1. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    Religious Influences?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lord Malum, May 6, 2011.

    First and last time I'll say this: I do not intend to debate religion here and don't want others to do so either.

    For those who cannot tell at first glance, I am a Secular Humanist. This means that I am not religious in the sense that I believe in a Higher Power, but I support and respect the right of others to do so. If you have further questions about my personal beliefs or Humanism in general, please send them in PM format and not here.

    I have strong Humanist beliefs and have found lately that my writing tends to follow along that theme. Has anyone else had their religious beliefs impose themselves on their writing? Have you purposefully put religious themes into your writing?
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see how one's religion is any different from any other part of your worldview. The things that happen in your fictional world might be invented, but for it to be credible to you things have to happen, effect has to follow cause, in ways that are consistent with the way you think they do in the real world. And the things that particularly concern you are likely to turn up as issues in your fictional world. As long as it doesn't start becoming propaganda for your worldview it's a normal part of writing and part of your voice.
     
  3. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually do my very best to avoid religion in all of my stories. It's such a sensitive topic, and even though I define myself as a christian, I don't feel like I know enough about it. Or know what I truly believe for that matter. I'm such an open and liberal person who accept pretty much everyone as who they are. Opposite of most christians I know. So in the end I feel like I'm slightly against my own religion...

    However, I love writing about and playing with old religions, such as Norse and Greek gods (though especially Norse).
     
  4. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    My novel being set in the afterlife, and me being agnostic and cynical leads to some fun religious discourse. I avoid it as much as possible, but I really can't, given my setting, so I've put my own satirical twist on things.

    But hey, controversey is fun! I just won't let Grandma read it ;)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm an atheist, but one of my principal protagonists I am writing is a devout Catholic. It leaves him in a terrible crisis of faith from the start, which only becomes harder for him as the story progresses.
     
  6. Earlychop
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    Earlychop Member

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    I refuse to be labelled as agnostic or atheist. That would imply implicit acceptance that the opposite of being religious has a definitive description under a de-facto belief. ie Christianity.

    I do believe in the betterment of mankind. Inspiring literature is just one of the many ways of achieving that.
     
  7. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I'm a Buddhist, although I lean pretty close to the more non-mystical type of Buddhism, and probably am pretty close to being an agnostic (but not atheist) anyways. Buddhist concepts and themes do appear in my stories sometimes, particularly in my fantasy stories where reincarnation, for instance, is a clear fact, and I guess something like karma does come into play - note, however, that even then, reincarnation and karma don't work in this fantasy world like they do in our world's Buddhism.

    But really, other than such willy-nilly little things here and there, many of the religions in the fantasy world are inspired not only by Buddhism, but by pretty much different world religions, so ultimately I wouldn't say that my religion has had much of an influence on me (so far as I can see). If anything, I'd say that East Asian culture (I'm from Vietnam) probably has more of an unconscious influence in my stories than religion does.
     
  8. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am from the Andes, and as such I hold, or at least try to, a collective consciousness like belief of the living world, and the greater universe, and show deference and wonder to the elements and entities that loom larger than myself. I suppose it like a form of pantheism, and my current story is set in an arcane world, so it is only natural for my worldview to filter in, though I do not think it is imposed. Nevertheless in my modern set short stories, I do not consciously insert perceptible religious views, whether mine or otherwise unless it adds something to the story.
     
  9. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I am more of a spiritualist. But if you need a label, I'd be better suited for the agnostic with atheist tendencies category.

    And yes, I do cover the hardships and enlightenment of faith in my books. And I also notice that in my writing, I really like to explore Christianity and Catholicism... which is something I find funny really as I grew with Eastern Religions and a lot of my knowledge of Christianity and Catholicism is due to wanting to write about it.

    I actually really love exploring faith... especially when a character is going through something that has the potential of breaking his faith... I find that interesting. Whether I believe in a higher power or not, I have respect for my characters to explore it for them instead of making them a rigid, standard way. It makes it fun for me too as I would probably also write a character that is completely opposite of my views and beliefs that I use them meddle and shake my MCs with.

    A lot of my favorite authors and poets really explore religion and they inspire me to explore it too. It's extremely interesting to see the earlier works of a certain artist/poet/author that held a certain view in their early writings and then look at their work produced fifteen years later and see them have a different view.
     
  10. Troyyort
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    Troyyort New Member

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    Ok well Christianity does not say don't accept other religions and people. It's just that many Christians are like you and don't understand the faith. Christianity is basically the opposite of what you said so accepting others and listening to their beliefs is quite Christian. It makes me angry that people think Christians are haters of all other religions when its really just the opinionated "faithful" who think they know what they're saying. Religion was never meant to be controversial and writing about it will only help others accept all faiths.
     
  11. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Actually my first novel Thief was about an angel and a thief, and I remember having terrible troubles trying to keep Christianity out of it. I tried to walk the fine line of spiritual rather then religious, difficult when you have an angel as a major character.

    One thing though that did trouble me when I wrote Thief was the thought of upsetting people, creating a backlash etc. (Another reason for trying to keep religion out of it.) I was really worried when I realised there'd be a sex scene in it with an angel. (I should have been worried but for different reasons as my sister has told me it was the worst sex scene ever written and I must never write another - makes me worry that I might have been doing it wrong all these years!). But then I remembered the passages about the nephilim and their genesis and found precedent. One thing about the bible, it has such a broad range of writings in it that if you have to cross into Christian territory, you can probably find something in it to support your plot.

    In Maverick I had a much easier time, elves believe in the goddess / mother nature whatever, and there was no doctrinal stuff that I needed to put in. I could just leave the religious stuff deliberately vague and leave it up to the readers imaginations as to what an elven religion might be like. (Or a wizard god / religion for that matter.)



    Cheers.
     
  12. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    I am an atheist, and an antitheist at that. I try not to write about religion, in general, because I find it very, very hard to do. I don't understand it, or more accurately, I don't understand the feeling of faith - I never have believed in anything as abstract as a god, not even Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, and that makes it hard for me to write a religious character realistically. At my worst, I can't even make them good guys. I write fantasy, as it is, and though there may be religions in the world, I avoid writing stories where religion is a fundamental part of the world. It may affect the culture, and there may be holidays for it or buildings dedicated to it, but I don't write worlds where you can't use magic without a prayer, or the magic itself is divine in nature. It might serve a thematic element, but more likely than not, it is barely big enough to act as part of the background, let alone in the center.

    In short, I don't want to insult religion in my work, so I don't write about it at all. As they say in elementary school, "if you don't have anything nice to say..."
     
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  13. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    You should try to keep your own personal beliefs (be it religious or otherwise) out of your writing, your stories are not about you and your beliefs, they are about your characters and their beliefs.
     
  14. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    I am also a humanist (I like to call myself atheist humanist). In my fictional universe, most people don't believe in any divine powers. It's very much an atheist world, with some people who are more spiritual centered (believing in prophecies etc.) and most people are more logic centered (believing only what can be proven). As for humanism, I don't know how well it is fitted into my universe. In some way, my society is very humanist, considering that gays can marry and adopt children, free healthcare, free education etc, but in other ways, I think not. For example: peoples like to stick to themselves. Mixed marriages (between the three cultures in my project) is not very common, but at the same time it is not that frowned upon. A right-wing extremist party is growing in my universe, and people are becoming more and more nationalistic, in the bad way. The three major cultures in my universe (fictional country) live on each of their areas, and I can not really say that segregation is humanist.

    I don't like writing about a world that is 100% my ideal world. It becomes more exciting to write about a universe when there is something you don't like about it. There are many things I don't like about my universe: poor salaries for hard work, too intellectual (I should think nothing could be too intellectual for me). So intellectual that it expects all of its citizens to know everything about everything! You should be a genius in maths, magic, astronomy, biology, languages etc. So much that "normal, average" people who only know the basic stuff (like people we call "normal" with average grades) are frowned upon and called dumb. Society makes it seem like the geniuses are 95% of the fictional world (because the geniuses represent the culture), while they are only a small percentage. , overcrowded: my society can be too overcrowded in some areas etc.

    As for humanism.......
    Most of the inhabitants of my universe do respect others, but the respect sometimes only lies on paper. For example: they will show you respect in public because they are taught to be respectful and open minded towards people, but they can frown upon others when they are not in the same room.
    My society comes across as a free, democratic and humanist society, but how deep it sticks is a complicated question.


    I don't write about religion unless I will describe what the ancient people of my fictional world believed in. Religion is close to 0% in my fictional world and when people talk about religion, they mean mythology.
     
  15. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Exploring anything to do with the human experience is good, I think. So religion is interesting too. In fact, one of the more interesting books I read recently was The Holy Machine, a sci-fi with explores the dangers of both extreme religion and extreme anti-religion: it's quite fascinating!

    Being completely non-religious myself, I sometimes find it a challenge to write about religious characters, my challenge right now is that as well. However, the characters will eventually find out that their gods and godesses are not quite what they believed.

    Either way, no religion or worldview is or should be immune to scrutiny and a bit of good natured mocking. So whatever it is, be it Christianity, Bhuddism, Fascism, Democracy, Anti-theism or the old religions. I just find it fascinating exploring the psychology behind them all.
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even an atheist is affected by their culture and upbringing, and has different religious images floating around in their mind. Someone from a catholic culture has different images than someone from a Mormon culture, who has different images than someone from a Buddhist culture, and so on. These images tend to find their way into your writing, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.

    Arthur C. Clarke, an atheist science fiction writer with a Christian upbringing, wrote about alien beings who were wiser and more compassionate than humans, stepped down from the heavens to teach humanity in the ancient past, will one day return to do new wonders, and can free humans from their physical shells and make them immortal. Sound familiar?

    Isaac Asimov, an atheist science fiction writer with a Jewish upbringing, wrote about robots who were more powerful than humans, were almost infallibly drawn towards doing good and being unselfish, walked among humans disguised as them, and cared for and protected individual human beings. Especially in his later books, I think they seem like secular versions of guardian angels.

    I don't think it's coincidence that some images and stories turn up over and over again in human culture. People use them because they work - they tell us something about the human condition.

    I sometimes use religous symbolism or allegory when it fits in naturally in a story. It can give more depth to the story, or simply poke fun at those who take it too seriously.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I found this to be an interesting choice of words, as if the beliefs overwhelmed the writer and did the imposing themselves. In another time, that phenomenon might have been called "divine inspiration". Taylor Caldwell hinted at such in her foreword to her 1960s work, "Dialogues With the Devil".

    Most of the comments above center around the notion of ones writing being informed to some extent by one's religious beliefs. But I read the question a different way, focusing on purposefully. I've done so twice.

    In my first novel, the story of a woman of the 20th century and her family, one of the characters is a priest who is also the friend of the man the MC eventually marries. As a teen, the MC dates the priest and is the first person he tells of his intention to join the priesthood. The book touches on a number of themes regarding faith.

    My second novel is about a priest assigned to a very poor inner city parish, and his efforts to help his parishioners even to the point of resisting his bishop. In it, I quote scripture but also modern social history. It's the work I've come the closest to getting published, and I'm convinced that in the end, its weakness in that regard is that there is too much "street life" in it to be palatable to religious publishers (so-called Christian fiction) and too much of a favorable portrayal of a modern priest to be palatable to non-religious publishers.
     
  18. JeffD
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    JeffD Member

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    Why yes my religion does influence my writing. Although my religion influences my whole being, so naturally it should influence my storytelling.

    Personal beliefs should definitely influence an authors work of literature but I don't think that the author should ever push their beliefs on the reader. That's just horrible when that happens.

    It's always fun to find the themes in a novel then discover how close the authors personal beliefs are to that theme. You never find a good novel that has opposite themes than authors personal beliefs, unless it's a parody and the author is trying to do the opposite.
     
  19. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think anything I've written has ever had any sort of religion in it. I guess it's because I'm agnostic/atheist myself so although I'm open to religion, I don't personally believe in it. It'd be interesting to try and write a story where the main character was quite religious though.
     
  20. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've a habit of using religious symbolism in my writing and use themes from multiple religions and movements depending on what fits the piece.

    I don't see a problem with drawing on religious themes in a typically non-religious novel as long as (a) it doesn't become a focus or a way for the author to force their views onto the reader and (b) religious stereotypes (in terms of character) are avoided.
     
  21. Drayzon
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    Drayzon Member

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    This. When you write, you are writing about your characters not yourself.

    I am a Christian, the main two things which I took out of my writing after I became a Christian is profanity and erotica. This is how I show I am a Christian, not by writing Christian stories.

    I can still effectively write action/sci-fi/fantasy/etc. without these two pieces being a part of them.
     
  22. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I'm Roman Catholic, and I find religion in general incredibly fascinating. How it affects the way people view others, and how it affects one's actions. In writing, religion is incredibly important for character development. Though religion is controversial, I think withholding it from the story can sometimes leave it seeming lacking.
     
  23. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    My religion affects every aspect of my life and I find keeping my personal beliefs out of my writing to be as insane as keeping personal beliefs out of one's music.
     
  24. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Religion is such a huge part of life it's hard to ignore it. Writing fantasy set in other worlds still leads you open to introducing themes and whys and hows that go along with your beliefs.

    I personally don't know what I believe. But it's fun to write religion. I have a mix up of Catholicism and old folklore, wicca and paganism (they go together pretty well :p) in the series I'm poking at at the moment, and I'm making up other things to go with it that I can't really guess what religion they come from, but they're higher beings. In my real-world set fantasy, everything exists. Everyone is right. It's pretty fun :p I've only dared write to local areas rather than figure out the grand cosmology. About the only thing I know for sure outside of one tiny village in England is that vampires exist in America because fans of vampires willed them to be :p I've started watching Supernatural in the last few months, and found a lot of cross-over with my appropriation of religion and beliefs. They've have Hindu or whatever monsters, pagan gods, anything that makes a good story line, with a kind of wishy washy "we wanted to write a story about it so here it is randomly in the middle of America" explanation. I try to be a bit more true to the kinds of beliefs that may exist within a certain location, so if we were looking at the middle east it would pretty much be under the jurisdiction of Allah, while Europe would be a mix Christianity and whatever else is there. People make their own gods and have their own ways of interpreting stuff - everyone has their own unique religion they follow to their own specifications, and so that's where I get the religion in my stories.

    And you can see why I'm confused about what to believe myself. :p
     
  25. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    I too am an atheist, and humanist (we seem strangely overrepresented on WF, lol). Most of my characters are irreligious. A devout character whose personality and worldview is dominated by religion is not one I feel I could relate to enough to write, despite having been there myself long ago. I have written characters who are loosely religious but it's really secondary to the reality of their situation, and kind of closer to the strain of liberal Christian mysticism most religious friends of mine profess. I.e. God just wants you to be a good person and treat others well; ignoring dogma, and scriptural didactics and minutae. Which is fun and interesting. I can relate to as much so it's not too hard and it provides a nice contrast to the otherwise atheistic majority of my characters.

    Personally, I'm really an anti-theist, but that is something I save for debates and make a point of keeping out of my stories for the most part. The only overtly antitheistic character I have is meant to be morally ambiguous and have a worldview alien to many people (Americans, especially) - being an atheist, existentialist, utilitarian, quasi-marxist, etc. - although, he's arguably both the hero and villain of the story.

    I wouldn't say it's easy to write about an unfamiliar worldview, but it's not too hard to keep your own from dominating the story. My 2 cents.
     

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