In BG the purpose of temples was to provide the player with a means to heal, resurrect and identify.
This function seemed a little bit redundant to me, provided that there were easier ways to do this.
Reload the game instead of resurrect a party member and rest instead of going to a temple to heal yourself.
I was thinking on how to make this aspect of the game / world a little bit better and i came up with the following ideas.
Let's make a religion system, which is not characterized by the act of *worship*, i.e. the undermining of your own self-respect in order to gain the favor of some "higher" force or entity.
In this system priests represent domains more than they are agents of their gods. A little psychology could be used here.
Say, for example, that a loved one of the pc is lost. Feeling unable to protect this person the pc (or a companion of the pc), would probably be subject to some nasty rage and guilt - pretty intense, destructive emotions.
In this situation a priest (of a god whose domain is rage) could provide means for coping with these intense emotions.
The priest could explain to the character that it is natural to feel this way and perhaps could provide him / her with means to get these feelings out of their system more easily. By helping to perform rituals, for example.
In essence, what i'm proposing is a pantheon of gods, who represent different perspectives of the human nature. The priests could be avatars (some kind of primitive specialist psychologists) of the corresponding domains instead of agents of malevolent (or ignorant) higher forces. Or, perhaps both. So, only those could be priests who understand (or try to understand) the inner workings of the human nature, specializing to a corresponding domain.
You see, the main difference between the usual approach and mine is the message. Usually, religion tells to people that they are subject to the whims of higher forces, but they can gain the favors of these forces by appropriate ways of worship. Either donating large amounts of coin to the temple or carrying out the will of the corresponding higher force does it. The message is that you are worthless therefore you better obey (or else).
While my kind of religion (where actually man created the gods and not vice versa) helps people cope with an insanely cruel world around them. So, my kind of priests do not rob people of their self-value, of their illusion of control, but try to restore and protect it.
I believe that a perfect mixture of these two approaches naturally yields some nasty power struggles, quest-hooks, and of course, they provide a degree of immersion into a fantasy world, where the feelings of the characters are (almost) real, and their beliefs are quite similar to the beliefs of the denizens of ancient primitive cultures. Where folks sacrificed cows to let the winter pass quickly, or to let the hunt be succesful, you know what i mean.
So, i propose that when the party enters a temple and talks to a priest, then - in addition to the usual options of healing and resurrection - they would have the option to talk to the priest (who might join them later perhaps) about what they encountered on their journey and whatnot. The priest then could tell a tale with some moral content or lesson, perhaps could give them a quest or perform a ritual.
This could easily lead to very comical or depressing situations. Opinions?