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This is an interesting topic, because there are so many way to approach this. I will only comment briefly for now, but I will try to provoke thoughtfulness. One way of showing religion in a fantasy story is having a religion, often times based off of Greek or other ancient myths, and having it be real. Gods are real, and they interact with humans, and they give humans powers. Like the Greek gods, they are imperfect, have their jealousies and wrath, and sometimes can be jerks. The people can decide which god to worship, or sometimes decide not to worship at all, because they are not worth worshiping, being imperfect, human. Basically these gods are powerful immortals. There was a series called The Tidelords by Jennifer Fallon that dealt with this idea. I’m a bit ambivalent about the ending, but the series was interesting. Other stories show these types of gods as representative of forces or ideas, again like the Greeks. American Gods by Neil Gaiman dealt with this idea, and if the people stopped believing, the gods lost strength. Others have done the same. Sometimes, there is no god, and the author is clear on that point. I personally don’t enjoy the idea of fantasy telling me there is no god or supreme being, since there is magic and prophecy, which has to come from somewhere. Many authors who don’t create their own gods imply that their world is like ours: most people aren’t sure one way or another. Sometimes there are false gods, who deceive, or false priests.

There are many way to portray religion, but often the default, which in my opinion is entirely too easy and lazy, is to have the position of religion being bad, that the leaders are corrupt and want power, and sometimes the plot is about unmasking them. While there is no doubt that has been the case in our world many times, it is too simplistic to say that there is nothing good about religion and it is all false. Much good has come from religion, as well as bad, just like any other human (imperfect) institution. So portraying religion as evil or only for the foolish, when so many good and wise people in the real world believe devoutly, is foolishness in itself. There must be something good in the religions portrayed, or no one in the imaginary world would flock to them. Humans need to believe in something. Even science can be called a religion. Anyway, my point was not to offend anyone out there. you probably guessed I’m religious. I don’t hate anyone for not believing, and I see why many people choose not to believe in any organized religion, but if you’re writing a book and you want to include this topic, there should be some balance, even if you’re an atheist. I hope this gets people thinking, at least.

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One Comment

  1. Just as an addition, there are times when having religion as bad can work for a story. Having the creator of the universe as a jerk would make you think if he/she is worth worshiping just because he/she created you. The Christian God is supposed to be perfect, and that is the reason He is worshiped, but if He wasn’t, would people still worship Him? It can be an interesting exploration that really only the fantasy genre might explore well.


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