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Thread: problems with creating a religion.

  1. #1

    problems with creating a religion.

    I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment the moment with my fantasy world at the moment because it is the first one I am building with this much detail. I want to try and make sure my world makes complete sense. This means getting my map to fit geographical law. My population to expand at a reasonable rate ext. So I am trying to start with factors that will effect all my nations. Like the magic systems. I have made my magic system so the next thing that I want to do is make a religion.

    I want to combine the following things in the religion.
    God similar to the Greek gods. Immoral and act like humans.
    Equality of the sexes is a part of the religion as I don't want much sexism in my story
    The religion is organised very much like in medieval Europe with convents, monasteries small "churches all over" and a head of the religion like the pope. Except their are about ten of this each for separate gods.
    In my magic system people have to go into trances in order to use magic this can take up to three hours.
    The most logical people to have discovered magic then is the priest. So part of thier religon must be to go into trances probably through many hours of praying.

    how should I go about combining these ideas.

  2. #2
    With all this worldbuilding, where is your story? How does religion actually impact the characters in the story? Put the story first, world building should fit around and move the story along. At least that's my take on it. I have my basic premise, and things that I have come up with in the course of writing the first draft. The second draft will incorporate the things discovered and important to the storyline.
    Come visit my blog, and see what I've been up to.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jungly View Post
    I want to combine the following things in the religion.
    God similar to the Greek gods. Immoral and act like humans.
    Equality of the sexes is a part of the religion as I don't want much sexism in my story
    The religion is organised very much like in medieval Europe with convents, monasteries small "churches all over" and a head of the religion like the pope. Except their are about ten of this each for separate gods.
    In my magic system people have to go into trances in order to use magic this can take up to three hours.
    The most logical people to have discovered magic then is the priest. So part of thier religon must be to go into trances probably through many hours of praying.

    how should I go about combining these ideas.
    Honestly, that's really not enough to comment on. My reaction was, "Aren't those pretty easy to combine? Nothing conflicts." But if you want help in developing the system, the best I can do with that information is to ask a few questions.

    Are the gods real and do they interact in ways other than through their priesthood?

    Why are there about ten gods and not more or fewer? Is that the whole pantheon? Is the pantheon fixed?

    Monastaries, Convents, "Churches everywhere" and a guy in charge isn't really much of an organizational structure, and it doesn't give a very clear impression of what you want. The first thing that comes to my mind about "churches everywhere" is that there's very few people actually running your basic church, and there are different types of Churches even in medieval Europe, such as Cathedrals and Chapels. I think you might be better off starting with, "What does a local temple look like?" and building upwards from there.

    When it comes to magic, I've always found it best to start with the effect than with the process, or else I get stuck. So what can your priests actually do?
    "Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." - G. K. Chesterton

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  4. #4
    Senior Member ascanius's Avatar
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    I have to agree with Devor and Sashamerideth. There really doesn't seem to be a problem with your religion as an outline. But they both bring up points that need to be addressed.
    I think what Devor means about not really much of an organizational structure is that there doesn't seem to be an organization hierarchy. Think of it as a government, you have a president/prime minister/king the head honcho if you will then those under such as dukes, secretary of state. And you have people under those. Basically who is between the pope figure and the priest. If you are dealing with a very large area it will be more than one person can administer too, so economically someone would need to be there to help out.
    Another couple of questions you could ask about your religion are how does it impact the world, the people living in the world and the characters. Also what is the point of your religion, the religion of the ancient Greeks is very different from the major religions of today. Is the point to get into some sort of heaven, or to appease the gods so there will be a good harvest or to avoid war, or even so one nation is victorious in war. Think about these gods and how they impact the world. Like Devor said are they real, able to manipulate the physical world, or purely spiritual.
    I think the best advice on this is to start asking question about your religion as someone who doesn't know anything about it. Try to be as detailed as possible.

  5. #5
    At the moment I have not got a story or characters. I am building the world and then I am going to see what sort of story would take place there.

    The gods don't influence the world. They are like the gods of the present age. They are worshipped and prayed to show no sign of existing.

    Ten gods was a rough estimate. There are about ten major gods and lots that are less powerful.

    Little villages will probably have a small "church" where a priest of one of the gods. The church wont be very big. it will have an statue of that god. and a place were everybody sits and hears the sermon.

    In towns there be three or four churches competing with each other for worshippers. Or their might even be some churches that worship all the gods.

    In a big city you will have the same thing but bigger. Through the land there will be monasteries and convents these will normally be devoted to only one god.

    I have already made my entire magic system and tried to work out some of the things that it could achieve. Basically it is elemental magic. magician can only use two meters cubed of the element they are using. Magician have to go into a trance to do magic which can take up to three hours. They can only use one element per trance. The more they complex shapes they can make with the element. Priest originally discovered magic cause they would go into the trance state by praying for a long time. They started to feel more in tune with the elements and eventually started to manipulate them.

    The priest kept magic inside the religion for many years claiming it was a god given gift, but then someone tried to copy the priest as they went into the trance and found out it was not. He then showed many people how to do magic.

    All priest can do magic but most can't do it very well because they don't practise enough so most can just through boulders at anybody in their way.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ascanius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jungly View Post
    The gods don't influence the world. They are like the gods of the present age. They are worshipped and prayed to show no sign of existing.

    In towns there be three or four churches competing with each other for worshippers. Or their might even be some churches that worship all the gods.

    In a big city you will have the same thing but bigger. Through the land there will be monasteries and convents these will normally be devoted to only one god.

    I have already made my entire magic system and tried to work out some of the things that it could achieve. Basically it is elemental magic. magician can only use two meters cubed of the element they are using. Magician have to go into a trance to do magic which can take up to three hours. They can only use one element per trance. The more they complex shapes they can make with the element. Priest originally discovered magic cause they would go into the trance state by praying for a long time. They started to feel more in tune with the elements and eventually started to manipulate them.

    The priest kept magic inside the religion for many years claiming it was a god given gift, but then someone tried to copy the priest as they went into the trance and found out it was not. He then showed many people how to do magic.

    All priest can do magic but most can't do it very well because they don't practise enough so most can just through boulders at anybody in their way.
    Ok quick question. Are you modeling your religion off the Greco/Roman religion. For instance. The Greeks and Romans if memory serves correctly believed in the entire pantheon of gods, observing specific festivals and events for each god. From what I can remember about my Myth class people didn't just worship a single god but every god. That does not mean individuals didn't worship only a single god there were cults that sought the favor of only a specif god, such as the cult of Aphrodite, or Mars,...,.. They still believed in the other gods but their focus was on a specific god. Is your religion going to be something similar where people acknowledge the existence of all the gods but focus on a specific one, or do individuals only believe in a single deity exclusively?
    Second if churches are competing for worshipers, why are they doing so and in what way do they compete, do they kill those who don't believe in their god. Remember in the middle ages, I could be wrong I haven't read upon the subject as much as I wish, the majority of church wealth came not from the peasants but from the royalty who gave the church lands, wealth, and power. Do you see where I am going with this?
    How does each church pay for the building, administrative costs? Administrative costs are things like housing, food, along with salaries to non clergy for the basic running of the church. That another thing you need to think of, the administrative hierarchy, such as the head of the church, then bishops, then priests, friars, nuns, abbots. You need to think of who you are going to include in the hierarchy of the religion and what there role is. Monks and nuns for instance lived in monasteries and had little if any contact with the outside world.
    If the priests are not necessary needed to practice magic after someone figures out what to do, this raises a question. First people are going to ask why they need priests anymore. And second, if anyone can do magic, and priests are not needed to do it, do the gods supply the magic or something else like nature or whatever. You would probably see divergent religions popping up with different theories on where the magic comes from.

    A few other points to think about is how your religion came to be what it is now. Was it once the religion of a nomadic tribe until they learned the power of magic through meditation. Are their rituals that had meaning in the past but now seem pointless. How are basic customs and rites carried out like marriage, puberty, death. Do they even have special rites for death or do they cremate the dead. Why do they cremate the dead? to avoid disease, or to release the soul. Do they believe in a soul while alive, after death? What about rites of passage, what makes a boy and boy and a man a man? What about a woman? What about menstruation? How does your religion impact society? Remember religion defines the belief system and morality of a society and can determine everything from who it the head of a household to the preparation of foods. You said you wanted equality of the sexes, how is this enforced, and how does religion play it's part? Does it teach that men and women are equal, or does some other facet of society determine this. What about religious beliefs in government, how is this viewed?

    These are just some analytical question you can ask about your religion. The more you can answer the more detailed a picture your religion will make. Keep in mind that not every question needs to be answered, or relevant to what you want to create. Try to ask as many question about your religion as possible, and be mean and critical with it. Try to be that person who points out the flaws in everything. That does not mean it is a bad idea, don't ever think that! It just means you need to flesh things out a little bit more, and heck sometimes those little flaws that don't make sense can work. Sometimes things just are.
    Well there was nothing quick about that, sorry. One thing though, you don't have to do it this way, it is simply how I go about creating a society, religion, nation etc. You can take everything I said and throw it out the window, keep it yours and how you want it. Not how a stranger on the internet wants it.
    Bona Fortuna
    Last edited by ascanius; 2-2-12 at 3:09 AM.

  7. #7
    People acknowledge all the gods but tend to worship only one. So yes it is based on the Greek religion in a way. There are different churches for the separate gods. Each church is lead by someone who claim to be able to talk to that god. People will generally only worship the god that affects their life the most. So sailors will pray to the god of the sea and worrier will pray to the goddess of war (A character similar to the Greek virgin huntress). Churches will compete with each other for worship by trying to convert people through non-violent means. Will though when they think nobody is looking they might just raze a village to the ground or force a noble to convert. The churches want worshippers because the more worshippers they have the more powerful their church is. Once for example the mouth piece of the war goddess summoned thousand to his banner and made a bid to take over the continent. Priests are mostly needed to preach the gods will to conduct prayers to them and to allow people into the afterlife.

    I have not thought about how I will integrate the magic system and the religion. In the creation myths it will talk about the creation of magic. Magic is a natural force and does not derive from the gods. Has anyone integrated magic into a religion in which the gods do not acutely exist? If so how. I have written down all the rules of magic, if it would help you to understand my world better I can post it here. It is about a page long.

    Being all knowing about my world I know there are no gods what so ever in my world.

    The religion does not affect peoples morals. The gods are like the Greek gods rather immoral. Instead there are many philosophers like in ancient Greece that try to define thing like goodness and what is morally correct. There is even one nation that forbid worship of the gods on the grounds that they are immoral. priest have always meditated. When the were forced to flee from there home to the continent they now live in they started to feel more in tune with the elements after long hours of meditation. After about five years they were able to to start manipulating the elements.

    I was thinking of making the whole thing a matriarchal society in a way. So there is no marriage. Children are always brought up and cared for by the mothers family. There is no need for a dominant gender, that is only needed in a patriarchal society. Because if the father is supporting the children then he want to know that they are his. so he has to have the authority to control his wife.

    After death there will be a funeral where the people give the body and soul of the person to there patron god for safe keepng. So sailors will be sent of into the sea in little boats ext.

  8. #8
    Moderator Ravana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jungly View Post
    The gods don't influence the world. They are like the gods of the present age. They are worshipped and prayed to show no sign of existing.
    In that case, anything can happen. Just as with the present age—and past ones. The worshipers will come up with whatever (1) gives them the most political power/control, (2) is most profitable, (3) is most expedient, (4) is least subject to refutation by evidence, (5) is most emotionally appealing, or (6) best suits their fancy… or, most likely, some combination of all of these.

    It's only when the gods genuinely exist, and interact with the world, that it matters; barring those two conditions, anything goes.
    I have taken all knowledge to be my province. Tariff rates and immigration policies forthcoming.

  9. #9
    What I want to work out is all the mythology the effect the religion has on the world and how much power to give to the religious leaders. Also what mythology and religious explanation could the religion have for magic? Has anyone combined magic with a religion that does not acutely understand it.

  10. #10
    Jungly, im doing the same thing as you at the moment, im creating the world with all of the gods and people, but im starting at the beggining, which is something i learned i needed to do. If you go back to the very beggining and work out why things happen, then that will help you to intergrate. If the gods are a source of power then the religion would centre around that, and if the magic is intergrated into that, then why?
    i started with my gods and worked onwards from them, i knew what i wanted the magic to be like roughly, and the people that populated the world, but i made it fit in with the story, so sometimes they had to change so they made sense or a new element needed to come in to make it seem plausable.

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