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Ethnic God

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"The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black, while the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair. Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw, and could sculpt like men, then the horses would draw their gods like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own."
Xenophanes, commenting on this trope.
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Most gods in your typical divine pantheon seem to be Anthropomorphic Personifications of natural forces or endeavors and rule over those aspects; thus you have a god of war, a god of thunder, a god of running around and jumping and stuff. There might also be gods of specific places— see Genius Loci, though not all cultures consider their genii to be gods. Another common type of god is associated not with an abstract concept, but with a discrete ethnic group or tribe of people, who take a god (or small group of gods) as their patron.

A reciprocal relationship naturally enfolds: the god protects the tribe from supernatural threats and appoints leaders to deal with secular problems, while the people give up offerings or prayers. This might mean that Gods Need Prayer Badly and this one has found a cozy niche, or else that there is an immutable, vital connection between the two parties, and if one is destroyed, the other will necessarily fall to ruin. In the latter case, it's assumed that one entity specifically created the other. In other cases, this relationship may simply be due to a more mundane pact or a matter of personal favor. Members of the tribe (all, or just a chosen few) may be able to direct the god's power to their own designs (see Theurgy). When groups come into conflict, their gods get involved, and things can escalate into a celestial war quickly. Some gods are even evangelical, and want everyone to be converted to their worship, while others are only concerned with the needs of their chosen race.

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Ethnic gods may be cobbled together into a single pantheon when their representative tribes form a civilization or empire. In that case, the Top God is probably the original god of the ruling tribe, and a lot of Odd Job Gods emerge, taking up whatever traits their people ascribed them and representing those within the pantheon.

Not to be confused with God being portrayed as a specific ethnic group: see Divine Race Lift.


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Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • RWBY: Scars: Faunus have a religion named "Ishvara" which worships various animal-based gods. Their creator god Mother Devi is humanoid except for her feline head.
  • In Warriors Redux, the Mother is the regional god of the four Clans. It's believed that she became a nearby cave that is core to their spiritual beliefs.

    Literature 
  • The Belgariad has seven gods (not counting their father) and, originally, seven tribes. Each god has a totemic animal (bull, bear, serpent, etc.) and the culture of their people is based on the attributes of that animal. Aldur is the odd one out here, who never chose a race and instead has only a handful of disciples. The godless ones drifted apart and became a variety of races worshiping such godly surrogates as demons, their ancestors, or political power. In this setting, the gods largely get along, with the Big Bad Torak being the major exception, and when he starts maneuvering to take over the world, they take on incorporeal aspects so that their conflict won't destroy everything. Eventually, a new god, Eriond, is born, who is destined to become the god of all peoples.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia Narnians worship Aslan (a Crystal Dragon Jesus), while the Calormens worship Tash (treated in The Horse and His Boy as a Fantasy Counterpart Culture equivalent of the Islamic perspective of God, but in The Last Battle as a Satanic Archetype). In said book, Aslan says that anyone doing something bad in his name is really doing it for Tash, and anyone who does good in Tash's name is really doing it for him.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: The Three-Faced God is the patron of the Kencyr people, which he created by uniting three disparate tribes.
  • Conan the Barbarian stories feature small pantheons composed of a mix of historical and fictional gods:
    • Crom is the deity of the Cimmerians, Conan's people.
    • The gods of the Stygians include Set; Derketo, the sea-goddess of pleasure; and Ibis, god of wisdom and the Moon.
    • The inhabitants of Shem worship Ishtar, goddess of fertility; Derketo; Ashtoreth, patron of fertility, sexuality, and war; Adonis; the fish-god Dagon; and Baal.
    • The people of Vendhya bow down before Asura and Yizil.
    • The Hyrkanian gods are the demon-god Yog, Lord of the Empty Abodes; Hanuman the ape-god; Erlik, god of death and the underworld; and Tarim.
    • The Kushite deities are Jullah, the raven god Jhil, Ajujo the Dark One and Derketa the Queen of the Dead.
    • The Khitans worship Yag-Kosha (Yogah of Yag, Demon of the Elder World) and Yun.
  • The Death Mage Who Doesn't Want a Fourth Time: Originally, the deities Fidirg and Merrebeveil were only worshipped by the lizardmen and scylla, respectively. This changes after Van raises statue to them at Talosheim, after which their worship becomes more widespread.
  • In the Discworld novels, nearly all dwarfs share the belief that the world was created by the god Tak, although they don't worship him as a matter of principle: "Tak does not command that we think of Him, only that we think". Other races, such as trolls and humans, have considerably larger pantheons and commonly regard Tak as the god of dwarfs. Some human nationalities also have their own specific gods: Omnians worship Om, and Borogravians have Nuggan (though most of them actually worship the Duchess, who thanks to the power of belief has posthumously become the equivalent against her will).
  • In The Elenium each race has at least one god, with a wide variety in the numbers. The Elenes have one, the trolls have five, the Tamuls have about a half-dozen while their offshoots the Atans have one. Meanwhile, the Styrics have over a thousand gods, and the interference of this multitude has led to them being the most practiced magic-users, and famed for it throughout the world. However, the Elene god, commanding the entire combined faith of the most populous race, is probably the most powerful of the gods; but as it happens, he has a strict non-intervention policy.
  • In the John Carter of Mars series, the god Tur is worshipped solely by the Phundahlians, while the god Komal (who is actually just a large Banth) is only worshipped by the Lotharians.
  • The Pusadian Series: Each nation in the world has its own distinct set of deities looking over them, and these are very jealous of other gods interfering in their turf.
  • The Queen's Thief: The people of Eddis are the only ones to keep to the worship of the old gods, and are referred to as "Hephestia's people" after the chief goddess of their pantheon.
  • Silverwing: The bats have their own bat gods — the North American bats worship Nocturna, while the South American Vampyrum spectrum worship the real-life bat god Cama Zotz.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Drowned God is only worshiped by the Ironborn people. Other lesser known ethnic deities from this universe are the Great Shepherd (worshipped by the Lhazarene people), Boash (was only worshipped by the Lorathi a long time ago), the nameless god of the Norvoshi, and the Black Goat of the Qohorik.
  • In the Tortall Universe, by Tamora Pierce, there are many gods, some minor and some designated "great", but even the so-called Great Gods often have specific ethnic groups they hold dear.
    • In the Song of the Lioness tetralogy, we learn of the persecuted K'Mir tribes of Sarain, who worship the Horse Lords.
    • In The Immortals tetralogy it's said that the Banjiku tribe were birthed by the goddess Lushagui and worship her along with her brother, Kidunka the World Snake.
    • In the Trickster's Duet, it's revealed that the Trickster is the patron god of the Copper Island natives, the Raka. The books (Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen) follow his chosen champions in their fight to win the Isles back from the white minority that compose the ruling class. However, as he is one of the Great Gods, he is also worshipped by people so inclined in other countries by other nicknames, such as the Crooked God.
  • Watership Down has the divine hero of the rabbit race, El-Ahrairah.
  • The Wicked Years:
    • The traditional god for Ozians is the fairy goddess Lurline. According to myth she created Oz and transformed normal animals into Talking Animals and Funny Animals. Lurline worship is considered paganism and has gone out of fashion in exchange for worshipping the Unnamed God instead.
    • Other regional religions exist in Oz but aren't given much note. For example, Turtle Heart is from the swampy southern region of Quadling County and has never heard of the Unnamed God.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Forgotten Realms setting, particularly in 3rd Edition, is an exaggerated case, with several different racial and ethnic pantheons. The largest is the Faerunian pantheon (most humans), and there's also the elven pantheon, the drow pantheon, the dwarven pantheon, the halfling pantheon, the gnomish pantheon, and the orcish pantheon. The human nations of Mulhorand and Unther also had their own pantheons, but the Untheric pantheon (an import of the Sumerian and Babylonian pantheons) was extinct by the end of the Time of Troubles and the Mulhorandi pantheon (a version of the Egyptian pantheon) was destroyed by the Spellplague in 4th Edition.
    • Some other racial deities from early editions of the game:
      • Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia: Hruggek (bugbears), Skerrit (centaurs and satyrs), Surtur (fire giants), Thrym (frost giants), Grolantor (hill giants and ettins), Skoraeus Stonebones (stone giants), Maglubiyet (goblins and hobgoblins), Kurtulmak (kobolds), Blibdoolpoolp (kuo-toa), Semuanya (lizardmen), Eadro (locathah and mermen), Vaprak (ogres), Sekolah (sahuagin) and Laogzed (troglodytes).
      • Some monsters worshipped demon princes from the Abyss as deities: Yeenoghu (gnolls), Demogorgon (ixitxachitl), Baphomet (minotaurs), Graz'zt (lamia).
      • In an article in Dragon magazine #63 Roger Moore wrote up additional deities to fill out the pantheons of the kobolds, goblins and hobgoblins.
      • Bahamut and Tiamat were the deities of good and evil dragons, respectively.
      • The 2nd Edition supplement Monster Mythology had dozens of new deities for monsters.
      • Historic perspectives on pantheons revealed that if two pantheons got too mixed up with one another (mostly as a matter of followers, although the survival — and in one case emergence of a new one — of the racial pantheons indicate divine action plays a part too) they would end up getting merged (and the local rules of divinity does not permit two gods — above demigod level power, anyway — in the same pantheon to share a portfolio, so important portfolios would have to be fought over, with one losing the portfolio or being demoted to a subset). This resulted in a plot throughout 3e of the Mulhorandi and the Faerûnic pantheon competing to gain the most influence over Unther while at the same time (especially on the Mulhorandi side) trying to stick to the spirit of this trope and not ending up forced to merge into a single larger Faerûnic pantheon — which was not just a theoretical threat, the Faerûnic pantheon was so large partly because it was the result of multiple ethnic pantheons having gotten so involved with one another that they crossed the boundary.
  • Gods of the Fall: Tarans worshipped a single patron god called Lelana, the Grandmother of the Skies.
  • Pathfinder: While this isn't taken to the same extremes as it is in Dungeons & Dragons — most major deities are explicitly worshipped by multiple cultures and species — numerous species and factions have their own patron gods, which are rarely if ever worshipped by other groups:
    • Among true gods, there are the draconic gods Apsu and Dahak; the dwarven pantheon, which further includes Droskar as the god of the duergar; the elven pantheon (excepting Calistria, who is worshipped among most other species); the halfling gods Chaldria Zuzaristan and Thamir Gixx; the Ancient Osiriani pantheon; the gnome goddess Nivi Rhombodazzle; Hei Feng, who although he is worshipped throughout Tian Xia is explicitly the patron god of the Tengu; and the giant pantheon, which is further subdivided between the patron deities of specific giant species — Minderhal for the stone giants, Thremyr for the frost giants, and Zursvaater for the fire giants. Before his death, Aroden was the patron god of humanity; in Starfinder, this role is taken over by Iomedae.
    • Among the demon lords, Baphomet is the patron of minotaurs, Gogunta of the boggard Frog Men, Jezelda of lycanthropes, Urxehl of trolls, and Xoveron of gargoyles. In a twist, Urxehl loathes the trolls that worship him and himself for his resemblance to them — he greatly prefers the fringe groups of druids that worship him as the demon lord of natural disasters instead.
  • Warhammer: It's routine in the franchise for specific nations or species to worship their own deity or set of deities, and for those deities to only be worshipped by that nation or species. The exceptions are the Chaos Gods, which are worshipped by every Chaos cultist in any given setting, in addition to being, in Warhammer Fantasy, the cultural deities of the Norscans (Heavy Metal Horny Vikings), Kurgans, Hung and Beastmen, with Slaneesh also being worshipped by several Dark Elf cults.
    • This is used very often in Warhammer Fantasy:
      • Among the human nations, the Kislevites worship the bear god Ursun, as well as the fire god Dazh and the thunder god Tur; Sigmar is the god of the Empire's state religion, as well as its deified founder, although the Imperials also worship other gods such as Ulric, Morr, and Myrmidia that they share with other human cultures; the Bretonnians worship the Lady of the Lake (possibly a Wood Elf enchantress), etc.
      • The High Elves, Dark Elves and Wood Elves worship the same gods, but in different aspects: Khaine is a War God for the High Elves and a god of murder for the Dark Elves. Similarly, the Skaven worship the Horned Rat. The Orcs and Goblins worship Gork, the god of brutality, and Mork, the god of cunning. The Lizardmen revere their Old One progenitors, but the cult of the snake god Sotek has in recent centuries become their leading faith.
    • In Warhammer 40,000, the Eldar retain their ethnic gods, with the change that the bulk of their pantheon was destroyed by Slaneesh with the exception of Khaine (who was literally shattered but survived), Isha (who most Eldar don't know is still alive) and Cegorach; the Craftworld Eldar still worship their gods, while the Harlequins worship Cegorach exclusively and the Dark Eldar forsook their deities altogether. The Orks still worship Gork and Mork, while humanity worships the God-Emperor of Mankind.
    • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, while most gods of Chaos and Order are followed by most people aligning to those factions, Teclis and Tyrion are the patron deities of the Aelves and Alarielle is the goddess and queen of the Sylvaneth, while the Idoneth revere the long-dead sea god Mathlann. The Greenskins in general follow Gorkamorka, the two-headed fusion of Gork and Mork, while the Moonclan Grots instead worship a poorly-understood entity called the Bad Moon. The Great Horned Rat, while technically one of the four Chaos Gods now, is still only really worshipped by the Skaven.

    Video Games 
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura: The Ancient Lesser Gods are each worshipped by a certain race — Alberich by the dwarves, Bolo by the halflings, Geshtianna by the humans, Kerlin by the gnomes, Makaal by the bedokaan Lizard Folk, Shakar by the orcs (although he's also worshipped by many human barbarians), Ter'el by the elves and Torg by the ogres.
  • Black & White implies this while applying it rather loosely. Each god met in the game commands a single tribe, and there are races with no god, due apparently to a long-time war of attrition among the gods. The tribes are based on real-life ethnic groups, e.g. the Egyptians, Japanese, Norse, etc., but the gods are entirely fictitious and have no strong resemblance to any of the gods these groups historically worshiped.
  • Divine Divinity: Six of the seven gods of the setting are the patrons and creators of one of the main sapient races — Rhalic is the god of the humans, Duna of the dwarves, Tir-Cendelius of the elves, Zorl-Stissa of the lizards, Vrogir of the orcs and Xantezza of the imps. Amadia isn't the patron of any species, but a past relationship with a mortal wizard led her to become the patron deity of magic-users.
  • Dragon Age: The elves worship a pantheon of deities known as the Creators (revealed to have been ancient elven god-kings in the third game), while the dwarves venerate their ancestors and a mysterious female being named "the Stone", which represents the entirety of the earth (who may be a massive slumbering Titan). Humans and the qunari/kossith lack such a deity, since the most common human faith is that in The Maker, which proclaims universality, and the qunari follow the quasi-religious philosophy of the Qun, which is likewise not specific to their race. In ancient times, however, the human tribe of Tevinters worshiped a pantheon of seven Old Gods (giant magical dragons).
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series and its lore, the implication of the many differing religious beliefs and Creation Myths is that All Myths Are True. While there are many shared elements, there are numerous contradictions as well. Despite this, they all seem to have elements of truth regardless of the contradictions. At the very least, it is implied that all myths are at least Metaphorically True. Also implied is that the many different divine beings worshiped by the different races of Nirn are implied to be different aspects of the same handful of divine beings. For instance, Stendarr is known as the God of Mercy and Justice in the Imperial and Aldmeri pantheons, but his Old Nordic aspect Stuhn can be better understood as the God of Ransom. Additionally, the religions of the races of Mer (Elves) typically despise Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god of Mundus (the mortal plane), for being a trickster who cost the divine ancestors of the Mer their Complete Immortality. However, Lorkhan, known as Shor to the Nords, is beloved by them (and the Imperials) as a bloodthirsty warrior god-king who defended their ancestors from Merrish oppression in ancient times.
    • The most widespread religion in Tamriel is that of the Nine (originally Eight) Divines. Very much depicted so far in the series' as a Saintly Church, it was originally a political construction by St. Alessia, founder of the First Cyrodiilic Empire after overthrowing the Ayleids. The original Eight Divines were the eight Aedra who answered Alessia's prayers and lent their aid to her forces against the (mostly) Daedra-worshiping Ayleids. In exchange, Alessia made their worship the official religion of her new Empire. In order to do so, she blended the traditional Aldmeri pantheon her Nedic people and the rebel Ayleid lords were used to with the Old Nordic pantheon of her powerful Nord allies to the north. This stitching together of the pantheons caused several of the Divines have oddly conflicting personality traits or govern over unusual combinations of spheres. (Such as the aforementioned Stendarr/Stuhn.) Additionally, it only partly acknowledges Lorkhan/Shor as the "missing" god, mostly appeasing both sides.
    • Talos, the Ninth Divine, is the ascended god form of Tiber Septim (possibly among others), founder of the Third Cyrodiilic Empire and the first to unify all of Tamriel. While the exact means of his apotheosis is a hotly debated topic both in-universe and out, it is believed to be related to the spirit of Lorkhan/Shor. As the God of War and Good Governance, he has been the most active divine in safeguarding Mundus since his ascension. He is especially favored by (and favors) the races of Men, particularly the Nords and Imperials. However, in part due to his relation to Lorkhan and in part due to the Aldmeri belief that the races of Mer descend from the gods (and no man could ever possibly join their ranks), worship of Talos has become banned by the time of Skyrim as part of the White-Gold Concordat between the Vestigial Third Empire and their ancient rivals, the re-formed Aldmeri Dominion under the leadership of the extremist Thalmor.
    • As seen most prominently in Morrowind, the Dunmer (Dark Elves) of Morrowind worship a trio of formerly mortal Physical Gods (Vivec, Almalexia, Sotha Sil) known as the Tribunal or ALMSIVI. Thousands of years ago, they were the advisors of the ancient Chimeri (Precursors of the Dunmer) hero, Lord Nerevar. Though every surviving party has their own version of the events surrounding Nerevar's death and the Tribunal's ascension, the Tribunal would greatly influence the affairs of the Dunmer people for thousands of years after, including protecting them in times of war and performing miracles. (As a result of the events of Morrowind and the Tribunal expansion, they are cut off from the source of their power and two of them are killed.) It's the first in a long, long Trauma Conga Line for the Dunmer in the centuries that would follow...
    • The Orsimer primarily worship the Daedric Prince Malacath, who himself tends to manifest most often in the form of an orc.
  • In King of Dragon Pass, the tribe the player controls are humans who are part of a broader culture that worships Orlanth (who controls rain, lightning, and air) as their primary god, admiring and following him to the point where they call themselves Orlanthi.
  • The Last Sovereign: Played With. At first it appears to be played straight: all humans worship Ivala, all succubi worship the Lustlord, all elves worship the Mother, and all dwarves worship Tertia. As the game goes on, however, various nuances are introduced.
    • Sarai, a halfling Ivalan High Priestess, confirms that halflings don't have a traditional god/goddess.
    • Only the humans on the continent of Arclent worship Ivala, while the humans on other continents worship different gods. The church is an active proselytistic religion that tries to stamp out all others.
    • A majority of succubi worship the Lustlord but, due to the fractious nature of the Incubus Kings, each domain has splintered off into different sects.
    • Not all elves worship the Mother. Due to the diaspora caused by the Incubus King's invasion, some have settled onto human lands and turned to Ivala as a result.
    • Dwarves don't worship Tertia so much as they memorialize her, believing her to be dead, sleeping, or having otherwise abandoned them.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time states that Din, the Goddess of Power, was the one who created the physical earth of Hyrule; this is the reason that the rocky Gorons are associated with her, as evidenced by their tribal emblem being the same as hers and by their home region in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being called "Eldin province." Nayru, the Goddess of Wisdom, is explicitly stated to have created the laws of physics and metaphysics and is also implied to have specifically created water; the aquatic Zora, with their more hierarchical social structures compared to most other races, have a similar association with her as the Gorons do with Din, and their home region is called "Lanayru province" (on a more subtle level, the fact that Princess Zelda and to an extent the rest of the Royal Family of Hyrule are associated with Nayru's Triforce of Wisdom parallels how the Zora are portrayed as being much friendlier with the Royal Family and Hylians in general than most other races). Lastly, Farore, the Goddess of Courage, created all the lifeforms of Hyrule and is most closely associated with the plant-like Kokiri/Koroks who live in the lush forested regions of "Faron province." Ocarina of Time also implies that the Gerudo worship a "Sand Goddess" instead of the other deities.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword introduces Hylia, the protective goddess of the Hylian people (known in this game as Skyloftians). The actions of Hylia in the lore of this game explain why various princess Zeldas throughout the franchise have access to great divine power: they're the descendants of the original Zelda, who was actually the physical incarnation of Hylia.
  • Populous: Each tribe has a commanding and beneficent god, one of which is the player.
  • Six Ages: The Hyalorings worship Hyalor, the Wheels worship Samnal and both worship Elmal and consider him the king of the gods, so the two cultures are sometimes grouped together as Elmali. The Alkothi worship Shargash, the Demon Sun. The Ram People worship Orlanth, which is one of the reasons you don't get on with them, because their god killed yours.
  • Story of Seasons: The game's characters worship the Harvest Goddess, a local god who lives in a lake. The first game implies that other gods exist, but that the characters worship the Harvest Goddess over them due to the fact they live in a rural farming community. The Harvest King and Harvest Lord are introduced later on, but they're not worshipped like the Goddess. Of note, there are various different Harvest Goddesses for different towns. One game implies that there are different denominations of Harvest Goddess worship, but it's not expanded upon.

    Webcomics 
  • In The Order of the Stick the world was created as a joint effort by the Norse Gods, the Mesopotamian pantheon, and the Zodiac animals, who claimed dominion over the Northern, Western, and Southern continents and their peoples. However, the elves worship a pantheon of ascended mortals and goblinoids worship the Dark One, who was a goblin warlord who managed to unite the assorted goblin races in life. Also, despite being one of the Western Gods, Tiamat is the patron goddess of draconic species and is revered by dragons and kobolds worldwide.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Norse pantheon is worshipped by Icelanders and Norwegians, but the Flat-Earth Atheist Swedes and Danes are technically under its protection, as well. The Finns, who are also the smallest remaining known nation in the setting, worship their own pantheon.

    Western Animation 
  • In Wakfu the entire pantheon is composed of racial gods; it is stated that most of the individual gods created the individual races they represent, but they have no domains other than being patron gods for their races. This gets to the point that Oropo's plan of replacing them with demigods from each race is a perfectly vald strategy. Other than the individuals he chose.

    Real Life 
  • These gods seem to have been quite common in the ancient Middle East, with many of the region's groups following a specific god, sometimes out of a pantheon, and sometimes sharing a name with them. However, the most significant in the modern age is the god of the Jewish people; early parts of The Bible and contemporary texts mention other gods and their tribes, but while the early Jews believed in what is known as "ethical monotheism;" which holds that morality stems from God alone and that its laws are unchanging, they always believed that their god was the only real one and the rest were demonic beings or pure fantasy. While the early Israelites originated as a Mesopotamian culture and as slaves to the Egyptians, their belief in a singular all-powerful deity was revolutionary for its time, and the same god has gone on to be adopted by Christians and Muslims as the universal God, but is still firstly an ethnic god from a Jewish perspective.note 
  • Ancient Greek city-states tended to have their own patron god, part of the general Greek pantheon, who approximately exemplified whatever trait the city most valued. Probably the most famous of these are Ares and Athena, both war gods and patrons of Sparta and Athens respectively.
  • Feliks Koneczny classified religions into tribal (this trope), local (bound to a place, like Greek cults of e.g. Arthemis in Ephesus) and universal (anyone can join, right now on Earth these include: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam).

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