Ecclesiastica Universalis

A science-fictional religion

History: The establishment of the Ecclesiastica Universalis, or Universal Church, was a languid process involving secular influence as much as religious revival. The seeds of its development was planted as far back as the second millenium A.D. of old Earth, by which time the impact of the established religions upon the behavior and belief of the common individual had dwindled to what would have been considered an all-time low. With secularism and personal belief replacing previous spiritual trends, a variety of religious groups faced low laity turn-out and commitment. Mid-sized congregations suffered the most; minor churches were easily maintained and could always find a few followers through the idiosyncratic tastes of modern seekers, while the large churches often focused upon the sanctity of life in such a manner that promoted the births of more persons, and ideally, followers. Of this latter group, the most successful were the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Catholics successfully maintained a legacy that had been in existence for almost two millenia already, while the Mormons' aggressive commitment to family and uplifting personal mythology led to a surprising increase in converts following a trend of disillusionment with non-religious lifestyles in the middle of the 21st century. By the time of the blink drive's development following the reconstructionism of the 22nd century, these two groups were the largest organized religions on Earth, though they were rather easily overwhelmed by the plethora of minor cults, magical traditions, and sacred syncreticism that dominated what was left of the religious world. These developments were noted by various governments at the time, but no action was yet taken regarding the situation.

After the century of the blink drive's infancy, a more cost-effective design for the fusion plants of the drive as well as the development of 500 ton freighters sparked a revolution in colonization, particularly as a loophole in the Treaty of Olives permitted exoplanets to be considered free territory (a peace-keeping clause that would have been been difficult for a prospective settler to implement on Earth). The result was the formation of a variery of nation-states, ideo-habs, and various other 'homesteads' amongst planets within a 100 year radius of Earth, overwhelming the constructed planet-vassals of the Earth in numbers if not quality. This exodus of disaffected elements secular and sacred gave the Mormon and Catholic Churches more breathing room on Earth, as well as the re-establishment of old hostilities over supremacy. The newly-created Autonomous Alliance found at the beginning of the 24th century a simmering hotbed of fanatacism on their doorstep and potential rebels squatting on exploitable worlds out among the colonies. After a series of conferences hosted in the capitol of Vaduz, a contingency was planned among the workers of the Department of Psychosocial Engineers. By perusing the hardnet's historical archives, running covert tests on ideological groups throughout known space, and incorporating psychohistorical research, the department was able to formulate a plan for alleviating troubles at home and abroad. After review, plans were approved for the social manipulation of the religious groups left on Earth to produce metagroup with a more sustainable psychology, social cohesion, and easily manipulatable drives for use in the colonies. The proceeding planted events, hierarchical infiltration, and psychical demonstrations took the better part of a century to take root, but by the 25th century a call for ecumenism between the two churches, and midway through that same century more 'staged' miracles led to the two groups formally uniting as the Ecclesiastica Univeralis. Thusly formed, indivi dual members often left to form politically-acceptable subcultures on worlds not under formal control of the Alliance. In the face of groups with strong familial, social, and national bonds, the offspring of the previous 'squatters' were often convinced to integrate fully into Alliance culture and occasionally the Church itself. Such resulting influxes introduced a variety of minor beliefs and post-Gnostic ideas into the establishment, which was nonetheless kept curtailed by the expectations of Alliance culture. As a whole, the group never attained a majority following in the Alliance, though that did not prevent it from meeting the expectations of its designers. The Church successfully neutralized radical elements in the colonies and served as a convenient recruiting pool for dangerous missions of all stripes, with the Alliance ultimately deeming the experiment a success and state secret.

The Church lasted past the disintegration of the Alliance in the 33rd century, though without the social stability of an empire it did not maintain a coherent structure for much of the Era of Aeons. The development of artificial gestation and lack of cooperation required by post-scarcity society proved to be the largest threats that the faith faced, being attacked on its foundation of social duty. The last remnants of the Church were absorbed into the philosophical cult of the Lumined as humanity began to focus fully on solipsistic, transcendent experiments and largely left the stellar stage.

General Beliefs: Church belief is centered around the existence of a single transcendent divinity known as God. This God, which is a being and a reality, is understood through the aspects of their glory that leak through into mundane reality through masks. The physical universe and collective human spirit are considered the most important Illori, or emanations of God, though others exist, such as minor gods, human souls, and art. The mortal spirit in particular is considered to have a special relationship with God, though the particulars of this relationship are interpreted differently by individuals within the Church. Ultimate truth is reached through the demonstration of virtue that surpasses one's limits as an expression of divinity. For the average person, living life as a contributing member of society garners some virtue and eases the passage of the soul after death, while the more dedicated assist colonists, volunteer on suicide missions, and perform other deeds typified by actio sine reactione. One's performance counts more than their theological belief, and a wide range of heterodoxy or even heresy among the loose faith is tolerated, provided it sticks to a surprisingly-limiting set of social mores.

Nature of the Soul: The soul is considered an emanation of God, though while embodied it takes on creaturely traits. A variety of views regarding its nature exist, and is likened at times to a child, friend, or part of God. After the death of the body, the soul begins the journey back to God, though during this time it can appear as a ghost or take residence in temporary astral realms.

Nature of Society: Civilization is the creation of the human spirit and therefore a grandchild of Divinity. It is the duty of all to properly nurture it and in doing so demonstrate virtue.

Views on Psi: Psi is conceived of as the operation of divine principles, and as such it can emanate from mortal souls, gods, or even God. Pro-social uses of psi powers are promoted, with telepathy and psychokinesis being the most celebrated disciplines. Though a natural faculty of the soul, it is thought that psi is best used for society or for spiritual purposes, and so secular use of it can be regarded with some suspicion.

Views on A.I.: Non-conscious robots are tools and treated accordingly, while true A.I. is in possession of a mortal soul and accordingly treated with respect.

Minor Sects: Redeemers follow in the footsteps of the Savior, whose first name was Christ. The Masons research artificial intelligence for clues as to how divine consciousness leaks down through the Illori. The Mendicants seek gnosis through clairvoyant trance. The Hospitaliers protect colonists as they settle new worlds.

Views from Outsiders: Church members are valued for their dedication in outward pursuits, but are often stereotyped as somewhat ditzy, unschooled in serious theological discussion, or ironically soulless in some undefinable way. During the time of the Alliance it is common rumor that the Church was essentially the product of charismatic cult leaders, faddish spiritual revivals, or government intervention.