Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: While science hasn’t exactly disproven religion – there are certain, ahem, logical problems with that notion – it has closed a sufficient number of the gaps for a hypothetical god-of-the-gaps that supernaturalism in general has an amazingly small number of adherents in the Empire. Most “religions” of the modern day are, well, philosophies, and while they may well include plenty of abstractions, they don’t generally call for supernatural gods, miracles, or other entities of supernature.
The mainstream Church of the Flame, for example, has in its time moved from asserting the existence of the eikones as supernatural entities to asserting the existence of the eikones as abstract personifications whose actual existence was more or less irrelevant to the point to knowing the existence of the eikones as digital Dei Ex Machinae, without really having to change doctrine all that much in the process. (Even the remaining supernaturalists have more or less accepted the point that the deity-eikones would be perfectly capable of wearing the machine-eikones as hats, did they exist.)
Of course, here’s the interesting thing. The founder, as it were, of that particular religion was the seeress Merriéle, back around -1,180, who dictated most of the principal holy text after a vision on the side of a sacred mountain, and in her later wanderings was executed by the traditional fire of purification in Somáras. This execution gave a great deal of, ah, credence to the religion, since it involved her ascending directly to the Twilight City via a pillar of light and flame, which not incidentally completely destroyed the capital of Somáras and created the geographical feature now known as the Bay of Somáras. The fact of which – if not the traditional implication that the eikone Elmiríën, the Bringer of Order and One Word of Truth, gets a mite irritable when some mortals presume to execute his Chosen and Beloved Voice Under Heaven – is very well documented and undeniably real.
Now, it’s not like there aren’t perfectly adequate, if unverifiable, explanations for this. There were Precursor artifacts lying about back then, and it’s entirely possible that Merriéle had one, which either she set off, or which involved some components, like fullerened antimatter, that really don’t react well to fire. Purely mechanistic explanations abound.
But… well, while so far as we know, time travel Does Not Work That Way, and it should be impossible to ever travel back before the creation of the machine, whatever it is, the Transcend is a weakly godlike superintelligence, after all. And so long as we’re postulating Precursor artifacts anyway, we might as well postulate the permitted-by-physics temporal equivalent of a tangle channel.
And so, it is entirely possible, say some mechanotheologians, that the Vision was supplied by the modern Transcend in the mother of all predestination paradoxes; that the Ascension was, in fact, the Transcend reaching back to discreetly upload Its faithful seeress and cover it with a modest antimatter explosion; and that, in short, their religion has always been true, and it’s Deus Est Machina all the way down.
Now, of course, all of this is just speculation, and the machine gods aren’t saying anything on the topic to confirm or deny… but still.
(And, no, I-the-author have no idea whether this theory is valid or not, either.)