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Religion: How Does the Religion System Work? (BNW)

How Does the Religion System Work?

"Just as a candle cannot burn without fire,
men cannot live without a spiritual life"
- Buddha​


Your Religion screen

Religion was one of the signature elements of the Gods & Kings expansion, adding new game mechanics and strategic options to an already rich game, and was further enhanced in the Brave New World expansion. Religion can provide you with valuable tools -- more :c5happy:, :c5gold:, :c5culture:, :c5science:, :c5production: and units -- to achieve any victory condition -- cultural, diplomatic, domination or science. This article provides an overview of the major elements of the religion system:

Other articles in this series explain how to found and enhance your religion, review in detail the many available pantheon, founder, follower, enhancer and reformation beliefs, and provide advice about how to spread and defend your religion.

Key Concepts

  • Faith :c5faith: - a type of "currency" or yield that is central to the religion system

  • Belief - the core element of any pantheon or religion, providing specific benefits depending on circumstances

  • Pantheon - a pre-religion belief that is absorbed into (and superseded by) a religion

  • Religion - a set of beliefs, consisting of a pantheon belief, a founder belief, two follower beliefs, an enhancer belief and potentially a reformation belief. Establishing a religion includes two major steps: founding the religion and enhancing the religion. A religion also may add a reformation belief by selecting the Reformation policy in the Piety social policy tree.

  • Founding a Religion - using a Great Prophet to select a founder belief, a follower belief, and a name and symbol for the religion

  • Enhancing a Religion - using a Great Prophet to select a second follower belief and an enhancer belief

  • Great Prophet - a type of Great Person that can be used to found or enhance a religion, to spread a religion or to create a Holy Site tile improvement

  • Missionary - a civilian unit that can be used to spread a religion (available only after your religion is founded)

  • Inquisitor - a civilian unit that can be used to eliminate other religions from a city (available only after your religion is enhanced)

  • Holy Site - a tile improvement that can only be formed by a Great Prophet, with a base yield of 6 faith.

  • Followers - population of a city following a pantheon or religion

  • Pressure - a mechanism used to convert followers of a pantheon or religion to another religion (or to convert non-followers of any pantheon or religion to a religion)
Note that the various faith thresholds and requirements described in this article and related articles apply to standard speed games. The typical multiplier for quick games is 0.67, for epic games is 1.5 and for marathon games is 3.0, as reflected in the following table:

| Quick | Standard | Epic | Marathon
Initial Pantheon requirement| 6 faith|10 faith|15 faith|30 faith
Increment for next Pantheon|3 faith|5 faith|7 faith|15 faith
Threshold for first Great Prophet|134 faith|200 faith|300 faith|600 faith
Increment for subsequent Great Prophets|Multiple of +67 faith for each increment (201, 335, 536, ...)|Multiple of +100 faith for each increment (300, 500, 800, ...)|Multiple of +150 faith for each increment (450, 750, 1200, ...)|Multiple of +300 faith for each increment (900, 1500, 2400, ...)
Base Per City Pressure|9|6|4|2


Faith is the cornerstone of the religion system. Faith represents a type of yield in the game, similar to gold and culture, in that it is generated from a variety of sources, accumulates over many turns, and later can be "spent" for various purposes. Depending on the amount of accumulated faith, what beliefs you have selected, and your technological era, you can use accumulated faith to found a pantheon, generate a Great Prophet to found, enhance or spread a religion, or purchase religious units (Missionaries and Inquisitors), religious buildings (cathedrals, monasteries, mosques and pagodas), science buildings (universities, public schools and research labs), military units, or, in the Industrial Era, Great Prophets and other types of Great Persons.

How to generate faith

You must generate faith in order to take advantage of the religion system. There are numerous ways to generate faith:



  • Build faith-generating buildings - A shrine (unlocked with Pottery) will generate 1 faith per turn, while a temple (unlocked with Philosophy) will generate 2 faith per turn. The Piety social policy opener (unlocked in the Classical Era) doubles production when building shrines and temples, and the Organized Religion social policy adds 1 faith per turn to the base faith generation of shrines and temples. The Grand Temple (a National Wonder, unlocked with Theology; can only be built in a Holy City) will generate 8 faith per turn and double the religious pressure emanating from the Holy City in which it is built.

    The Mayans, Ethiopians and Indonesians have Unique Buildings that provide faith-generation advantages -- the Ethiopian stele (monument replacement) provides 2 faith in addition to the typical 2 culture, the Mayan pyramid (shrine replacement) provides 2 faith and 2 science. and the Indonesian Candi (Garden replacement, unlocked with Theology) provides 2 faith plus an additional 2 faith for each religion that has at least 1 follower in the city. In addition, the Celtic Unique Ability will generate 1 faith from an unimproved forest tile that is immediately adjacent to the city center (2 faith, if there are three adjacent unimproved forest tiles). The Celts' Unique Unit, the Pictish Warrior, will also generate faith from enemy kills (equal to one-half the combat strength of the defeated unit).

  • Meet, befriend and ally religious City-States - Religious city-states provides faith. When you meet a religious CS you will receive 4 faith (8 faith if you are the first to meet them) in addition to the typical CS meeting gold. If you befriend a religious CS in the early game, you will receive 2 faith per turn (4 faith per turn if you are allied with them) -- and as with all CS bonuses, these amounts rise in later eras. Prioritizing religious CS quests can be quite helpful to accumulate faith.


Great Mosque of Djenne

  • Build faith-generating World Wonders - Stonehenge (unlocked with Calendar) is the only early-game wonder that provides faith -- 5 faith (and 1 Great Engineer (GE) point). Once you research Theology, you can also build The Hagia Sophia (3 faith, a free Temple, and a free Great Prophet), Borobudur (5 faith and 3 free Missionaries; can only be built in a Holy City), and, if you have unlocked the Piety social policy tree, the Great Mosque of Djenne (3 faith, 1 culture, 1 GE point, a free Mosque, and additional spread capacity for Missionaries and Great Prophets bought in that city).

    Later in the game, you can also build Notre Dame (unlocked with Physics), which provides 4 faith, 10 happiness and 1 Great Merchant (GM) point, or Machu Picchu (unlocked with Guilds), which provides 2 faith, 5 gold, 1 GM point and +25% gold from city connections.

  • Settle near a faith-generating Natural Wonder - Five Natural Wonders provide faith:
    • Mt. Fuji (3 faith, 3 culture and 2 gold)
    • Mt. Kailash (6 faith and 2 happiness)
    • Mt. Sinai (8 faith)
    • Sri Pada (4 faith, 2 food and 2 happiness)
    • Uluru (6 faith and 2 food)

    Settle a city near the Natural Wonder and assign a citizen to work that tile. If you pick the One With Nature pantheon belief, any natural wonder you work will generate an additional 4 faith. Since its Unique Ability doubles Natural Wonder yields (including the yield from the One With Nature pantheon belief), Spain can generate 8 faith from each Great Barrier Reef tile or 24 faith from Mt. Sinai.

  • Pop a faith ruin - Starting at turn 20 (Standard speed), ancient ruins may provide faith. If you have not yet founded a pantheon, a faith ruin will usually provide enough faith to allow you to found a pantheon. If you have already founded a pantheon, a faith ruin will provide approximately 30% of the amount needed for your next Great Prophet, speeding you along to founding or enhancing a religion. Of course you can't count on popping a faith ruin, but it is helpful when it happens.
All of the preceding methods can help you found a pantheon and, later, found and enhance a religion. In addition, there are several pantheon beliefs that will provide additional faith to help you found and enhance your religion and a number of follower beliefs and enhancer beliefs can also help you generate additional faith.​

How to use faith

Accumulated faith can be used for a number of helpful purposes:

Great Prophet

  • Founding a pantheon

  • Generating Great Prophets that can be used to found or enhance your religion, help spread your religion or create a Holy Site to generate even more faith

  • Buying Missionaries to help spread your religion

  • Buying Inquisitors to deter enemy Great Prophets and Missionaries or to eliminate other religions from your cities

  • If you have the appropriate follower beliefs, buying certain religious buildings (cathedrals, monasteries, mosques and pagodas) with faith

  • If you have the Holy Warriors follower belief, buying pre-Industrial land units with faith

  • If you have the Jesuit Education reformation belief, buying universities, public schools and research labs with faith

  • If you have the Religious Fervor reformation belief, buying Industrial (and later) era land units with faith

  • In the Industrial Era, buying Great Persons with faith. Note that to buy Great Persons with faith in the Industrial Era, you need a religion in the city in which you want to buy Great Persons; it can be any religion (not limited to a religion you have founded). You also need to have finished the social policy tree that allows purchases of that type of Great Person (Tradition: Great Engineers, Honor: Great Generals, Exploration: Great Admirals; Aesthetics: Great Artists, Musicians and Writers; Commerce: Great Merchants; and Rationalism: Great Scientists). Alternatively, the reformation belief To the Glory of God allows you to use faith to purchase any type of Great Person starting in the Industrial Era.
To purchase religious units and buildings, chose the "Purchase" option in the city screen; available buildings and units will display their Faith costs. You can also use the "automatic faith purchases" feature on the "Your Religion" tab of Religion Overview (click on the Faith icon at the top of the screen); once you have accumulated the required amount of Faith, the building or unit will be automatically purchased in a city in which it is available.


A pantheon is a pre-religion belief (one pantheon belief per civilization) that can provide a helpful boost to empire development. Some pantheon beliefs provide additional faith, or happiness, culture, food, or hammers, or other specialized benefits, like higher population or border growth rates and enhanced healing rates for military units. Which pantheon belief makes sense for you will depend on the surrounding terrain, your civilization's particular strengths and weaknesses, and your ambitions for the game.

Founding a Pantheon
When you found a pantheon, your pantheon automatically appears in your capital and in any other city you have founded. Your pantheon will also appear automatically in any city you found afterwards. However, once you have founded a religion, your pantheon will be absorbed into your religion and will no longer automatically appear in newly founded cities (but will persist in cities that already have your pantheon). Pantheons will not spread to other civilizations or City-States.

How to found a pantheon

Founding a pantheon is a race. Each pantheon belief can be taken by only one civilization, so it is important to generate faith quickly to ensure that you can get your choice of pantheon beliefs. The first pantheon to be founded requires 10 faith, and each subsequent pantheon requires 5 more faith, up to a maximum of 45 faith.

Also, you will no longer be allowed to found a pantheon if, when the first religion is enhanced, there is a sufficient number of pantheons in existence to found the maximum number of religions allowed in that game (i.e., if 5 religions can be founded and, at the time the first religion is enhanced, there are at least 4 other religions and pantheons in existence, then no other pantheons can be founded).

Pantheon beliefs

There are 26 pantheon beliefs. The beliefs are typically terrain-based or based around buildings or improvements, with a few exceptions.

  • Ancestor Worship: +1 Culture for every Shrine in your civilization
  • Dance of the Aurora: +1 Faith from Tundra tiles without Forest
  • Desert Folklore: +1 Faith from Desert tiles
  • Earth Mother: +1 Faith from each Copper, Iron and Salt resource
  • God-King: Palace provides +1 Culture, +1 Faith, +1 Gold, +1 Production, and +1 Science
  • Faith Healers: +30 HP healed per turn if adjacent to a friendly city
  • Fertility Rites: 10% faster Growth Rate
  • God of Craftsmen: +1 Production in cities with population of 3+
  • God of the Open Sky: +1 Culture from Pastures
  • God of the Sea: +1 Production from Fishing Boats
  • God of War: Gain Faith if you win a battle within 4 tiles if your city
  • Goddess of Festivals: +1 Culture and +1 Faith for each Wine and Incense
  • Goddess of Love: +1 Happiness from cities with population of 6+
  • Goddess of Protection: +30% increase in city Ranged Combat Strength
  • Goddess of the Hunt: +1 Food from Hunting Camps
  • Messenger of the Gods: +2 Science in cities with a Trade Route
  • Monument to the Gods: +15% Production of Ancient/Classical Wonders
  • One with Nature: +4 Faith from Natural Wonders
  • Oral Tradition: +1 Culture from Plantations
  • Religious Idols: +1 Culture and +1 Faith for each Gold and Silver
  • Religious Settlements: +15% faster border growth
  • Sacred Path: +1 Culture from Jungle tiles
  • Sacred Waters: +1 Happiness from cities on rivers
  • Stone Circles: +2 Faith from Quarries
  • Sun God: +1 Food for each Banana, Citrus, and Wheat resource
  • Tears of the Gods: +2 Faith for each Gems and Pearls resource
For more information about pantheons and pantheon beliefs, see "Pantheon Beliefs."


World Religions screen
A religion is a set of beliefs that provides benefits to both the founder of the religion and to the owner of any city that has a majority of its population following that religion. A religion consists of a founder belief, a follower belief and your pantheon belief (which is absorbed into your religion at founding and becomes essentially an additional follower belief). When your religion is enhanced, you can select one additional follower belief and an enhancer belief. The Byzantines can select one additional "bonus" belief when they found their religion -- which can be any pantheon, founder, follower or enhancer belief. Finally, a religion also may add a reformation belief by selecting the Reformation policy in the Piety social policy tree.

At any time, you can obtain an overview of the current state of the religious world by consulting the Religion Overview screen. By default, Religion Overview opens to the "Your Religion" tab. The other tabs are "World Religions" (where you can see who has founded particular religions and the number of cities in which each religion has a majority of followers) and "Beliefs" (where you can see what beliefs each religion has adopted).

Like pantheon beliefs, each founder, follower, enhancer and reformation belief can only be taken once, so establishing a religion is a race for your desired beliefs. Also, there is a limit on the number of religions that can be founded in a game. For a given map size (dual, tiny, small, standard, large and huge), the number of permitted religions is one more than half of the default number of civilizations for that map size (i.e., 5 religions on a standard map with 8 civilizations, 7 religions on a huge map with 12 civilizations, etc.). Changing the number of civilizations on a map will not change the maximum number of religions that can be founded.

How to found and enhance a religion

Only a Great Prophet can found or enhance a religion, and there are only five ways to generate a Great Prophet:

  • With accumulated faith

  • By completing The Hagia Sophia

  • By completing the Piety social policy tree

  • By selecting a Great Prophet as your "free" Great Person with the Liberty policy tree finisher or the Leaning Tower of Pisa

  • If you are playing the Mayans, by selecting a Great Prophet as one of your long-count Great Persons after you research Theology
You should also be able to found or enhance your religion with another civilization's Great Prophet that you have captured, so long as the Great Prophet has at least 4 conversion spreads remaining.

The Hagia Sophia​
Leaning Tower of Pisa​
The most common method of generating a Great Prophet is with accumulated faith. Great Prophets will be randomly generated in pre-Industrial eras after you cross various faith accumulation thresholds -- the first Great Prophet after you accumulate 200 faith, the second after 300 faith, the third after 500 faith, the fourth after 800 faith, etc. Once you enter the Industrial Era, Great Prophets will no longer be randomly generated and you will be able to buy Great Prophets and other Great Persons with faith.

When your first Great Prophet spawns, you can choose to use it either to found a religion or to create a holy site tile improvement (which has a base yield of 6 faith). Assuming you can still found a religion, you ordinarily should choose to found your religion. When you found, you will be able to select a founder belief, a follower belief and your religion's name and symbol combination (there are 13 pre-set religion name/symbol sets, and you can edit the name of your religion).

When your second Great Prophet spawns, you can choose to use it either to enhance your religion, to create a holy site tile improvement or to spread your religion. Generally, you should choose to enhance your religion. When you enhance, you can select an additional follower belief and an enhancer belief.

Finally, if you select the Reformation social policy, you can add a reformation belief to your religion.

For more information about founding and enhancing your religion, see "How to Found and Enhance a Religion."

Founder beliefs

Found a Religion
There are 9 founder beliefs, providing happiness, gold, science, faith, culture or City-State influence:

  • Ceremonial Burial: +1 Global Happiness for every two cities following this religion
  • Church Property: +2 Gold for each city following this religion
  • Initiation Rites: +100 Gold when each city first converts to this religion
  • Interfaith Dialogue: Gain Science when a Missionary or Prophet spreads this religion to cities of other religions
  • Papal Primacy: +15 to Influence resting point with City-States following this religion
  • Peace Loving: +1 Global Happiness for every 8 followers of this religion in non-enemy foreign cities
  • Pilgrimage: +2 Faith for each foreign city following this religion
  • Tithe: +1 Gold for every 4 followers of this religion
  • World Church: +1 Culture for every 5 followers of this religion in other civilizations
For more information about founder beliefs and how they can facilitate various strategies, see "Founder Beliefs."

Follower beliefs

There are 16 follower beliefs, allowing you or any other civilization with a city that has a majority of its population following your religion to buy religious buildings or pre-Industrial land units, receive boosts in the yields from other buildings (like shrines, temples and gardens), or enjoy food, growth or production benefits:

  • Asceticism: Shrines provide +1 Happiness in cities with 3 followers
  • Cathedrals: Use Faith to purchase Cathedrals (+1 Faith, +1 Culture, +1 Happiness, 1 Great Work of Art slot)
  • Choral Music: Temples provide +2 Culture in cities with 5 followers
  • Divine Inspiration: Each World Wonder provides +2 Faith in city
  • Feed the World: Shrines and Temples provide +1 Food each in city
  • Guruship: +2 Production if city has a specialist
  • Holy Warriors: Use Faith to purchase pre-Industrial land units
  • Liturgical Drama: Amphitheaters provide +1 Faith in cities with 3 followers
  • Monasteries: Use Faith to purchase Monasteries (+2 Faith, +2 Culture, more with Wine or Incense)
  • Mosques: Use Faith to purchase Mosques (+3 Faith, +2 Culture, +1 Happiness)
  • Pagodas: Use Faith to purchase Pagodas (+2 Faith, +2 Culture, +2 Happiness)
  • Peace Gardens: Gardens provide +2 Happiness in city
  • Religious Art: Hermitage provides +5 Culture and +5 Tourism in city
  • Religious Center: Temples provide +2 Happiness in cities with 5 followers
  • Religious Community: +1% Production for each follower (max +15%)
  • Swords into Plowshares: 15% faster Growth rate for city if not at war
For more information about follower beliefs and how they can enhance various strategies, see "Follower Beliefs."

Enhancer beliefs

There are 9 enhancer beliefs, which are intended to facilitate the spread of your religion or to provide other benefits from spread of your religion:

  • Defender of the Faith: +20% Combat near friendly cities that follow this religion
  • Holy Order: Missionaries and Inquisitors cost 30% less Faith
  • Itinerant Preachers: Religion spreads to cities 30% further away
  • Just War: +20% Combat near enemy cities that follow this religion
  • Messiah: Prophets 25% stronger and earned with 25% less Faith
  • Missionary Zeal: Missionary conversion strength +25%
  • Religious Texts: Religion spreads 25% faster (50% with Printing Press)
  • Religious Unity: Religion spreads to friendly city-states at double rate
  • Reliquary: Gain 50 Faith each time a Great Person is expended
For more information about enhancer beliefs and how they can facilitate various strategies, see "Enhancer Beliefs."

Reformation beliefs

Select a Reformation Belief
There are 9 reformation beliefs, which can be adopted only if you have adopted Piety's Reformation social policy:

  • Charitable Missions: Influence boosts from gold gifts to city-states are increased by 30%
  • Evangelism: Missionaries' Spread Religion action erodes existing pressure from other religions
  • Heathen Conversion: Missionaries convert adjacent barbarian units to this civilization
  • Jesuit Education: May build Universities, Public Schools and Research Labs with Faith
  • Religious Fervor: Use Faith to purchase Industrial Era (and later) land units
  • Sacred Sites: All buildings purchased with Faith provide 2 Tourism each
  • To the Glory of God: Use Faith to purchase any type of Great Person starting in the Industrial Era
  • Underground Sect: Your spies exert religious pressure on the cities they occupy (Note: this belief appears to be bugged)
  • Unity of the Prophets: Inquisitors and Prophets reduce this religion's presence by half (instead of eliminating it)
For more information about reformation beliefs and how they can facilitate various strategies, see "Reformation Beliefs."

Spreading and defending your religion

Your religion will automatically appear in the city in which you found your religion (typically your capital, but you can relocate your first Great Prophet to another city and found your religion there, if you prefer). Unlike your pantheon, your religion will not automatically appear in your other cities. You must spread your religion to your other cities and to cities of other civilizations and to City States. There are two ways to spread religion to other cities:

  • Manual spread through use of Great Prophets and Missionaries

  • Passive spread through religious pressure
Manual Spread - Each Great Prophet can spread your religion 4 times and each Missionary can spread your religion 2 times (and one additional spread for each, if the Great Prophet or Missionary is purchased in the city that has the Great Mosque of Djenne). To spread to another city, your Great Prophet or Missionary must be immediately adjacent to your target city's center tile. Great Prophets can travel to any location without penalty, while Missionaries must either have Open Borders or risk suffering attrition.

One common technique to get your religion's spread started early is to buy a Missionary in your holy city before enhancing your religion, and use the Missionary to spread your religion to two nearby cities. This will delay enhancement of your religion (as you re-accumulate faith to the 300 level), but may trigger a beneficial cascade of religion adoptions by surrounding cities as a result of religious pressure.

Religious Pressure - Each city with a majority religion exerts religious "pressure" on neighboring cities. Once pressure reaches certain levels, a citizen of a neighboring city will convert to that religion (become a "follower"). Once the followers of a religion are a majority of that city's population, that city will also start exerting religious pressure on its neighboring cities, potentially triggering a cascade (or snowball) effect as neighboring cities experience pressure from multiple cities.

Religious Pressure
By default, each city exerts 6 pressure on cities located within 10 tiles. So, if there are 4 cities of your religion within 10 tiles of a given city, that city will be experiencing 24 (6 x 4) pressure. The Itinerant Preachers enhancer belief extends the effect of pressure to 13 tiles, while the Religious Texts enhancer belief will result in 7.5 pressure (and later 9 pressure, after Printing Press is researched). Because both of these enhancer beliefs facilitate religious spread, they are popular with both human players and the AI.

Each Holy City exerts a special type of "internal" pressure that is intended to help it maintain its Holy City status. That internal pressure is only experienced by the Holy City, and not neighboring cities. Accordingly, a Holy City generally exerts the same pressure on neighboring cities as other cities do. If, however, the Holy City has the Grand Temple, the Holy City's external pressure on neighboring cities is doubled (e.g., from 6 pressure to 12 pressure).

Religious pressure will also affect both cities that are connected by a trade route (caravan or cargo ship). If the two cities are otherwise within pressure range of each other, the trade route will not result in any additional pressure, other than for Arabia, who's Unique Ability includes double religious pressure along trade routes. If your Holy City has built the Grand Temple, trade routes from your Holy City to cities outside normal Holy City pressure range can be particularly powerful.

Finally, if you can arrange for the World Congress to adopt a resolution designating your religion as the World Religion, your religion's inter-city pressure will increase by 25%, your Holy City's tourism output will be increased by 50%, and each civilization that has a majority of its cities following your religion will receive two additional delegates to the World Congress/United Nations. Note that there can be only one World Religion at a time.

Inquisitors - Inquisitors serve several important purposes to combat the spread of other religions to your cities:

  • An Inquisitor can deter other civilizations' Great Prophets and Missionaries from manually spreading their religion to the city in which the Inquisitor is located. An Inquisitor has no effect on passive pressure from other cities.

  • An Inquisitor can purge all other religions from a city that you own (that use consumes the Inquisitor). This is the only Inquisitor effect that can be replicated by a Great Prophet.

  • An Inquisitor can extinguish the Holy City status of an enemy Holy City that you have conquered (that use also consumes the Inquisitor).
For further discussion of religious pressure, spread mechanics and strategies, see "Spreading and Defending your Religion."


Religion adds a new strategic layer to Civilization V, with a new yield type - faith :c5faith: - and new sources of happiness, gold, culture, science, food, military units, and defensive and offensive military advantages, and new strategic opportunities and trade-offs. Astute use of religion can help you achieve any victory condition more quickly and more easily. Conversely, your opponents' clever or aggressive use of religion may foil your ambitions. That tension can result in very interesting (and sometimes frustrating) game play.
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