1. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    Writing A Religion That Is Canonically False?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by isaac223, Nov 2, 2016.

    I have a magic system, the nature of which is masked by a ceaselessly spreading religion that attempts to explain the sole physical indication of the magic system in question. For plot reasons, the religion would have aspects of it that are, indeed, true, but is, as a whole, false. How would I go about writing the important details in this religion so it isn't blatantly false and/or isn't regarded as being lazily written on my part?
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm lost. Most people are members of zero to one religions. Therefore, to most people, most religions are false. Can you clarify?
     
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  3. cydney

    cydney Banned

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    I'm interested in this because religion fascinates me but I'd like clarification too. To begin with, what is your definition of 'religion'? The acts and/or efforts of man reaching God?
     
  4. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    ...I'm not sure how you're lost, but:

    In this world, a religion is formed that is false. The true "supernatural aspect" of the world is something totally distinct from what the religion believes. The religion believes things happened and are happening that have not and are not. It is at a point in time in which I could justify only one religion existing in this world.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm having trouble asking this question, because it feels just a little bit like "You know there's no Santa Claus, right?"

    But I have to say it: You do realize that in our world, that's how most or all religions are? If you do believe in a religion, then you may believe that its supernatural elements are true. But you're likely to believe that the supernatural elements associated with all other religions are false. But all the same, plenty of people believe in those other religions.

    So you seem to be asking how you can depict a religion that operates like essentially all of the religions of our world.

    I also don't see how you can have a world with only one religion, but that's a separate issue.
     
  6. cydney

    cydney Banned

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    I think you're talking about "wrong" or "distorted thinking". We all do it but "religious", not spiritualists, do it most often I think. We're not distorting all of our thoughts, decisions or choices, just some of them. Not everything is black and white. I think maybe I understand a little better but I'm not sure I can help. If I tried I'd probably go off on a tangent. :)

    I'm interested though! Will keep watching.

    My thoughts as well.
     
  7. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    To ChickenFreak's point, the religion I was raised in believes among other supernatural things that wine can be changed into blood, that a limited amount of food can feed hundreds, and that the dead can rise again. I'm fairly certain that one or more of these things are not really possible. Wouldn't any religion that had miraculous lore fall under the umbrella of "the religion believes things happened and are happening that have not and are not"?
     
  8. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    Falsification is a scientific principle. If something can be proven false, that something is in the realm of science, not religion.
    If you don't understand religion, don't understand faith, symbolism, and miracles (for gods, nothing is impossible, that's what makes them gods), then don't make religion a major part of your story. You'll likely look foolish if you try.

    In my future SF world, some people are devout, and some are atheists, but most respect other's beliefs about the divine.

    The major schism in religion concerns when and if children should be taught a religion, and the argument centers on whether teaching children is indoctrination, and if it is whether indoctrination can produce faith; that is, whether how you came to believe is as important as what you believe. I don't think these questions have right or wrong answers - it's complicated. But both sides believe that the salvation of those children's soul may be at stake, so they are of course passionate about it.

    My MC's an atheist, her best friend devoutly believes that God helps people have the courage to do the right thing, and often prays to God to help her and other people find that courage. She also believes that occasionally, God will give your heart a little nudge, so that, for example, you decide to visit the right place at the right time to find your lost sister. Neither my MC's beliefs nor her best friends are provably true or false. They are both matters of faith.
     
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  9. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Not if said lore is true, objectively speaking.

    Now for OP's question. Just write it as if it were true. By that I mean have explanations in mind for the false bits. Make no mistake, those parts are still false, but they can muddy the waters a bit and make it all seem more realistic.

    For example, in one of my worlds, I have an empire which follows a polytheistic pantheon, which is false. If their gods do exist, they're merely powerful spirits or the like. Anyway, in the backstory, this empire is smashed by the prophet of another religion. This series of military defeats comes not long after a terrible civil war that significantly weakens the empire, and a long series of natural disasters and unrelated rebellions are happening at the same time. It all culminates in the crushing defeat of their last three major armies at the same time a volcano overlooking their capital erupts (this volcano was also believed to be the home of their gods) and buries the city Pompeii-style.

    So how do the believers reconcile all of this with their continued belief in their gods both existing and backing them? They decide they've made their gods unhappy, and a sort of restorationist movement arises. As you can see, the explanations don't even need to be all that convincing to nonbelievers. They just need to cover the holes that open up.

    Long story short, play apologetics for your false religion.
     
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  10. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think maybe the problem isn't that you're trying to write a religion in which some things are false, but that you're trying to write a religion in which some things are true. Like, factually, empirically true.

    So you want to use the religion as an explanation for your magic system, which means you want readers to believe that some parts of your religion are actually confirmed by science.

    I think you can have characters express doubts about other parts of the system.

    Like -

    "The holy Anstrach harnessed the powers of the sea and gave them to women, not men. With those powers comes our wisdom and authority--do not challenge the will of Anstrach."

    "Oh, you were there when all this happened? Anstrach told you this personally?"

    She flicked her fingers and he was immediately drenched in salt water. That and a raised eyebrow were her only response.

    "I'm not saying you don't have the powers of the sea." He ran a hand over his face and rubbed his eyes clear. "I'm just saying I don't see any clear evidence of the 'wisdom and authority' part."​
     
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  11. cydney

    cydney Banned

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    The mention of 'one world religion' reminds me of the book of Revelation. It is Satan's goal to harness all the hearts of man and force them to worship him. Thus, in the end God has to destroy the earth to save mankind. There could never be a one world religion without forcing men to worship a god they don't believe in.
     
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  12. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    Allow me to clarify, for the people who seem to think I'm trying to substantiate or falsify religions in our world:



    In this world, canonically, a religion was formed that explains how the people in the world explain what happens under this universe's magic system. They saw occurrences that were wholly true, but explained them away in a totally false manner -- via the means of Gods. However, Gods play no part in the magic system. They believe that the world is overseen by polytheistic deities, when in fact, the magic system is something totally distinct from divinity. They saw one form of supernatural occurrence that, lore-wise, is true, and tried to explain it in a way that is false, resulting in worship of a God that does not exist.

    No, I am not taking something that could potentially being true and showing it as false, or showing real beliefs as false. I am saying that what the people, in this canon, believe governs the world and what forces actually govern the world in question are two totally distinct things. It is quite literally a religion that exists only in this world, that explains supernatural occurrences in this world that did not happen, and I wish to know how to write it, and show it is false later in, with proper foreshadowing.

    Let's just say for example, and argument's sake, that ghosts exist in our world. Ghosts have their own inherent nature, but let's say someone witnessed something that occurred because of a ghost, but explained it, falsely, as if it fact.

    Lore-wise, supernatural occurrences did occur, and are not scientifically explainable, but the religion itself describes them and explains them in a manner that is false.



    This helped. Thank you. Though I should have been more clear: How would one even design a convincing religion even if it, lore-wise, is not true in this world.
     
  13. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    If it isn't scientifically explainable, there's no way to prove that any explanation offered is false, by definition.
    Science is our short little word for "the body of hypothesis's that can be proven false."

    Hypothesis: Water is heavier than lead. Provably false? Yes. So science.
    Hypothesis: Ghosts are echos of the memories of God. Provably false? No. So not science.
     
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  14. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Step 1) Design a religion
    Step 2) Tell yourself that in your fantasy world, the religion you came up with is false

    That's it, that's all you need. You don't have to go through anything extra.
     
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  15. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    Just like everyone else has said, take out the word 'magic' from that sentence and you have every religion on Earth. All you have to do is make the religion's explanation have some kind of internal consistency and show that your characters believe it.

    Is your problem more that you want the reader to think it's true, until the reveal that actually there's something else powering the magic? If that's it, I think all you have to do is present it as if it's entirely true in your story - show characters doing what the religion says to do and getting the results the religion tells them to expect. You've already got a magic system, so the reader's going to suspend some disbelief.
     
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