You spread your religion with Faith which is acquired through buildings and policy cards like the God King card. The number of religions is limited, and it will always be less than the number of players in the game so you’re not guaranteed to get one. If you’re going after a religion victory it’s best to establish a religion as quickly as possible.
In Civ 6 you spread religion with three basic methods, Missionaries, Apostles and Religious Pressure. Missionaries are used to convert cities to your religion, Apostles are primarily used to remove other religions from your civilization as well as convert cities, and Religious Pressure converts nearby cities to your religion over time.
Missionaries are available once a Shrine is built at a Holy Site. Missionaries are bought with Faith and are purchased at the city production screen. Select the Faith Purchase option to buy one. If there is a Holy Site but no Shrine in the selected city the option to purchase a missionary will not be available. Missionaries have 4 movement points and cannot initiate combat with units of other religions but they can defend themselves. They have 3 charges (unless increased) they can use to convert the citizens of other Religions to join their cause. If at peace with other civilizations close by they should be okay if you send them out alone, but they can be killed easily if attacked. If Barbarians are still active in the area it would be wise to send some type of military unit with them until their charges are used up. Missionaries are good for converting cities that don’t have a religion.
When a Missionary is selected you can see what the results will be before using the Spread Religion ability. A tooltip will pop up telling you how many citizens will follow your religion and what the majority religion will be after the action is taken. As an added bonus you can see how many turns it will take any city you have visibility of to convert to your religion through religious pressure.
After you build a Temple you can purchase Apostles and Gurus. Apostles are the most expensive unit to purchase and are a promotable unit. For instance, an Indian Apostle can be promoted to triple their religious spread strength, can gain 3 extra religious spreads when they move next to a Wonder for the first time, or they can be promoted to a Martyr, which creates a religious relic at the spot the Apostle died at if it was due to theological combat.
Apostles can also be used to Evangelize a belief. This allows you to add a belief to your religion, such as the ability to spread your religious influence 30% farther away from your cites making or Missionaries and Apostles 30% cheaper to purchase, to name a few.
Like Missionaries, Apostles can be used to spread the faith and can be promoted to be at least 3 times better at it.
You can remove a religion in your own city by using the Apostle to “Launch an Inquisition” and then buy Inquisitors. The Inquisitor uses the Remove Heresy ability to get rid of all religions except your own.
The Guru is strictly a healing unit for Missionaries and Apostles who have been injured in combat.
if you want to know how to combine military units read my page about merging units.
You can also spread your religion through religious pressure. This spread process is in the background and it slowly puts religious pressure on other cities that it is within 10 tiles of. Each nearby city exerts pressure depending on whether or not it has a Majority Religion, and the pressure increases more if the nearby cities have a Holy Site and even more if the city is the Holy City for your religion. The impact of this influence can also be changed by other influencing factors, like a governor or certain religious beliefs.
Trade routes also produce a religious pressure of .5 if the starting city has a majority religion in it.
Best Civs & Leaders for Spreading Religion
The best civs and leader for spreading religion actually comes down to your playstyle. If India is led by Gandhi you receive +5 Faith for each civilization (including India) you meet that has founded a religion and is not at war with you. With Ghandi as the leader civilizations fighting India get twice the war weariness they would ordinarily get. Even without Gandhi as the leader India still gets +1 faith if a Stepwell is next to a Holy Site District plus it can produce even more faith later as the game advances. India is a good defensive civilization when led by Gandhi due to the additional war weariness suffered by other civilizations.
India also has Dharma which gives missionaries 2 additional “spreads,” plus it gives a 100% bonus to Religious Pressure imposed by your trade routes. With Dharma you also get 1 additional amenity in every city that has a follower of a religion, and it is one per every different religion in that city.
If you tend to have a more militaristic, offensive playstyle Spain with Philip II as leader would be a better choice. Philip gives Inquisitors the ability to remove heresy one extra time. Inquisitors will remove 100% of the presence of other religions when used. Combat units have +4 combat strength against players of other religions, making them a good offensive choice for spreading religion. Spain has the Mission building which gives +2 faith.
Establishing A Religion
Since it’s important to establish a religion as quickly you can Astrology should be the first or second technology researched. This gives you access to the Holy Site District. Once built you’ll start gaining Great Prophet points, which are needed to recruit a Great Prophet so he can found a religion for you. Once recruited you can’t recruit another one even though you still accumulate Great Prophet points.
Your odds of founding a religion can be improved by buying a Shrine if you can afford it or by enacting Holy Site Prayers as a project at one of your cities, again if you can afford the loss in production from that city.
When establishing a new religion you’ll need to choose a name and icon although the name for the icon can be customized if you don’t want one of the default religion names. Once satisfied with the symbol and name you confirm it and start choosing your religion’s beliefs. Once you choose two beliefs you’ll get one final chance to reselect your religion or beliefs. If you’re satisfied with your choices click “Found this Religion” and your civilization’s religion is established. Once you’ve established your religion you will be able to spread using it using Missionaries and Apostles.
You can see the religious status of any of your cities by using the Religion tab on the City Details screen. It will tell you what the dominant religion is in that city and how many citizens are following it. At first you can’t get much information about the cities of other nations but if there is a dominant religion you can view it in the city’s title bar. The dominant religion will be displayed in the city title bar, hovering the mouse cursor over it will give you the dominant religion’s name.
Prior to establishing a religion you’ll get the opportunity to establish a Pantheon, which happens once you accrue 25 Faith. Pantheons are beliefs that can give added bonuses to Faith, Production, Great Person points, culture food, housing, or population growth. These beliefs mainly focus on environmental features, like pasture, desert, tundra and marsh tiles as just a few examples. For instance, the Desert Folklore belief gives Holy Sites an additional Faith output of 1 if they are built next to Desert tiles.
After getting a great prophet move him to a Holy Site and found a religion. The city with the Holy Site the Great Prophet is activated at becomes the Holy City for your new religion. It’s the first city converted to your new religion, even if it is already following another religion. The other cities in your civilization will also convert to the new religion if they have a Holy Site. Great Prophets cannot be captured or killed.
You can check the status of your Great Prophet points and other Great People points at the Great People tab, located at the upper left of the screen. Not only can you see your Great People points but you can view the status of the top two contenders for a particular Great Person as well. You can also purchase a Great person at this screen for either gold or faith if you have enough on hand. The purchase price is the difference between what points you have versus how many points you need to recruit this Great Person, and the purchase can be made with either gold or faith, but not a combination of both.
You can only purchase a Great person if no one has enough points to recruit him. If you’re already declined to recruit this Great Person you’ll also be unable to purchase him. There is also a tab to see what Great People have already been recruited, great to use if you want an idea of how many civilizations are establishing religions, or if you just want to see if your favorite Great Person has already been taken.
Early Build Order
Build Stonehenge. You need to get started on it as soon as you can or another civilization bent on converting the world will beat you to it. If you complete it first you get a free Great Prophet and your free Great Prophet can found a religion at Stonehenge the next turn, saving you a lot of time. Building Stonehenge next to a quarry will give you 2 additional Faith per turn.
Once Astrology research is finished you can build a Holy Site district. Once a Holy Site is built you’ll be able to build Shrines and Temples after the right technologies and civics are completed. You buy Missionaries at a Shrine and Apostles at Temples. Both are purchased with Faith at the City Production screen. Send a Missionary or Apostle to a tile next to a city and use their spread religion ability to start converting the world to the proper way of life, yours!
Getting the Oracle is another priority. The cost of Great People is 25% less in Faith, plus any specialty districts in the same city produce 2 additional great person Points for that type. The Oracle Wonder also produces 1 Faith and 1 Culture point per turn.
For a complete rundown on what the build order should be for Civilization VI check out this page on my website.
Countering Religious Spread
To stop religious spread strengthen your religion by building Holy Sites in multiple cities. The second, and most effective way to stop the spread of another religion is through war. By killing enemy Apostles and Missionaries it will reduce their influence in the area, which slows and can even stop the spread of their religion.
You need to acquire as many Apostles and Missionaries as you can as quickly as you can to have a chance at winning a religious victory. You win a Religious Victory by becoming the dominant religion in the world. To become dominant you need to convert at least half of each civilization’s cities to your religion.