1. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway

    Need thoughts on religion based fiction. Right or wrong?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TimHarris, Nov 17, 2012.

    I've been thinking a bit about this, and have come to the conclusion that religion is one of those sensitive topics many writers choose to leave alone. There could be many reasons for this. Maybe the writer happens to be religious, and doesn't want to mess with a story he has a strong relation to, or maybe he is just afraid his work might not be that well received.

    Personally I am an Atheist, and have never had much of a connection with any of the people found in the religious texts, but I realize that millions of people do. I do however find the stories of different religious texts to be good inspiration for my own work, but what concerns me is trying to write about biblical characters in a joking or mocking kind of way. I don't like to upset people, but I do have some great ideas (at least as far as I am concerned) about writing stories where characters from the bible are involved, and do stupid and/or immoral things (Think of David vs Goliath as David being a dwarf, who just happens to outsmart the bigger guy. Or Moses really being a superhero who got incredible powers after eating a mutated plant).

    How do you feel about using religious texts in this fashion? Is it wrong? Or is it perfectly legit to write fiction based deeply on religious figures that people have a deep sense of connection with? Or to take it all the way, what if somebody made a story where the virgin Mary is described as a prostitute? Is this something that I as a writer should refrain from doing? This is a complicated topic to me, and I would like some input on it.
     
  2. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    501
    People will be offended. But if it's something you want to do, there is a market and an audience who will appreciate it. Writing is art, and even though I am a conservative christian, I respect your right to do what you love. Do what drives you and don't worry about offending people.
     
  3. Knarfia
    Offline

    Knarfia Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2012
    Messages:
    77
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    The best town you've never heard of
    I highly recommend Mark Twain's "Letters From Earth", if you haven't read it already. Such an interesting play on Bible stories, coming from someone who many believe was an Atheist- it's hard to tell for sure, but he certainly was skeptical of the Christianity.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    It can be perilous ground to tread on. Some writers have been assassinated or had bounties on their heads for depicting religious figures in "blasphemous" ways.

    Writers don't all play it safe, though. Just be aware of the power of faith, and worse, the power of clinging to a shaky faith. Be very sure it is worth the risk you face in kicking sacred cows.
     
  5. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,349
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    On the positive side, all that publicity will increase book sales and make you rich.
     
  6. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    I address it in my writing, where that is appropriate, but I don't have any interest in writing an entire book around a Biblical character. Doing so and providing a materialistic explanation for miracles will immediately be viewed as polemic, and I'd imagine should be handled cautiously in order to avoid overpowering your story.
     
  7. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    Might come off as presumptuous.

    If you're going for a straight out mockery of characters held sacred by millions of people for over a millennia, you better have the skills of Mark Twain or Swift to pull it off.
     
  8. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,201
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Australia
    Do it. Art is liberty
     
  9. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    Exactly. That's why one has to be careful as to what religion you try to mock. While a majority, not I didn't say most or all, christian's wont physically attack someone for blasphemy, the more conservative and radical arms of Islam will put at Fatwah's (in simple explanation, it's a order for someone's death issued by a Imam.) on writer's, and/or actorr/actresses who insult Mohammed. So you're treading in dangerous waters, so just be careful as to who you mock.
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    There are extremist Christians too. Look at the lengths some have gone to over peripheral religious issues like family planning.

    It doesn't matter what religion it is, If you ridicule deeply held beliefs, you risk violent reprisals. I'm not saying you should back off, I'm saying you need to weigh the risk against how important the message is to express. If you're ridiculing religion for cheap shots, it's probably an unwise move. If you are pointing out an important contradiction with your beliefs, it may be putting yourself and people you care about at risk.
     
  11. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Personally, I find the idea of writing Biblical people as superheroes kind of intriguing. But as the others have said, if you're writing this just to show your contempt for religion in general, rather than using the Bible as inspiration for an entertaining story - well, I think it's obvious which one will get you not only more readers, but which one will get you in more potential trouble. Again, personally, I find "contempt for religion" based books to be presumptuous and usually boring - but I'd be really interested in the superheroes :D
     
  12. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    People insult religion all the time in "art." It's a badge of honor in today's society, especially if you choose to insult Christianity. You'll offend Christians but hey, that's also a badge of honor anymore. I don't know why you'd be worried about it. lol

    Radical Atheists get offended all the time too. (Even easier than most Christians, I'd argue. lol) So all I can say is that you should be able to take as good as you give. :)

    That said, you do have to be aware that going after Christians will alienate your audience right off the bat, and as I said, it's also a fairly popular topic these days. Not saying your idea in particular is overdone. Just that you might want to consider who your audience is for a Bible satire.
     
  13. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    That's why I didn't use the word "all"
     
  14. Pheonix
    Offline

    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2012
    Messages:
    5,716
    Likes Received:
    401
    Location:
    The Windy City
    No matter how you portray something religious, you'll offend someone. It's the nature of the beast. Now, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, it just means that you need to be careful how far you're willing to go. Religion is something that everyone has a strong opinion on, and more wars have been started over it that anything else. No matter what religion you are, christian, musilm, jewish, athiest (Yes, I consider that a religion), etc. you have an idea that affects your view of the world. Now someone comes along and says that your view of the world is wrong, there's gonna be some reaction.

    To pull this off, a person has to remember (and I say this with the best possible motives), You do not know everything or understand everything, and you should not presume to know more than anyone else.
     
    1 person likes this.
  15. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Warning

    I have removed posts that are turning the thread into debates over violence by specific religions. That is NOT the purpose of the discussion, and if it continues, I will close the thread with no further notice.
     
  16. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    There is a market for that kind of fiction, but yes also, you will pee some people off. You can't really avoid it. I think the most important thing is to examine the story and why you want to write it. If it's actually a simple cool story that you think would be fun to tell, you'll probably get away with it. Think Stranger in a Strange Land. If what you actually want to do is write a polemic against a particular religion, that will be noticed too.

    I don't think violence is the main danger you face, though you could take steps to limit this by writing under a pen name. The main danger you face as a writer is being pigeon holed into a category, as anti a particular religion. Once you do that everything else you write will be filtered by your readers through that perspective.

    Having said that, as a liberal Christian, I think there's quite a lot of room to work with many of the stories in the bible, particularly the OT, where a lot of the exciting stuff happened. I mean think of say escaping from Soddom, surviving the great flood, David and Goliath.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. JamesOliv
    Offline

    JamesOliv Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2012
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    New York
    Just do your homework first. If you misrepresent some aspect of a religion, it is likely to offend. Misrepresentations through ignorance are just as jarring as misrepresentations made out of spite.
     
  18. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    501
    Having religious characters do stupid and/or immoral things is not a new concept. Watch any episode of Family Guy or South Park or the movie Michael or Dogma. Just write it. Do what you want and don't base your decision on what other people will think.
     
  19. mbinks89
    Offline

    mbinks89 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    Messages:
    551
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Montreal
    Writing is art. Art is self-expression. Self-expression should be censorship free, because if it isn't, well, what's the point? Right what you want. If some people get offended, then that's their problem.
    "The right to free speech trumps the right to not being offended" -- Salman Rushdie
     
  20. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    Unfortunate choice of quote when you consider Mr, Rushdie's current situation!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  21. JamesOliv
    Offline

    JamesOliv Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2012
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    New York
    No one is censoring anything. The government is not coming in and shutting down the project. Freedom of speech means that your speech is free from government interference. However other individuals receive your speech is beyond the scope of that protection.

    If I get offended by something someone says or writes, I can avoid buying their work. If they own a business, I can avoid shopping there. If I am an employer (in an employment a will state such as New York) I can fire someone who writes or says something I take offense to.

    All that has been advised is to look at what one writes and consider the potential consequences. Then, if you decide those consequences are worth the risk, go for it.
     
  22. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Not entirely true. You can refuse to allow them to use your business to promote that viewpoint, but you would undoubtedly be sued, and probably successfully, if you are an employer of more than a mom and pop store who fires an employee for expressing a reasonable but differing opinion publicly. "Reasonable" would be decided by a judge or a jury if it went to trial.

    A bit off topic, but that assertion screamed for clarification. Even employment at will is subject to federal civil rights restrictions.
     
  23. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    I am glad this thread got as many replies as it did. To me, religion is a very interesting subject as I have always been puzzled by how some people can hold such deep beliefs, and defend them they way they do. I respect peoples right to believe in anything they want, but I cannot sympathize with those who would hurt or harm anyone disagreeing with them.

    It was good to hear your views however. I do understand that the reality is that some people go to extreme lengths when it comes to their religion, and that I should keep this is mind when writing anything about religion that other people might find offsensive. That said, I agree with Salman Rushdie who was quoted in this thread, that the right to free speech trumphs almost everything else. How easy do you think it would be a get a book like this published? I assume a lot of publishers will have limits on what they tolerate when it comes to content, especially on a subject like this.
     
  24. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Publishers don't seem to have a problem with irreverence or controversy - it all depends on how well it's written. That should always be your main concern - to write to the very best of your ability.
     
  25. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    controversy is good for publicity. think about this, every time someone pisses of the Muslims and it ends up news personally know i probably end up watching it out of curiosity.

    best case scenario it sells like hotcakes from the controversy
    worse case scenario you get killed by religious extremist
    best worse case scenario, you have to kill a few religious extremest. get metric tones of interviews and sell a second book.
     

Share This Page