Ask an Atheist Day and D&D!

In honor of Ask an Atheist Day, I thought it would be amusing to consider what atheism means in D&D. I suspect that whatever it means, it’s pretty great or at least hilarious!

  1. You don’t believe in ANY gods: SO MUCH HARDER IN D&D, where it seems pretty obvious that gods exist. For example, when a cleric or paladin prays to a god, they are granted awesome mystical powers. Epic level adventurers may even meet the gods! However, with that said, the average commoner might not have that much to go on to prove gods exist. Sure, magic exists, but how do they know that divine magic isn’t just another variation of arcane magic? Also, when those epic level adventurers meet up with these gods, maybe they’re just D&D’s equivalent of super powered space aliens, right? It doesn’t necessarily follow (to the PCs) that some being with awesome powers created entire races of people, after all. Maybe they’re just kind of bad-ass. Anyway, I understand Paul once played an atheist cleric, and it was AWESOME!
  2. You don’t care about the gods: This is a lot easier to get away with in a D&D world. The gods exist, but so what? Sure, Bahamut sounds like a nice guy, but in the end, it doesn’t seem like he actually does that much in the mortal world, aside from bestowing some followers with divine powers. So in this case being an atheist more means you don’t worship any gods or even feel particularly beholden to them. So a little different from how we’d normally look at the term, but close enough, right?
  3. You Worship Some Demon or Something: Demons aren’t gods and neither are evil creatures from the far realm, but people in D&D worship them all the time. I guess they aren’t technically atheists, because they usually worship them as gods, but let’s not get too bogged down in semantics here. I would be happy to clasp their non-god worshiping hand as a fellow atheist any day (well, not really)!

Have YOU ever played an atheist character in D&D?

Can YOU think of any other hilarious ways a character might be a D&D atheist?

Do YOU have any questions for ME, a real honest to God ATHEIST who plays D&D?

Then please respond with questions or comments!

13 Responses to “Ask an Atheist Day and D&D!”

  1. paul says:

    My hobgoblin Ardent, Richard Ink, was an atheist. And he was so ’till the last.

    As I remember it, Richard Ink and the party’s Raven Queen-worshiping cleric died in the same battle. (The following was improvised by me and the cleric’s player)

    Cleric: We stand together in the Queen’s throne room, and I receive my just reward at her hands. But she sentences the nonbeliever Richard Ink to be broken on the wheel for all eternity!

    Me: And every 1000 years, the Raven Queen comes to mock Richard. And he looks up at her and says, “I still don’t believe in you.”

    After that, we had an opportunity to get our characters resurrected, but it would have seemed anticlimactic. Besides, I kind of hated playing an Ardent.

  2. Elbuagnin says:

    It’s ‘Ask an Atheist Day’? I’ve never heard of it, but I guess I’m going to have to look into it just in case folks start approaching me with questions.

    At one time I was working on a magic system for a modern supernatural game where I would observe PC reactions to various potentially supernatural phenomenon and rank them on a scale from ardent skeptic to active believer. Then anytime magic occurred I was going to have it perceived differently according to where the PC was on the scale. Believers would see full-blown supernatural activity whereas the skeptics would see the believers reacting to something that was not there.

    Also, I was going to set things up where the number of skeptic observers at a supernatural event would inversely affect the supernatural event’s ability to happen. In other words, ghosts are just not seen on crowded streets in full daylight, but if you are alone in the night in a cemetery and you believe in ghosts, you just might see one.

    Alas, that particular campaign ended before I could debut this mechanic. But I may still one day get to use it.

  3. Laura says:

    My gut feeling is that atheists may be well represented among D&D players. Odd though since as you note, it’s not super easy to play an atheist character!

  4. katre says:

    Reminds me a bit of the status of atheists in the Discworld: you are free to be an atheist, but the gods have a habit of coming round to throw rocks at your windows.

  5. Baf says:

    One of my characters expressed an opinion that the so-called “gods” should be regarded as just powerful Outsiders with good PR, and best left to their own devices. He had ulterior motives, mind you — the party was getting involved in a conflict between rival gods, and he had an urgent need to get to a certain distant city to consult with a specialist before his lycanthropy kicked in. So the sentiment was expressed mainly to pry everyone else away from their quest. I think it was sincere, though, even if it was made up on the spur of the moment.

    (No, of course he didn’t tell the party about the lycanthropy until it was too late. Where would be the fun in that?)

  6. I am an Atheist myself, but I like to play religious characters. Clerics, witches and paladins are my favorites.
    I did have an assassin character that felt that the gods were nothing more than powerful humans. Dangerous powerful, but not beings worthy of worship.

  7. Rory Rory says:

    The gods in D&D definitely do not seem to have the power of, say, God from the Bible. And maybe they aren’t even as awesome as your typical greek god. However, they DID apparently create all the mortal races, so that has to count for something, right?

  8. Swordgleam says:

    My last campaign had a number of very divine-centric characters, plus a ranger that can be best described as “anti-theist.” She fully believed the gods existed. She just believed that listening to them brought more trouble than it was worth and the party’s cleric and paladin were both nuts for doing it.

  9. Joshua Lyle says:

    Baf is right on; it’s easy to claim that the gods are not Gods (i.e. beings possessed of God-making qualities like omnipotence), because the gods generally don’t even claim to be Gods. In fact, even by the standards of the common Earth theist the gods of D&D are not Gods, just as the Olympians are not Gods.

  10. Syrsuro says:

    I play a gnoll in LFR and he is, for some definition of the term, an athiest. He denies the divinity of all gods, considering them to be – like the (rejected) patron diety of his race (Yeenoghu) – nothing more than powerful demons manipulating people for their own ends. He can’t deny that their power exists – he just doesn’t believe them worthy of anyone’s worship (and plans for the day he can free others – starting with his race – from their evil and manipulative influence)

    Carl

  11. Dawn says:

    You could be an atheist character in that you refuse to recognize the presence of gods, (even if evidence suggests they exist), sort of like how in certain cultures, if a child does something considered disgraceful, the parents take down all photographs of the child, and never speak his or her name again. Or sort of like in Watership Down, when the rich rabbits refuse to acknowledge the “wire.”

  12. Claire Claire says:

    Oh man I wish I had read Watership Down so I could understand that reference!

    That seems like a pretty good way to be atheist in D&D.

  13. Fabio Milito Pagliara says:

    Indeed in a D&D world the move is “there is no gods just ultrapowerful being” and since often some gods are previous mortals it’s an easy move :)

    if you want to make another step there is an artifact from previous editions “the sceptre of the sorcerer kings” that if completed would be able to cut off “gods” from the prime material plane….

    so in brief yes it’s possible to play an “atheist” in the sense of playing a “naturalist” character who sees magic, gods, demons and so on as natural phenomenas of his world :)

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