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A thuoght struck me this morning - the Imperium is often painted as a theocracy of sorts, and the Imperial Cult is present in pretty much every sphere of Imperial life, having a lot of sway over what the average subject does or says. There's also a plethora of saints, doing the Emperor's will etc etc. there's also the most holy of Imperial pilgrimages, from Ophellia VII to Terra.
So is this a theocracy that owes its creative inspiration to Papal set-up, or something closer to Shi'ite Islam? The reason I wonder about this is that there are several apparent similarlities between the Imperial rule and Dune, which is explicitly Islamic. The only thing I think that's different to Dune is that since the Age of Apostasy the Imperium forbids Ministorum officials from holding high political rank. Otherwise they could be pretty much interchangeable.
What do people think? Is it worth exploring this angle of the Ecclesiarchy? Perhaps as either the "mainstream" faith or as an interpretation of it on certain worlds?
Find the most heavy oppressive and fascist military theocracy known to mankind, and there you go. Although tbh it's not completely theocratic, as there's only 1 (or maybe 2) members of the ministorum on the council known as the High Lords of Terra. Religion is just one of the many flavour of tools used to control the population.
It's more like a fascist dictatorship with a brutally enforced state religion, although that's looking at the Imperium as a single entity, or an 'average' planet. Considering the wide range of different types of planet and government out there, it's hard to generalise. There are planets out there with an elected body (democratic), some with hereditary rulership (monarchy) and some with Imperial-chosen governers (meritocracy or nepotism, depending on mechanism), and so on.
The Cult of the Emperor might be all pervasive, but it doesn't really have much say in the day to day running of the Imperium - except Ecclesiarch-run planets like graveworlds or shrineworlds.
I don't know.. I think it's possibly comprable to (in particular) the Dark Ages papacy or the very early Caliphate in that actually there's very little centralized control or orthopraxy. You find a planet of people who worship the mighty baboon God and you send in preachers who tell everyone that the mighty baboon God is actually the Emperor and that they've been worshipping the Emperor all along. It doesn't mean people stop sacrificing their relatives in a pit of angry monkeys or whatever they were doing before, or even that they change the name of the mighty baboon God, they just accept that they're part of a wider religious belief system, and that's enough to qualify for inclusion in the Imperium.
The worship of the Emperor takes the form of countless millions of cults and sects devoted to sky Gods, death Gods even blood Gods and all kinds of beings who are nominally accepted to be representations of the Emperor. The ecclesiarchy is just the dominant sect, and the one responsible for stepping in if one of these cults steps too far out of line because they have an order of kickass fighting nuns who can project power on a galactic scale.
So, in answer to what kind of theocracy the Imperium is, I'd say a completely nominal one. The imagery is pure Catholicism though, with relics and extensive iconography.. though it would be interesting to see an Ecclesiarchical planet or 'major' sect (think the Redemptionists) who had a more Islamic view on things.
Last edited by The_Giant_Mantis; March 16th, 2011 at 17:10.
Oddly, I don't think of the Imperium as a theocracy at all. It's very much like the old Roman Empire, an essentially Godless government that encourages its people to worship the Caesar (or Emperor, etc.) as one of many ways to keep them under control. (Other forms of control included compartmentalization, fear of barbarians, slavery/feudal organization of society, monopolization of the use of force and limited self-government through the appointment of Imperial Governors, all of which show up in 40k.)
Of course, the 40k Emperor is actually useful to humanity....
"My tanks have names, my men have numbers." -Col. Edmund Grahvess, 23rd Kronecker Prison Guard
it has too be brutal bc there is only war. every man woman and child has to do his/her part bc the imperium bc they are surrounded by all side. heretics, enemy's, chaos and more. its hard to say. sometimes diffrent planets are eather a complete defense police state like Candian or something else but they have to be because of the enemy thing. so ya. its hard to tell what they are.
I agree with the Roman/Catholic statement though remember that romans were not godless.They had adopted most of the ancient greek pantheon and they worship even some of the titans.The god-emperor belif was a trend invented after the desolution of the republic and the adoption of the empire.Ceasar was the first i think.
Back to 40k:The system is almost the same with a major difference.There is only one godemperor(unlike the romans who had all of their emperors divined and their pantheon)and he is trully all powerfull and existing(in a rotting state perhaps but he has still influence).
In a few words a milatarily imposed theocrasy.Not different from a middle ages catholicism gonne too far.
Praise be to the Emperor!!