Datasphere Catalog: The Sunfire Assembly

Classification: Religious Tradition Legality: Legal throughout the Reach Founded: 2423 on Planet at Centauri Beliefs: Pagan polytheistic star-worship Adherents: Approx. 2 billion The Sunfire Assembly, founded in the early 25th century, is a vaguely cultic religious sect which experienced explosive growth for its first decades but afterward became a fringe movement which earns little official favor in the Reach. As it became less of a mainstream force, its radical members became more and more prominent, and though there are Assembly communities living peaceably on many worlds (especially worlds colonized in the mid-25th century), this movement was best known by the 28th century for the steady stream of suicidal extremists which its extremist branches produced. By the 30th century, official scrutiny in the Core Worlds has pushed most Assembly communities out to the fringes of the Reach. While no world has an official law against the Sunfire Assembly, legal institutions set up to police other radical elements such as the Ladeonist sect born in the 29th century are also responsible for monitoring extremist Assembly groups. --- Beliefs --- The Sunfire Assembly believes that stars - at least, those with life-bearing planets - are the domains of benevolent living spirits, the Lords of Light. These entities, they claim, both make life possible in their domains, and direct evolution of that life toward intelligence and eventually space-faring sapience. All inspiration, all creativity, and all ingenuity is the gift of the Lords of Light, which humans are expected to use to fight off a nameless foe of life which manifests as malevolent darkness. Though the purpose of this faith is to attain an afterlife in the shining courts of the spirits of the stars, the Sunfire Assembly believes that there is an additional reward for those who are given great gifts by their patrons and use them particularly well. They see their potentates as the most modern in a long line of "Bearers of Light" - divinely inspired visionaries who stand above the teeming mass of humanity - and to them there is no difference between the mechanical genius of Archimedes and the religious fervor of Thomas Aquinas. Those who use these gifts well can earn a spiritual elevation, becoming one of the Lords of Light themselves, gaining mastery over a formerly lifeless Milky Way star. They also believe that many stars around which no native life has ever appeared are "empty courts" - grand spiritual castles without masters. Since life does not appear overnight, they acknowledge that many of these stars may only have recently been inhabited, and that it will take potentially millions of years for the new resident to bring about life in their domain. The Sunfire Assembly is cooly antagonistic or even openly hostile toward the Reach's many Christian sects, who they see as perverting the legacy of one of history's greatest Bearers of the Light to bring about the ultimate victory of Darkness. They reach this conclusion due to the Christian tendency to look toward the end of the universe in a rather positive way, where the objective of the Sunfire Assembly is to postpone the end of the universe - the ultimate victory of unthinking, impersonal Darkness - at any cost. --- Rituals --- The Sunfire Assembly's calendar and religious life is filled with ornate rituals designed to imitate and revere the grandeur of the Lords of Light. In order to establish themselves as Bearers of Light, Sunfire itinerants spend years learning new crafts in order to fashion new, beautiful ritual implements for their gatherings, and even to fashion new ritual procedures designed to reveal more about the Lords of Light to the participants and audience. As a result, each community's rituals are different, often wildly so. Outsiders are never permitted to observe the most secret and, to the Assembly, potent of the rituals of any Assembly gathering. Most of the Reach's population knows of one of the Sunfire Assembly's types of ritual in particular - the funeral rites. A dying Assembly believer is usually carried to a close orbit around a star (the star of their birth is preferred, but any star under which they lived will do), and is launched in a coffin pod into the star, sometimes while still alive. While the Assembly believes that only a few have been given the ability to earn a courtly afterlife, they also believe that it is impossible to be certain which mortals have been given the torch of inspiration, and which have not, since this inspiration can take many forms, and the darkness is being fought on all possible battlefields simultaneously. --- Radicalization --- The Sunfire Assembly is in recent years notorious for inspiring radicals, in many cases suicidal in their determination to use their individual gifts - as they see them - to make a mark on the universe. The stereotypical form of Assembly terrorism is for a small group of radicals to commandeer a starship - usually a warship is the preferred target but any vessel with a mission associated by the Assembly with the forces of Darkness - and steers it into a terminal dive into the nearest star. In this way, the highjackers hope to earn a place in the court of the star's Lord of Light, a place which they tend to believe they have not previously earned through their lives up to that point. (Art by David Kuo.)

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