This question reminded me of a Sci-Fi book series I read in the early 80's. I do not remember much about it, but I do recall a particular scene where one of the characters was describing the evolution of the inhabitants' sun worship. Apparently, the first colonists were both Christians and Muslims and, in a gesture of ecumenism, the Christians also began to pray "toward Mecca". Several generations later, this practice evolved into some kind of sun worship.

I read a lot of Sci Fi books in the 80's so am a bit reluctant to give more details, since I may end up confusing details of several books. Still, Valorum's comment is valid, so I'll do my best.

As I recall this was part of an anthology about folks on a planet several generations (thousands of years) after it was first colonized by Earth. In addition to the religious practice that evolved above, the main character in the series had developed the ability to cast and see "threads" to allow navigation across a "void" allowing travel from place to place much easier and quicker. The early colonists had also managed to block some kind of gate through which another alien species was about to invade. Now, several thousand years later, some of the inhabitants wanted to open these gates but others wanted to keep them closed. The thread spinner was one of the ones who wanted to keep the gate shut. The "gate openers" ended up winning, but the aliens were defeated since the level of technology that developed on the planet ended up far surpassing that of the aliens (who had been stuck behind the gate all of that time).

marked as duplicate by Otis, Brythan, RDFozz, Bellatrix, Mat Cauthon Aug 25 '18 at 2:12

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As confirmed in the comments by the OP, this is the Soul Rider series by Jack L Chalker.

The series consists of 5 books

  • Spirits of Flux and Anchor
  • Empires of Flux and Anchor
  • Masters of Flux and Anchor
  • The Birth of Flux and Anchor
  • Children of Flux and Anchor

The books tell the story of "World", a partly failed colony world where there are areas of stability (Anchor) surrounded by areas of chaos (Flux). There are some who want to let demons through the Hellgate (the alien invasion), and those that try to prevent this.

Those that had power to control the Flux lying between the Anchors could navigate safely through the chaos, unless they met another person that was even stronger in their control of Flux, control of Flux allowed physiological and psychological changes to be forced on others.

I believe from your description that you are remembering details of the 4th book (The Birth of Flux and Anchor) as this prequel story details the founding of the colony and the initial discoveries and battles against the alien forces that were fought, and how the Christian and Muslim settlers agreed to pray "up" towards Mecca and how this became Sun Worship (extract from the TVTropes link - warning!!! TVTROPES)

Fantastic Religious Weirdness: In the prequel book, as the colonists are settling in on their new planet, the narrator remarks that the Muslim communities had long debates over which way Mecca was, given that, due to the method of travel they used to get there, they didn't even know which way Earth was. They decided that upward was the best bet. The narrator commented that this put them in agreement with the Christians in the group, and wondered if someday all their children would wind up praying to the gas giant planet that the planet was orbiting. Which is exactly what happened when the computers running the world ran a conversion program on the entire society to prevent a civil war and decimation of the populace and merged all religions into a single one as part of that change.

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