Thursday, December 26, 2013

360: AF Anabaptists

ENTRY 360: AF Anabaptists

"This is a time of trials. Our communities are broken, the old orders broken and gone. We must face the challenges of today while maintaining the essentials of our faith. We will rebuild, we will endure, and we shall do so while staying true to ourselves."
- Julia Yoder, Elder of the Mennonite Church of Mars

Old Earth religions were almost exclusively based on the mindset of transhumans that were born and lived and died on Earth. Their histories and creation myths centered around the planet and its places, their dogma and popular concepts based on exploded ideas - it was one thing to understand that heaven is not some literal place overhead in the clouds, and quite another thing to stare upwards from the surface of Luna and know that there is no physical heaven there. The erosion of religion in transhumanity owes much to the general exodus from Earth, the physical removal of transhumanity making stark the conceptual distance between physical reality and the many different scriptures. Yet there are always the dogmatic few and faithful; transhumans are creative, obstinate creatures, willing to adapt their belief to changed circumstances.

On Earth, the Anabaptists were a broad collection of related Christian congregations with similar distinctive beliefs - pacifism, free will, active participation in the church and the community, living simply, worshiping simply, with a lay leadership. The most famous sects in the popular culture were the Amish and certain conservative Mennonites, who held to an order that eschewed much modern technology and culture, living for the most part as humans had centuries before. They did not fight the TITANs when they came, and many chose not to join the exodus from Earth at the time of the Fall. In space, the ragged remnants of the different Anabaptist congregations gathered and held a conference in Nectar on Luna. From the congregation came three principal sects, split broadly along the lines of emerging transhuman sociopolitical movements.

The Old Order are what many transhumans think of when they hear the term "Anabaptist" - lineal descendants of conservative Amish and Mennonite congregations that wish to preserve their lifestyle as much as possible as it was on Earth, and consist mainly of unaugmented flats; they operate farms and communities in several small established "living museums" on Luna and Mars, where they keep alive relict skills related to farming, animal husbandry, carpentry - these communities are few and under tight restrictions against increased population, but their low-tech "bubble" lifestyles are paid for by contributions from Reclaimers and Bioconservatives seeking to preserve something of old Earth, as well as Mesh feed sales of their daily lives to various hypercorps as a kind of reality media.

The Barsoomian Anabaptists are the most numerous and ethnically and morphologically diverse; many are flats or rusters, though even synthmorphs and informorphs may be welcomed in the community. The Anabaptist beliefs of communalism, pacifism, and economy of lifestyle found broad appeal in the Martian underclasses, and today Mars hosts a number of different congregations with related beliefs, with perhaps a slightly stronger communistic flair than on Earth, but fully integrated with their own rep-based currency (ß-rep) and network (Große Kirche Netzwerke). These are the Anabaptists that transhumans might see everyday, though not recognize.

"Distant Congregations" is the catchall term for the stranger Anabaptist sects, especially those not in communion with the Old Order or Barsoomian Anabaptists. Principally considered Brinkers by other transhumans, the Distant Congregations have developed more idiosyncratic views toward transhuman society, uplifts, personal augmentations, and resleeving, and are often mistaken for experimental communities. The Go-Nin Group is known to support a particular Mennonite sect that is entirely digital, with the members consisting of infomorphs that operate in a virtual simulation of an Anabaptist agglomerated from records and memories of different Asian Mennonite communities - the individuals serving as living NPCs for an extensive and popular Mesh-based farming game.

Using AF Anabaptists

Transhumans don't give up their beliefs easily. In the setting of Eclipse Phase it is easy to see how, with the flight from Earth and the radical leaps of technology, old Earth religions might wane. After all, it is difficult to pray towards Mecca-that-was on Mars, or hold out hope for a life to come in a setting where physical immortality is technically available, or put up with any of the antiquated and offensive sex- and gender-related dogma that clings to some of the old religions - especially in a universe with the Sex Change augmentation, among other advances. Yet for many there is more to religion than simply the dogma of the unquiet past or the old scriptures; their beliefs are tied into their communities, their way of life, and their own self-identity. So for many transhumans, it was not a matter of abandoning their faith as it was adapting their religion to changed needs and circumstances.

This is, like many other ideas, not exactly new. Frank Herbert in God-Emperor of Dune, for example, shows the pitiful remnant of the Fremen kept in an artificial state of stasis, though they had long lost their true identity. Not much different are the Old Order Anabaptists, who present the juxtaposition of how a religious sect that disavows contemporary technology persists in the setting of Eclipse Phase. That they can exist, after a fashion at least, and with some compromises, is interesting - and that is really the gist of how to use post-Fall Anabaptists in your game. Not as a metaphorical stick to beat the player characters with your ideas of what post-Fall religion should be, but as a thought experiment to how such religious individuals might adapt to the settings an themes of Eclipse Phase. Players too might be interested in a character who, even if they do not practice Anabaptist beliefs, came from or was influenced by such a community and chose to follow a path of nonviolent resolution to problems, or was inspired by the concept of simple living not to accumulate all the toys and credits of the 'verse just for the hell of it.


  • Rumspringa has hit on Mars, and some of the adolescents of the more conservative Barsoomian Anabaptists are overdoing it more than a bit. The PCs are hired by a congregation that hopes to channel the local teenagers' interests into a positive focus by taking them on an extended exploration of failed habitats in the Martian wilderness. For their troubles, the PCs will be well-rewarded (5 points of rep in their chosen network, or 10 in ß-rep, plus they cover all supplies), and all they have to do is cajole, prod, and carry six horny, rebellious teenage Rusters through the decaying remains of three stripped habitats.

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