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Most real world religions, current and past, are (very generally) based on either the idea of a pleasant afterlife for the faithful (or avoiding death through reincarnation), or appeasing angry gods.

In Eberron, the gods are silent and all mortal creatures, good or evil, get the same bummer afterlife. So, excepting perhaps The Blood of Vol or The Undying Court, why do the religions exist? Are they justified anywhere, or are they just a trope included in the setting "because D&D has religions"?

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You mean, for non-clerics? Because for clerics, they "just work" (though I admit playing not very religious cleric in Eberron). –  Eugene Ryabtsev May 8 at 17:20
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for the deity specific feats, obviously. –  wax eagle May 8 at 17:35

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Religion Does Provide A Better Life

Priests of the Sovereign Host often provide their services to the people, and attribute positive phenomena to the good gods of the pantheon. While there's no outright proof that the gods interfere in the world or even that they exist at all, their priests do still wield divine magic, and that's gotta account for something. That said, Khorvaire as it stands at the end of the Last War probably has a growing rise in cynicism and atheism (as its real world analogue, World War I, saw also). See also the lasting power of The Blood of Vol even after it broke ties with the Karrnathi crown.

Eberron's Afterlife Sucks, But The Gods May Bring Us Joy And Prosperity In This Life

And when this life is all there is to look forward to, why not believe in something that can improve this life?

Eberron Attempts To Explore Religion In A World Where The Afterlife Sucks For Everyone

I suppose its up to each individual how successful the setting is in actually achieving this without it feeling tacked on. As a DM of a devout Sovereign Host Archivist I found much of the pantheon and faith fairly fascinating.

I'll Let Mr. Baker Take This One

Keith Baker, the designer of Eberron, actually has an answer to this very question on his own blog. Dragonmarks 4/11: Religion, Faith & Souls. He covers pretty much the same ground as I did above, but he offers really interesting insight into how followers of the Sovereign Host perceive the function of Dolurrh that I had never considered before (namely, that the stripping of memories that takes place in Dolurrh is what prepares the soul for ascension to the higher realm where the Sovereign deities live).

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I'm only familiar with the 4E version of Eberron, and the one book I read, The City of Towers. It sounds to me like you're talking primarily about the Sovereign Host religion, so that's where I'll focus my answer.

Religion Can Improve Your Life

I'm not sure why you say that 'the gods are silent'. I don't recall reading anything anywhere that gave me that impression. There are divine characters in Eberron, and the fact that they can do divine acts using their god's power seems like pretty good evidence that these gods exist and that devotion can have tangible benefits. There are also a number of references to common folk saying prayers to the host in the hopes that it will improve things such as crop yields.

Religion Can Improve Your Afterlife

In the 'The Planes' section of 'Chapter 7: Gods and Cosmology' of the 4th Edition Eberron Campaign Guide, in the 'Dolurrh, the Shadowfell' section (page 262), it says "Some say that the ultimate fate of souls is to remain in Dolurrh and fade into the shadows, while others cling to a hope that souls eventually pass beyond the Shadowfell, beyond even the Astral Sea, to the place where the gods reside." On page 241, The Temple of the Wyrm Ascendant is mentioned. This sect of the Sovereign Host is popular in Stormreach and among dragonborn. It teaches that the sovereign host is composed of ascended dragons, and that you too can join them through your actions. So, it would seem that the 'idea of a pleasant afterlife' is indeed important to some people in Eberron, and that those people are able to hope for one. On the other hand, in the Sovereign Host's 'Practicing the Faith' section (page 242), it says how Vassals (devotees of the Sovereign Host) believe that their soul is a tiny spark of the divine that fades over the course of a mortal life, preventing them from returning to the gods. It goes on to say that, "Because Vassals foresee no reward in this afterlife, they consider the blessings of mortal existence much more important."

Conclusion

So, it seems to me that people have a reason to worship gods to improve their mortal lives more than to improve their afterlife, but that it wouldn't be unheard of for someone to believe their actions will affect their afterlife as well.

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In the 3.5 version of Eberron, it was indeed explicitly stated that the gods were silent and did not interfere with everyday life in the same way they do in, say, the Forgotten Realms. Interestingly, there were no rules or guidelines for what happened when a PC cast Commune, leaving it up to each GM to answer the question about whether Eberron's powers have any truth behind them. Oh, and also the 3.5rd edition version of the setting limits the belief that the gods were ascended dragons to Sarlona, as part of the Tris faith. I guess this is a pretty edition-specific question. –  GMJoe May 9 at 4:30
    
@GMJoe Yes, I was referring to the 3.5 version. I briefly had the 4th ed version but sold it when I realised they'd completely written out the Lhazaar Principalities! –  synesthesia May 12 at 18:27
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@synesthesia The Lhazaar Principalities are present in 4th Edition Eberron. They're on pg 138 of the Campaign Guide. –  DCShannon May 12 at 20:31

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