Providentialism is a common term for a religion that originated in Senland and is now near universal in Praetonia, Cockaygne and North Point, and socially dominant throughout the Common Law Commonwealth. It has smaller populations of adherents in countries that are not governed according to the Common Law system. In some countries the religion is colloquially called Legalism, in reference to its close association with Common Law, but this began as and is still sometimes regarded as a pejorative. Its adherents officially call it Free Congregationalism, but this name is rarely used in common speech outside Cockaygne.
Providentialism began in a religious awakening during the 15th century Great Plague in Senland. At the time, Senland was a semi-independent dukedom in Praetonia. Today, the earliest surviving Providentialist text is the The Life and Times of George Fox. George Fox is a widely attested historical figure who attained de-facto control of Senland in the 15th century. The Life and Times purports to have been written by a friend and correspondent, and to contain many verbatim quotes explaining his philosophy. It is the foundational text of Providentialism, although some scholars have cast doubt on the historicity of the man described in the book.
By the dawn of the 16th century, Providentialism was dominant in Senland and became universal by the turn of the 17th century. In 1692, Senland had repulsed the attack of the officially Oswinist Praetonian Empire and conquered the entire home island. The Common Law was imposed by force and the religion followed naturally, as the highest status belief system on the islands. Senland merchants had already become predominant in Questers, but this victory led to a surge of Providentialist proselytism on the subcontinent. North Point was founded almost exclusively by Providentialists. Cockaygne, meanwhile, was established by Covenanters, who had been key loyalists and principal components of the Sennish armies during the wars against the Oswinite Empire but had come to be regarded as heterodox after the victory. The polity they established on the Wallasean continent is generally regarded as Providentialist, but of a specific and unorthodox denomination.
As the influence of the Praetonian island and its Estates-General has spread from the 18th century into the 21st, increasingly large swathes of the world have become Providentialist. The religion has fanned out from the coast into the Questerian subcontinent, while large numbers of Tairendians and Axumites have been converted in line with their countries' adherence to some manner of Common Law. The religion continues to enjoy minority support in several other countries, where it has a tendency to be perceived as a security risk owing to its adherents' tendency to deny the legitimacy of the states under whose laws they live.
Providentialism is a naturalistic religion. At the most fundamental level it makes the claims that
- the universe is how it appears,
- the universe was designed
- the universe has purpose.
If the universe was designed, then nihilism is false and the mankind should follow a specific path to prosperity and success, but if the universe has purpose it was not known to the creator what this would be; if the universe is how it appears then the natural laws point the way to this path.
Providence is not necessarily the creator of the universe, but the personification of the correct direction that the universe must travel - that is, the direction that is in accordance with the observable natural laws of the universe. Providence "interferes in the world" in the sense that she constitutes the natural laws of the world, but she is not omniscient and possibly not omnipotent; at the very least, Providentialists have no qualms at all stating that Providence cannot do logical impossibilities. Providentialists disagree on the extent to which the natural laws have been tailored, or can perhaps be stealthily changed, to impact the lives of individual humans.
Nature of Providence
Providence is typically depicted as a goddess, although this is acknowledged even in the Life and Times to be a "poetic familiarisation", the true Providence being unique and incapable of procreation, possessing no sex. She has been identified closely with Justice, who adorns in effigy most Common Law courts, and Iustitia, a Pantheonist Goddess who is given much greater prominence in Providentialist analysis than in her native Dumanum.
Providence, like Iustitia, is commonly depicted carrying a sword and scales. The symbolism is clear: that Providence possesses power, indeed supreme power - the sword -, and that it is exercised for a particular path - that of justice, or "the natural end of the universe".
Whatever its exact nature, the unknowable "Providence" is universally nonetheless regarded as possessing supreme power in the universe. Oaths such as "Providence upholds the Right" neglect the subjunctive common to other religions and instead use the indicative: it is simply true that Providence upholds "the Right" and whatever is not, in the end, upheld must therefore not be "the Right". Providentialists generally accept that this is only true in the extreme long run, however, arguing that due to "the randomness in inherent in Her Nature" outcomes other than those that are "Rightful" can predominate in the short term.
It has been claimed that Providence is a revival, or at least an extension, of the pre-Oswinite Sennish wyrd. This interpretation has been rejected by many authors, who regard George Fox as the discoverer of a unique and original philosophy.
Unitarianism vs Diarianism
The belief in a universe governed by Providence alone is referred to as Unitarianism. This belief is predominant in Praetonia and the areas it has settled, conquered, and influenced. However, the philosophy of Diarianism has also been influential, especially in pre-conquest Senland and in Cockaygne, among the Covenanters. This view holds that Providence is just one of two comparably powerful forces in the universe, the other being a personification of entropy and decay often called the "Demiurge". This god, it is claimed, must be actively and consciously opposed or it will grow to dominate and destroy any society. The Cockaygne Kirch, otherwise in line with the Common Law Commonwealth, takes a hard line against any behaviour seen as "demiurgic" in nature, and believes that it, in the end, will predominate over the Praetonian Common Law philosophy that permits "demiurgic" behaviour provided that it is freely agreed by all participants.
Providentialism and Common Law
The Common Law is socially closely related to Providentialism, but in principle a totally different religious evolution of law could have been predicted. Someone could have predicted the correct direction of the universe and mandated at the outset that everyone follow it. The Common Law emerged from the principle of uncertainty, that no one knew the will of Providence, and that it must be discovered with reference to the laws of the universe. Providence, therefore, could only be discovered by allowing individuals to freely contract whatever relationships they wished and observing, perhaps over many generations, which survived and prospered and which did not. It was this principle, and not simple nihilism, that gave birth to the moral neutrality of the Common Law.
The most common Providentialist salute is, "Providence with you". This salute uses the subjunctive, implying that it is unknown to the speaker whether Providence is in fact "with" the object of the salute of not, but implying that he hopes so. This salute is typically used upon pious Providentialists greeting one another.
A stronger Providentialist salute used in formal communications is "Providence upholds the Right", forgoing the subjunctive in favour of the indicative. This salute expresses no doubt that the ultimate historical outcome will be a victory for Providence. It is commonly used by associations in Praetonia and by their umbrella organisation, the Estates-General. Where appropriate, it is also used by the oldest banks and insurance companies. It is a common valediction in judgements published by a Court of Record. It has ended every declaration of war by the Estates-General and the Eastern Association.
The valediction "trust Providence" is commonly used in analogy to "good luck" and is a common radio send-off, especially in the armed forces and at sea.
Relationship with other religions
Providentialism has different relationships with other world religions.
Despite its apparent differences, several Providentalists have written in praise of Pantheonism, regarding it as "containing a kernel of the truth, if not the full fruit". Providentialists have regarded "the sum of the naturalistic Pantheonist 'gods'" as "approximating Providence", in that they embody the laws of the actually existing universe. The principal criticism of Providentialists is that Pantheonists fail to realise the true implications of their own beliefs in the "naturalistic gods", such as "iustitia, aequitas, bellum, &c.", and that they "dilute" their belief in "truth" with belief in "nonsensical daemons or non-entities" corresponding to non-naturalistic gods.
Providentialist authors have universally been less forgiving of Oswinism, regarding it in the words of the earliest commentators on the works of George Fox as "a sub-sufficient cult of nothing". Although Fox was surely aware of Oswinism, it is not even mentioned in his Life and Times. Subsequent authors have been harsher. Arthur Tyndall, author of The Origin of the Races of Man, opined that Oswinism was "regressive even to animist cults, which at least recognise the supremacy of nature; it is a bear trap for human reason".
Although Providentialism may appear to have pre-empted modern biological evolutionary theory, Providentialists often use the term "evolutionist" to refer to those who agree that the universe is how it appears but not that the universe was designed. This is a common post-religious movement in Oswinist countries. Providentalists regard this view as "impoverished", because the "fact" that "the universe is how it appears" is "obvious" and "no feat of human reason" but also "obviously insufficient", in the words of modern Sennish physicist Henry Lawrence. He argued that if the universe has no purpose then its designer would be "foolish" and if it had no designer it would be "a superfluous complication on nothing" which should otherwise have existed. Providentialists often debate whether "evolutionists" or Oswinists are more ridiculous.
Somewhat confusingly for Oswinist or post-Oswinist observers, "evolutionists" are more commonly called "creationists" in Providentialist countries, in reference to their interest in how the universe came to be, and their insistence on determining how it came to be by trying to play the current physical laws in reverse. In the Providentialist view, the significance of the universe is in its destination, not its origin, and there is no particular reason to assume that it had any particular initial condition. The insistence that the universe should be reverse back to a point at which it was at a minimum level of complexity seems to face the problem that the minimally complex universe would simply have nothing in it at all. The existence of some structure in the universe - such as stars and planets or even life - at the point of its creation is therefore no more a philosophical problem than the existence of some structure in its physical laws at the point of its creation, or the existence of some non-zero amount of matter and energy, which "creationists" themselves admit.
Need to read the wiki article about this LoL