1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Christianity and pseudo-Christianity in otherwise fantasy worlds

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Feo Takahari, Sep 13, 2015.

  1. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

    350
    83
    28

    Is this real it look so fake.



    If religion is not central to the plot I don't see why writers must spend a lot of time making original and flesh out fake religions.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  2. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,350
    1,181
    163


    Real or fake is irrelevant. It's all about entertainment.
     
    Mythopoet likes this.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,646
    3,134
    313
    I didn't say they should . . . I said they should find a better way than religion to accomplish the same feat. If religion is being used as a short-hand way to create a contrast between characters or cultures, then don't go with the short-hand. Create better characters and cultures with a more developed relationship between them.
     
    valiant12 likes this.
  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    579
    113
    Way late for this, but the most positive portrayals of pseudo-Christianity I've seen in non-Christian fantasy have generally been fast and loose. For instance, Lone Wolf has a benevolent god called Kai who's pretty much equivalent to the Christian God, but Christianity is just a starting point for the worldbuilding, and the author freely diverges in both substance and doctrine whenever it makes for a better story. The goal is to entertain, not sermonize, and if the author has a message, it's not praising or condemning any real-life religion.

    The reason I originally started this topic was that The Serpent and the Rose bugged me, but Thief bugged me way more. In The Serpent and the Rose, using a blatant Christian parallel felt distracting and lazy. It didn't seem like there was any effort made to fit it into the world and make it seem like a natural part of the setting, the way the religion of Andraste felt natural in Dragon Age. It was just sort of there, like a botched Photoshop job with a smaller image awkwardly copy-pasted into a larger one.

    Thief, on the other hand, felt almost slanderous. The Hammerites are clearly Christian-inspired, but they explicitly and violently reject all of Christianity's more merciful aspects. Their teachings are pure fire and brimstone, scorning any possibility of mercy and redemption, and that makes them feel hollow, barely representing Christianity at all. (They're not slammed to make the pagans look better--the pagans are almost as bad--they're just slammed so you won't feel guilty about playing a character who steals from and potentially murders them.)

    I'm not necessarily sure what I'm looking for. You could argue that Lone Wolf isn't really a solution, either, since it feels incredibly awkward when a character who seems to be analogous to Jesus refuses to forgive a foe and condemns him to eternal torture. I guess Dragon Age handled it okay, maybe?
     
  5. Scribe Lord

    Scribe Lord Minstrel

    59
    22
    8
    In every religion in the world there have been those people who have been beneficial to society and those people who have committed atrocities. That's what I want to see in fantasy books; both the good and the bad. Also, just because a member of a certain religion has done wicked things, that shouldn't mean that the entire religion is condemned for it. Personally, I don't have a problem with fantasy books that base their religions off of real world ones, as long as they are all depicted fairly. Otherwise it becomes too 'preachy' for me.

    I only ever played one of those games, and only a few hours of it, but the thing that stuck with me most was the Chantry. So I'd agree there. Then again from what I remember Dragon Age's worldbuilding in general was top notch.
     
  6. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    100
    17
    18
    I personably would avoid using Christianity as a religion in your world, unless of course the story is set on our own world. While it's perfectly fine to develop a Christianity- like religion, avoid words that conjure Christian images; avoid crosses specifically and any names found in the Christian faith. Furthermore, I might even go as far to avoid a Jesus parallel. While tenants or aspects of your faith may resemble Christianity, in the end, fantasy readers will find it perturbing if there is a Jesus or a bible or "Christians".
     
  7. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    232
    43
    I'd mostly agree with you, but I'm not sure a fantasy religion without a Jesus analogue could really be called a pseudo-Christianity, considering how central Jesus is to Christianity. Even if it had the imagery of Christianity, it would probably be pretty different in beliefs.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,166
    3,496
    413
    Some might. Some would not. For some stories this is exactly what you'd want to do.
     
  9. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    100
    17
    18
    If it's set in a past/ present/ future/ alternate version of earth, yes.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,166
    3,496
    413
    Not just that, though that's one option. You might be writing allegory, wherein you may well have a Jesus figure, even if by a different name, a Bible, and so on.

    Also, if you're writing something that takes place on another world, somewhere out in the universe, you may very well use a parallel religion to advance the thesis that Christianity (or any other religion you choose) is true. If god is universal, then you might construct a world that has clear evidence of Christianity, even though there has never been contact with earth. That could include Jesus, a Bible (even the same Bible that exists on earth, if you wanted to put forth the universal, incorruptible nature of the book as part of your theme).

    There are all kinds of things you can do with this. Some readers will be OK with it, some will actively like it, and others will be put off by it. Fantasy has boundless possibilities. There's really no reason to tell people that some area of subject matter, method of getting your theme across, or elements of religion that you want to paint as universal, are off-limits. That's an artificial restraint on the genre that any given author may impose, but there is no objective basis for it.
     
    FifthView and Russ like this.
  11. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    100
    17
    18
    Frankly I would avoid pseudo- Christianity altogether. The likelihood of a religion exactly like Christianity developing in an entirely different world is extremely unlikely;

    That being said, it's extremely unlikely for the human race to exist in another world, but while it is unlikely, it keeps the story familiar and allows the readers to actually relate to the story's characters. There are ample reasons to reuse humanity and other familiar and human- like races like elves and dwarves, but there is very little reason to explicitly imitate Christianity in your stories, but for laziness or larger themes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,096
    1,469
    313
    This discussion puts me in mind of Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy. The Aedonite religion is blatantly Christianity under a different name. There's explicitly a Redeemer who was hung on a tree and died there. It's been a while since I read the books, but it didn't bother me overmuch.
     
    FifthView likes this.
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,166
    3,496
    413
    Except that if the Christian religion is true, and god is creating beings in his own image, then other humans is exactly what you would expect on other planets. So if that's the theme you are going for, that approach makes a lot of sense.
     
  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,162
    1,129
    163
    It depends on how and why you are writing your work.

    Your objection is effectively a statistical/scientific one, which is fine. There is actually a fairly rational counter-argument to that objection, but as I am just getting ready to head out on vacation I don't have time to detail it here. If you are interested drop me a line in ten days and I am happy to outline it for you.

    But if one is using one's fiction to comment on the real world, than using a disguised version of Christianity or other aspects of our world is the right thing to do.

    To me the highest level of fantasy doesn't just entertain me with stories of unreal places, it makes comment on, or challenges, or gets me to think about things in my life and my world. To me that is one of the things that separates the run of the mill material from really memorable literature.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  15. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    100
    17
    18
    Then it would no longer be pseudo- Christianity.
     
  16. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,318
    1,365
    163
    Hmmm...

    As pointed out, Tad Williams 'Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn' did merge an alternate Christianity into the setting.

    Kate Eliot's 'Crown of Stars' did much the same, with the twist that most of the clergy was female.

    Monotheistic religions that might as well be Christianity under another name appear in Barbara Hambly's works, and fit the tone of the world.
     
  17. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,765
    1,847
    163
    Ah, I think that's the one that I've been remembering all along. Thanks!
     
  18. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,945
    940
    113
    Yeah, that's always the one I think of first when this subject comes up. It didn't so much bother me as it completely broke my immersion in the story. My enjoyment was shaky from the beginning, but suddenly finding the Catholic Church plopped right there in the middle of this supposed fantasy world just ruined it totally for me as a secondary world.
     
  19. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,096
    1,469
    313
    My first thought was actually Narnia, but I think that one was so obvious few people if anyone wanted to mention it. (At least I haven't seen it yet in this thread.) Lewis was kinda heavy-handed with the allegory there.
     
    Lunaairis likes this.
  20. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,945
    940
    113
    Narnia does not have a depiction of the Christian religion though. Certainly there is no "religion" as most people would identify it.
     
Loading...

Share This Page