Before the war, people prayed to all sorts of gods. Most of those old religions didn’t survive the war. No time to memorize scripture, or recite prayers when every minute of the day is spent scavenging for food. Nowadays every bombed-out town in the wasteland has the remains of an old church in it, but most of them are empty, save for the radroaches and feral ghouls. If the old world gods are coming back, they sure are taking their time with it. In the meantime, the more superstitious folks in the Wasteland have been making up their own religions to help them get through the day.
There’s a group of kooks out East who worship a nuclear bomb that’s right in the center of their town. The thing was a dud that didn’t go off during the Great War back in 2077, and it’s been sitting there ever since. Some of the locals must have thought it was divine intervention that prevented it from exploding, and this holy relic has been spreading thyroid cancer to the faithful ever since.
These “Children of Atom” have been in that town since its construction. Their obsession with atomic energy means that they know a lot about engineering, so the townsfolk put up with them. They have a preacher who stands in the radioactive mud telling anyone who’ll listen about the glory of Atom, and the holy Glow that awaits folk who die of radiation poisoning.
The Children of Atom split into another group that hunkers down in a basement one town over. They aren’t so much concerned with the bombs as they are with the effects of radiation on certain people. These Apostles of the Holy Light think that ghouls are lucky souls who’ve absorbed enough of Atom’s love to evolve beyond humanity. A comforting thought for the handful of ghouls who cram into their tiny sanctuary during services, but the church doesn’t have a lot of people begging to convert.
There was town round the 2240s that was convinced they had a “rat god” living in their sewers. The townsfolk didn’t worship the thing, but it seemed like the local mole rat population had taken a shine to it. The rodents organized somehow, and chased the humans out of part of the town for a while. Some adventurous types killed that King Rat a long time ago, putting an end to the whole cult, but that wasn’t the only rodent god worshipped in the wasteland.
Some ghouls over in the town of Gecko had a mysterious preacher deep beneath the town. Turned out to be one mighty articulate vermin with some fancy plans. Promised the ghouls all that their humanity would be renewed through some supernatural force. Nothing ever came of it, but ghouls don’t grow old, so the original cultists might still be there praying away and hoping for the best.
Then there is this old cult, known as the Children of the Cathedral and was perceived since its foundation in 2156 as little more than superstitious, harmless nonsense. Tolerated by the wasteland, they set up hospitals throughout survivor communities. The imposing Cathedral in the Boneyard was their center of power, covering up their sinister plans.
Their Dark God was the Master of the Super Mutants, the Holy Flame dwelling beneath the ground in the darkness. Most people had never encountered anything like him. Useful mutations are rare, and among his many “Uncommon” mutations was a powerful form of telepathy.
Go on and laugh, but the files at the Mariposa military base confirm that the Master and several other people developed psychic powers after being exposed to the Forced Evolutionary Virus. The Master was… lucky in a sense, his evolved state allowed him to use his powers without going too insane.
The cult worshipped his hideous visage, some following out of greed, others out of sincere belief, strengthened by brainwashing, self-torture, and other indoctrination. They did his bidding blindly, and spread out through the wasteland, their hospitals stocked with weapons and spies, to infiltrate survivor settlements and pave the way for their armies.
Like it or not, there are some goings on in the wasteland so terrifying that they’ll turn a body to prayer. In Maryland there’s a building that scavengers have stayed away from over the centuries. On moonless nights, the surrounding lands have shadowy forms that crawl about shrieking the words “Alhazred” and “Ug-Qualtoth”. Words a human mouth was not meant to speak.
Those who’ve ventured inside claim to have witnessed dark rituals on an unholy altar. Seen the dead rise, and unnamable horrors appear through foetid mists. Sounds like a bunch of ghouls having a party, but that old office building is still one of the most bizarre places the wasteland holds.
Whatever eldritch rites those ghouls practice is certainly from the old world, maybe even older than Mankind.
A handful of other pre-war cults proved to be tougher than roaches too. Not even the apocalypse could get rid of something called Hubology. Even before the war, most people knew that Hubology was a load of bunk. It was made up by a fellow named Dick Hubbell to bamboozle people out of their caps.
Claimed that the spirits of dead aliens were the cause of everyone’s problems, or some such nonsense. Of course the Hubologists would clear out those invisible “nuerodynes” – for a price. They were still running the same racket out in ‘Frisco for centuries after the Great War.
One of the few old-time religions to stick around this long is something they called Mormonism. Mighty popular in the Mojave before the war, and it had a pretty good run after the apocalypse too. Until they drew the attention of Caesar’s Legion. Now there’s fewer of them than ever. That religion isn’t likely to die out, though. The remaining Mormons are “resilient” to say the least, and they carry more than scripture these days.
There’s an old Mormon fort over in New Vegas, but there’s no Mormons there anymore. It’s a base for the Followers of the Apocalypse.
With all of these groups and their fancy names, it would easy to think that The Followers of the Apocalypse are some sort of doomsday cult. But despite the name, they aren’t a religious group, and they aren’t trying to create another apocalypse, they’re trying to heal the world in the wake of the last one.
The Followers were founded out West in New California a few generations after the Great War. First founded on the outskirts of San Diego, what you call Dayglow now, the Followers migrated and settled into an old world library, out in the Boneyard. Led by Nicole, they realized just how much of humanity’s knowledge had been lost in the decades since the war. Instead of hoarding that knowledge, they decided to share it, to ensure that the Great War would not happen again. Nicole and her Followers even had a hand in helping the Vault Dweller infiltrate the Master’s cathedral, and the organization lives on today.
The Followers have a few things in common with the The Brotherhood of Steel. Both like to dig up pre-war tech, but the Brotherhood is mostly interested in weapons, and they refuse to share their technology with outsiders. The Followers are more concerned with how pre-war society grew their food, generated their energy, and healed the sick. Unearthing the weapons that caused Armageddon isn’t part of their plan for the wasteland. They’d rather see some of the secrets of the old world remain buried, and that puts them at odds against some of the other factions of the wasteland.
The Followers have a complicated relationship with the New California Republic. The NCR knows that the Followers can be useful allies in the arms race against the Brotherhood and the Legion, but the pacifist nature of the Followers means that they are at odds with the NCR’s expansionism. They have since split ways, with NCR supporting a more pliable, agreeable group of dissident Followers, the Office of Science and Industry.
Of course, as pacifists, they would never be tolerated by the Legion. Caesar himself was raised by the Followers. Taken in when he was just a child, but their teaching obviously didn’t stick. Back when Caesar was a young scribe working for the Followers, he soaked up all that he could learn from them, then turned that knowledge toward a path that would horrify Nicole and the other founders of the group.
The Followers are still very accepting of outsiders, though. People who value education and are willing to use their knowledge to ease the suffering of the world are always welcomed. There’s even an individual among them who’s descended from the surviving members of the Enclave. It seems he uses the Followers as a path to redemption for the sins of his father. That’s a long road to walk, and a precarious position for a man to be in, torn between loyalty to a monstrous lineage, and an idealistic quest for absolution.
The Followers are doing their best to carry the fire of humanity with them as they aid the most unfortunate people in a world of suffering. They prove that what a person does is more important than what they believe. Very few of the Followers could think that they’re heading to a place of ever-lasting peace after they die. Like most folk in the wasteland, all they’re hoping for is a quick death and the satisfaction of knowing they made the world slightly less horrific.
The Followers know that knowledge of the Old World has its uses. Those pre-war types sure knew how to grow food and build houses. Although there are some who take the pursuit of knowledge a little too seriously. The unbridled poindexters who designed the weapons that got the world into this mess in the first place. Some of those smartypants Old World folk are still with us today. Found a drastic method of keeping up their research for a couple more centuries. They have a private facility out in the middle of nowhere, filled with lobotomized zombie soldiers, giant robot scorpions, and “teddy bears”.
But that- is a story for another day….