World Building: Religion

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      The world you write can be enriched through the existence of multiple religions. Especially in fantasy, religions allow you to emphasize and explore beliefs and questions about existence. Religion can also be a unifying or divisive element in your writing. It can be a tool to illuminate a character’s deeply personal life. It can provide background for your world. It can provide another layer of social structure. And the structure of reality. Is there one true religion or is each religion a piece of the whole?

  • Deities: One of the defining elements of a religion is the number of gods and the nature of that god or gods. Some religions also have demi-deities, angels, devils, and spirits. All of these have their own names, natures, and roles.

  • Beliefs: Beliefs typically include an origin story, a history of the believers, attitudes, and definitions of good and evil.

  • Afterlife: Religions also teach what happens after a person dies. Reincarnation? Ghosts? Seven hells? Depending on the book you write, you can tap into a religion’s afterlife for a character, scene, or subplot.

  • Practices: Are the believers pacifists or crusaders? Know the holy days, why these days are holy, and what is done to honor them. Know the rules followed by true believers. Know what sets true believers apart from false ones.

  • Hierarchy: Many religions have a spiritual leader. Some religious figures may also have secular authority. For instance they might own land, collect money, or have political influence. In religions with multiple gods, there may be a ruling god, children of gods, or minor gods. Power can rotate among figures, ebb and flow, or be constant.

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