Beyond Collapse

Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization from Scratch

Religion, Post-Collapse

Religion, Post-Collapse

This past weekend, as I sat in church, my mind began to wander a bit. Normally, this is considered a bad thing, even sinful. On the other hand, there are times during the service when I think it to be a good thing, so long as it revolves or involves one’s relationship with the Divine.

Well, during all of this, I was thinking ahead to the Religious Education classes that I volunteer for, and something came up: What happens post-collapse? When happens if there is no priest, no bishop to ordain new priests, no pope, etc. Thinking even further, other religions have similar obstacles. I know that I went out of my way to list religious tomes in the book, but sometimes, there are things required which will simply not be available to the ordinary religious person.

The following are initial thoughts, and will likely require a ton of work and research (maybe it’s own 2nd Edition chapter?) But bear with me, and if there is something I missed (and I probably did) – please let me know! I’ve broken it down by popularity in North America:

Christian, Protestant:

This is perhaps the easiest of all to prepare for, since in most generic versions, almost anyone who is baptized can be a preacher (you just have to be persuasive and knowledgeable enough, I suspect). The more formal Protestant organizations would likely still require some sort of formal certification and/or ordination, especially if we’re talking about Anglican/Episcopal variants, and those would have to be tended to as needed.

Overall though, I think that as long as there is a Bible handy, and some sort of training available, it would be doable. For the loosest affiliations, I suspect that a solid understanding of the Bible and the ability to counsel, convince, and a strong sense of duty and service would be sufficient.

Preparation would simply require that an extra Bible is handy in your supplies, with perhaps some hymnals if you want to keep singing them post-collapse.

The only real long-term dangers would involve misinterpretations and personal agendas that would, over time, distort the original Word of God and the messages of Christ.This would require a watchful community, and an eye towards keeping as many bits of literature, dogma, and tradition as possible.

Christian, Catholic:

(Disclosure – I’m one of these).

Catholicism would be, in my opinion, the hardest to keep going on a formal scale. There are things which are required (gilded chalice and plate, a missal, unleavened bread and sulfide-free wine, beeswax candles, incense when possible, etc). There is room for improvisation, and some of the items can be scrounged from existing stock (candles, chalice/plate, etc).

However, the big problem lies in the fact that the host/wine can only be consecrated by an ordained priest. A priest is required to have training, and is required to be ordained. He is also required to be celibate and to dedicate himself to the community’s needs. A deacon (married man who can assist in most of the Mass) can fill in most of these roles, but the consecration and other functions (e.g. confessions) must be performed by an ordained priest. The good news is, any bishop can ordain a priest. Archbishops, Cardinals and even the Pope himself are all considered to be bishops in this regard, so no worries there (trivia bit: The Pope is considered as the Bishop of Rome). The bad news is, most bishops live in big cities – the one location which would come apart in a hurry in any type of complete societal collapse.

Preparation-wise, you will want to talk with your local bishop. If you can catch him when he’s personally doing confessions, that would be an awesome (and perfectly discreet!) time to bring the subject up with him. The idea is to convince him to bug-out, and have a family in your parish put him up. Failing that (the most likely outcome here), your community (if predominately Catholic) would have to go get him and bring him to you, or at least find out where he may have bugged-out to. If you have fellow Catholic preppers that you know in your area, now would be a great time to bring the subject up with them. Get as many as you can to add extra preps (food, medical supplies, etc) to provide for the priest as things go south. Note that if you believe collapse to come by way of fascism or any anti-religious sentiment, you may also need to find means by which to hide the good father from authorities (this is nothing new, incidentally – King Henry VIII made this a necessity for all British Catholics, and for quite awhile…)

Post-collapse? Provide for the priest you do have, and do your best to locate the nearest bishop. This way you can send any seminary candidates to him as needed as your priest gets old, dies, etc.  I think that once stability of sorts is returned to the area, things may revert to what once occurred out here in the Western US and other formerly pioneer areas – a priest will travel from community to community, performing Mass at homes, barns, or anywhere convenient. Your job will be to convince one to make their way to your community. This may mean attending Mass perhaps once a month at best, or once every 2-3 months if you’re almost as lucky. The rest of the time, someone can be ordained (again, by a bishop) as a local Deacon, holding communion services with leftover and/or pre-consecrated wine and hosts that have been suitably stored or sent for the purpose.

Long-term, the dangers lie in running out of bishops. Any three or more bishops can, in a pinch, ordain another bishop, but the trick will be in finding enough bishops in order to pull it off. Bishops ordinarily require that the ordination be done with the blessing of the Pope (to insure unity), but dispensation can be universally granted before or during collapse, and can likely be assumed after that. Historical precedent would be missionaries and times of persecution where a direct blessing/permission could not be gained in a timely manner (again, see also early Anglican England). Globally? It will be a very, very long time before a local diocese can reconnect with its neighboring ones, let alone connecting with the Vatican -this will lead to a lot of confusion (and not a little strife) before things are re-established. The good news is that most things which are Catholic have been around for nearly two millennia, so don’t expect any radical changes. However, there is a danger of local bishops (or even priests) using collapse as a signal or cue to start changing things subtly, mostly to suit his particular ideologies and any desired changes from the norm (obligatory snark: especially if the gent’s formal title ends in “S.J.”), so you would have to be on guard against that. A periodic diocesan council would prevent much of that from happening, as long as there are a sufficient number of priests and other clergy about to keep things honest.

Christian, Mormon:

In spite of living in and among the LDS communities of Utah for well over a decade, I still know very little here, so bear with me:

I presume that aside from the requisite Bible and Book of Mormon, there really isn’t too much in the way of equipment at the local (ward, stake) levels. I do know the temples on the other hand require the adherents to a special bit of undergarment before entering, that there are a few requirements to enter one (as well as a “Temple Recommend”), and that there are likely special temple ceremonies (marriage, baptisms of the dead, etc) and such that need to be passed along.

From research, I do notice that, as far as I can tell, any ordained LDS priest can ordain another (through the laying on of hands), but am unclear as to how exactly it is that one elevates to the titles of High Priest, Bishop, Seventy, Apostle, and Prophet… At the very least, there would be some form of local continuity if you have a going community of fellow LDS survivors.

Having a strong tradition of preparedness, I suspect that your local ward would have some sort of contingency/continuity plan in place that would come in very handy during collapse, but it would only work if you had a large enough community of LDS adherents. Outside of Utah, Idaho, and maybe Oregon? It may be tough going, especially if your local ward is so large that it would require a day or more of travel by foot just to reach the building.

Long-term, there is a strong chance of splinter groups forming and of dogmatic drift. Existing examples of this includes the FLDS church, which splintered over the question of polygamy (FLDS is for it, rest of LDS church is formally against it).


(this one is all from guesswork, so please send corrections as needed):

Post-diaspora Judaism has dispensed with the need for burnt offerings, Levite priests, and suchlike. Nowadays, all that would really be required are the proper books, tools and space (and preps!) sufficient to maintain kosher food laws, and a place to meet on a weekly basis.

As the Jews have traditionally been forced by society and history to be more mobile and improvisational than most, I suspect that most of the preparatory portions have already been ingrained by now. I would only suggest a deeper study of things, and a close relationship with your local rabbi, and maybe know of the closest place where one could find a means of making copies of the scriptures properly (if I remember right, there is a procedure for that which insures perfect copies are made, and that, for instance, any pen and perhaps ink which writes His title is kept separate from the ones used to write all the other words, etc).

Ordination of new rabbis is something I am completely unsure about, but I think that two or more other rabbis can do it (For the Jewish among us, please send corrections and clarifications – I’d actually like to know).

Muslim (Sunni and Shi’a):

This is actually easier than any other out there – a copy of the Koran, and perhaps the Tawrat and Injin as well (strongly suggested here, by the way). It also wouldn’t hurt to have a few philosophical treatises and books handy from prominent and historical Muslims. There is no formal hierarchy, as an imam is usually whoever had the religious respect and education to sufficiently run the local mosque.

All that said, the post-collapse Muslim will have one problem in North America that most other religious folks do not: the potential for persecution on an unprecedented scale. While said persecution is in direct violation of Christian morals, and there aren’t enough Jews or atheists around to do it on any real scale, nonetheless there will likely be a lot of problems in this arena. Of course, this does depend on the nature and type of collapse, but in a world where no one really has enough, the first to get picked on will be those who are different-but-minority, and Islam is about as different as it gets in this part of the world. 9/11 and global terrorism activities certainly don’t make this any easier. The best means of survival against this is to find and integrate with a community that is friendly to the religion, or form a large and strong enough community to effectively defend yourselves against incursions.

If you can survive and form a community that includes enough fellow Muslims, and can do so peacefully enough, the rest is easy to carry along. Your biggest long-term goals will be teaching Arabic/Farsi, and in not changing what’s in the books as they get copied over time. You and the Jewish folk will have one thing in common: the need to for food laws to be adhered to. Although circumstance may prevent you from always eating according to Halal needs, there is some leeway, and you can organize your preps and foraging/growing activities to them over the long haul.

Everybody Else:

This all depends on how you believe, how formalized the religion is (or lack thereof), and what would be required to maintain it over the long haul. I suspect more than a few atheists would hope that somehow people drop religion during their post-collapse travails (umm, not gonna happen). Buddhists and other very small religious bodies will get on well enough, though this depends on tradition and style of ordination. Not sure about the whole Wicca/Pagan thing, since (just in my opinion) most of the adherents aren’t really all that serious about it over time – at least not enough to dedicate an entire lifetime to it. There’s also the long-term danger of a return to medieval attitudes towards anything which can be construed as witchcraft, which most sane people can file under the ‘do not want‘ list for their children, grandchildren, etc. Finally, there is a lack of recognizable tradition (as in, a timeframe of 100 years or more) and any sort of means to keep it all unified enough to be recognizable over long periods of time.

On the other side of the coin? Odds are good that if the population is too small and the requirements too formal with no contingencies, the religion will likely die out in North America. The specific/discreet religions I listed above have populations large enough that they stand a good chance of long-term survival. The rest I wouldn’t place any long-term bets on.

Final Thoughts:

No matter how you pray (or don’t), one thing I see as a common thread is the need to prepare for not only short-term continuity, but the long-term as well. Priests and Bishops will grow old and die, even if every last one of them survive collapse (and since the Catholic ones are celibate, no kids to carry things on, either). Copies of sacred writings will, unless strictly controlled and observed, start gaining typos and errors which will magnify over time, causing meanings to become unclear and/or changed (example? Lets say some incompetent soul drops the word “not” from “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife” – leads to all kinds of confusions, not to mention a mandatory coveting, no?)  Even if you’re an atheist, the philosophical books and papers which you’ve scrupulously kept as  evidence of reason over religion may get all mis-copied, so…

The biggest take-away though is this: tradition is a huge part of what makes us human. It makes us appreciate our forefathers. It also helps give us a sense of continuity over time. This will come in very handy when building a new world, especially as you’re enduring the remains of the old one as it slowly snuffs itself out of existence.

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