Created By: SantosLHalper on January 15, 2012 Last Edited By: SantosLHalper on January 17, 2012
Nuked

The Theocracy

A society ruled by the Church.

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Simply put, a Theocracy is any society in which the The Church is the government. Often the laws of a theocracy are based off religious law, or claims that God (or Gods) is the supreme ruler of their state. This is especially prevalent in pre-modern settings.

It's common to have an official state religion, but this doesn't necessarily equate to a theocracy or even an especially religious country. For example, in England the head of state (the monarch) is also the head of the Church, bringing an overtly religious aspect into the governmental system, but England and the UK in terms of population are much less religious than nearby, officially secular Ireland and France.

Note that true theocracies, where secular government is virtually non-existent, are fairly rare. Most often the Church will simply have a lot of secular power and sometimes a parallel government: authority over religious/moral laws, it's own bureaucracy, it's own army, etc.

Compare Church Militant, where the clergy is Badass, but not necessarily the rulers of a country. A Corrupt Church is often the head of a Theocracy, but not always.
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • January 15, 2012
    cityofmist
    The word 'theocracy' derives from the Greek meaning 'the rule of God' (or 'gods').

    It's common to have an official state religion, but this doesn't necessarily equate to a theocracy or even an especially religious country. For example, in England the head of state (the monarch) is also the head of the Church, bringing an overtly religious aspect into the governmental system, but England and the UK in terms of population are much less religious than nearby, officially secular Ireland and France.

    States governed by Sharia law are technically theocracies, although that's simplifying it a little; there's generally a democratic or nominally democratic government as well. Saudi Arabia and Iran both have legal systems and courts based on Islam, and the latter is actually called 'the Theocratic Republic'. Vatican City is also, obviously, a theocratic country.

    If we want to do historical examples, there will be a lot more of those. The only fictional example I can think of right now is Gilead in The Handmaids Tale, but I'm sure there are a lot more.
  • January 15, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Note that true theocracies, where secular government is virtually non-existent, are fairly rare. Most often the Church will simply have a lot of secular power and sometimes a parallel government: authority over religious/moral laws, it's own bureaucracy, it's own army, etc.

    Karse, one of the countries bordering Valdemar in several of Mercedes Lackey's novels, is a true theocracy.
  • January 15, 2012
    jate88
    Isn't any story set in the middle ages automatically assumed to have this trope?
  • January 15, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the DC Comics miniseries World of Krypton it's shown how the government of Krypton came to be science based. There were three competing factions: one for science, one for democracy, and one for a Theocracy. They decided to let the Kryptonian gods decide. One representative from each faction went out into a thunderstorm with a rod; whichever one didn't get hit by a bolt would be the chosen. Science won after theocracy and democracy's reps each got hit. In The Stinger of the story the scientist admitted to a time-travelling Kal-El that he had used a non-ferrous metal in making his rod. He didn't consider it cheating since the gods told him to do so - or so he claimed.
  • January 16, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Early editions of Dungeons And Dragons
      • Greyhawk setting: The Theocracy of the Pale (worship of Pholtus), Iuz (ruled by the demon lord Iuz)
      • Forgotten Realms: Elturgard (Lawful Good religions), Luiren, Mulhorand (transplanted Egyptian deities)
      • Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia: The Babylonian and Sumerian civilizations were theocracies.
      • The Kuo-Toa are led by a Priest-Prince of the deity Blibdoolpoolp.
  • January 16, 2012
    Koveras
    Please have a link to The Church trope in the write-up somewhere. I have put a lot of work into that one.

    • The Lands of Holy Order the Arkanar Kingdom in the ending in Hard To Be A God.
  • January 16, 2012
    aurora369
    In The Elder Scrolls universe, Morrowind was one of these for a long time, governed by the living gods of the Tribunal and their clergy.
  • January 16, 2012
    DaibhidC
  • January 16, 2012
    Bisected8
    • In The Order Of The Stick Azure City is technically this. It's ruled by Lord Shojo, who is also the leader of the Sapphire Guard, an order of Paladins; he argues that this means his secular jurisdiction isn't limited because nor is their gods'.
  • January 16, 2012
    Tambov333
    Real Life:
    • Vatican City and its predecessor, the Papal State/Holy See.
    • The medieval Caliphate(s)
  • January 16, 2012
    Damr1990
    On Trinity Blood, the Vatican is Governs a good chunck of the world(the other being mainly vampires and some minor neutral cities) and is the capital City of the human goverment
  • January 16, 2012
    AP
    • Taliban-controlled Afghanistan
    • Medieval Europe to the point where it was called "Christiandom" for centuries.
  • January 16, 2012
    fulltimeD
    No Real Life Exampes. Inevitably they would make this political flamebait.
  • January 16, 2012
    AP
    Since this isn't a negative or positive trope but rather a type of government, real life examples should count.
  • January 16, 2012
    Koveras
    In a theocracy the Capital City and the Holy City are often one and the same.
  • January 17, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Warhammer 40 K: The ginormous Imperium of Man is very much a theocracy, given that they have a Physical God as its former leader. However, ever since a prominent Ecclesiarchy member went mad and tried to form his own Imperium within the Imperium, the Ecclesiarchy is no longer allowed to keep "men under arms". Hence the Sisters of Battle. Also, their priests accompany the Imperial Guard into battle wielding inspiring speeches and eight-foot-long chainswords.
      • Similarly, on the Chaos side the leaders tend to be those who the gods most favor. However, they aren't really priests, as the Chaos gods would much rather their followers kill loyalists and aliens instead of holding masses.
    • The Lizardmen of Warhammer are led by their Skink priests, who interpret the wills of their gods.
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