I'm working on a fantasy novel that's set in a culture similar to the ancient Egyptians, although not exactly. The planet is ringed, and to its people, the rings have become the physical incarnations of the gods. Their religion, and consequently their society, is heavily based on structure and order, class systems, and the idea that everything and everyone has its place and shouldn't step out of bounds. They have only one major aggressor, another culture that splintered from the main group hundreds of years ago.
For my story, the rings disappear, which of course causes chaos among the peoples of the planet. Never mind the scientific validity of such a phenomenon and the astronomical repercussions of it. I'm curious to know if there has been any research on a similar intellectual / emotional event on either a society as a whole or on individuals. It's a crisis of faith, certainly, but for these people, it's so much more -- this is a physical incarnation, their protectors, that disappears, not just the belief in something greater. And it's not just doubt or curiosity, either -- it's a literal and figurative annihilation.
So, any thoughts on what would happen? How society would react? How individuals would react? Ideally I'd find some sort of anthropological or psychological studies on such a thing -- the dissolution of belief, whatever. I've tried Googling, of course, as well as using some of the academic databases to which I've got access. I've searched various combinations of the following words and phrases: abandonment, dissolution, death, destruction; divine, gods, deities, religion; cataclysm, catastrophe. Mostly I get atheists talking about their crises of faith, but again, this isn't something willed or even sought out. It's terrifying!