In the original descriptions of the Azaraimian Empire it was stated that religion is but a small institution which does not impact on the daily lives of the citizenry. This matter requires a significant amount of elaboration to gain a full sense of the beliefs and mindsets of the Tzoren.
It is true that there are few institutionalized religions within the Empire with only a small minority following them. However, throughout the Black Empire there runs a complex system of traditional beliefs rooted deeply in philosophy and mysticism. These traditions form what could be called the Azariamian religion, although due to the nature of the beliefs it has never taken on trappings such as places of worship, idolotry or a professional clergy.
The origins of these traditions date back to antequity, long before the Age of Obscurity. Legend holds that in the earliest times, the Tzoren followed various forms of animism: the belief that all natural things have some sort of spirit as separate from their material form. Along with this came the concepts of spirit-only entities which held sway over the material world, in short - gods. These gods then became personified and idolized. The gods were, of course, responsible for all natural phenomena from the rising and setting of the sun to the changing of the seasons to all manner of observable geological and astronomical occurences.
The first great change in the direction of Tzoren thinking came with the rise of mathematics. Not mere arithmetic but rather the use of numbers and symbols to describe and predict the natural world. Associated with the rise of mathematics is the legendary figure Eyrex Noerann. It is said that at the dawn of what could be called civilization a man emerged blessed with the ability of prediction. It was known in commercial circles that given only a handful of grain, a few lambs or a sample of rocks that he could ascertain the future value of a crop, a herd or a mine. He quickly fell from favour when one particularly important prediction for a well placed aristocrat turned out to be far from the eventual truth. When informed of his error he is reputed to have mumbled some incomprehensible gibberish followed by "it must happen at one point". Finding that he was no longer considered an acceptable prophet, Eyrex retreated to the mountains, dispensed with his study of statistics and turned his eyes to the heavens. He emerged many years later, a withered, weather beaten old man in tatters but still with an unsettling glint of deep knowledge in his eyes. His appearance at the civic council was unexpected. The open air amphetheatre of the city fell silent for but a moment before hoots and jeers of the councilors berated the fallen wiseman. "Wait and look!" Eyrex cried above the crowd, "My proof lay beyond the horizon!" The heckles increased and several men motioned to have him removed from the floor. However, the crowd fell silent once more as the councilors to the left of the floor rose in unison and pointed to the horizon. A creeping, malevolent darkness approached and then plunged the city into night. The scene became chaos with crys about gods and doom. Eyrex stood in the middle of the panic, smiling insanely and pointing to the sun which was now just a dim ring of fire. "This is the power of thought. The gods are no more." In the aftermath of the total eclipse, light returned to the land and Eryx returned to his mountain retreat with several converts in tow.
Eyrex Noerann lived for only a few years, just enough time to pass on the foundations of his knowledge to the brightest of his students. Mathematics, having convinced the population of its predictive abilities regarding astronomical events, was turned to unraveling other mysteries and events. It appeared therefore that it was not the grace of the gods which dictated the rising and setting of the sun and moon. These an other phenomena could be explained in a mechanistic fashion with mathematics. The planets and stars were simply material bodies which acted as if they were cogs in a machine as described by Eyrex's mathematics. So where were the gods? Where were the spirits? The discovery of the mechanistic predictability of the universe spawned the doctrine of materialism: everything is composed of matter alone and that there are no spirits which are wholly seperate from this matter. There were two disparate schools of thought in this regard: the nihlists and the animists. The nihlists were a pessimistic lot who believed that life and consciousness were simply a product of the way in which matter was put together. When we die there is nothing left but matter. There is no soul, there is only our perception of life which ends in death. We as Tzoren (humans) are merely complex machines is what they would argue. The actions of man as well as the rest of the universe could be predicted by sufficiently complex mathematics. The nihlists tended to be quite hedonistic and safety conscious. Their view of death was that life was a gift so make the most of it because when it was over there was nothing left. The animists materialists were not quite so pessimistic. They belived that there was a soul but it was initmately linked to the matter/body. When we die, the soul does not leave the body, it is merely dormant. The body decays, it returns to the earth. The earth yeilds food, the food is consumed by a woman who gives birth to a baby who also eats. Thus a portion of the dead person comes to reside physically within many people. Each small part of the deceased still has part of the soul of the whole. This accounted for past-life experiences. The point which the animist-materialists wished to make was that the spirit linked to matter was a force unto itself and if one wished to have a complete mathematical knowledge of the universe and living things in particular, one must understand the very soul which is part and parcel to the matter.
In the nihlist view, concepts of spirits and souls were just mystic mumbo-jumbo. The nihlists believed the animists to be a warm and fuzzy group of individuals who could not accept reality. Animists looked upon Nihlists as pathetic and amoral, not being able to consider anything or anyone beyond themselves and their enjoyment of their own lives. The debate continued ad infinitum between the two factions with each establishing schools of philosophy.