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Civilization 5 Religion Guide

Converting Citizens and Religious Pressure in G&K and BNW

Civ 5 Religion Guide - Gods & Kings and Brave New World
Converting & Religious PressurePantheonsFounder BeliefsFollower BeliefsEnhancersReformation

Religious Pressure Gradually Converts Citizens to Follow a Religion in Civ 5
Cities get Religious Pressure from Trade Routes and Cities within 10 Tiles

Spreading Religion Naturally - Religious Pressure
If a Religion has converted at least half the Citizenry, a City becomes Religious and gets that Religion's benefits. Religious Pressure is generated by Cities that have converted to that Religion and are Religious. Each Religious City will send out +6 pressure for its Religion to all Cities within a 10-tile range. Religious Pressure varies by game speed, being much lower on slower speeds like Marathon, so all numbers here are for base. So, if one City were feeling pressure from 3 Cities within that 10-tile range, it would be getting +18 Pressure and convert a Citizen roughly every 6 turns. Holy Cities exert 5x this amount of Pressure on themselves, so 30 Pressure per turn. Cities that are nearby and have converted will return pressure, giving you a higher value in the Holy City and making it very hard to Convert naturally.

Without any other Religion competing, it takes 100 Pressure to convert 1 Citizen to follow a Religion. With multiple Religions competing, it will take even more to turn them over, although with more Pressure you are guaranteed to eventually win the majority. It would seem that their cumulative Pressure over time may come into play - a case in point being a Holy City that has long held its position but recently finds itself surrounded with other Cities giving Pressure - the Citizenry will not fall to the new ways so quickly because there has been so much pressure exerted there in the past. In this case, a Great Prophet would work better than a Missionary, for their Conversion strength would only turn over a couple Citizens, while a Great Prophet could turn the Holy City and make its majority religion change, even permanently - but it'll still be a Holy City with a few followers, as they will gradually return due to the Holy City base of +30 Pressure.

You can use knowledge of Religion's spread to come up with Strategies to make yours dominant. Religious Pressure is carried through trade routes, so if you can get multiple Cities sending Pressure to the same City, you can convert it. Note that a City can't send pressure twice, so Trade Routes are a means of getting Pressure to Cities outside the 10-tile range. You'll note this is why some Cities don't take Pressure from your routes. To get beyond this range with Land trade routes, you'll need a Caravansary in the town to extend the range to 15 tiles. Use this to get your Religion "behind enemy lines" so to speak and allow you to convert more Cities. Sea Trade routes are good as well, given they start with 20-tile ranges and can go to 45, while giving more gold than land trade routes.

Combine this knowledge with Missionaries and Great Prophets, and you can gradually erode another Religion's influence in a given area. This will help you determine good targets for your Missionaries and Great Prophets if you would like to attempt to make your Religion dominant. As the years pass by and more Cities convert to your Religion, they will be safe and generating enough pressure on each other to no longer need Trade Routes. Use later opportunities to change Trade Routes up and get them to Cities that will help spread your Religion in another part of the map. You can use routes from multiple Cities to the same target to increase Pressure, but also consider sending as many from your Holy City as possible to spread the Religion when its outgoing Pressure is doubled with the Grand Temple.

Your Enhancer Belief will ultimately help you easier spread the Religion. Odds are, Itinerant Preachers (13-hex pressure) or Religious Texts (Religion Spreads 25% faster, 50% with Printing Press) will be your top choices if you want your Religion spread globally. Both have their merits, one converting individual Cities faster - but do realize that Itinerant Preachers means that Cities will be getting pressure from sources 3 hexes further, meaning they can potentially Convert even faster than with Religious Texts. Note that Religious Texts works on a decimal level, so with 25% faster Conversion and 6 Pressure per city, you'd be giving out 7.5 Pressure per turn, though it will round to display only 7.

Spreading the Religion with Missionaries and Great Prophets
Missionaries born in a City will represent that City's Majority religion, so be careful where you buy your Missionaries. Missionaries by default get two uses of Spread Religion, while Great Prophets get four uses. Great Prophets will temporarily eliminate all other Religious opposition in a City, until pressure allows it to build back up and gradually reconvert the Citizens. Both Missionaries and Great Prophets have a strength of 1000 by default, which seems directly tied to Religious Pressure - so it could convert 10 Citizens by giving 1000 Pressure in a City that has never been subject to Religion, and convert fewer and fewer Citizens depending on how much Pressure there is for other Religions in town, just as the natural Conversion process would take much longer.

You should protect Great Prophets and Missionaries going on long journeys through dangerous territory, for they can be captured by Barbarians. Missionaries, but not Great Prophets, suffer attrition of -250 Strength/turn while in the territory of another Civ if you do not have Open Borders. This gradually wears them down until they disband, their conversion strength diminishing with each turn passed in foreign lands. Edge Cities are all you can hope for here, and you should expect to probably use both Conversions on the same City. The Great Mosque of Djenne will make all Missionaries born in a City have 3 Convert actions instead of 2, and there are a number of Beliefs that can affect Conversions - such as making Missionaries capable of wearing away other Religious Pressure like Great Prophets (Evangelism).

Removing a Holy City may not be possible through Religious Pressure
A Holy City's Citizens may be Converted by Religious Pressure, but it takes a long time

Stopping Other Religions: Inquisitors
Inquisitors serve two functions. First, when parked in a City or the tile next to it, it cannot be a target for Spread Religion from Missionaries or Great Prophets. They are meant to be Religious Defense units in a way. You can only use their active ability on your own Cities. When used, an Inquisitor's Remove Heresy action will remove all traces of Foreign Religion from a City while also turning some back to your Religion. Inquisitors are especially handy after an opposing Civ has used a Missionary on your City.

Another option to stop opponent Civs from spreading their Religion in your land is to cancel Open Borders. This will make their Missionaries suffer attrition, while your understanding of Religious Pressure should let you Convert their cities over time without even entering their borders, if you are able to convert all Cities around them to your Majority.

Stopping a Holy City's Pressure and Removing a Religion from the World
You must Annex a Holy City to permanently remove a Religion from the game. The AI will often found their Holy Cities in Capitals, meaning they can't be Razed, although that may not always be the case - if it is, you may certainly burn it down but that is often a poor choice. You will find the Holy City continues to generate Pressure and cannot be eradicated without an Inquisitor. When you have control of a City and use their Remove Heresy ability, the other Civ's religion will finally be wiped away from that City, and it will no longer be a Holy City and exert Pressure on itself and surrounding Cities. Remove Heresy may only be used in Cities that are Annexed.

Keep in mind that using Remove Heresy on a Holy City will not remove the Religion from the game, but merely stop that City from exerting pressure. If the Religion is dominant in nearby Cities, it can continue to return in the Holy City. Converting the other Cities with a Great Prophet or Missionaries would be necessary to remove it from the game entirely. Eventually, it will die off if you are persistent.

I've tested removing a Holy City's Pressure without me owning the City by using a Great Prophet to Spread there, with all surrounding Cities providing over 67 pressure per turn for my Religion. Inevitably, the other Religion will begin to make a comeback, though if done properly you will not see it rise as the majority belief in that City again as they will only be able to make Missionaries for your Religion.

Previous: Faith & Founding a Religion  |  Next: Religious Pantheon Beliefs

Civ 5 Religion Guide - Gods & Kings and Brave New World
Converting & Religious PressurePantheonsFounder BeliefsFollower BeliefsEnhancersReformation

Comments (6)

Fred says...
Just want to say that your guide is awesome, haven't played civ5 in nearly 3 years and its a wonderfull way to get back in the groove and catch up with all the new stuff.

Many thanks!
You're welcome. I've learned a lot myself from the process, because I came into it after writing a bit before either DLC was out, then found there were a lot of readers looking for information on those Expansions. Now I'm very familiar with all those systems, have become a better player, and have this writing process to thank for it. I reference it myself, sometimes - particularly the Civ list and religious beliefs :)
20th March 2014 9:07pm
Peter says...
Thanks a lot for this guide; it really answers all my questions.
Happy to help!
3rd May 2014 3:44pm
Brett says...
Glad to hear you are all better. Trying to grasp religion a bit better and this is without a doubt the best guide to understanding religion in BNW available. Would you say inherently due to the religious pressure system is seems to work better with wide empires? I feel like having some liberty games but having a hard time passing on tradition. Thanks!
Yes. Religion is easier to spread naturally with Wide empires, simply because there are more Cities sending pressure each turn. It is also easier to generate mass Faith, particularly if you put a few points in Piety and choose a Religious building for one of your Beliefs so that you can place them in all your Cities (+2-3 Faith in all Cities really adds up.) Tall is more reliant on getting alliances with Religious City-States and using Inquisitors to block the spread of other Religion in their lands, simply because they do not exert as much pressure. You can choose between Enhancers to either increase the spread rate or increase the range the Religion will spread. With an Empire with 6-8+ Cities, it's probably better to pick the latter as the more distant Cities will be sending pressure to Cities far off. Combine that with Missionaries/Great prophets used in strategic places, and you can easily domainte your continent with your own Religion.
19th April 2014 12:17pm
Ryan says...
You say you must capture (not puppet), so I guess you mean annex, a holy city to eliminate pressure emanating from it? How did you figure that out? I have captured the holy city of Taoism for example, and though I've used Great Prophets and Inquisitors on it.. Taoism keeps coming back. The holy city is a puppet right now. Part of the problem is the neighboring foreign civs have been converted to Taoism so they are exerting pressure back to my cities... and the AI civs always build their cities much closer together than I do so there are multiple cities sending pressure. Jerusalem on my border is getting +220 pressure or something crazy like that for Taoism.

I wish I had read up about this before I started trying to convert everyone... I sent out a bunch of missionaries very early to try and convert non-affiliated cities. It was a waste of time tho because I targeted the big cities and didn't give them a majority.
You have to have control over the City to use Remove Heresy, so I specified that it must be Annexed. I've also included a new paragraph reminding people that other Cities nearby can continue to exert pressure for that Religion. That's the problem - the Holy City will usually exert double pressure because of the presence of a Grand Temple, so in that case you're knocking out 2 Cities worth of pressure. With other Cities exerting pressure, the Holy City can continue to see Followers pop up over time.

If a Religion is that dominant in an area, only mass-Missionaries and Great Prophets could remove it entirely from the game, along with you using Trade Routes to strategically convert Cities over time (those that can be overcome with Trade Route pressure). Sending GP/Missionaries one at a time would be no good - you'd need to do this in one big campaign, to completely convert Cities so that they have yours as a Majority. For Cities you Annex, it'd be better to use an Inquisitor than Missionary.

Given that 220 Pressure is an insanely large amount, that would take time and a lot of Faith. It sounds like that particular City was the target of a lot of Trade Routes and had many, many Cities around it. The AI does tend to play wide and gobble up lots of land, and this can definitely pose a challenge to those trying to spread their own. It would be even worse with an AI-founded Religion that has Itinerant Preachers as that would extend the range of those Cities' pressure.
4th May 2014 5:45am
Tristan says...
Good guide. I was confused about religion with Civ 5 but now I am up to date. Thanks.
Happy to help :)
31st July 2014 9:35pm
Kevin says...
Hey, this guide has been very helpful. I have one question though. Can a civ who is already converted to a religion found a new religion? Thanks in advance!
If there are still religions to found, it can. However, if the other Religion is prevalent it will be hard for just the Capital to convert those Followers. This depends on difficulty, as the higher it gets the more missionaries the AI will  be able to use.
26th August 2014 11:42am
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This site and all original strategy guides created by and © Carl Ratcliff. This is an unofficial Civilization V fansite and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis Games, Developer of Civ 5 Brave New World and Gods and Kings.