Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: Patremagne on September 03, 2013, 03:58:04 PM

Title: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Patremagne on September 03, 2013, 03:58:04 PM
Teresa Frohock stopped by my blog with a post on religion in fantasy, a fairly controversial topic.
Here's the post: http://abitterdraft.com/2013/09/random-thoughts-on-religion-in-fantasy-by-teresa-frohock.html

Feel free to read the post and discuss the topic either here or in the comments on the post!

For myself, I think that religion can provide very compelling stories if it's done right. I'm not religious myself, but in stories like David Dalglish's Paladins and his Shadowdance series, paladins of various gods appear at times and I find it especially compelling to see into their heads, why they're following the god and what they're fighting for. Another example would be Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God. The series is clearly a fantastical representation of the clash of faiths between the followers of Islam and Christianity around the time of the schism of the Christian church. While he didn't create new religions, Kearney writes about them very well and further cements the idea that religion can, as Teresa said, help create a believable and compelling world even though in some cases the religion(s) may have been conceived with little creativity.

I've recommended the Kearney series to many people and I've had a few toss the series aside because it involves religion and the person isn't religious. I don't think that stance is particularly fair, either, because the books aren't trying to convert you to their made-up religion or turn you theistic. Different strokes and whatnot, I guess.

Discuss!
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Arry on September 03, 2013, 04:32:05 PM
I'm not the least bit religious, but as long as a book isn't preaching about why I should have religion in my life, I don't have issues with. Religion is often in the center of conflicts and societies in history, it makes sense that it would feature heavily in epic fantasy. It is a very important component of how people function, what motivates them. As long as the author approaches religion in the same way as they should approach characters it should be fine. Avoid blatant stereo-types (or creating stereotypes within the fictional world), make it realistic, don't preach to the reader. Religion provides so many possibilities for conflict! Both personal and on a larger scale, there is so much room to build your world, your characters and the story.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: AnneLyle on September 03, 2013, 05:14:37 PM
I agree with Arry. I'm an atheist myself (with Taoist leanings), but I was obliged to think about Christianity when writing my Elizabethan series - and it certainly did add some conflict, since I made my protagonist Mal a Catholic.

That said, I read a review of my first book The Alchemist of Souls recently which felt that religion was downplayed a little too much, but tbh it wasn't something I wanted to focus on, given there were already lots of plotlines in the book. It was enough for me to mention differing religious attitudes from time to time - and also that Mal was seen to pray when worried about something :)
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: tebakutis on September 05, 2013, 04:06:24 PM
I can totally see fantasy books working without religion, but personally I find creating the religion for a book one of the most interesting world building exercises. It's fun to just make up your own deities and creation myths, and in some cases, you can actually have your characters interact with those deities (or be hunted by them!) It's also a good prism for determining how your characters view the soul, death, and other concepts.

There's also the simple fact that most characters in fantasy books go through some fairly traumatic experiences, which generally involves lots of cursing. It's useful to know their chosen deity so they can curse it or use its name in vain. :)

I suppose you have to tread slightly more carefully if you're incorporating real world religions into a book.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Linda Bell on September 07, 2013, 03:54:02 AM

My series Sidonia The Sorceress is set in 17th century Germany (Holy Roman Empire). That's the Witch Burning Times. That's the Protestant vs Catholic prelude to one of the bloodiest European Wars known as The Thirty Year War. That's the time the Ottoman Empire attacked Vienna twice and Europe almost became Muslim. 

But it's a fantasy: What if witches really existed during the Burning Times?

Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Shadowhand on September 07, 2013, 05:23:23 AM
I've actually done a series of posts about religion in fantasy fiction (http://www.pensandswords.com/tag/religion/) on my blog over the years. I am a religious person, but just from a cultural standpoint, religion is so integral to the formation of societies and the interrelations of groups, especially among low-technology cultures, that it often strikes me as poor world-building when an author ignores any reference to it in their stories. That's not to say every story has to have a religious focus, but even REH and Leiber took time to add religious elements to Hyboria and Lankhmar.

I think one of my favorite examples of the use of religion in fantasy is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series. She does a great job of showing how religion is foundational to the culture without being preachy.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Kim ten Tusscher on September 08, 2013, 10:05:29 AM
I agree with Arry: 'Religion is often in the center of conflicts and societies in history'. That's why I think it needs to be in most stories.
Fantasy involves worldbuilding, so it seems logical to me religion plays a roll in any fantasy story. Religion sets the rules, tells your characters how to live and what's wrong or right.

Religion plays a big role in my own stories, because I think it's interesting to play with somebodies perceptions about good and evil. In order for some-one to rethink everything he ever believed, I need to work out the religion as best as I can. So you can feel the struggle of the main character when everything seems to be a lie.

I don't like preachy books. Books are meant to tell a story, not to make the reader believe what I believe. But I like to make a reader think about their own believes on a more basic level than about who is the reall God.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: AEMarling on September 09, 2013, 03:54:59 PM
I'm currently reading a historical fantasy, where the Aztec's religion of gods and blood-sacrifice is real. I love how the fantasy brings their beliefs to life, and more to the point, it's a great mental exercise to see the world through the perspective of another's religious beliefs.

Fantasy should offer other ways to approach religion, however. The power of sorcerers could become so great that they could take the place of gods. People make their devotions directly to them. We saw a real-world example of this in Mao alters in China during the cultural revolution.

I'd love to hear more examples of alternatives (if you could call it that) to religion unique to the fantasy genre.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: HAnthe on September 09, 2013, 07:01:17 PM
I'm currently reading a historical fantasy, where the Aztec's religion of gods and blood-sacrifice is real. I love how the fantasy brings their beliefs to life, and more to the point, it's a great mental exercise to see the world through the perspective of another's religious beliefs.

Fantasy should offer other ways to approach religion, however. The power of sorcerers could become so great that they could take the place of gods. People make their devotions directly to them. We saw a real-world example of this in Mao alters in China during the cultural revolution.

I'd love to hear more examples of alternatives (if you could call it that) to religion unique to the fantasy genre.

If you want a sorcerors-become-like-unto-gods book, one of my favorite books this year is Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, which is basically that.  Plus magical lawyers and deity-powered cities and...  Well, it's definitely appropriate to this topic.

Most of the conflicts in my series are over religion, from an animist Dark-and-Light level to pantheonic infighting -- and sometimes alliance or cooperation -- that is reflected through the gods' followers.  I'm personally an atheist but I don't see why that matters.  Beliefs are integral to people and help shape their behavior.  I'm currently reading a graphic novel, The Unwritten, with a great quote from a bad guy: "Beliefs are collars to which leashes can be attached."

Pessimistic, yes.  But true of any closely held belief, religious or otherwise.  I like writing on the psychological end of things so I spend a lot of time examining my characters' beliefs and their journeys toward losing, adjusting or gaining faith, whether in the gods or their governments or their friends or themselves.  The internal struggle is just as interesting to me as any martial or magical conflict.  How do you become good when no one can agree on what good is?
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Kim ten Tusscher on September 09, 2013, 09:06:47 PM
That's an interesting question, HAnthe. It's something I am researching through my stories myself. At this moment, I find the internal struggle more interesting than the epic travel around the world to find answers.

I am wondering if there is any real difference when you replace Gods by sorcerors... It's still a religion in the eyes of many believers, I think. But maybe that's the power of this idea, many people believe in Gods, but how real are they? I'm sorry, I don't think I am saying this right, but I don't know how else to describe it. Anyway, it gave me some food for thought, AEMarling.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Ray McCarthy on May 13, 2017, 05:57:25 PM
It's important to research and understand a wide range of philosophy and religion (Ritual, practice, folk belief, theologies, divisions etc) of the real world for last 3000 years otherwise any religion in fantasy can sound childish, shallow, nonsensical or stereotypical, by mistake. You might deliberately want to have one or more of those attributes.  You can have "founders" or "followers" that are honest, deluded, really inspired, hallucinating or charlatans.  Famously one SF author invented a religion, deciding it was more profitable than writing.
Possibly three or four popular religions (or popular at one time) in the last 1500 years were deliberately synthesised  by  the founder to get broad support. The same might be true of some denominations.
There are various basic kinds of religion:
Folk Magic  and possibly shamanistic
Polytheistic, choice of who your favourites are.
Polytheistic, but there is often one senior god
Dualistic (some supposedly monotheistic religions are dualist, some allegations of dualism are woolly thinking).
Monotheistic. But not all religions that are allegedly related might agree that it's the same god, even when one claims it is. A large number of "pre-colonial" African religions may have/are monotheistic. Some Celts and earlier Western Neolithic peoples might have been monotheistic. No-one knows what Druids before 600AD believed. Not just Christian has concept of three-in-one or resurrection.
A place of punishment isn't universal for religions that believe in an afterlife.
Not all religions differentiate, or even have at all, the idea of a soul or spirit.
Not all have an afterlife.
Re-incarnation can be once, or indefinitely or till perfection.
Perfection can mean becoming more than human or nothing (like a drip into ocean).
I don't think ANY religion believes dead people become "angels" that's a popular later sterotype. Angels in Judaism, Christianity and Islam are immortal creatures that don't procreate, not human, demons are two kinds, fallen angels and malicious magical creatures.

So you can invent what you like, but be careful about using real religions. In my SF there is mention of Islam, Hindu, various sorts of Christian (Catholic and Reformed), Judaism and Scientology (though it's not named), because Alien priests (one a monotheist and one polytheist) discuss belief with a person of human origin and also there is a scene where an Alien Ambassador is questioned about religion by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Research!   
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Ray McCarthy on May 17, 2017, 09:07:22 AM
A fantasy book religion though can have the idea (or that aliens have the idea) that people become creatures like angels, or stars or whatever.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: The Gem Cutter on May 17, 2017, 02:26:33 PM
This was never intended to be shared in this form, if at all, so forgive its amateurish design, but this illustrates a philosophical religion in my novel. It is virtue-based, and proscribes a Peaceful Path, a lifestyle where extremes are avoided in favor of a balanced path. My novel's rebellious poet-warriors adhere to this religion, which shares many aspects with some actual faiths, but is its own, distinct thing.

I don't know if this is comprehensible to anyone besides myself, but if you look, you will see that the virtues have three versions shown left to right, with "good" on the left, "Bad" on the right, and balance in the center. So loyalty is good, treachery is bad, but a neutral "commitment" is the proscribed approach, the balanced choice.

This provides my religion with the chief metaphor for its symbol: the Ferahi Scales. The Ferahi posit that we all have to walk a path, and if we remain in the center with the load balanced across our shoulders, we will suffer the least and inflict the least possible suffering on others. Imbalance to either side, including the 'good' side, will inevitably lead to problems. Or so they believe :)

(http://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/8e/ef/a2/8eefa260ea29e7f0c3b4906dc3ec29bc.jpg)
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Henry Dale on May 17, 2017, 02:57:57 PM
This was never intended to be shared in this form, if at all, so forgive its amateurish design, but this illustrates a philosophical religion in my novel. It is virtue-based, and proscribes a Peaceful Path, a lifestyle where extremes are avoided in favor of a balanced path. My novel's rebellious poet-warriors adhere to this religion, which shares many aspects with some actual faiths, but is its own, distinct thing.

I don't know if this is comprehensible to anyone besides myself, but if you look, you will see that the virtues have three versions shown left to right, with "good" on the left, "Bad" on the right, and balance in the center. So loyalty is good, treachery is bad, but a neutral "commitment" is the proscribed approach, the balanced choice.

This provides my religion with the chief metaphor for its symbol: the Ferahi Scales. The Ferahi posit that we all have to walk a path, and if we remain in the center with the load balanced across our shoulders, we will suffer the least and inflict the least possible suffering on others. Imbalance to either side, including the 'good' side, will inevitably lead to problems. Or so they believe :)

(http://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/8e/ef/a2/8eefa260ea29e7f0c3b4906dc3ec29bc.jpg)

Sooo... Would a person who commits many good deeds willingly stray into evil to balance himself out? Or is it something that automatically happens?
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: The Gem Cutter on May 17, 2017, 03:19:10 PM
Sooo... Would a person who commits many good deeds willingly stray into evil to balance himself out? Or is it something that automatically happens?
No, nothing like that. Not willingly. Treating this fictitious philosophy seriously, the issue of balance suggests that it's not a conscious thing, but more of an inevitable reaction. Take a virtue like Romantic Love. It's terrific, but inherently imbalanced. situations arise where that imbalance manifests itself. Perhaps not while you're in love, but when that love leaves, or hurts you, etc., then problems come along. And that might be quite against your will or driven by your passions despite yourself.

 The whole point of a Peaceful Path, vs. just a path, is that one does not seek to balance oneself by seeking opposing extremes, which would just lead to further imbalance later on. One seeks the center. In the example of Love, one might balance oneself through Compassion - understanding that your love interest isn't your possession, that s/he is human and will err, and above all, remembering that your love will inevitably hurt you - perhaps when they die after a lifetime of love, perhaps in three weeks when you find your partner with someone else. The Peaceful Path does not lead to a peaceful life - if successfully followed, it only leads to a life that is not worsened by one's own good or bad intentions.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: K.B. Adams on May 18, 2017, 01:42:05 AM
I'm not the least bit religious, but as long as a book isn't preaching about why I should have religion in my life, I don't have issues with. Religion is often in the center of conflicts and societies in history, it makes sense that it would feature heavily in epic fantasy. It is a very important component of how people function, what motivates them. As long as the author approaches religion in the same way as they should approach characters it should be fine. Avoid blatant stereo-types (or creating stereotypes within the fictional world), make it realistic, don't preach to the reader. Religion provides so many possibilities for conflict! Both personal and on a larger scale, there is so much room to build your world, your characters and the story.

I sure agree with this -- especially the warning not to preach to the reader, unless of course one is specifically writing for a certain religious genre (such as Enclave Publishing which publishes Christian fantasy and sci-fi) with a fan base that already wants and expects that. But it isn't just the major religions such as Christianity where authors can fall into the preaching trap. With some New Age paranormal and ascended master types of fiction, the authors would surely feel they are not preaching, just telling a good story. But in fact, it's blatantly obvious the authors feel their spiritual slant is superior, and the authors make sure their characters come to understand, in the end, just how superior that spiritual school of thought is.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: eclipse on January 15, 2020, 09:29:02 AM
I’ve just finished the The bear and the Nightingale and it features the Christian religion, I’ve read some reviews of the book and quite a few people are saying it shows Christianity in a bad light according to them.

Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ? Or is it best to avoid any controversy by featuring real life religion.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Yora on January 15, 2020, 09:52:27 AM
If it is set on planet Earth, of course.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: isos81 on January 15, 2020, 11:48:02 AM
I’ve just finished the The bear and the Nightingale and it features the Christian religion, I’ve read some reviews of the book and quite a few people are saying it shows Christianity in a bad light according to them.

Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ? Or is it best to avoid any controversy by featuring real life religion.

Well, I would avoid real life religion because I would not want to affect my readers on something I did not create.

BTW, I read the book, too and once again I'm glad that I do not believe in God :)
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: NedMarcus on January 15, 2020, 12:42:19 PM
Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ?

No, because I prefer making things up. But if you can make it work, go for it. You do take certain risks though!

Thanks for the second resurrection of the religious thread :)
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: NedMarcus on January 15, 2020, 12:45:58 PM
Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ?
To quote you a second time—I forgot to say that if I was writing a contemporary fantasy, and the theme was religion, then I probably would.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Matthew on January 15, 2020, 02:35:16 PM
The Demon Cycle seems to portray both Christianity and Islam in a bad light (though using different names).

I prefer the pantheistic religions for storytelling though. If they're directly involved in the plot they are so much more interesting.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Bender on January 15, 2020, 04:29:58 PM
Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ? Or is it best to avoid any controversy by featuring real life religion.

As Yora said, not unless it's urban fantasy or set in earth. And even then I'd minimize it to avoid polarizing view and have wider appeal.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Rostum on January 15, 2020, 08:03:16 PM
Quote
I’ve just finished the The bear and the Nightingale and it features the Christian religion, I’ve read some reviews of the book and quite a few people are saying it shows Christianity in a bad light according to them.

OK Which flavour of Christianity I can think of 8 without really trying. And people being offended is something that should largely be ignored it is a ubiquitous reaction. When they come back with evidence of why they are offended then give them the time of day.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Neveesandeh on January 15, 2020, 10:10:55 PM
I am religious, and religious themes end up in pretty much everything I write. I hope that if someone who doesn't share my beliefs ever reads my work, they're able to find it interesting and thought provoking rather than preachy, but I don't know whether I have the skill to pull it off.

When I was younger I took a much more flexible and unorthodox approach to religion than I do now, and the made up religion in one of my books was largely based on what I believed at the time. My beliefs have changed since then but when I go back to revise those books I'll leave that religion the same, I'll just try to portray it in a more ambiguous light.

I don't mind reading works critical of religion, so long as they don't go out of their way to shock or offend without really having anything of meaning to say. That's not to say I will agree with those criticisms, but I'll still be interested in their perspective. The obvious example of this is 'His Dark Materials' a series which I've said in another thread looks to be surpassed by its own adaptation. (The series, not the film.) I think Pullman;'s thoughts on religion are nonsense, but the world he has created to get his points across is still compelling, at least until the third book, which I found a chore.

From a sociological perspective, I don't really think a society without religion, or at least a society without a firm set of values can exist, at least not for any long period of time. I could buy a speculative world without any traditionally 'religious' beliefs, but there has to be something, a political ideology, a philosophy or a set of principles that keeps their society together. A work without this feels a little off to me.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Skip on January 16, 2020, 01:40:31 AM
>Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ?
I do. It hasn't been central to any story I've told so far, but I can see a couple of places where it might be. So, not in the next book, but down the road, maybe. I write historical fantasy, so the raw materials are there.

Fantasy writers by and large do poorly with religion. Many think "religion" is the same thing as church, theology, doctrine, and practice. They tend to think there's a clear line between religion and superstition, and overlook the wide range between formal doctrine and popular belief. They also tend to present a religion as if everyone believed the same things in the same ways. In short, they have a shallow view of religion.

Secondly, fantasy writers use organized religion as a scapegoat. They take all the worst elements and manifestations of historical religions and make these normative. They also vastly overestimate the power of a church to dictate belief and practice. In short, they have not only a shallow view, but an overblown one.

I'm an atheist. But I'm also a medieval historian, and you don't get far in that field without taking people's beliefs seriously. Religion is filled with wonderfully rich fields to explore. Alas, too many writers only want to go into the one field, stand in the middle of it, and shout.

The above (and more) explains, at least to my own satisfaction, why so many fantasy works do such a poor job of representing religious practices of non-humans. We and SF writers have this extraordinary opportunity to explore religious themes *without* explicitly referencing known religions. SF writers do a much better job than we do.

Anyway, what was the question? Oh. I would answer: yes.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Neveesandeh on January 16, 2020, 08:03:21 AM
The above (and more) explains, at least to my own satisfaction, why so many fantasy works do such a poor job of representing religious practices of non-humans.

I second this. How many examples can you think of of non humans in a fantasy story all having the same religion for some reason?
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Yora on January 16, 2020, 09:45:22 AM
Even in the Middle Ages, people have been pondering the question if other intelligent humanoid creatures exist in distant parts of the world, with some even considering that there might be other worlds too. And that raised the question if missionaries should be send to convert those monsters and aliens. Though that might not be necessary if they already are Christians, which was considered a posibility.

It's easy to imagine fantasy worlds in which the people are Christians in practice though not in name, under the assumption that it's a universal truth that applies everywhere.

There's a sci-fi movie from the 80s or 70s where a human and an alien pilot crash their fighters on an uninhabited planet and nobody is coming to rescue them. They start talking about their worlds and cultures, and the alien explains something which the human recognizes from the bible. Which does not surprise the alien who just says "Of course. Truth is truth."
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Ray McCarthy on January 16, 2020, 10:40:45 AM
Fantasy writers by and large do poorly with religion. Many think "religion" is the same thing as church, theology, doctrine, and practice. They tend to think there's a clear line between religion and superstition, and overlook the wide range between formal doctrine and popular belief. They also tend to present a religion as if everyone believed the same things in the same ways. In short, they have a shallow view of religion.

Secondly, fantasy writers use organized religion as a scapegoat. They take all the worst elements and manifestations of historical religions and make these normative. They also vastly overestimate the power of a church to dictate belief and practice. In short, they have not only a shallow view, but an overblown one.

I'm an atheist. But I'm also a medieval historian, and you don't get far in that field without taking people's beliefs seriously. Religion is filled with wonderfully rich fields to explore. Alas, too many writers only want to go into the one field, stand in the middle of it, and shout.

Absolutely. Many adherents of many religions have superstitions not in the doctrine. Many religions have official religious practices that are at odds with their faith, theology and doctrine (three different things).
You can be an Atheist and a Bishop.
Few adherents of any Christian denomination know the doctrine of that denomination. The Roman Catholic Church even has denominations in it that believe contradictory things.

Organised Religion (Hindu, Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Luther's Reformation, Calvinism, the two branches of Islam, Shinto, American Evangelicals, Ultra Orthodox Judaism) has often been exploited by cynical politicians.

Even an atheist Fantasy writer is better off reading the works of respected Theologians and Philosophers rather that Richard Dawkins or Philip Pullman who have their own badly informed bigoted view of Christianity and seem to know little of other religions, or what Christianity or Judaism really believes or decent Philosophers over the last 4,000 years.

Reasons to have Religion in Fantasy:
Background for motivation of some characters
Making a point of difference between a Particular Organised religion and what it  is actually supposed to believe.
Any world without any religion or superstition or philosophy beyond science and mathematics is unrealistic. Science and Mathematics don't tell you what love, hate, respect, justice, mercy, morality etc are.

Superstition, Religious practice, Organised Religion, Faith, Theology, Doctrine, Philosophy are all different things with different overlaps. Even Atheism is ultimately a faith, a religion, because there is no scientific basis for belief or rejection of the idea of a God, gods and there is the problem of morals.

I think having the myth & legend aspect ancient gods rather than the religious belief or practice in Fantasy isn't religion. It's story. See many books with Norse, Greek, Egyptian and ancient Celtic "personalities". The Norse and Celtic stories we have handed down don't mention much about actual religion. Modern Druidism was made up the in the 19th C as was Spiritualism. Wiccan invented in early 1950s and Scientology was invented by an SF writer who decided there was more money in it than writing.  Tarot as a card game is old, the fortune telling isn't.

So if you are putting religion, superstition, philosophy or ancient gods in a story at least research it all first so you don't look like an idiot, a bigot or the Witchfinder-General.

I think the oldest known musing about Aliens is "A True Story" written in the second century AD by Lucian of Samosata, a Greek-speaking author of Assyrian descent. On Gutenberg in English translation.

It's also worth reading about what we think the Sumerians and Akkadians believed. Or what we think they claimed to believe.

Some ideas attributed to Christians such as Young Earth are not widely accepted by Christians and not much taken seriously till the 19th C, the calculations in Mediaeval times being purely of academic interest. Flat Earth was a Victorian invention.
Galileo didn't get in trouble with the Roman Church for his science but because he sought to interpret passages of the bible in the same text. 
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Bender on January 16, 2020, 04:33:50 PM
To see in perspective, religion is just another plot tool. It's either good or bad. If not a plot tool and just part of world building, then it loses much significance on how its portrayed.

The difference between religion vs doctrine vs belief is not really understood even in current day earth, so getting that distinction in fantasy book is not realistic. We have had a Medieval/Dark Age where Religion was rampantly bad and so no wonder we see parallels in SFF.

Having said that, it still is a trope and used unidimensionally and authors can do with a bit more variety.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Yora on January 16, 2020, 04:42:01 PM
What I find fascinating about well done religion in fantasy is how it affects the logic by which people put priorities and approach obstacles. Though I have to say I've seen very few cases of well done religion in fantasy. Most fantasy works just don't have any.
Gods don't make a religion.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Neveesandeh on January 16, 2020, 05:30:14 PM
The Mistborn trilogy is an interesting one. The series has very clear religious themes that are obviously informed by the author's own background, but it's rare to find someone complaining about it being in your face or preachy.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Bender on January 16, 2020, 06:06:40 PM
Red/Grey/Holy sister books are weird. Despite set in a monastery and all characters are sister/nuns, it has almost zero religion.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Skip on January 16, 2020, 06:22:22 PM
>Red/Grey/Holy sister books are weird. Despite set in a monastery and all characters are sister/nuns, it has almost zero religion.

There you go, that's an example of what I mean. The author chooses the setting because he has certain assumptions about what it is to be a monk. So he gets ready-made a whole structure of oppression and regulation and rules. And that's fine. You can tell a good story within that. It's not that author who bothers me, it's that almost no one seems able to see further.

>Even Atheism is ultimately a faith, a religion, because there is no scientific basis for belief or rejection of the idea of a God, gods and there is the problem of morals.

Just a small note here. I wish there was the word Antitheism because that's what I see in most people who identify as atheists. There's nothing intrinsic to being atheist that leads to being critical of religion. In a specifically Christian context, it means someone who has not heard the Word, who hasn't experienced a conversion. That's a peculiarly Christian thing. To be a Muslim, you need only declare yourself to be one and to observe the rules of the faith. Similarly with Buddhism. Judaism is odd because there's an identification as a people--inheritance--but there's still a door open to converts. I'm not at all sure about Hinduism, but for the most part I think it's a birthright. Anyway, Christianity is unusual (unique?) in that it insists on a spiritual conversion.

I mean, right there, without even going into sects and heresies, is a rich panoply of religion and individual and society.  IMO, the reason why it doesn't get done much is because we're fundamentally secular as a society. Religion doesn't resonate, save for the one area of religion as oppression and exploitation. To go further would require the book to do a bunch of hard work bringing the reader into it.

How many modern readers are going to be moved by Pierre's spiritual crisis in War and Peace? How many will think the issues raised in Narcissus and Goldmund are interesting? Or can feel the epic scale of A Prayer for Owen Meany?
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Yora on January 16, 2020, 07:29:54 PM
I guess the issue is that most readers would likely not see the relevance of the particular issue. Which you can also have with a lot of non-religious issues in a 19th century book. We don't really understand anymore why a woman would make a big deal about getting married. Not to anyone specifically, but just to somebody!

I think you could write something like this, but you would have to find an issue modern readers are more likely to care about.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Neveesandeh on January 16, 2020, 11:00:27 PM
Red/Grey/Holy sister books are weird. Despite set in a monastery and all characters are sister/nuns, it has almost zero religion.

That was one of my bigger issues with Red Sister. No one seems all that interested in the religion, yet they are supposed to have dedicated their lives to it. Characters do things that would probably get them kicked out of a real convent and no one cares.
Title: Re: Religion in Fantasy
Post by: Matthew on January 17, 2020, 01:03:17 AM
Red/Grey/Holy sister books are weird. Despite set in a monastery and all characters are sister/nuns, it has almost zero religion.

That was one of my bigger issues with Red Sister. No one seems all that interested in the religion, yet they are supposed to have dedicated their lives to it. Characters do things that would probably get them kicked out of a real convent and no one cares.

They felt more like a militant order with a side of faith and political clout due to them being run as boarding schools for rich girls.