1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Dismiss Notice
  1. ladyserenity

    ladyserenity Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    21

    Writing Religion

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ladyserenity, Aug 11, 2017.

    Hi everyone. I'm curious to get your guys' opinions on a rather prickly topic: religion. In fact, I'm curious about how you incorporated it into your works. I have a couple of questions for you guys:

    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent?

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in?

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most?

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write?

    For more experienced writers, I have an additional question:

    5. What are your tips for incorporating religious practice into works of fiction?

    I'll start off by answering questions 1-4 for myself:

    1. My main project I'm brainstorming now is set in a land that resembles Pre-Christian Ancient Greece, so the religious beliefs are more than a bit different from my personal ones. One thing that sticks out is that I have characters who rescue exposed infants. Also, a character also cries out to 'the unknown God' several times. I decided to incorporate that as a reference to Paul's visit to Athens in the Book of Acts, even though the story takes place in a mostly Pre-Christian setting.

    2. Religion plays a fairly big role in the story. I think I'll eventually end up featuring several religious events like festivals, weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies for babies. The characters also mention the gods quite frequently and there are several scenes that take place surrounding the family altar or other places with statues/images of the gods. The gods are invoked and prayed to in several scenes.

    3. The religion I'm using for my current is based on ancient Greek religious practices, with some tweaks. Celtic beliefs might be incorporated for several characters that are foreigners. The characters run on a spectrum, from religious devotees to atheists.

    4. It has informed my writing choices in some ways. I still feel perfectly comfortable writing fantasy but eschew anything terribly graphic. I want to have good, morally sound protagonists who are neither perfect nor preachy. My protagonists are driven by strict morals but they swear, act out in violence, and make questionable decisions from time to time. I'm probably not going to be penning bodice-rippers or slasher horror novels anytime soon though. I love it when I read works that openly and respectfully deal with questions of religion, but I hate reading things that are too preachy. I don't like most modern 'christian fiction' because it's so preachy and tends to be very poorly written.
     
    GingerCoffee and Fernando.C like this.
  2. Thundair

    Thundair Senior Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    161
    Likes Received:
    68
    Location:
    San Diego
    The ebook "Haiti's Nun" by Rebbeca Finn
    In the first few chapters, she dealt with religion and its influence on a fictional character.
     
  3. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    1,287
    Likes Received:
    1,516
    Location:
    SC, USA
    I'm an atheist :oops: I guess it's been incorporated in that my characters default to the same / I just largely don't think about it in their development.

    In my fantasy wip there are two related but disparate religious: sun and moon worship. There's actually a third - earth worship - but it's much less organized/centralized and more of a 'spirituality' thing. It's not a huge part of the plot, but it's a good chunk of the setting - the characters visit a city that was built up around this relic that's sacred to the followers of the moon, as well as a forest heavily populated by druids (the earth-worshippy folks). It's mentioned that the continent was originally settled by the druids who were drawn to this forest, and as the oldest people there, they're largely respected even by irreligious types.

    No specific inspirations - I'm a hippy-dippy tree hugger who loves space, so it drew mostly off my own feelings and just more heavily romanticized them. Obviously I know that sun/etc worship is a thing in our world but I didn't do any research into those kinds of things to inspire my version.

    For sure. I've decided that the world is bad and depressing enough, and my goal in writing is to make people happier - it's the (attempted) guiding principle of my life in general. I want to write things that comfort people, make them feel better and not alone, and leave them more content than it found them.

    I also love horror and writing bad, awful, traumatic shit, and I will - but it's sort of a different 'brand'. I wouldn't necessarily write these things under the same name and I'm not going to mix my horribly depressing oppressive stuff into something that's otherwise more tame. Don't dwell on the bad stuff. It can still be there, but recovery and finding peace and happiness is the point. (Unless it's something where the bad shit is the point. I'm explaining this poorly. I'm sleepy.)
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  4. Davidheart2017

    Davidheart2017 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2017
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    8
    1. I'm an atheist. However I do have beliefs of my own. And I do see that unconsciously leaking through in my story. When my characters end up accepting parts of themselves that are traditionally considered "evil".

    2. Sort of :) In my story, religion is more like loyalty to a king rather than actual spirituality. People generally do not worship them except from a few.
    3. Inspired by Greek, Asian and Egyptian religion
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  5. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    130
    Location:
    The great white north.
    Outside of the more supernatural stuff I've played around with I've never written much relating to religion. One thing I do find frustrating in a lot of books I've read though, is how it's represented. In so many sci-fi novels I've read, there's like a small group of religious fanatics while everyone else is atheistic and it becomes a very well established fact that the religious group is wrong and everyone in that group is an idiot for believing in something more than science. I've read some religious fiction that reverses this. If you're going to have two different groups, please don't turn one into a straw man for everything that's wrong with the world. Smart people can be religious, too.
     
  6. Trish

    Trish Lost... could someone please come find me? Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    2,698
    Likes Received:
    928
    Location:
    New York
    I'm an atheist, but I am from a family of Christians (on one side) and Southern Baptists (on the other). My current MC's family is Roman Catholic, which is requiring some research and such, but my goal is to show a different side of it than I normally see.
     
  7. Bill Chester

    Bill Chester Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2016
    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    52
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent?
    I'm an atheist. I never think about religion except when it is an external stimulus--I'm watching a TV show and religion appears, say. Religion never crosses my mind, any more than go-cart racing, or baseball scores.

    So, I've incorporated atheism (or rather, irreligiosity) into the world of my story. Religious beliefs have no place in my story world.

    But now that I think about it, the struggle that the MC goes through could very well have originated in unspoken religious morals.

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in?
    No, but if I investigate that underlying cause of the struggle, it might play a larger role than I thought.

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most?
    No

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write?
    I would not write about religion, but I've been heavily indoctrinated with Christian church morals, against which I rebel.

    This is an interesting thread.
     
  8. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,893
    Likes Received:
    2,059
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    One work in progress involves a colonization project cut off from Earth by distance and the limitations of technology. But they carry with them the prejudices and tensions of the Earth they left behind. In this time, Christians are feared and hated in the wake of a Holy war that began with the nuclear obliteration of Las Vegas, and continued with attacks on other targets worldwide adjudged evil by the extremists who identified themselves as armies of God.

    This theme is not really central to the story, but it is important to a major subplot. In writing it, I have had the challenge of understanding a range of modern religions and their various customs and practices, in order to write believable characters, each with his or her own attitudes and doubts about their own religion as well as that of others. One major character is a Catholic dealing with seduction by a crewmate while his wife is in cryosleep for the long voyage.

    I believe the key in writing religion, like nearly anything else, is conflict. In this, internal conflict is often more effective than external conflict. Put key beliefs to the test, and pit them against other deeply held principles or needs.

    I myself am an atheist. But I know people with strong faith of a number of religious backgrounds. And I listen.
     
    Trish likes this.
  9. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    20,961
    Likes Received:
    12,980
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent?

    No. I am a secular person, so I don't have any to incorporate.​

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in?

    No. I write Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is typically a very secular arena for reasons I have often pondered myself. I think it boils down to the fact that most stories in this realm become difficult to tell or keep on track when one includes real world religious ideation. Either the story gets consumed in the attempt to be well rounded and fair in the representation, or the topic is ancillary, thus tending to an anemic representation that can easily read as pandering or remonstrative. My go-to example is the Science Fiction film Her. Spectacular film. But that film would become something very different if it had tried to include religious thought into the portrayal of the scenario of clearly sentient digital beings coming into existence. Obviously the engagement of Religion - as an entire epistemology - would be complex and layered with regard to the storyline, and the story isn't even really about A.I.s one can buy and install on one's computer. It's about human relationships, their successes and their failings. The A.I. is there to serve as a highly focused lens to magnify the idea of a human paradigm divested of the things we say are trivial like appearances. In this regard the story pays respect to one of the founding concepts of why Science Fiction exists, to talk about the human condition. If we were to include religion, that very simple, very elegant, very honed idea the film was focusing on would be lost and diluted. And, to be fair, it's not the only real-world dynamic that is loudly missing from the story for the sake of being able to tell this particular story. How governments would engage this, effects on national security, etc. All of this is missing because there's a particular reason this story is being told and these real-world dynamics get in the way of that. I think this happens a lot in the realms of Spec Fic for similar reasons.​

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most?

    I played with the idea in one of WIPs of the sentient dolphins (yes, I know) treating an anomalously strong human telepath as a kind of messiah. I found that I was painting myself into corners of stereotypes and clich├ęs that I'm not interested in writing about, so I've left that idea alone for a while now. It may revive in a different form. Not sure.​

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write?

    I don't have any religious ideation to affect my path as a writer, but I certainly have a sense of morality. I function within the paradigm of a society that has expectations of its members, some of which is cultural, some of which is keyed into the fact that at our most primeval level we are a pack animal, similar in nature to canines (no coincidence that canines were the first animals that humans ever domesticated; they are like us in many ways). So, sure, my inner set of morals guides me as it guides any person who is successfully functioning within the greater paradigm of Humanity.​

    5. What are your tips for incorporating religious practice into works of fiction?

    Know what the purpose of your story is. Know why you are writing it. Be true to that why. If it fits within that why, then there's no reason to even question, if not, then you're shoehorning. This applies to everything.​
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    130
    Location:
    The great white north.
    This thread got me to remember this article I read a while back on how Muslims are supposed to pray in space.
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  11. Nilfiry

    Nilfiry Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Messages:
    693
    Likes Received:
    95
    Location:
    Eternal Stream
    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent?
    Nope. I like to examine things from different angles or keep things vague so as to make people think, even if only a little.

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in?
    It plays a little role, but not as an active force driving the plot.

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most?
    Now here is the interesting thing. Depending on the scope of your story, you will inevitably run into some type of religion. That is just how the restless mind of humanity works. Whenever there is doubt and no logical answer can be found, people always turn to the supernatural for answers. People want to believe that there is purpose and cause for their suffering, and so they will come up with or cling to a supernatural entity that can explain the cause of their suffering, even if there is no evidence. In a slightly more cynical way to look at it, religion is just a convenience for people to not take responsibility for their own actions.

    That being said, it is not hard to invent a religion. You just need something for people to have faith in/worship, and boom, a religion is born. Throw in a few extra add-ons like lore and cultural practices, and you have the complete package. With how easy it is, there is no fun for me to simply just pull ideas from real world examples. Take some established history in the timeline relative to the region, embellish it a bit, add some sparkles here and there, make up a reason for its spread, and there you go, an entirely unique religion. If there are any similarities to real world religion, though, then it is because all religions share many of the same fundamental beliefs and practices.

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write?
    Nope. I can write about anything, and I like to explore everything. I like taking people's beliefs and throw in a question or an idea that just leaves them stumped.

    5. What are your tips for incorporating religious practice into works of fiction?
    Make it controversial. The more controversial the better.
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  12. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    Not deliberately. I know stuff will be in there, because it's very important to me so it'll 'color' it with that, but I'm not setting out to preach a sermon. I will say stuff that happened around my religion influenced my story though. There was a religious split in my home, my mom and me on one side and my dad on the other. There being a division heavily influenced by 'religion' between a young girl character and an older male authority figure is an important part of the book. In fact, I think him admitting his 'religion' is a bunch of nonsense and being able to reconcile with the girl is the main conflict.

    Something I need to work on developing, but I will say yes most definitely. A bad religion, actually more of a cult, is the reason behind most of my character's problems. It's an old-fashioned fantasy and people back then had all sorts of gods. Only got one really thought out, but everybody else has their way of worship.

    They will all be invented. I won't say heavily influenced, because I want to be able to portray this or that as negative without offending someone that sees their religion in it.

    Yes most definitely. I've got a bunch of things I won't have in my books.
     
  13. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    128
    Likes Received:
    83
    Location:
    Texas
    I'm an atheist. I sometimes write stories with religious or superstitious themes, because it's an opportunity to create some melodrama relatable to others; but also because religion has played a huge role in society, so it's a way to normalize a fictional setting. I write about the supernatural, but only as fiction. I write ghost stories, though I don't believe in ghosts. I've written humorous stories of man interacting with god or the devil, sometimes mirroring the stories in the bible; although I'm careful with whom I share. My family is Catholic. I've been accused of blasphemy on rare occasions. Though I am not religious, no doubt my morals and beliefs affect my writing. Being religious, or not, has nothing to do with morality. There are some things I would never write with graphic detail, such as sexual crimes or murder scenes. I have a comfort zone, and rarely stray from it. From my perspective, you cannot invent a religion without copying or being influenced by a real one, because all religions look the same to me.
     
  14. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    951
    Likes Received:
    751
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    1) Yes. Primarily redemption, forgiveness, and atonement.

    2) Being a fantasy setting roughly analogous to our own world in the period from about 900-1500, yes, religious belief plays a big role in the world.

    3) Since it's a secondary world, I had to. The Faith of the Mother is the main one. I'd say it was heavily influenced by Christianity. More than I originally planned. Basically, the fact that human actions can't erase the damage caused by our earlier actions led me to include sacrificial messiah figure when I hadn't been planning on it. There are much smaller influences from other, real-world monotheistic religions. I didn't like the level of similarity in the beginning, since it was a secondary world, but I ended up settling on a multiversal approach.

    There are other religions, though they haven't gotten as much focus because most of my stories in this world aren't set where they're prominent. Tyrian polytheism is basically influenced by Phoenician and Aztec polytheism (their gods need human sacrifice or the world will be threatened, for instance). A splinter group of it has added Gnostic influence. Tarig religion is based on pre-Islamic Berber, Arab, and Tuareg beliefs with a degree of ancestor worship. The Amraki are more or less animists. And the Yintari believe in a deistic creator god and practice ancestor worship.

    4) Eh, I mean, it's one more thing keeping me from writing the Big No-Nos that publishers usually include in their guidelines. Otherwise, my characters do what people do, whether I endorse those actions or not. Human nature should be shown as it is, not prettied up because you don't like it.

    5) No group is monolithically good, evil, corrupt, etc. I've always hated such portrayals of religious belief and lack thereof. It's terribly unrealistic, and does nothing but promote stereotypes. Even if a fictional religion's goals or practices are evil, not all of the actual people following it should be.
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  15. JLT

    JLT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    374
    I've only written one thing on the subject of religion. In draft, it was posted on this forum some time ago, and the link is here:

    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/to-praise-god.145098/

    It pretty much sums up my feelings about the nature of religion and God. As you can read from the comments, there were a few people who thought it missed the target, or thought that the short-story form was inappropriate for the subject.

    After I published it, I got a somewhat disparaging comment from a friend of mine who is a prominent theologian. She said that my characterization of the function of prayer was not one that most theologians would go along with. She's probably right about that.

    I'm not a follower of any one religious philosophy, although when I last worshiped with a group, it was a Quaker meeting. I do think of myself as a seeker, for whom no answer will be the ultimate one. (My friend agrees with me on that.)
     
  16. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    279
    Location:
    Lands Beyond the Wall
    1. I'm agnostic and religion is almost non-existent in my current WIP, in that I barely ever make mention of it and it has really any effect on the plot or the characters. my MCs are also not really religious, at least two of them are explicitly atheists. I don't usually explicitly incorporate my own personal beliefs into my stories but sometimes they might unconsciously sip into my works.

    2. No, like I said religion plays no role in my current story.
    3. I haven't invented any religions for my current novel, obviously. But this is something I would very much like to do in some future works. If/when I do that, it would be in a fantasy settings and the religions won't take any obvious influence from a real life religion, I'll want them to be as unique, original and different as possible.
    4. I can't say that my beliefs had effect my writing too much, there are very few things that I might not write about or include in my stories and their pretty minor. For the most part I don't shy away from writing anything, if it helps the story or is in anyway important to it, or improves it in some way then I include it.
     
  17. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    840
    Likes Received:
    890
    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent? No

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in? No, my characters are not religious so there's no place for it in the story, really.

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most? I write contemporary stories set in the U.S.. Inventing a religion is not required for the type of thing I write.

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write? I grew up Catholic but I'm not religious at all anymore. I have a pretty strong sense of morality, but it's not rooted in religion. I don't really find that those morals affect my writing at all, though.

    For more experienced writers, I have an additional question:

    5. What are your tips for incorporating religious practice into works of fiction? If you're writing about a religion that you personally have no experience with, please do a ton of research including talking to members of that faith. Don't just read the Wikipedia article and try to wing it from there.
     
  18. Vanthu

    Vanthu Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2016
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent?
    Meh. I'm agnostic with some beliefs that don't really fit into just one religion. I do include a lot of Jewish characters because that's how I was raised, but it wasn't really prominent.

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in?
    It takes place in a slightly modified Earth, so yes, but mostly outside of the story. My next story will include more religion than the rest though.

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most?
    Yes. It was kind of based on my own beliefs with some modifications. It is polytheistic (which I think that if there isn't no gods at all, there'd most likely multiple), reincarnation is what happens after death (which I actually think), and it doesn't really make a big deal out of anything, like worshiping the gods.

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write?
    I guess my moral beliefs. I accidentally make almost all characters have the same moral beliefs as me, which I don't want at all. I will try to get away from that in my next story.
     
  19. halisme

    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Messages:
    1,446
    Likes Received:
    899
    1. Did you incorporate any of your religious beliefs into any of your work? If so, which ones were the most prominent?
    I am an atheist and I did not. Mostly because a lot of my work is set in cultures with scientific knowledge equivalent to the early Renaissance. I lean towards the idea that religion itself is an attempt to rationalise and place greater significance on lives, as well as ensure people follow rules by the promise of reward.

    2. Does religion play a big role in the world that your story is set in?
    Yes. The vast, vast majority of the population are to some degree religious, with one country being a theocratic monarchy, another being a former theocratic monarchy that is now an electoral monarchy with strong religious leanings in terms of how their society is ordered.

    3. Did you invent a religion for your world? Was the invented religion heavily influenced by a real religion? If so, which real religions influenced you the most?
    Several. One was based off a combination of ancient Egypt and cultural perceptions of druidic practices. Another is close to Islam in that it has a central prophet and god, though it is much more militaristic and absolute in it's interpretation and focus on the material world.

    4. Have your religious/moral beliefs ever affected your path as a writer? Like, has it informed your choices in what you'll write versus what you will not write?
    I do not know if this is due to my own morals, but I find myself returning to certain themes in my writing, specifically that of fallen empires, rebellion against deities or perceived deities, and existentialism. The first I think is due to the fact that I am from Britain, which, till very recently, was an imperial power. The second is likely due to my own issues with authority, not just in a religious context, but more in a dislike of more arbiters and a desire to make my own choices, yet being told by society that we must all do certain things to conform. The third is likely linked with the second, in that it's desire to make your own choice, but feeling it is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things. What better way to earn control of one's actions and force meaning into one's life by affecting a powerful being.
     

Share This Page