So there’s a thread over on RPG.net about religious subcultures in a fantasy world, and if you could get real schisms and religious wars if the gods themselves show up to declare their power, and if you could doubt a god’s existence when his clerics summon lightning bolts or raise the dead.
Why should humans who live in a magical world be any more prone to accept the evidence of their senses over the power of blind faith than humans who live in our world? If humans today can ignore the evidence of evolution, a 4-5 billion year old Earth, and that HIV causes AIDS, why should should humans in a magical world not be equally able, eager, and willing to ignore similarly objective and verifiable phenomenon?
So, a cleric says — or even sincerely believes — that their power comes from “the gods”, and this proves they exist? Or proves they follow the god they claim to?
An angel says, “Lo! I am the servant of the Almighty Flying Spaghetti Monster! Behold my power!”
And then someone says, “Yeah, pretty cool, but you’re not any more scary than that dragon, or that elder elemental! They don’t go around claiming they’re ‘servants of the gods’ just because they’re powerful, why are you?”
A cleric says “It is by the power of Pelor that I heal!”
And then someone says, “Hey, that druid heals, and all he claims is that he’s ‘drawing on the force of life that pervades all things!” And someone else chimes in “Hey, in that raid last month, that orc shaman kept healing those ogres, was that Pelor too? Hah!” And someone else says “Shaman, druid, nothin… I was sure I was a goner, ’till that warlord fella gave a speech about honor and patriotism and then I was back in the fight, and he don’t use no magic, no how!” “And what about Fred the ranger? He healed me up with just some herbs!” “And don’t forget our hedge witch, she can fix you up right proper if she has to, she does good work, but she doesn’t worship no gods, she says!”
And then a paladin says “Ah, but my great powers clearly come from the divine, for if I forsake my oath, I lose them!”
And then someone else says “Tish tosh and nonsense, m’boy! It’s all a matter of your own faith in yourself — you lose your powers when you lose that, nothing more. There’s a psionic in the next village who can heal with a touch or shoot lightning from his hands, and he says it’s all about mental discipline. Some folks, he says, just need crutches… like gods, or spell books!”
“Bah!” screams the wizard in response. “That so-called ‘psionic’, like these deluded religious fools, is just manipulating arcane power without realizing it! It all comes from the interaction of the positive, negative, elemental, and material planes, it’s all very scientific!”
“Blasphemer!” screams the cleric. “Your magic is a gift from a dark and malign god! You have been deceived into believing it is but a natural force!”
And then they all roll for initiative…