1. Mikmaxs
    Offline

    Mikmaxs Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2016
    Messages:
    159
    Likes Received:
    108

    How do you like them Religions?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Mikmaxs, Jun 16, 2016.

    This is partly a thinkpiece, partly a question. Basically, the question is, "How do you think religion should be treated in Urban Fantasy?"

    There's two ways how I've seen it done in recent memory, and I was struck by how much one bothered me while the other was so pleasant to read.

    The example I didn't like was the handling of Christian mythology in Supernatural. It's overall a good show, but the way they handle theology is a mess.

    Part of the problem is that they seem to have never actually read the source material. (That is, uh, the Bible.) God is missing, (or, SPOILERS, a sleazy guy named Chuck,) Angels are both bad guys and not particularly powerful, and Demons are apparently ex-humans or something, just to name a few problems. That's fairly pedantic to complain about, though: They're allowed their own mythology, it's fiction, they can make up whatever they want.

    The real problem I have is that Christianity is *clearly* the true religion, because God really exists, the Bible (or, their made-up version of the Bible,) is accurate in its descriptions of the Apocalypse, and its the conflict between Angels and Demons that drives a vast majority of the plot.

    And yet, other religions are apparently also true. We've got Norse tricksters, Native American curses, hoodoo, and a few dozen other various mythologies that they get their rules from, but it makes no sense that those things would all exist alongside a traditional Christian God. It's a huge stumbling point whenever the issue comes up, and a topic that the show seems to actively avoid. (If it matters, I'm only through season Six.)


    On the other hand, though, there's The Dresden Files. It has an extremely similar world, and even a similar building-towards-the-Apocalypse setup going on, but the difference is that nobody gets special treatment. Angels exist, demons exist, God is implied to be floating around there somewhere, but they coexist with Greek and Norse Gods, Faeries of the Aesop and Grimm varieties, Native American lore, and even Santa Claus. None of these is implied to be more 'True' than the other, and rather than some of the mythologies being shuffled aside to make way for one specific Apocalypse, the different pantheon of godlike beings are all mingling, working both for and against each other, and interacting as the apocalypse slowly creeps closer.

    (Also, Angels actually act like freakin' Angels, and have the power to back up the title, which is nice.)


    It's the tiny contrasts that stand out to me, which make one nearly-identical setup work far better.
     
    ManOrAstroMan likes this.
  2. GuardianWynn
    Online

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    671
    Thing is. There is no rule book, like at all. These two shows did there take and there isn't anything wrong with that. To be fair. I didn't like supernatural either. Haven't seen the Dresden Files. In super naturals case, the part that bothered me, was a lack explanation on why salt hurt things. Sorry, I don't take "purity" as an answer. lol. And also god fighting with the brothers was very lame to me. Because I didn't feel they earned that kind of interaction, so instead of giving them cool points, it just robbed god of cool points.

    That being said. There still are no rules. Use as much or as little as you want. And use it any way you want. :) The thing is. Supernatural did do something right. Its fans love the show because they feel connected to the world. They feel the world is a real place they could visit. This connection is awesome and is far more important than how historically accurate you are.

    In my world? Religous exists as I imagine it in real life. Fake stories that people believe with a lot of passion. Funny enough, I do have a god of my world. But they never have even seen Earth let alone visited it.
     
    Buttered Toast and Oscar Leigh like this.
  3. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    865
    Likes Received:
    954
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Yeah, that annoyed me about Supernatural too. I remember them meeting Ganesha and some other Hindu deities, I think, but they were a one-off episode and no more important or powerful than like, Krampus. It'd be one thing to not include other religions at all, but having them yet treating them as C-list 'monsters' while the Christian stuff was given so much time and weight gives such overt insight into the creators' beliefs. And the thing with Loki / Gabriel was weird and, imo, perfectly emblematic of the issue: actual Loki from Norse mythology wasn't cool or tough enough - he had to secretly be a Christian angel to be taken seriously (er, spoilers). Man I used to really like Supernatural because it started off mostly about folkloric stuff, cryptids, urban legends, stuff like that, and I love that junk but it became so tied up in Christian lore. I'd almost argue that that begins to deviate from urban fantasy, but I don't know what genre it'd be more like. Just makes me think of reading Left Behind as a kid. Is Left Behind uf? Did Supernatural become Christian fic?

    I haven't seen/read The Dresden Files (I keep meaning to!) but the way you describe it seems to me like the better way to do it. Well, I mean, I don't believe there's a 'wrong' way; that's just the way I'd prefer because I'm not interested in any particular religion being pushed as the 'right' one in my fiction. I live in the Bible Belt, I get that enough irl, hahah.

    Personally, in the uf I write, I don't address actual organized religion, only folkloric stuff. I shy away from things like angels and capital-G God and stick to things like The Fair Folk. Again it's mostly because I'm just not interested in utilizing religions, but also yeah, that almost seems like a different genre. Maybe I just have too narrow a vague definition of urban fantasy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  4. KokoN
    Offline

    KokoN Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    250
    I think it comes from a modern ideology that there is no "truth" and that whatever you believe is "truth" no matter what it is. Personally, I don't believe that, since I'm more of a logical/scientific person. I believe it's impossible for God to both exist and not exist, it's either one or the other. A religion is either true or not true, or maybe some parts of it are true, but it can't be true to one person but not another. However, that's kind of considered "old fashioned" to some people these days for whatever reason, which is maybe why people can swallow these shows where there are multiple conflicting truths. However, I agree with you that it doesn't make much sense.
     
  5. GuardianWynn
    Online

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    671
    I agree. Hence why I live by the word. "Internal-consistency!" I mean fantasy by definition is not supposed to be real, but when it stops caring about sense to the point to not follow internal consistency. I dislike it. But it is reasonable. These shows play off of their own released material and as such, they easily get written into a corner. So I understand a bit of a failure. In that way a lot of these shows are cheese. You like it, or you don't. Nothing wrong with that.

    But then again, this is why I take internal consistency so far in my work. Like I said. I got a god of my world. She(I call her a she) not only did like the create the universe stuff. But she has never seen Earth, and I can even explain why she has never seen Earth! Also, well. She created the universe(in a sense) if Earth ever did come on her map. She could vaporize it with a flick of her finger. lol. Not that she would, but she could! lol
     
    Buttered Toast and KokoN like this.
  6. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    Yeah, Supernatural should have stopped with ghost stories. It was what they did best. Frankly, I don't think it would still be going if it weren't for the Hunkchester brothers.
    I really like how Jim Butcher handles it. He really seems to have done his homework.
    In my own story, I'm keeping things intentionally vague, where religion is concerned. The nearest thing to theological involvement would be some lord of the Fae showing up and saying, "Yeah, totally, you can call me Zeus and pray to me, that's cool."
     
    Buttered Toast and Oscar Leigh like this.
  7. Mikmaxs
    Offline

    Mikmaxs Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2016
    Messages:
    159
    Likes Received:
    108
    It's worth mentioning that my setting does have four major religions, and that three of them are absolute bull. (The fourth is a pantheon of sorts, and is true.)

    I also realized after posting this that Game of Thrones kind of does the same thing as the Dresden Files, though it's less explicit. We've got some supporting evidence to believe that at least a half-dozen religions are 'True'.
     
    Buttered Toast likes this.
  8. Iain Aschendale
    Offline

    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    990
    Location:
    The Hopton Stoddard Home
    That's what I like about "American Gods". Don't know if the series will be good or not, but in the book (minor spoilers), all the gods are real. They are created and sustained by belief, but can continue in a much-diminished form for quite some time after they cease to be worshipped. This let Gaiman do some really cool things without having to worry about what the "true" religion was.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  9. Cave Troll
    Offline

    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    3,776
    Likes Received:
    2,403
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Well gods are known more for their influence based on faith or belief. You know the whole mysterious ways thing and all. Turning them into physical constructs, is like pulling the proverbial curtain. Only instead of a man hyped up into something he is not, turns into the exact opposite which only adds to the demands of the faithful. So why must the fact that there is only one true religion, yet many different deities from a pagan belief inhabit the same plain of existence? That is like making every god/goddess that has ever been worshiped, made real/physical being, and then say that they are all false except the one/ones I like.

    IDK, have fun with that task of yours. Personally I like not adding to the list of rules and laws with which I am governed, but some people need the extra oversight to ensure they are good children. :p
     
    Oscar Leigh and Iain Aschendale like this.
  10. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    There's another thread about this, essentially, I say do whatever you want as long as you don't come off condescending. Research is cool but you don't have to do it if that's not your thing, I can't make you do that. I would advocate the interest of researching it, especially as even a creative interpretation is in my opinion improved by it, but your values might be different.
     
    Buttered Toast likes this.
  11. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,791
    Likes Received:
    7,308
    Location:
    Scotland
    As a non-religious person I am quite baffled by how this sort of religion/mythology/supernatural thing has caught on—in TV shows and movies, mostly. I went off the otherwise fantastic reboot of Battlestar Galactica when they veered away from the ethical question of how we treat the sentient beings we create via technology (which is something we really do need to think about, as we're already starting to do this). Instead, all of a sudden, the story was all about Religion, with a capital R. I stuck with it to the end, but have rarely been so disappointed. The inconsistencies in that one continue to stun me, and the original problem just got left swinging in the breeze.
     
    KaTrian likes this.
  12. Mikmaxs
    Offline

    Mikmaxs Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2016
    Messages:
    159
    Likes Received:
    108
    To be fair, BSG went off the rails because the writers didn't plan ahead properly, not because of the religious angels. (Pun!)
    After about season two, they were in uncharted territory. By season three, they were drawing names from a hat to decide who the Final Five Cylons should be.
     
    jannert likes this.
  13. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    What do you mean by that? Specifics?
     
    jannert likes this.
  14. Moth
    Offline

    Moth Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2015
    Messages:
    105
    Likes Received:
    82
    There's no patent on religion so there's nothing to stop a writer from butchering religious canon. Take your example with certain Christian elements in Supernatural; it would be quite easy for one character to explain away the problem with "Oh, the bible isn't 100% accurate" or that the original texts were misunderstood or mistranslated. Some folk might not appreciate their mythology being dragged through the mud, but it's a way for a lot of writers to create a contemporary fantasy story - why make up new gods and religions when it's easier and more plausible to use those already available?

    As for the whole "Christianity being the one true religion" thing, it's to be expected really. Supernatural is written and aired in a primarily Christian country - one where a majority of those Christians have never actually read the bible and so will generally forgive or be unaware of the inaccuracies. If the show did a plot twist where it turns out Islam is the 'true religion', I'm sure you could imagine the rating dropping a bit. A dead religion might work better (since no-one is invested in them being correct any more and they're not active competitors to modern-day religions), but would also be less relatable and might turn off a few potential viewers.

    And for why there needs to be 'one true religion' acknowledged in the first place, I'd suppose it just makes things a little neater from the story-telling point of view.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  15. Iain Aschendale
    Offline

    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    990
    Location:
    The Hopton Stoddard Home
    I've always hoped that, if I do see anything after death, it'll be the Judgement Day of a people so long gone that we don't even know the names of their god(desse)s anymore.

    "Whaddya mean, I failed to sacrifice a woolly mammoth calf on the third moon of the year? They're frikkin extinct. This is going to hurt, isn't it?"
     
    izzybot and Cave Troll like this.
  16. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    [QUTE="Iain Aschendale, post: 1457379, member: 68947"]I've always hoped that, if I do see anything after death, it'll be the Judgement Day of a people so long gone that we don't even know the names of their god(desse)s anymore.

    "Whaddya mean, I failed to sacrifice a woolly mammoth calf on the third moon of the year? They're frikkin extinct. This is going to hurt, isn't it?"[/QUOTE]

    Why do you want that to happen? That's terrifying, we're all doomed.
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Iain Aschendale
    Offline

    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    990
    Location:
    The Hopton Stoddard Home
    Why do you want that to happen? That's terrifying, we're all doomed.
    [​IMG][/QUOTE]
    Christianity and Islam say I'm doomed anyway, the Buddhists and Hindus have got plans for me spending multiple reincarnations as a cockroach, and the less said about the Scientologists the better. When I get to Hell, I want to be the only one who doesn't look surprised and confused.
     
    Tenderiser and jannert like this.
  18. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Christianity and Islam say I'm doomed anyway, the Buddhists and Hindus have got plans for me spending multiple reincarnations as a cockroach, and the less said about the Scientologists the better. When I get to Hell, I want to be the only one who doesn't look surprised and confused.[/QUOTE]

    Rather than going to some kind of fair, afterlife that doesn't care about your religion as a moral judgement, or just death because eternal torture is kind of worse?
     
  19. Iain Aschendale
    Offline

    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    990
    Location:
    The Hopton Stoddard Home
    Nah. I don't believe in any of the gods, but the ones I've seen advertised are all pretty grim, and if you wipe me clean of my sins, there'd be nothing left to enjoy paradise.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  20. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Okay, whatever. We have different stances of atheist views of the afterlife, whatever. We shouldn't get off topic anymore.
     
    Iain Aschendale likes this.
  21. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,511
    Likes Received:
    1,340
    How can you have a cat as your avatar and not be aware of the application of Schrödinger's cat to the possibility that God both exists and does not exist?

    Terry Pratchett's Small Gods antedates this by ten years, and is all about how Gods are as powerful as the belief in them.
     
    Buttered Toast and Oscar Leigh like this.
  22. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    :superlaugh::superlaugh:

    It is often called the spiritual successor. It's different though, that one plot element, thought major, is far from all there is to the stories.
     
  23. Auger
    Offline

    Auger Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2016
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    142
    Location:
    20,000 lightyears under the sea
    In the context of urban fantasy, I think they should treat the gods like politicians who try to win the war of influence by recruiting people with flashy powers, prophecies, and propaganda. Each god censors the other gods from their religious text, giving an explanation as to how all the gods can exist simultaneously without crossovers in the established religions.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  24. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Meh.
     
  25. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,791
    Likes Received:
    7,308
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes, that is true. I remember reading some interviews with some of the writers after the show ended, and they did admit to flying by the seat of their pants. They worked hard to create 'cliffhanger' season endings, and ended up painting themselves into a corner. What a pity. Such a great show ruined by lack of foresight. I used to watch all the episodes on DVD as they unfolded, trying hard to guess what the ending would be, etc. Well I certainly didn't guess it, that's for sure. I have never been able to rewatch the series since.
     

Share This Page