1. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    An 'evil' religion that burns people.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by R-e-n-n-a-t, Apr 27, 2011.

    At first glance it might seem fairly straightforward to write about, but then you realize that since religions have actually done that, people are gonna' get offended. This really doesn't bother me, as I don't use writing to pay for anything, and therefore it doesn't matter if the book has merely niche appeal.

    For the sake of clarity, this religion worships an endless circle, and has no ties other than possibly aesthetic ones to any large, current religion, but, all the same, how far could a scifi/dystopia book take the anti-religion stance without making you want to stab me repeatedly?
     
  2. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    I think you could do really well with that idea.

    After all, think Stargate SG1 with the episodes about the Ori. I loved that.
     
  3. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    Anti-religion is in vogue these days it seems, i think you'll appeal to a broad group of people!
     
  4. TheGreatNeechi
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    TheGreatNeechi Member

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    Take it as far as you are willing. It doesn't matter how many people you alienate, if you're writing this to sell nothing sells like inflammatory literature. It's a fact. People will buy your book just to read it and get mad at you.

    They well understand by buying your book they support your ability to continue writing what they dislike, because subconsciously we are attracted to the macabre, the exotic, and even the things we find distasteful. Curiosity is a powerful force.

    So no, don't be afraid to write about the evils of religion. There are plenty.
     
  5. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The actual burning seldom has root in the religion itself, but is a reaction to some problem. Witches were burned when problems arose and people tried to find a scapegoat. Widow burning in Hinduism solves the problem of Widows being a economical burden on the family. Etc.
     
  6. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whatever you do, don't go about it halfheartedly. If you're going to come down on religion then take it far. Don't sit on the fence about it.
     
  7. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    That's encouraging, I was worried I was going to get a bunch of replies saying
    "Why would you make fun of religion? That's not nice, I don't care that it's a fictional book! It's mean!" *goes off to find a sharp stabby object*
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    history can't be ignored... and many religions have done horrific things to their own members, as well as to those they considered 'infidels' or 'non-believers'... some still do!...

    so, why should you worry about anyone taking offense at you doing so in fiction?
     
  9. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Not for any moral sense, it's more like I just don't want to be stabbed by a sharp object until dead.
     
  10. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    If its fiction or even better fantasy, create it.
    Then season the religion with positive and negitive aspects of all religions.
    If you create it and use several religions to make it, then no one should be able to claim thier religion is being trashed.

    Remember, even the evil religions appeal to the followers, so an all bad religion probably wouldn't last.(thats why you need some good)

    I think a few religions burned heretics. :D
     
  11. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Any religion can be seen as evil given the right (or wrong) POV.

    Christians tortured/burned/executed people they believed were witches. Some even believed they were saving the witch's soul by burning them alive.

    Muslims have suicide bombers that believe their sacrifice will be rewarded with X number of virgin brides in heaven.

    Aztecs sacrificed people to their gods, beleiving blood was holy. That was a belief accepted by most of them.

    These are just a few examples. All religions have their good and bad sides. And the person commiting the 'evil' actions doesn't believe he is the evil one.
     
  12. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Take it as far as you want and as far as it seems to fit with what your story's about. People might get offended if they think you're poking a finger at something they personally believe in, but that's life.

    If you make it clear that you're not, that its a fake religion and not a parody of another real one, then nobody can legitimately get offended. And if on the other hand you do intend it to be poking the finger at a particular one, then make it clear that that's your intent, and spell out why. If you can justify your position then even if its hurtful, people can't really be legitimately offended.

    On the other hand keep Salmond Rushdi in the back of your mind. I haven't read his book, but I suspect he didn't really say anything that terrible, just got turned into a scapegoat. Still, as unfair and anti free speech, and wrong as it is, there are some lines that maybe you want to think about the consequences of crossing before you make the decision.

    Cheers.
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    In your shoes, I'd make up a religion with similarities to several existing ones, so it's not dismissed as a rant against a particular religion.

    In general, showing nuances makes a story less offensive - for example, all major religions have their fair share of both hypocrites and true believers, both piety and power struggles, and so on. Even many of their followers will admit that, if approached respectfually. By acknowledging that, you can even get many religious people to agree with your criticism. Especially if you do it with empathy and understanding for the choices people make in different situations.

    If you're going to write about a small religion with mostly fanatical followers, you don't need to make it nuanced, since people won't necessarily draw parallels to their own religion. But the criticism may also fall flat for the same reason. Everybody knows most religions don't burn people most of the time, so it won't seem relevant. If you go out of your way to make your religion similar to one of the real ones, their followers will be offended, and can easily dismiss the criticism as untrue.

    One way to make the criticism hit home, is to construct a religion which seems sympathetic and sensible on the surface, and make it believable that people - ordinary, decent people - will be drawn to it, and only later make it apparent what perversions their beliefs lead to.
     
  14. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    I'm writing a story about a religion that stones people and I'm a religious person, so its okay.
     
  15. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    SMH. People, it isn't exactly religion that's "evil" (that word is relative), it's the followers that misinterpret texts and preach the wrong word which usually ends up having people killed/injured. Word of advice: it isn't wise to make a story based on a religion which encourages the burning of another human being, unless it's based on the idea of sacrifice. No one wants people running around burning people.

    And though I do agree that religion was created to manipulate, for lack of a better word, it was also there to instill standards and have people belong to a certain group. Christians with Christians, Jews with Jews, Muslims with Muslims, etc. with etc. So it's not all evil. Make it at least plausible.

    But if you want to provoke people, then go all out. It sells anyway. How do you think Pullman got through?
     
  16. nzric
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    nzric Active Member

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    If any religious people get offended just tell them the 'religion' is actually a "cult" that has a huge amount of followers.

    Apparently there's a difference ;)
     
  17. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    Indeed. Religion itself it not evil, despite what many internet atheists may say. It's the extremists who use religion as an excuse to commit horrible acts or lash out at others. Religion does help a lot of people too, you know.
     
  18. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    You could tie it in to the Mesopotamian worship of Moloch, who reportedly expected live babies to be placed in the cavity of a statue that was made of stone and heated with fire. (Basically, an oven.) Since they were considered the "heathen" in the Bible, scorned now by most if not all religious groups, you would be pretty safe.
    And, again, you could have your detective actually be a bit religious in the good sense so that there's some differentiation between the helpful religion and the crazies. (if that's how you want to appease your religious readers.)
     
  19. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    The Matrix, for example, had ties to many major religions, and it somehow worked. I agree that this is a useful tactic.
     
  20. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    But The Matrix only used religious symbols, it didn't criticise any religion, did it?
     
  21. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    Opinions on religions are always going to be subjective, some will find them evil/pointless/cult-ish and others will see them for as spiritual/divine/morally correct so if you want to write about the 'evils' of a religion you need to make sure it has some kind of 'divine' purpose to balance it out. I was christened as roman catholic but I don't practice it because I don't believe in that kind of thing, and generally in history religion has just seemed like an excuse to kill people who are different. Perhaps you need to think about the goals of this religion as well. Do they really want to be closer to a 'God' or do they want to just stop people from thinking freely so they can use divinity as a weapon to control a frightened and lost populous? You should try watching some youtube videos about evangelical radicalists because those are seriously scary. Creationists are pretty mad too (no offense to any who may be reading this, but you can't fool science!) so try researching a few religions first and you might be able to take some aspects from them.
    On the plus side for religion a friend of mine is christian and she does a lot of aid work through this AND she doesn't try to push me into her beliefs so I have a lot of respect for her for that.
     
  22. FrankBishop
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    FrankBishop New Member

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    Write the story as truth to yourself and your ideas. Write the story as it is meant to be written. Write the story.

    If you write about this religion and hold back, the reader will pick up on it. If you are pregnant with a concept and idea, birth that baby.

    Remember, there is always revision :p.
     
  23. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    My suggestion: don't make it a caricature. Don't make it so black and white and clear-cut. That's what will piss off most people, not the fact that you're portraying religion as having negative qualities. Because if you do that, you'll make yourself and the story seem like some radical anti-religious fanatic who is preachy and doesn't care about other viewpoints and thinks its own is the best.

    It's best, in most cases, I think, to portray the religion as a complicated thing, not black and not white. Sure, they may burn people, but as stated before, maybe they have a reason for doing it - culturally, economically, politically, whatever (and sometimes such "religious" reasons for burning it really have nothing to do with religion at all!); try not to make the people who believe in such a religion mindless, easily-swayed, superstitious morons who believe everything out of fear, because doing that makes them one-sided characters who are only there to further your message. Make them normal people with normal motivations and personalities, who have a reason for actually believing in whatever their religion preaches and practices.


    Of course, take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think ultimately when writing these kinds of stories with rather clear messages and intentions, it's important to portray the other side sympathetically - or, at least plausibly - and not to make them some kind of strawman whose viewpoint you can "easily" "disprove".
     
  24. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    I dislike black and white plots, so that's not going to be a problem! The hardest thing I think is going to be finding a realistic reason for why people would believe this religion, although I think society has proven that a realistic reason isn't needed in real life ;). Regardless, my book is going to need several reasons. I'm currently trying to 'take a step back' and think of normal everyday things that would be completely stupid if we hadn't grown up with them, and base the nuances and minor methods of worship of the religion around things like that; things that seem normal to us, but show the structure and personality of the society and the religion.

    As purely an example, and nonrelated to the actual book, people might think that redheads don't have souls ;)
    This seems mindless and stupid to us, but for some reason, people are disgusted if in modern society, you walk around Wal-mart without any clothes. At a certain point, you realize it's all on the same level of bias, but it just shows what people won't even question if raised to believe something.

    As it relates to the actual book, this group thinks that people who renounce the religion are obviously contaminated with an unidentifiable spiritual imperfection, which will escape and remanifest if the pagan is killed, unless fire is used, because that burns the escaping imperfect soul as well and stops it from seeping into a new person.

    People who renounce the religion (which is based in primarily North and South America), are not blamed in any way for nonbelieving; they're treated as mentally ill, and people pity them, while avoiding them in fear. They're arrested and if they can't be cured, they're burned. Imagine the Communist scare of the '60s; communism was treated like more of a tangible thing than an idea, and people who 'fell' to it were reviled, even though the main enemy was the evil force of Communism itself.

    Paganism in this fictional country is like a mix of Communism, AIDS, and Cancer. After a depraved religious war in the 2040's, following the push for equal rights of mild 'Khims' (slang term for genetically modified humans), people are terrified of something like that happening again, so that side of the world becomes strictly isolationist, and the already 'pure', recently cleansed country unites under a new single religion that worships the idea of humanity as a physical perfection. Human pride is the rallying cry of the religion, and of course the definition of 'human' becomes fluid, with 'inhuman' not only meaning Khims, but people of different beliefs as well.
     
  25. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    Judging from the way you're putting it, I think you might be interested in looking for books or scholarly articles that talk about religion from an anthropological point of view. I think the perspective of anthropology will help you find nuances of real-world religions in the least biased way as possible, and sometimes the way real societies (many of which are still around!) deal with their religious and/or spiritual beliefs can be pretty interesting. That's not to mention how anthropology could discuss other cultural practices in general. Look up google scholar to start - I'm pretty sure there's enough stuff out there.
     

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