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- "None will be left behind when our Great Journey begins! That is the Prophet's age-old promise. And it shall be fulfilled!"
- — The Prophet of Regret
The Covenant Empire is founded on and united by a single religion, based upon the worship of the ancient race of beings known as the Forerunners. According to the Covenant religion, the Forerunners, being nearly omniscient and all-powerful beings, discovered a way to transcend the physical world and become divine beings, by building and activating seven huge ring-shaped devices called Halos, also referred to by the Covenant as "Sacred Rings". When this happened, the Halos uplifted the Forerunners into trans-sentience, but left all lesser, unworthy races behind. The Covenant (or at least the Prophets) believe themselves to be the chosen inheritors of the Forerunners, and seek to reclaim their lost technology and use all the "gifts" the Forerunners left behind. Their ultimate goal, however, is to locate and activate the Halo Installations. In doing so, they believe that all faithful adherents to the Covenant Religion will be uplifted as the Forerunners were, and become divine beings. All client races of the Covenant follow the Prophets in the hopes of also ascending into godhood.
On The Ark, during the Halo 3 campaign, several Terminals can be found left by the Forerunners, describing the activation of the Halo arrays as the "Great Journey." Through such terminals on other Forerunner installations, the Covenant may have learned of the name and used it to apply to their religion in yet another case of misinterpretation.
The Covenant's beliefsEdit
The Covenant believe that the ancient race of beings known as the Forerunners ascended into divinity through the use of seven artifacts known as the Halo rings. The very fabric of the Covenant is built upon activating the Halos, believing this will be akin to following in the footsteps of the Forerunners and propel them into the "Divine Beyond", a heavenly paradise they will share with the Forerunners. All races who are non-believers or unworthy of the journey will be left behind.
The Sangheili were once the most devout believers in the Prophets' vision. The events at Delta Halo, and their replacement by the Brutes as the military backbone of the Covenant, however, have disillusioned them to the Great Journey, and they now actively oppose those that continue to believe in it. It should also be noted that Truth told the Arbiter that he always felt the Elites "never believed in the promise of the Sacred Rings."
The Jiralhanae were blindly loyal to the Prophets, obeying every command. Now, the survivors are more than likely leaderless, with the High Prophets dead and many of their Chieftains killed in battle.
Many Grunts care little for religion, as they were forced into the Covenant, but those that do stayed loyal to the Prophets during the Great Schism. As a species, their opinions may be split; in Halo: Contact Harvest, while many of the Unggoy that Dadab attempts to sermon to are too unintelligent to give any thought to religious matters, the fact that at least some Unggoy are shown to hold mass prayer sessions lasting up to an hour or more as well as Dadab's adopted role of a preacher in itself is testament to the fact that a large number of Unggoy are active believers.
The Kig-Yar served more as hired mercenaries than true believers, but still remained with the Prophets during the Great Schism. Their religious beliefs are unknown, but their loyalty to the Prophets is unquestionable, though this is more likely because they wished to be on the side of the more powerful faction. This choice later proved to be an unwise decision.
As artificial sentient bio-mechanical organisms, Huragok were created by the Forerunners. They have no interest in religion, preferring to focus their attentions onto the technology they are responsible for. Even prior to the Great Schism, Huragok seemed to remain neutral in any fights, one even going as far as to create a gift symbolizing peace for the humans and helping the humans escape. Yet another repaired Ascendant Justice's engines and even repaired a Needler for the Master Chief to use in battle while another repaired his shields. They most likely continued to serve whoever commanded them at the time of the Schism.
Likewise, Yanme'e and Lekgolo seem to feel no need for religion in their societies, but continued to follow the Prophets. As a result of their hive-minded lifestyle, the Yanme'e obeyed the Prophets without thought or question. Individual beliefs may have played a part in the Lekgolo's decision, but they may have sided with the Loyalists for the same reason as the Kig-Yar, if not for beliefs. At least some Lekgolo have sided with the Sangheili in their opposition, however.
The Heretic rebellionEdit
- "Ask the Oracle about Halo...how they would sacrifice us all for nothing!"
- — Sesa 'Refumee to the Arbiter.
Separate from the main covenant force, a small unit searching for relics on a gas mine orbiting Threshold happened to find an "oracle", or the name the religion uses to refer to the monitors. This unit was led by the Elite Sesa 'Refumee, who discovered the true purpose of Halo from this "oracle", 343 Guilty Spark and came to the realization that the Great Journey and the road to salvation was false. Rather than taking the Covenant on a path to divinity, activating the rings would mean the destruction of all sentient life within three radii of the galactic center. 'Refumee convinced the others to renounce their religion, thus beginning the Heretic movement, and began openly preaching the truth about Halo to the rest of the Covenant. In response to this, the Prophets sent a group of Special Operations Elites and Grunts into their base, a Gas mine, accompanied by the new Arbiter, Thel 'Vadamee, to silence the Heretics. Sesa 'Refumee was killed by the Arbiter at the Threshold's Gas Mine before he could escape, and the heresy was put down.
- "Here rest the vanguard of the Great Journey, every Arbiter from first to last. Each one created and consumed in times of extraordinary crisis."
- — The Prophet of Truth to the Arbiter.
The currently living Arbiter, who is either leading or is an important member of the separatist movement, knows the true function of the Halo installations. At first, he heard it from the Heretic Leader, and shortly after from the Gravemind and John-117, but it seemed as though he refused to believe the truth at the time. However, after speaking with 343 Guilty Spark, a Monitor of the lost Installation 04 who is considered by the leading Covenant caste as one of the holy Oracles, he accepted it. Following this conversation, he, with the help of some UNSC troops, attempted to stop the Brute Chieftain Tartarus from activating Installation 05, and hence the entire remaining Halo network, at which he was partially successful; the activation was interrupted, but the array was put into standby status, allowing its remote detonation from the Ark. The Loyalists were eventually defeated, and the Great Journey was, to a certain degree, discarded as a religion.
- "There are those who said this day would never come. What are they to say now?"
- — The Prophet of Truth
As the Master Chief and UNSC discovered, the Halos were not built as religious icons and representations; they are galactic weapons of mass sterilization built by the Forerunners to contain a parasitic species-devouring race known as the Flood. After exhausting every strategic option to destroy the Flood, the Forerunners activated the rings, killing all sentient life within three radii of the galactic center, including themselves. This eventually starved and killed off the Flood, though many still remained, such as the Flood in Forerunner labs (such as the Gas Mine on Threshold ).
Originally, there was a planned, organized process by which the Forerunners would survive the activation (which relied at least partially on the Shield Worlds), but thanks to 05-032 Mendicant Bias's defection to the Flood at the end of the Forerunner-Flood War they were unable to do so, as Mendicant Bias had revealed their locations to the Flood. In the ensuing conflict as the Forerunners were forced to face the oncoming assault of the Mendicant Bias-led Flood armada on the Maginot Sphere, the Forerunners hand had been forced. Didact subsequently activated the rings, killing all sentients not stored on the Ark or the Shield Worlds. This included all of the Forerunners, who had left behind an array of automated mechanisms to return the indexed life forms to their homeworlds.
- "In a moment, I will light the rings! And all who believe... shall be saved!"
- — The Prophet of Truth
The Prophet of Truth traveled to Earth to begin the Great Journey by activating the massive structure buried beneath New Mombasa which was once thought to be the Ark. Apparently, the sole purpose of this unearthed construct is to generate a portal which leads to the true Ark, Installation 00, which lies 218 (262,144) lightyears from the center of the Milky Way galaxy and the range of Halo rings.
The Prophet of Truth attempted to begin the Great Journey by forcing the captured Sergeant Johnson to activate the Ark, but was slain by the Arbiter, who stabbed Truth with an Energy Sword. The Master Chief shut down the Ark, once again stopping the "Great Journey."
Following the Great Schism and the death of The Prothet of Truth, the Covenant effectively dissolved. For more than six years, the member species of the Covenant fought a brutal civil war. Immediately following Truth's death, the San 'Shyuum sought to save themselves from the rage of the Sangheili, and so provided the Jiralhanae with new weapons, ships and other tools to aid in their protection. During this period the Prophets, who already had been few in number, largely disappeared, leading to rumours that they had actually finally achieved the Great Journey.
Even amongst the Covenant Separatists their ancient religion held for millennia was not completely abandoned. As one Sangheili Shipmaster believed, "he knew his gods were out there, but he had no idea what they wanted." The species of the Covenant had always relied on the Prophets to lead them in spiritual matters. The devout Sangheili in particular had not had any need for their own religious leaders for centuries, and now found that no one among them had the knowledge or the ability to comprehend the will of the gods. For a people whose sole purpose had been enforcing their gods' will, this was terrifying.
This period can perhaps be understood as somewhat being akin the Protestant Reformation in Western Christianity. A loss of faith in a society's religious leaders did not lead to a complete abandonment of said religion's deities. Rather it led to a period of intense conflict as various factions began to develop their own new interpretations of ancient beliefs. Although the Sangheili no longer believed in the Prophets as the messengers of the gods or in the Great Journey as they had described it, many still believed in their gods.
- Most of the Covenant religion are based on Biblical references, like how The Ark was a reference to Noah's Ark that was built to survive the great flood.