Holy Smoke! A Cleric's (Templar's) Handbook
Your God(s) wants you to go forth out into the world and wreck havoc/bring peace/do something to the world, depending on who you choose to serve. Many beings may worship your god, but you are invested with divine power as a leader and your god expects that you will be out there in the thick of battle. Your profession has several options in battle from smashing stuff to shooting lazers out of your holy symbol to preaching at your enemies to summoning stuff to doing all of these at once. You tend to be better at healing than other leaders and no matter what choices you make healing will always be some part of your abilities. But if you want to, you can be the best at this. You can be strong, wise, and/or charismatic. Finally, what god you choose to follow will effect what you can do to a huge extent as well. You have lots of choices ahead of you. So choose wisely!
Red: Don’t take this, there is always something better. Either bad or outclassed
Purple: Might be useful sometimes, but there are almost always better options
Black: Good enough
Blue: Good choice and might be the best depending on different factors.
Sky Blue: Almost always one of the best choices
Gold Either broken good or the class needs this to function properly. Less than 1% get this rating.
WoTC has renamed the original PHB cleric "Templar", but I am not going to make all the edits to this handbook to fix that change. Cleric usually means templar, warpriest means essentials warpriest.
Sources: PHB: Player's Handbook; PHB2: Player's Handbook 2; DP: Divine Power; FRPG: Forgotten Realms Player's Guide; MM: Monster Manual; MM2: Monster Manual 2; AV: Adventurer's Vault; AV2: Adventurer’s Vault 2; D#: Dragon Magazine #; MOTP: Manual of the Planes; PHBH: Player's Handbook Heroes; MP: Martial Power; AP: Arcane Power; EPG: Eberron Player's Guide Thanks to everyone who contributes! If you do contribute try to include sources since there are so many books and dragon magazine articles now it is tough to know where these things are from and readers (including me) may need some help.
Lastly a favor to ask, if you respond to another person's long post please just quote the relevant parts and if you post a complete build or something similar try to hide it in a spoiler box (["sblock=title]text[/"sblock] without the quote marks) since that will make the handbook less cluttered. Also if you note any errors/typos let me know via private message since I used both the compendium and the books to make this and they sometimes disagree with each other on things like if a power is encounter or daily, who it targets etc.
So Why Play A Cleric?
The Warlord is great at granting extra attacks and damage, the Shaman gets lots of tactical tricks, and the Bard gets to multiclass a lot. What do clerics offer?
You can heal like no other: Clerics are the best class out there for healing, particularly surge free healing. You have to try to make your cleric not good at this. You are good at most other things a leader is good at too like boosting allies defenses and granting saves.
Versatility: Clerics have some of widest variety of build options out there, from front line guy cutting orcs down with a big sword to the back line healer who never directly hurts an enemy. Your channel divinity and domain options further help to make sure no two clerics play quite the same. And almost every race is good for at least one build and you can sub for a controller, defender, or striker.
You Hybrid Really Well: The versatility of the class makes clerics one of the best hybrid options in the game, to the point where some think almost all clerics should hybrid to get the best out the class and pick up features and powers of other strong classes.
You Won't Miss Much: Many of the good cleric attack powers either do not require an attack roll or the major effects still happens on a miss. And many of the good weapon powers target a NAD instead of AC.
Great Team Player: You have a lot of buffing abilities and will make your teammates hit harder and more often. Plus you get dozens of burst/blast powers and almost all of them only target enemies.