Rationalism, Piety, and Civ5

I’m not a gamer, but Civilization 5 recently came out and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.

Reader Larry points out that the game has a very interesting way of separating piety and rationalism, two of the game’s “social policy branches.”

Turns out you can’t have both at once:

Before you begin to gloat, keep in mind that “Piety increases the Happiness and Culture of the adopting civilization” while Rationalism “improves the civilization’s ability to use and generate Science.” Those are apparently not one and the same things… who knew.

  • Tony

    Piety also increases the society’s ability and hunting down and executing witches. Go piety!

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    Not to worry.

    Your citizens will be very happy when your nuclear laden bombers fly off to obliterate the backward cities of your theocratic opposition.

  • Claudia

    I think that this is a lot more likely to cause an atheist to smile than a theist. Sure I don’t think religion is good for societal happiness, but just seeing rationalism and piety being incompatible is quite good. I’ve played these games a few times and usually you go for technological advancement as the first option so there’s going to be a lot of gamers choosing rationalism over piety.

    Plus it’ll really piss off the Bill Donahue’s of the world, which is always a plus.

  • http://Q Kevin S.

    Realistically, they aren’t going to have two different game options where one is so clearly superior to the other that it’s the obvious choice.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    Also, Rationalism allows your society to enter the Golden Age, while Piety makes you enter the Dark Ages. Hohohoho, I went there.

  • MarleysGh0st

    The reception of Civilization 5 has not been so positive among those of us who play Civilization 4. Personally, I haven’t seen anything in the new game that tempts me to replace the old one, particularly since my computer may not be adequate to run the souped-up graphics that don’t really add anything to the game play.

  • Steve

    Happiness isn’t even all that useful in the beginning. You only need to be concerned about that once your cities become larger and when you have many units out of garrison (i.e. you’re at war).

  • Tony

    The best thing about piety is that it contains the word “pie” and pies are delicious.

  • JT

    @Kevin,
    Actually, if memory serves, the piety tree increases the frequency of golden ages. So realism fail Civilization.

    Still better than Civ 4 where you had leaders constantly calling you up to demand that you convert to their national religion. Little TOO much realism there.

  • http://sesoron.blogspot.com/ Sesoron

    If I know my Civ — I haven’t played 5 yet because I don’t have a computer that can — then that tech boost will be much more helpful in the long run, because it will include other advances that can improve happiness.

  • Valdyr

    In Civ4, the Organized Religion civic let you construct buildings faster in cities that had your religion (huh?) and its Civilopedia entry on Free Religion made some weird comment about how a society where a lot of people subscribing to no religion “could become morally lax and decadent”. Sure thing, anonymous disgruntled writer.

    Comparing Piety and Rationalism in Civ5, most would say Rationalism is better in terms of gameplay. One of the possible bonuses of Piety is 2 free Social Policies, but since you need to use up one to select that option, it’s really only 1 free Policy, whereas Rationalism really does let you take 2 free technologies. I guess that other Social Policy is lost to tithes. :D

    Civ5′s way of handling religion makes it a lot less powerful, and makes playing a secular state focused on science and research more viable. Although I do miss Civ4 making it possible to conquer the world as a communist Hindu Viking empire.

  • SamP

    If you advance far enough on the Science tree, Future Science is available, +1 happiness +1 production +1 gold +1 culture. Game winning stuff, even though you’ve already gotten GDRs, and the Spaceship.

  • heironymous

    @Steve -

    Excess happiness leads to Golden Ages. Happiness is more important than you think.

    Your citizens will be very happy when your nuclear laden bombers fly off to obliterate the backward cities of your theocratic opposition.

    @David McNerney

    I think you’re being tongue in cheek, but this is a sentiment I’d like to dispel. It’s an image of atheists held by theists as somehow being a-feeling or morally bankrupt.

  • Valdyr

    Also, you guys will be happy to know that in Civ5, Temples are a building that increases your Culture, but they’re in the very early game. The Museums you can build later have much bigger bonuses. :D For purposes of gameplay balance, though, I think you need to have built a Temple and some other culture buildings before you can have a Museum. That makes sense to me, though. Religions have certainly given us no shortage of stuff that belongs in museum displays.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    Rationalism causes your civilization to enter a golden age and then a further development increases happiness based on the number of universities you build. As anyone who’s gone to college knows, it’s a happy place. Piety winds up being a dead end.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    The last time I played Civ was Civ III, but IIRC, ‘happiness’ began with a temple, then progressed to a coliseum, then included libraries and universities.

    So, on the whole, there was always more to the overall happiness of your populace than having a temple.

  • http://planetatheism.com Pedro Timóteo

    Bob: I think you’re talking about culture, not happiness.

    Culture, in the Civ games, is mostly related to the arts, so monuments and wonders increase it… as does religion, since a lot of art in history was related to it.

  • Greg

    Hmm, completely irrelevant, but Civ 5 has mainly got a good reception from magazines (who get exclusive ‘scoops’ from all the big games companies…), and non-previous Civ players.

    It’s bugs, lack of any AI worthy of the name, and most of its changes from previous incarnations have received widespread condemnation amongst all the Civ lovers I know. I know I played a friend’s and certainly won’t buy it! It’s absolutely awful compared to the previous ones. :)

    There was a mod for the Civ IV religions, IIRC, that added extra religions – one of which was creationism, which added money you produced, but hobbled research… :)

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    I still play CIV III (didn’t like Civ IV as it was too stupidly graphics-intense for a game that didn’t need tight graphics).

    For years, I was very disappointed that there was no ‘Reason’ discovery to go along with ‘Ceremonial Burial’, ‘Spirituality’ and the like.

    @Greg: ah. Well, I guess I’ll just have to keep the old game going until they get their crap together with Civ VI ;)

  • Kevin K.

    While it’s already been mentioned, one of the policies (humanism)generates happiness through the universities that you have built. So rationalism isn’t entirely divorced from happiness.

    I know I usually adopt rationalism since I usually aim for a spaceship victory, but some of the upper tier piety policies are pretty essential for a cultural victory. And it’s worth mentioning that one of the final piety policies is freedom of religion.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I liked the board game of Civilization. If you bought Mysticism it gave you some advantages but you couldn’t get rid of it so it held you back later.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/CommanderSquidlet CommanderSquidlet

    Adopting piety causes +2 happiness? Really? What about the oppression that comes with theocracy? What about the unhappiness that results from people being guilted all the time or wanting to leave the mainstream faith but being unable to do so for the consequences?

    Also, does anyone else think it was tacky of the artists to appropriate the priestly robes of Judaism for the illustration – not to mention put them on a blond person? Nice job with the racial erasure, artists. Kind of unfortunate when you cross-reference the illustration with the Christian Identity movement, no?

    I can actually see why Rationalism wouldn’t increase happiness in the short-term, though, since you have to work for your answers.

  • jose

    What!!! They are totally compatible! Firaxis should hire Mooney.

  • http://planetatheism.com Pedro Timóteo

    Greg: that’s a bit unfair: you’re comparing Civ V on release day with, say, IV after 2 expansions and more than a year of patches. Civ IV wasn’t very popular on release either.

    V has flaws (and some of them are being fixed in the next patch, such as the inability to see other leaders’ opinion of us, and what’s affecting them), but I think it’s a very good game with a lot of potential — especially after the inevitable expansion packs.

  • http://blaghag.com Jennifurret

    Come on Hemant, I posted about this three months ago on the release of the game. And then proceeded to take over the world with my rationality, mwahaha ;)

    PS: Some buildings give you happiness if you have a lot of science. So, screw piety!

  • Greg

    Arkonbey – you’ll hate Civ V then. It’s far more graphics-intense!

    Pedro Timóteo:

    Actually, I’m not. I know this, because the day all the other Civs were released, I started playing it, and when I finished it, I started a new game, and again, and again, and again, and again, etc. etc. etc.

    That one game I played of Civ V, I had to force myself to keep going through out of my love of the other games, hoping that eventually it would come up with at least one redeeming quality.

    I could go into just why it is a horrible piece of game design, but here isn’t really the place.

  • bernerbits

    The last time I played Civ was Civ III, but IIRC, ‘happiness’ began with a temple, then progressed to a coliseum, then included libraries and universities.

    Actually, libraries and universities enhance research, not happiness. Extremely happy cities produce more money, research, and construction (and unhappy cities produce little to none of the same), so happiness was more of an “overall” consideration than research. As you get further in the game you get museums, stadiums, cathedrals, theaters, etc. for “happiness.”

  • ManaCostly

    This websites comment section loads slow as shit…

    ON topic now, peity is good for war and anexing cities to keep them happy.

  • RG

    The science can also increase happiness in the game I think, it’s just not a bonus for taking that social policy route. Also, scientific knowledge can be used to trade with other players for things that will also make your people happier. In game and in life, rationality is much more useful.. I’m a nerd.

  • Daniel

    Add me to those who played countless hours of Civ III and IV and two games of Civ V.

    Loved in Civ IV how religion made a mess of politics in trying to deal with countries of a different religion until you got Free Religion, disposed of your state religion, and peace reigned throughout the world.

  • ACN

    Loved in Civ IV how religion made a mess of politics in trying to deal with countries of a different religion until you got Free Religion, disposed of your state religion, and peace reigned throughout the world.

    I really liked that too!

  • Steve

    One of the most underrated Civ-type games: Alpha Centauri

    The religious fundamentalists were usually one of the first factions I wiped out. Way too annoying too deal with. Especially considering that I usually played the University. (though the Gaians are way awesome for their ability to turn xenofungus)

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    @ Steve

    Coundn’t agree more abotu Alpha Centauri and the Gaians.

    Civ has always struck me as a fairly atheist leaning game. The fact that Religion is viewed not as a true proposition but as a methodological and technological development and is clearly premised on the development of preceding versions of religiosity is actually fairly true to life.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    The truth is that no particular social policy is “better” than another.
    It really all depends on how you want to play the game and how you plan on winning. There are a variety of different ways to win and for each victory condition there’s plenty of strategies on how to obtain them. Piety can be even more valuable than rationalism, or vice versa, depending on your strategy.

    Peity can be unlocked early in the game, since it becomes available in the classic era. The policies are mainly focused around lowering unhappiness and raising happiness, causing you to go into golden ages faster, which boosts the speed of everything, from building, to research, to gold production.

    Rationalism is unlocked later in the game, during the Renaissance Era. It serves to both increase happiness and research. A policy like Secularism will cause each scientist you have per city to give you +2 science instead of +1, effectively doubling their worth. Humanism will give your empire +1 happiness for every university you have, and Sovereignty will increase your overall science by 15% as long as your empire is happy.

    I don’t think the piety route is all that realistic. For example, Theocracy, which is defined as a political unit governed by a deity, actually lowers your empire’s overall unhappiness by 20%! I guess that means “screw separation of church and state, combining them will calm the nerves of our unhappy citizens!”

    I do think this is a better way to do it than the way in Civ IV, where everyone had to rush to be the first to found a religion and spread it to other civilizations. Hey kids! Proselytizing can be fun! Whoever can be the first to convert the nation of Germany to Judaism wins!

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I just remembered the core reason of why I really liked this setup.

    By separating piety from rationalism, and saying you cannot have both at the same time, the creators are stating that while religion can make people happy, it will also make them irrational. I completely agree with this. I may not be an entirely happy person, as some religious folks are, but that’s only because I’m rational, and not deluding myself.

    It’s like that popular quote from House M.D.
    “If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people”

  • http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com Teapot

    Long-time Civ player here. The entire Civ series has always had these little hints of pro-secularism. The only real mention of religion in the first three Civilization games is the Theory of Evolution- it’s treated as a Wonder of the World on par with the Great Pyramids, and it always dramatically advances your science. In Civilization IV, religion really serves only two purposes- making money, and making nations with different religions mad at you. And any Civ 5 player will tell you that the Rationalism track is FAR better than the Piety track. The Piety track gives you piddling bonuses to your Happiness, which almost never needs any special effort to be astronomically high anyway, but the Rationalism track gives you massive bonuses to the most crucial, most competitive stat your empire can have, which is your science.

  • Nakor

    Before you begin to gloat, keep in mind that “Piety increases the Happiness and Culture of the adopting civilization” while Rationalism “improves the civilization’s ability to use and generate Science.” Those are apparently not one and the same things… who knew.

    Oh, but they’re not. Piety, you see, is happy enough giving a man a fish. Rationality prefers to teach a man to fish. It grants science, which in turn grants happiness and so much more.

    (Haven’t played Civ5; I am commenting on the concepts and on the game itself.)

  • ACN

    I do think this is a better way to do it than the way in Civ IV, where everyone had to rush to be the first to found a religion and spread it to other civilizations. Hey kids! Proselytizing can be fun! Whoever can be the first to convert the nation of Germany to Judaism wins!

    I have raced to do this several times :)

    Theory of Evolution- it’s treated as a Wonder of the World on par with the Great Pyramids, and it always dramatically advances your science.

    In Civ2, being the first to discover philosophy would thrown you ahead a full free tech advance. But building the Darwin’s Voyage wonder was even more powerful. It completed whatever technology you were working on, then immediately gave you ANOTHER free tech advance!

  • Nakor

    Gah. Only just noticed. My previous post should say that I am commenting only on the concepts and not on the game itself.

  • Trevor

    It can’t go unremarked that they used the incredibly religious Isaac Newton as the face of rationalism. Rationalism certainly decreases piety, but it’s not necessarily mutually exclusive. Especially in the early phases.

    But as a game mechanic I get it.

  • infinite monkey

    Wow, all this bickering about a game. Well, I just got civ 5 and I’m working my way through it. It looks like it’s very hard to win a cultural victory without it. If you’re going for that, it’s priceless. Also, in the tree, excess happiness can be converted to culture, because happy people, in general, seem to be more productive.

    I like the great people funtion better in this game than civ4. I hated getting a reat person who could discoer a technology I was about to complete.

    Plus, Theocracy, in this game, recudes unhappiness in cities that aren’t occupied. I can see that as being a realistic translation of a complex topic into a simple game. Reformation triggers a golden age, I guess the thinking is everyone trying not to be notice, so they work harder and shut the hell up about their beliefs.

    So, I think it’s a reasonable translation of complex social issues into an easy to understand format.

  • http://www.frag1.co.uk John

    As a political statement, it’s pretty loaded.

    As a game mechanic it’s fairly meaningless: it’s clearly heavily weighted towards Rationalism.

    I’m surprised that Firaxis would compromise their game’s balance to make a political point: this may win points among atheists, but it won’t earn any among gamers.

    • Martijn

      Heavily weighted towards rationalism? Don’t underestimate the importance of happiness and culture in the game. Happiness is needed to keep your cities growing (and big cities produce more science!), while culture means you can adopt more policies.

      Science is going fast enough already, in my opinion. Though the other side of the coin is that more science means reaching certain techs before your opponents, therefore building more Wonders, and many of those boost your culture. In any case, I don’t see it as heavily weighted. It’s a matter of taste.

  • Dan

    well, theology tech is needed before being able to get the education tech as well as the top half of the tech tree. So a purley nonreligous civ that never experienced or at the very least understood religion would never progress to the modern era according to the tech tree.

    In reality though, the civ 5 game is not made to be realistic. Also, the rationalism policy is NOT athiesm. It is more religous versus secularism. The former focuses on heavenly matters while the latter focuses on worldy matters(sciences). Both can have athiests or religous people. For example. the US would be a country with the rationalism policy since its government focuses on secular matters including scientific research. But still contains its fair share of theists.

  • Dan

    also, i found it odd that the freedom of religion policy could only be discovered in the piety branch. either that means that the rationalism branch by default has freedom of religion and doesnt need to be discovered or its like the Reign of terror during the First French Republic. hopefully its the former lol


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