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One of my players just submitted a character sheet for a paladin who doesn't follow or worship any god. This seemed strange to me, but looking at the Player's Handbook, the only relevant line I could find was this:

Player's Handbook, page 82:

Although many paladins are devoted to gods of good, a paladin’s power comes as much from a commitment to justice itself as it does from a god.

This seems to be maddeningly vague, and doesn't really answer one way or another. The PHB seems to assume that a paladin will follow a god, but doesn't actually come out and say, "Pick a god" in the same way that it does for a cleric.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you seen the DMG rules for religion yet? It discusses this from a few angles, which you may find helpful. Ultimately this sort of thing seems to depend on your campaign setting and so may not be answerable from a rules standpoint. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Dec 6 '14 at 8:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not D&D, but if you're looking for inspiration, check out Dresden Files. Sanja is effectively an atheist (or at least agnostic) paladin \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Nov 21 '17 at 18:05
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There is no mechanical or fluff requirement for a Paladin to follow a god.

You've quoted the most relevant paragraph yourself, but for a backup, from the same page:

Whether sworn before a god's altar and the witness of a priest, in a sacred glade before nature spirits and fey beings, or in a moment of desperation and grief with the dead as the only witness, a paladin's oath is a powerful bond. It is a source of power that turns a devout warrior into a blessed champion.

(Emphasis mine)

So the source of a paladin's holy power is the powerful oath they swear, their commitment to justice. The oath can be sworn to a god, to nature, maybe a dead loved one, or just sworn, not to anyone in particular.

As with many points of confusion in 5e, looking at it from the viewpoint of previous editions is the major problem here. The only reason to believe that a god's involvement is necessary for a paladin is because it was, although even in 3.5e (for example), you could be a cleric or paladin of a cause rather than a god.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One of the books (I don't have them on me) also states that Paladins and Clerics can simply follow an ideal. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Dec 10 '14 at 5:24
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It's actually required for a paladin to worship a god in Adventure League games, as per page 5 of the Adventurers League FAQ:

Does My Paladin Have to Worship a Deity?

Yes, though your character’s alignment isn’t required to match that of their deity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is enough to flag an unconstructive comment for removal; there's no need to write a frustrated/rude comment in reply. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '16 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no controversy. You rejected a piece of editing advice that you felt was misplaced, as is an author's prerogative. To do so, it's enough to merely ignore it (and flag it if the comment is no longer useful and can be removed). Demonstrating righteous indignation feels good, but to onlookers is frequently uncalled for (especially because we have flags). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 13 '16 at 23:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is outdated. The Adventurers League FAQ available on the official website states on page 6: "Does My Paladin Have to Worship a Deity? - No. What makes you think you do? Dunno what you’re talking about." The DM's Guild link you provided also doesn't work anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 9 '18 at 9:51
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In earlier versions a paladin could be a paladin of pretty much anything he believed in, be it a god, a set moral code, a vague concept like 'justice', what have you. As long as it falls under "living by a code" and "believing in something" it was fine for a paladin. The exact contents did not matter so much.

If it is not stated clearly in 5E, I'd say treat it as though this is still the case. It would be dependent on how paladins function in your setting, of course.

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