god, though in truth she actively sabotaged their efforts and was directly opposed to their goals.
- : The former god of artisans, weaponsmiths and armourers, Favranas constructed weapons, armour and ships for the warrior gods, but sold them at high cost, despite their war. Considered an allegory for war profiteering, Favranas was supplanted by the goddess, Zaemekis, who saw flaws in the designs of the older gods creations. When the Great Journey began, Favaranas stayed behind, in penance for his sins.
- : Zaemekis was the goddess of artisans, weaponsmiths, armourers, shipwrights and engineers. In the legends, she is younger than the other gods, but her intelligence and precocious nature saw her supplant the corrupt Favranas as the creator of the weapons for the gods.
- : Young, but wise beyond his years, and a very capable commander, he lead many of his fellow gods in battle against their enemies. The patron god of officers, many look to him for inspiration and zeal when leading their warriors into battle.
- Bitterness of the Vanquished:
- Chant To Green:
- Endurance of Will:
- Mendicant Bias
Religions of the Galaxy
- Main Article: Christianity
Starting in roughly 30 AD, Christianity initially was viewed as a radical Jewish sect by the ruling government, the Roman Empire: incorporating belief that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Judea was the promised Messiah into the Jewish faith, the Pharisees and other members of Judaism's priesthood considered the sect to be heresy and attempted to stamp out the new faith at every turn, an attempt aided greatly by the Roman persecution after the burning of Rome during Emperor Nero's reign. Christianity would survive these persecutions however, and would eventually become the state religion of the Roman Empire during the reign of Constantine: shortly thereafter, however, the empire would split into the Roman Empire and the Byzantium Empire, and the church would likewise split into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, respectively.
The precise history and divisions of Christianity becomes more muddy after the split, but the Roman Catholic Church would continue as a the leading force in Europe once the split empire of the Romans fell to ruin. The Catholics would eventually become corrupt, however, with bishops and popes elected by bribery and threats, and underground sects of Christianity as well as Jews were persecuted by the church as heretics, fiends and sorcerers, accused of bringing misfortunes such as the Black Plague upon the people. However, starting in 1517 with Martin Luther's publication of the famous Ninety-Five Theses, the pope's iron authority began to fall apart: the Protestant movement was born, with the denominations of Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians and others beginning to crop up across Europe, and while the Church began the Catholic Reformation with the aid of monastic orders such as the Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans, the division was irreversible.
Christian denominations would continue to form in the centuries after the Reformation, up into the present even, with the advent of the colonization age causing a need for reform in many denominations, as well as spawning others at the same time. For many denominations, there was little reform, but the Catholic church, particularly its' structured hierarchy, was a major exception: while the Pope was still the supreme authority of the church, archbishops and archdioceses were now assigned to entire planets, bishops and dioceses to large areas (generally continents), pastors and national pariahs to smaller areas (generally countries), and lastly priests and territorial pariahs to the smallest of areas. In addition, the monastic orders of the Catholic church would see a surge during peace time, retreating to little colonized worlds where the orders resided in relative peace.
While the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches would remain almost unchanged over the course of the colonization period, many of the Protestant denominations would either reform or die out: the Congregationalist and Presbyterian denominations would eventually succumb to the pressure of the Uniting Church Movement, a vast expansion of the Australian Uniting Church only aided by Australia's rash of colonization during the colonization period's start, and the two denominations would merge with the Uniting Church, completely vanishing as separate denominations. The Dutch Reformed and Baptist denominations would experience limited growth, the former becoming extremely popular among the population of New Haarlem, the Netherlands' most successful colony, and the latter among several United States and Canadian colonies. The Anabaptist movements, such as the Amish and Mennonites, would practically vacate Earth during the period of 2403-2427, leaving for a handful of remote, wilderness-filled colonies where they would continue to thrive with the bare necessities of technology, normally accompanied by one or two other colonist groups that had already established a few cities.
Ironically, the Lutherans, famous for starting the Reformation in the 1500's by questioning the current doctrines, would find their end during the 25th century due to their stubborn inflexibility on doctrinal issues – the precise issue in question has never been fully discerned, though the fundamental doctrines of salvation, viewing the Bible as a moral fable versus true history, and sin as a social problem instead of an inborn disease have all been inconclusively suggested based on various pieces of evidence. Whatever the cause, the Lutheran Schism wracked UEG space between 2453 and 2462. Initially various heated debates and stalwart demonstrations, the Schism came to erupt into violence, with guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics breaking out between the Revisionists and the Fundamentalists: by the time the CMA and UNSC responded to the situation, the Lutherans were embroiled in a civil war. Through military actions, the Schism came to a close, but the church was so torn that it was never repaired, the remaining members moving on to other denominations as others had done earlier, eager to flee the divided church.
Despite the reforms and turmoils of the many denominations, people still continued to join Christianity, and with these new members came new ideals, which inevitably created new denominations. The Elementary Church of the Innocent (ECI) would become a major force after its' start in the 2430's, with its' statements that the doctrines and statements of Jesus should be the only force behind Christianity: it's members would become known by their daily meetings, lack of a church hierarchy, and constant evangelical crusades. Similarly, the Chosen of Christ would become a popular movement during the direness of the Great War, the churches of which would gather regularly for long sessions of prayer and communion, believing that the end of time was imminent and that Christ's predestined would soon be taken home; predictably, the movement lost most of its' members after the war's end. Another major denomination to arise in the late 2400's was the Gospel of Truth Church (GTC), which would state that while God had indeed done all the acts spoken of in the Old Testament, after Jesus' death and resurrection he ceased to intervene in the affairs of Humanity; the Book of Revelation was also deemed non-canonical according to the GTC.
- Main Article: Judaism
The oldest Abrahamic religion, Judaism's beginnings are stated by the Old Testament of the Bible to begin with Abraham and his order from God to go to the land of Canaan, where he made a covenant first with Abraham, then his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (later renamed Israel) – thus giving rise to the phrase “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” or alternatively “Israel”. The tribes that came from Israel's twelve sons – the Twelve Tribes of Israel – would go on to form the nation Israel after being led from slavery in Egypt by the prophet Moses: it is at the founding of the nation Israel that formal Judaism can be said to start, with the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch or Torah, as their book of law.
Judaism would continue to exist, even as it almost wiped out time and again by the agnosticism and paganism that entered the nation through the remaining tribes of Canaanite natives. In time, the paganism of the people would cause a split in the nation, creating the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah – Israel would fall to the Assyrians soon after, and Judah would be taken into exile by the Babylonian Empire within a little over a century. Though they would eventually return after King Cyrus' take over of Babylon, they would never become the nation they once were, and would be conquered first by the Greeks and then by the Romans, scattering them even more. During the time of the Romans, Christianity would become an issue for the Jews as well, as the new religion preached a heresy that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of God: the Jews persecuted them when possible, but tables would turn in later years during the Middle Ages when Christians, in particular the Roman Catholic Church, would persecute Jews because they believed that they were bringing troubles upon them.
In more recent years, the three denominations of Judaism – Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Orthodox Judaism (divided into the sub-denominations of Modern Orthodoxy and Hasidic Orthodoxy) – grew and expanded, particularly on a number of planets founded by the Israeli nation, such as New Jerusalem, Sinai and Tel-Aviv II. However, not only did Judaism grow in followers with the advent of space colonization, but it also gained another sub-denomination, as Conservative Judaism split into Orthodox Conservatism and Rectified Conservatism, the former continuing the centuries-old beliefs of Conservative Judaism, while Rectified Conservatism, appropriately, “rectified” numerous questionable aspects of Jewish beliefs, most notably being that the prophecies concerning the Messiah raising Israel to a mighty nation again in fact refer to the Messiah making them the most powerful space-faring country, greater than any of the others.
- Main Article: Islam
One of the older monotheistic religions, Islam is the third, and youngest, of the Abrahamic religious triad of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all of which involve similar histories and believe to worship the same God. Becoming very popular within the Middle East, Asia Minor and Africa, and eventually spreading all the way to China and Indonesia, Islam - formerly called Mohammedanism, which now serves as a religious slur - would eventually become the state religion of the Ottoman Empire, which would lead to the Turkish and Islamic influences within Spain, which would in turn spread its influence through much of Europe and then the world.
During the 20th and 21st centuries, the activities of Muslim extremists would become major pieces of the day to day news across Earth, beginning with radical terrorists wreaking havoc upon the Jewish inhabitants of Israel and the much-contested Gaza strip. The conflicts between Judaism and Islam would only rise as the century continued, with the Palestine Liberation Organization coming into existence after the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt; these extremists would bring a bad name upon the other Islamics, particularly the peaceful Sunni Muslims. When expansion into the Solar system began, and even more so when the UEG expanded beyond Sol, the Judaic and Islamic communities would often disperse to different worlds as if by unspoken agreement; for the most part, this would aid in ceasing expansion of the Middle Eastern conflict, though a tension relationship would continue in the region on Earth once the Israelis gained full control over their contested homeland.
The greatest turmoil for the Islamic faith came during the 2160's, when the Star Riots began: often attributed to starting the Riots, the three major Islamic denominations – Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kharijites – are known to have been involved in a large number of the early conflicts, with in-fighting begun by the Shi'ite Muslims. A group of Shi'ite extremists continually harassed heretical Kharijite Muslims until physical conflicts began between the two factions, with the neutrally peaceful Sunnis falling into the conflict after Shi'ites struck several Sunni communities because they believed they were collaborating with the Kharijites. Eventually, this initially Muslim conflict would boil over into other religious communities to the point of almost throwing mankind into a full-scale civil war; the Star Riots would become infamous – and gain their name – when the mysterious Star cult went to genocidal lengths to insure their survival. Though the CMA and UNSC would restore order and end the Star Riots, the backlash and blame that most of Humanity gave the Islam community dealt it a crippling blow that it did not fully recover from until the end of the 22nd century.
- Main Article: Hinduism
Evolving from the ancient Vedic religion, Hinduism was the dominant, almost sole religion of the Indian subcontinent. Within the first millennium B.C., Hinduism began its' gradual evolution into its' current state, with the ideals of the Rigvedic religion and Brahmanism forming and beginning to implement themselves within the societies of India. The Rigvedic period of simple Hinduism, where nature gods were worshiped and famous hymns of praise were sung, would eventually give way to the Brahamanistic era of the tenth through sixth centuries B.C., born from the rise of kingdoms and the establishment of the Vedic priesthood. Clashing ideals between the Vedic and Brahmanist sects of Hinduism would lead to the deterioration of the Vedic faction, but this ideal would see revival later during the Middle Ages.
From the fourth century B.C. and onward, Hinduism would continue to form and shape itself in different ways, reacting to various forces at different times. For several centuries before and after 0 A.D., the Sangnam literature began to grow more prominent, followed shortly by a period where classical Hindu philosophy and temple architecture was established firmly for the first time. This golden age of Hinduism was epitomized by the religions spread all across not only India, but into the Indochina peninsula and Malaysia, where it revolutionized several civilizations.
After this golden millenia, however, Hinduism slipped into a decline, as after a unification of the religious sects in the 8th century, the religion fell off as the Mughal Empire conquered India, establishing Islam as the dominant state religion. Hinduism was forced into the sector of private affairs for a time, until Emperor Akbar established religious moderation, which was furthered by his half-Rajput son and 75%-Rajput grandson. After a the British Empire began its colonization of India, taking over the now long-Hindu empire, it attempted to institute a Christian Inquisition, which proved a failure: instead, Hinduism shortly experienced a revival, and continued to rise in popularity into the 21st century thanks to its reception in the New World that began in the mid-19th century.
Throughout the 21st through 23rd centuries, Hinduism's numerous sects and the many Neo-Hindu movements of the west would give rise to a large percentage of Hindus operating in traditionally non-Hindu nations, such as the United States of America, Great Britain, and Italy. Though looked upon warily due to the rising anti-religious sentiments surrounding the Star Riots, Hinduism continued to rise during the Sol System colonization era, nearly rivaling Christianity in number of members by the end of the 23rd century. However, as mankind began to spread among the stars, Christianity spread quicker than Hinduism, the Hindus having centralized around several worlds for initially unknown reasons, leaving them as the smaller religion once again.
As time continued, Hinduism continued its ages old flow of progress, adapting as situations demanded. Some sects of Hinduism would remain in the belief that the Ganges River held special holiness, while other denominations would deign specific religions on other worlds to hold the same status, and still others would forgo the concept altogether. Likewise, many denominations chose to ignore or merely accept the fact that alien races dwelt elsewhere in space, while some of the groups would attempt to make sense of them in one way or another, with different views depicting them as merely other lifeforms in the reincarnation cycles, as pieces of the Brahman broken down into more mortal forms, and as nature spirits that had forgotten their previous role in the universe. Furthermore, the sheer number of sects, denominations, cults and groups within Hinduism made tracking the true number completely impossible, even for large, well-informed groups such as the inter-system website "The Tome," which was specifically designed for such projects.
- Main Article: Buddhism
Founded in the seventh century B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Samyaksambuddha, Buddhism is a vast combination of beliefs and traditions that hinge primarily on Gautama's teachings. There are two major Buddhist schools of thought, Theravada and Mahayana, but differences between them have lessened over time. Initially, the teachings of Buddhism originated in India and stayed there, but over the course of the next few centuries, the belief system would spread across Asia and the Indochinese peninsula, even crossing over into Malaysia, as well as the Tibet mountains, where it created a major stronghold out of the Tibetan monks.
- Main Article: Sikhism
Founded in the late 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev, Sikhism focuses on the need to embody the ideals of a "Sant-Sipahie," or saint-soldier. Guru Nanak was always curious about religion, even while young, but his full concept of religion did not arise until his mid-life, when he disappeared for three days after going to the river to bath: when he returned, he began to teach while he was "filled with the spirit of God", declaring there was "no Muslim, and no Hindu." He spent the rest of his life going on missionary journeys and preaching the message of God, and laying down the seven fundamental principles of Sikhism, dying in Kartarpur where he could dine on holy food.
- Main Article: Taoism
Other Human Religions
Perhaps more than any other known species in the galaxy, Humans are the most diverse and disunity in their religious beliefs. In part, this is due to the relative freedom to develop their thoughts on religion for these many millenia, whereas the factions like the Covenant imposed the state religion of the Sojourners for several thousand years, and the Machina banned religion all-together. As such, the number of religions based in Human space is immensely high, often called innumerable due to the difficulty of archiving all of the small cults and denominations that appear on Outer Rim worlds.
Some religions have existed for centuries, and have become well-known in their activities and beliefs. One of the most well-known is Mormonism, predominantly associated with the Church of Latter Day Saints, which was established in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. As a major part of Mormon doctrine, "continuing revelation" leads to revision of the Book of Mormon, which has crafted the Mormon Church in numerous ways across the centuries, leaving only the barest fundamentals of the original religion by the 26th century. However, sometimes this strain has become too much for followers of the church, leading to several denominations developing in the 24th century, though they have held closer relationships with each other than denominations in many other religions. A note-worthy matter of the Mormons was that they drove numerous early exploration and colonization attempts when more zealous members decided to search for the home planet of the Mormon god.
Other religions that have existed for centuries involve a more atheistic approach, such as Shintoism. Revolving around the veneration of nature spirits and ancestors, Shintoism is a complex system that evolved in Japan and China, and spread from there. Not as popular as other religions, it gained followers in the 22nd century, but continued to remain as one of the less-followed, if devoted, religions. Similar to yet distinctly different from Shintoism, as well as having a smaller follower base, is Gaianism, which worships planets as living spirits that give life to the universe.
- Main Article:
Predating the formation of the Covenant itself, the Soujourners - incorrectly yet most often referred to as the Great Journey - was the religion of both the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili prior to the meeting of the two races, though each species' method of carrying out the religion was different: when the Covenant was formed, the Great Journey that arose was primarily based upon the religion of the San'Shyuum, heavily involving the search for the Sacred Rings so that they could begin the Great Journey itself – an entirely San'Shyuum creation, as the Sangheili revered the Forerunner technology to the point of only reverse-engineering it in a last resort to fight off the San'Shyuum's keyship, the Ascension.
Throughout the years, the Great Journey quickly became not only the state religion of the Covenant – leading to all other religions being persecuted and eliminated – but it became a method by which to force other races into joining the Empire, as well as a method of subjecting them, such as in the case of the Unggoy. A prime example was when the Covenant encountered the Quelni: when the Quelni refused to give up their own sovereignty and religion for that of the Covenant, the Prophets declared them heresy and executed the entire race, leaving no survivors.
Humanity would become a major problem to the religion, as in 2524, the Oracle of Ascension – the Forerunner AI Mendicant Bias – would inform a trio of Prophets that the Covenant had misinterpreted the glyph "reclamation", which truly meant "Reclaimer". The trio of Prophets, fearful of the San'Shyuum losing their position of power to what could possibly be the children of their gods, staged a bloodless coup, forcing the current High Prophets to step down so that they could take their place as the High Prophets of Truth, Mercy and Regret: these three would then declare a holy war against Humanity, a war that would last a quarter of a century with the Prophets pulling the strings.
In 2552 however, the Great Schism began when the Prophets betrayed the Sangheili and replaced them with the Jiralhanae: amidst the turmoil, the Arbiter Thel 'Vadam would announce that the Great Journey was as false as the loyalties of the Prophets, as told to him by the Holy Oracle of the first Halo. This would spark mass agnosticism, and a rabid search for faith among many of the Sangheili, as well as a peaceful turn to atheism for numerous others.
The Big Three
Among the many denominations that arose from the madness of the Schism, the Path to Ascension would become the most popular of them all, followed by roughly 42% of the Sangheili: nearly identical to the original Great Journey, all mentions of the Halos as methods of ascension were erased, and the Forerunners were simply referred to as holy beings instead of gods, with the Oracles being their scribes, not their prophets. The well-ingrained teachings of the Prophets would take time to eliminate, however, so for quite some time the technologies of the Forerunners and their installations would continue to be seen as sacred places and locations of reverence, if not worship.
The threat of the Shadow World would become very important to the Ascendant Sangheili, and many of the Sangheili Magi – serving the same role for the Ascendants as priests did for Catholicism – would come to decide in the Council of Suban that if good and honorable deeds were done in the name of one who had died dishonorably, their deeds could be substituted for the deeds of the dishonorable one, and with enough work the dishonorable warrior could be raised from the Shadow World and placed within the Purifying Flames of Reincarnation.
Second only to the Path of Ascension, there were the Seekers of the Holy Oracles – almost always referred to simply as the Oracle Seekers – a sect of the Great Journey that, founded by a Sangheili Shipmaster who had found inner peace by a simple revelation, now searches for the Oracles so that they can hear their holy words and find the inner peace their truth provides. Ironically, while the Oracle Seekers still focus on good deeds and an attempt to transcend this life, their transcendence is believed impossible without hearing the words of an Oracle, a position of power that places them almost as the gods of the Seekers, a position vacated by the almost unmentioned Forerunners.
However, making a pilgrimage to find the Oracles would become a major part of the religion, as the enigmatic A.I.'s hid themselves away for the most part after the Great War, forcing the Sangheili to scour the galaxy for them, though many were found to hide on the Shield World of Necropolis. When all-out war came upon the galaxy once again, many Sangheili would flock to the Oracle Seekers in an attempt at gaining spiritual peace before the ever-likely death.
The last of the three major denominations, Kaaranism is a far less legalistic approach to the Great Journey, pioneered by the Kaaranese Sangheili and followed primarily by them: still honoring the Forerunners as holy beings who ascended to the next life and believing that good deeds are the key to this ascension, the sacred regard other denominations place on the Forerunners and their objects is pushed to the side somewhat, the focus lying mainly on good works, positive karma, and deep meditation, among other such things. It should also be noted that, as the religion was founded and primarily followed by the Kaaranese, many of the traditions of Ketesh have crossed into the religion, leaving small but noticeable marks upon the regular ideals of the Great Journey.
For many, the defining mark of the lesser sects of the Great Journey is that they are very radical in their beliefs. Of all the lesser sects however, the Labyrinthians, while fitting this definition, do so in a fashion quite differently from others, for while many take the Great Journey to radical extremes that often end in violence, the Labyrinthians take the religion in a completely different direction. Working with sparse knowledge gained both first-hand from a small group of individuals, as well as heretical documents sealed away by the Minister of Solidarity shortly after contact with the Kaaranese Sangheili, the Labyrinthians' purpose is to unravel the enigma of the Labyrinth Array, unlock its' mysteries, then use it to start its' own Great Journey and ascend to the realm of the gods.
Peaceful, unlike most sects, the Labyrinthians are often persecuted by radical Ascendants and most of the other sects, believing their disregard for the Sacred Rings (in the latter's case) and the Forerunners themselves (in the case of the former) compromise their spiritual integrity and brand them as heretics. However, the more level-headed members of the Sangheili see such accusations as little better than the machinations of the Prophets, and stop such unethical acts at any chance.
Often mentioned together, the Acolytes of Devotion and the are the most untrustworthy of all the remaining Journey denominations, and the few cases where the two cults – for such they are often called, with good reason – set aside their differences have been extremely dangerous. The records of the two sects actions are remarkably similar, and include a large amount of political manipulation: for the Acolytes, they influenced the actions of numerous splinter factions during the Great Schism, most notably the Covenant of the Silent Whispers, and the Governors likewise staged a Beautiful, Scandalous Night coup of 2559 at the very end of the Schism, taking control of the True Covenant in an attempt to destroy the Human-Separatist alliance permanently.
However, both sects have their differences, for while the Acolytes of Devotion are indistinguishable from the originally Great Journey save their complete denouncing of the Prophets – believing that the Prophets had strayed from the path and perverted the Journey's teachings, but that the Sangheili could "right" the Prophets "wrongs" and continue on the path to transcendence – the Governors of Contrition believe that the Forerunners were the holiest of all beings to ever live, and radically state that all their creations are holy as well, including a belief that the Flood are their perfect creation (as the Flood are falsely believed to be Forerunner creations). However, the methods of both these secretive and radical sects are almost identical, and because of this their activity is closely monitored by the Sangheili government to the best of their abilities.
The Loyal Remnant are a very small sect, frowned upon by many within the Covenant splinter factions, as the simple fact is that the Loyal Remnant still adhere to the original tenets of the Great Journey completely: because this even includes the holy status of the Prophets, as well as the statement that the Halos are still the way by which all will gain transcendence, the Loyal Remnant is most popular among the Covenant Remnants themselves.
Other Covenant Religions
Although the Covenant and its' religious zealots did their best to search out and destroy every last challenger of the Great Journey, several religions would continue to live on within the Covenant society as underground movements, while other religions would simply incorporate the Great Journey to the point that separating the two from each other became a nearly impossible task. The religion of the Lekgolo, known as Singularity, is the prime example of the latter case, as the worm race's karma-based religion – comparable to Humanity's Buddhism – would simply absorb the ideals of the Great Journey into it, till eventually the Great Journey, the Halos, the Forerunners and everything else simply became a part of the other Singularity ideals. The Prophets, at the same time, had no way of crushing the religion, as it was an in-born faith that was practiced by every single Lekgolo since time immemorial; it was because of this, and only this, that the religion continued to survive.
Other religions existed partly because they were practiced in secret, but also partly because the hierarchs could not care less about their existence. The Followers of Kig Yeth was the decentralized religion of the Kig-yar, with the pirates paying lip service to the Forerunners before giving thanks to their own gods later: based around Kig Yeth and seven other gods, the religion had no rules for worship or even a completely clear structure, as the religious details varied greatly depending on the clan and area one visited, with lesser gods and the diverse myths cropping up to contradict each other – among the few constant details are the prophecy of Kig Yeth's Dagger, the breaking of the invincible Fan of Kig-Jepna, the betrayal of Kig-Hoi, and the losing of Kig. For the first two centuries after joining the Covenant, persecution of the Kig-yar religion was a strict mandate of the Prophets, carried out with zeal by the Sangheili, but after those two hundred years the zeal began to slack off, and while the Sangheili would continue to punish any Kig-yar found worshiping their heathen gods, an active search for such worshipers had ceased to exist.
For the most part, the Sangheili followed the laws of the High Prophets and the Great Journey's path to ascension, but even among the devout holy warriors, there were those who disagreeing and practiced their own ways in secret. For many Sangheili, this other religion was simply the Warrior's Faith, a simple ideology that worked well with the soldier's battle-ridden lives: a prayer to the Forerunners would pardon all of their sins since their last confession, which would allow them to pass into the afterlife should they die; a failure to pray meant that one would simply cease to exist after death. The beliefs were simple enough, and the Sangheili would simply pay the higher ideals of the Great Journey lip service as they went about their own combat duties.
However, two other faiths also existed in secret, both of them hold-overs from the days of the Sangheili's past, though not from the same past. The Way of the One was a rather unique religion among the Covenant where the Sangheili worshiped a single god in mannerisms not unlike Humanity's own Christianity: this god was said to have once taken on fleshly form and shown his followers the way to the afterlife before disappearing with the promise to return one day to take the faithful with him while all others were doomed to be forever punished. Those Sangheili who followed the Way of the One would gather once every three days to praise their creator god and ask for guidance in their lives, as well as confess their sins and ask to be forgiven. A number of followers of the Way of the One would emerge post-Schism and become well-known figures, one of the most notable being Jemsal 'Emvadson, pupil of the former Holy Commander Ameigh Broley.
The other Sangheili religion practiced in secret came, not from the Sangheili of the Urs system, but from the Kaaranese Sangheili: these Sangheili's indigenous religion, known as the Bringers of Holy Light, is likely the most mysterious of the Covenant-based religions, shrouded in all manner of mysticism and symbolism; to make matters worse, many of their ideas were mixed into and then distorted by the more mainstream Kaaranism religion, leading to large-spread misconceptions and confusion between the two, distinct forms of worship. For the most part, any formal religion was frowned upon by the Kaaranese Sangheili after the Second Exodus, and therefore the devout Bringers of Holy Light worshiped in secret: however, reverence the spirits of ancestors, as well as belief in nature spirits and use of certain symbols (most prominently the Akht Eraqa), have spread throughout the religious members of Ketesh.
One of the forms of worship within the fractured Covenant had existed on the edge of society for several years prior to the Schism, disregarding the Forerunner's sovereignty for its entire existence. The Masters of Ascendence, instead, worshiped the Precursors, a small scrap of their technology having fallen into the faction's hands: composed entirely of Sangheili and San'Shyuum, it sought to overthrow the High Prophets in the closing days of the war, only stopped by the joint efforts of an elite taskforce led by Ameigh Broley and Amrot 'Sarathee. After their defeat at the pair's hands, reports of the Masters all but disappeared, but it is believed that they still exist as a small remnant, well hidden and biding time for another strike.
Primeval religions would regain popularity after the Great War within both factions, and among the Covenant splinter factions, two would rise to notability, being the ancient religions of the Jiralhanae and the Unggoy. For the Jiralhanae, they began to return to their status as Jiral's Faithful, as it was called, worshiping their war god Jiral and the other gods he enslaved in the ancient Blood War. Little more than a collection of old stories and rationales for their own immorality and desires to war with each other, whether the wars be for supremacy or simple blood-lust; acts of worship towards Jiral consisted of killing a foe and eating his heart, sacking a village and desecrating the chieftain's bed and the graveyard with feces, and, for young males, subduing a female and mating her in what Jiralhanae call the “Dominator's Course.”
The other primeval religion is called Yayipism, and is the most popular Unggoy religion: consisting of the worship of Balaho's north star, Yayip, which the Unggoy have long seen as a personification of a deity, there is very little to the religion other than weekly prayers at either the nearest temple or with a handy Unggoy Deacon. However, those few Unggoy that are lucky enough to see Yayip in person are considered to have reached spiritual perfection, and they will live forever in paradise having done this.
Almost certainly the strangest religion among the highly spiritual Sangheili is not a religion at all, but rather the very lack of it in every form. The Unbound, as they are called, are what most would call “atheistic Sangheili,” and they make up almost a fifth of the entire population: having lost faith in religion and gods with the events of the Schism, these Sangheili determined that they would not follow any form of religious whatsoever. Though still a minority among the Sangheili, a almost completely unheard of among the other races, the Unbound still continue to gain members and are regarded warily, often as a voice of anarchy within society.
Always a controversial figure, the Unggoy Sergeant Jitji is nevertheless critical to an understanding of the galaxy's post-Schism religious structure, as the Unggoy broke down numerous well-built social walls. The deeds of Jitji are always subject to questioning, due to the blurred line between truth and legend, as well as the contradictory nature of some tales: it is known he aided the Arbiter during his final battles on Installation 05, being a part of the strike force he and Rtas 'Vadum led to recover the Shadow of Intent, and it is also known that he both saw himself as a prophet to his people as well as somehow being involved in the beginning of the Second Unggoy Rebellion. According to the tales about him, Jitji is said to have survived both the poison of Sharquoi blood and an attempt by the Flood to infect him before starting the Second Unggoy Rebellion on the Ark and proclaiming himself the messiah of his people. However, considering the fact that neither of the miracle survivals can be proved, as well as that the stories equate “the Ark” with the Portal artifact on Earth, the truth behind these tales is doubtful at best.
Regardless of the precise details, Jitji did indeed start the Second Unggoy Rebellion, which in turn caused the rise of the Unggoy Star Empire, and Jitji also gave rise to the religion known simply as Jitjism. Jitjism, as it was once so memorably put by BBC News reporter Beth Hedges, is “what happens when you throw Islam, Christianity and Judaism into a Covenant blender”; without a doubt the most radical post-war religion to arise, Jitjism is based upon Jitji's own prophetic pronouncements that he claimed to have received in a vision from “the one source of life.” Using his own ideals as a basis, Jitji, and later his follower Jahjah, took key aspects from the other three religions, such as the Christian teachings on love and salvation, the Islamic principles of heavenly rewards and holy jihads, and the Judaic laws. While Jitjism would continue primarily as the second-most followed Unggoy religion, it would gain some followers within the Human community as well.
Despite the popularity of the many religions throughout Human and post-Covenant space, there are still others that cross cultural boundaries and call out to members of all species. One of the first of these is what became known as the Universal Church, a sect of Christianity that accepts all other species: whereas other denominations had deemed aliens unable to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, and others had simply ignored the issue entirely, the Universal Church reached out to former Covenant species and tried to incorporate them into Christianity, interpreting biblical passages in a way that they believed allowed people's of all species to participate. Initially a small group, the Universal Church gained many followers in the late 2560's, and has since become a major force in the galactic forces of religion.
Similar yet distinct from the Universal Church, the Congregation of All came into being in the early 2580's, attracting large crowds because of its novelty. Operating on the principle that all religions are paths pointing in the same direction, the Congregation of All has been called an "umbrella religion," allowing each member to follow their own unique practices in the pursuit of finding saving revelation from the Omni-God. Because of this approach, defined practices and ideas are hard to pin down, though there are seven founding tenants that apply to all members, chief among them being the First Tenant ("One shall not wound or kill another, lest you cause them to cease before their salvation is revealed"), and the Fourth Tenant ("Never force another to be subject to your beliefs, lest you lead them astray"). The Fourth Tenant has been the cause of many controversies for the Congregation, however, as members have used it several times to justify their right to defy governing bodies: the Congregation's High Guide has responded, in turn, by stating that the Tenants apply only to members of the Congregation, and the Fourth Tenant instructs the Tenants cannot be enforced on outsiders, thereby nullifying the argument.
Among the many secrets of the shape-shifting Plainsfierians are the details of their religious system. Fairly personal and based around the devotion to a pre-Fall pantheon of gods, the few details gained coming from well-trusted or well-learned non-Plainsfierians. These persons inferred after their studies that there is no set code to the worship of the gods, and as far as could be discerned it merely involved weekly prayer at holy grounds by the most pious Plainsfierians, while others would either not go to the holy grounds, or would visit less frequently. Other unique aspects of the religion are the strict dietary schedules it dictates, which are surprisingly sound in nutritional value, and the many stories and myths relating to their gods, the Twenty-One Mayar, chief among them being Xaj, god of the night, and Odjn, the god of destruction.
The religion of the Vorenus is, at its core, a form of ancestor veneration. Founded upon the cores of Voren society, respect and discipline, the religion is a simple process of respect for one another and honoring one's fore-fathers. Since the Vorenus generally hold that wisdom comes with age, the old are respected beyond all others, and when one dies, their body is placed within the Mausoleum, a great catacomb-filled structure. As there is always one Mausoleum constructed on each planet, this forms the center of worship for the Vorenus, who come there anywhere from weekly to bi-monthly to say prayers, pay respects, and meditate. These Mausoleum's are also home to the Vanguard Sages, Vanguard Commanders who separated themselves from the main forces to serve the people through education and spiritual guidance.
Important Religious Figures
The following list is presented in alphabetical order:
- Ameigh Broley
- One of the most well-known followers of the Way of the One, Ameigh would only reveal her beliefs publicly after the Great Schism. Here she became a symbol to confused Sangheili, offering her tales of soul-searching to inspire other Sangheili to seek their own paths, not specifically to her own. However, she is considered a prime example of how a member of the Way should act.
- The Bishop of the , 'Telcam was among the groups founders as they secretly rallied as many followers of the Great Journey as they could. They viewed the former Arbiter and his Separatists as infidels and heretics, and intended to destroy them prior to their eventual defeat. 'Telcam was later listed in a BCC News article among the War and Schism's greatest traitors.
- Founder and former leader of the religion of Triad, Dasc managed to begin the religion through his business as a phony religious guru, wishing to give mankind some thread of hope in their dark hours. After faking his death and going into exile in 2551, the religion gained a vast increase in members, prompting him to remain on Beta Gabriel and foil any attempts at finding him. He remained there until he was discovered in 2558, after which he committed suicide and burned his home to remove his body, preventing hard evidence that he was alive from escaping to his followers.
- Ezekiel Thürs
- Jitji's successor as head figure of Jitjism, Jahjah was a young soldier during the Rebellion and in its aftermath who turned to Jitjism as a way to keep his sanity. Eventually, he became so profound in his thoughts on the religion that he was given a place on the Council of Seven, later gaining an honorary position as "High Council-member" until his death in 2617.
- Often called the most-controversial figure of the modern era, Jitji is the founder of the unique religion of Jitjism. Having preached his message during the Second Unggoy Rebellion of the 2550's, he denounced the Forerunners in one of the first attempts to move away from the Sojourners and the Covenant. Killed in combat, he was called a martyr by his followers and immortalized as their patron saint.
- Kyle Jameson
- Mason Winchester
- Shiloh Robert Hume
- The current High Guide of the Congregation of All, Shiloh Robert Hume is a well-known and respected individual, known as the owner of several large farming corporations. One of the Seeking Servants during the Fourth Tenant controversy, Hume held deep conversations with the sitting High Guide, attempting to understand how he could dismiss the idea as frivolous so easily, Hume would eventually come to such an understanding, though he never completely agreed with his predecessor.
- Wallace Mitchell
- A member of Jiral's Faithful, Ulorus has been called one of the more conservative members, representing those Jiralhanae that are not prone to the honor practices of blood-letting, war, or fierce mating. Because of his status as a High Chieftain with a strong position within the military, Ulorus served to represent this conservative portion, at times officially and at others unofficially.
Behind The Scenes
It's been quite a while since I made this article, so I don't guarantee that everything I say is 100% accurate. If memory serves, the original inspiration for this article came after a long, drawn out discussion on some other user's blog that eventually devolved into a flame session: despite this, it spawned an idea in my mind, which in turn led me to start this forum, where I asked users to give their input on the topic. After a week or so, I had gathered enough information that I felt I should begin.
So I did, and within the first few edits I had the Covenant side of things firmly set out, with the various denominations of the Sojourners (at that time merely called "the Great Journey" until later advice by 117649AR) determined and many of the non-Sojourner religions defined. Humanity's side of the equation suffered some, but I would manage to write about the Abrahamic religions soon enough. After these areas were written, however, the article remained relatively untouched for the course of the next year until late 2011, when I began to fill in the gaps in an effort to prepare it for the Fourth Annual Awards.
Progress was slow on the article, but with some perseverance I managed to expand upon the Human religions more, describe most of the beliefs in "Other Religions," and begin work on "Important Figures" and "Concepts and Terms." These moved slower than other sections, simply because finding unique ideas behind religious figures was tedious, and successfully defining terms and concepts in a wide-reaching yet concise fashion was time-consuming to me. Nevertheless, work continued, and even with the slow pace it was complete and deserving enough to be nominated for the Fourth Annual Awards.
After a close competition with the intriguing Operation: VORAUSSICHT, Religion won the award for "Most Unique Concept of the Year." Wanting to continue working on the article and not lose the "Annual Awards"-based fervor I had gained during the past months, I consulted Grizzlei on what improvements I should consider, and was rewarded was some sound advice that I took, for the most part.
Although this article undoubtedly has its' issues, perhaps the most prominent it contains, as stated by Dragonclaws, is that I did such a good job merging other user's ideas into a singular, coherent fan-fiction that one cannot quite tell where one user's idea ends and another began. As such, I'll pause for a moment and detail where some of these ideas came from as best I can:
- Human Religions: Up until the section of "Other Religions," everything is 100% my own, personal ideas, placed alongside historical data gathered from Wikipedia. All the fates of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc were crafted by me, though I was joking accused of hating Lutherans because of the fate I gave them. Once we reached "Other Religions," though, everything is still mine or real-life save for Humanology, which belongs to Rozh; however, I will give Grizzlei (at that point still CommanderTony) recognition for bringing Jediism to my attention.
- Covenant Religions: This is where I enjoyed seeing how much I could meld together from other users, which proved difficult. For starters, all the religious separation within the Covenant comes into play post-war, making the multiple post-war universes a pain to deal with, hence all the pointedly vague mentions when it came to things like the "next war." The name Ascension, as well as the confrontation with the Quelni I owe to Dragonclaws, as I retrieved both from his wonderful Halo 3: Ascension, despite the fact it's an alternate universe (which comes into play later). The Shadow World likewise belongs to Dragonclaws, but I made it a major factor in a faction that does not belong to him, the Seekers of the Holy Oracles, which is Matt-256's Covenant religion in his post-war universe; into this I also pulled the Necropolis of Ajax 013 for a minor mention. The Karaanese Sangheili are Specops306's, along with the Acolytes of Devotion (co-ownership with Matt-256), which were both used alongside Specops' Labyrinthians. The only things in the other Covenant religions were the Masters of Ascendance and the Bringers of Holy Light, also from Matt and Specops. So, in essence, by the end of this section I had pulled together five separate universes (counting my own) and formed a singular continuity from them.
- Other Religions: This section starts off with Jitjism, another piece of Dragonclaws Ascensionverse, which I couldn't leave out. However, due to the AU status of that fiction, I had to work around it and claim the Jitji's tales were Unggoy legends, not entirely fact or fiction, but a mix, allowing for some ambiguity over the whole ordeal. This section also has another reference from Grizzlei's works, this time a report from the BBC, which he was working on at the time. After that come several entries that give their origins to Ajax 013, such as the Vorenus and Plainsfierians races, but the final pair of religions, those of the Char Jynani and the Reclaimers of the Mantle, belonged to Grizzlei and RichardRHunt
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Kudos to Dragonclaws
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kudos to Matt-256
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kudos to Ajax 013
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Kudos to Specops306
- ↑ Kudos to CommanderTony