World Building: Creating a Religion
I was an Anthropology major in college, so I did spend some time learning about religion. In my last novel, The Serenity Compound, I did touch upon religious elements, so I did have to do some research regarding that. You might be using religion for in an endless number of ways in your story, so first it helps to figure out why people practice religion.
Here are three general reasons why religion has always been so important in our world:
Religion is often used to influence someone’s thinking. We all know that for a VERY long time, religion has been used to control and manipulate people’s actions. Religion usually sets the standard for how people should treat each other and there are rules associated with each religion.
Religion has also been used to explain the world. Myths and legends, for example, have often explained why certain things happen and they offer an explanation. Before certain scientific revelations, religion was used to explain the unknown. There are a lot of things we don’t understand, like why we’re here for example, so people still use religion to figure out their purpose.
Finally, people turn to religion in order to find answers for emotional struggle. When someone dies, we want to believe they’ve moved on to something better. We want to believe that there’s an afterlife or a purpose for suffering. Religion offers hope for some people.
These aren’t the only reasons why people turn to religion, but they are very common reasons that you should think about before you incorporate religion into your world. Think about why your characters might be religious or why they would turn away from it.
What to focus on:
Laws, Rules, Sacred Text, etc.
It helps to figure out what your religion is going to be about. What are the laws? What do followers need to do to be part of this religion? Are there any accompanying sacred text, like a bible? Religion is part of world building so take some time to figure it all out.
This also can involve any prayers or songs that go along with your religion. What are some of the rituals that go along with your religion? Almost every religion has rituals, so figure out what they are.
How long has this religion been around for? What’s the history surrounding it? Some religions are newer than others, so that could be part of your story. Most religions have a lot of history.
Where Do Followers Worship?
In order to make your religion feel more real and part of your world, consider where your followers worship. Not all religions have places a worship, but that’s something you should decide for your own fictional religion. Make them part of the atmosphere and make them feel real. Decide if it’s going to be something extravagant or maybe a bit more low-key. It’s up to you and your story.
There are a lot of things to consider when building your own religion, but try to stick to some guidelines. Obviously, I haven’t covered everything about religion and there are plenty of other reasons why people might believe in higher powers, so explore your own feelings regarding these issues. If you’re including an existing religion, make sure you do your research and really understand what you’re writing about.