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Christianity and pseudo-Christianity in otherwise fantasy worlds

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

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think that's subject to some discussion - their attitude towards Aslan is religious and obviously Christian - but certainly it doesn't look anything like the type of structured organizations you see in most fantasy.
     
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Narnia is pretty heavily infused with Christian concepts, minus the clergy.
     
  3. Then again even these questions lead to deeper considerations about what is a religion. Seems to me we fantasy writers often only have a religion of it fits a certain western mold. This I think is another monotone problem. There's one sect with one belief and no individualized or generalized deviation.
     
  4. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    I have a text book from one of my old college classes titled "The Anthropology of Religion" and a significant part of the first chapter deals with the definition of religion and even then they provide multiple definitions. It's not an easy subject to cover.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    That's cool. Any Malinowski in there?
     
  6. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Bronislaw Malinowski? According to the index, yes. Actually he seems to be referenced a lot in it. It's been years since I took the class though, so I'm not really familiar with him.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, a big name in anthropology, particularly anthropology of religion and the intersection of science, magic, etc. A structuralist, I think. I bet I can find something.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Whenever people start talking about discrete definitions or academic analyses of religion, it makes me nervous. I don't think religion- or to be more precise, faith- is something you really can understand in an academic fashion. This is partly a problem baked into anthropology as a whole. There will always be a disconnect, no matter how small, between the observer of a culture and someone actually living in it. But I think this issue is magnified to brobdingnagian proportions when it comes to the subject of religion and faith. I came to this conclusion while taking a comparative religion class. It was more or less a guided tour of several of the more influential theories about how religion works and where it comes from. And while I found some more useful than others, ultimately all of them rang false to me. I think the reason for this is that most if not all of these theories came from people who approached the subject of religion trying to explain it away or dissect it. In the process of the dissection, they kill the specimen and end up completely missing the point in one way or another.
     
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  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You should probably read some Malinowski then (which I'm surprised you didn't read if you took a comparative religions class). He doesn't fall into the trap you're talking about, and he's focusing on specific types of religion at specific cultural levels. You could also look at Claude Levi-Strauss, but I like Malinowksi better in this regard. Maybe because functionalism does a better job, in my view, of treating the subject than structuralism.
     
  11. That is an interesting point. Although, I think coming at this question from a different angle could be important to a fantasy writer. They should ask themselves whether they want to define religion broadly or narrowly. A broad definition would include beliefs but without a formal structure (I am unsure off the top of my head of a real world corollary). A narrow definiton would include belief but would require a certain formal structure (like most Christian sects). So what kind of religion do you want the broad or narrow. I think most of the time we only consider the narrow approach and fail to consider the broader definition, which leads to monotony.
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I talked about a religion I was working with earlier. But in my notes, most of it is actually labeled under the magic system, with additional notes under culture. I don't normally consider religion as its own separate entity. Done well, I believe, it's infused into the setting.

    I don't have the patience or time for the article Steerpike posted above right now, but here's an excerpt from Malinowski posted on his Wikipedia entry:

    But I would say this ^ is the trap we fall into as writers. We want to be the ethnographers, and we don't see it first and foremost from the eyes of the people in our stories.

    Christianity has a structured, organizational component to it. I think that's pretty clear to everyone. But it would be a tremendous mistake to try and reduce it to that structure and ignore the deeper side of it. That would only serve to ignore the way that the religion shapes the culture and the way that our culture shapes the way our religion surfaces.
     
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  13. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    A bit OT, but this gets right to the heart of the problem I've always faced when trying to write characters who believe things I think are false. It wouldn't feel true to myself and my beliefs if I took, say, a social Darwinist character and wrote the story as if he was right about everything. But at the same time, I think it would be a tremendous mistake to portray him as stupid. If he has reasons for his beliefs, it's my responsibility to show those reasons, and depending on what he does with his beliefs and whether he causes any harm, I may not have any basis to judge him.

    Ultimately, I don't think I'm capable of perfectly writing a religious character. I simply don't have enough in common with them. But that's no reason not to try, right?
     
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    ಠ_ಠ

    Ummmmmmmmm...
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You have to put his language and word choice in the context of the early to mid-1900s when he was working. It requires reading beyond the superficial.
     
  16. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Yes, I know. "Man of his time" and all that. But those types of phrases are still markers that cause me to regard a text with suspicion. Or at least to take it with a hefty amount of salt.
     
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I hope it goes without saying, but I didn't quote him to endorse his sentiments, or even his work, but only because I happened to notice that the overall point about viewing the religion from inside or as a larger cultural structure was similar to the one I was going to make.
     
  18. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    Going back to OP's topic, why would you use a topic as clearly debatable as religion to establish a platform for your story unless you're story is exclusively about it. The magic of fantasy is allegory, you can prove as many points as you want but deliver it in a way that doesn't offend.

    So why single out Christianity in a long list of monotheistic religions? Is it because it's easy? It seems weak to use this religion as a stepping stone to a motive of writing in this context. Either buck up and say what you want or don't make metaphors for something that means a lot to many people.
     
  19. In my personal opinion, every aspect of world-development (especially the religions) should serve to either add more content to a central theme in the story or provide a means of achieving a desired scene.

    My current work features a pseudo-christian religion that has some Islamic influences. I'm purposefully trying to remind the reader of apply the themes of my narrative to a greater perspective. I'm attempting to convey very specific ideas about the notion of the Abrahamic religions.

    I don't really see why you would go out of your way to use Christianity in your story unless you're trying to say something about it. There are many easier ways to get a good plot device.
     
  20. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    What are people's thoughts on using Judeo-Christian beings in fantasy such as angels, demons etc? Especially in a non-conventional sense?

    Say like:

    The Fallen series
    The Mortal Instruments Series (City of Bones, City of Ashes etc)
    The Infernal Devices Series (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince etc)
    Hush Hush
    The Golden Compass series (His Dark materials)


    Or movies like Legion or the series Dominion

    I'm fascinated with the concept of angels from a mythological stance and would like to explore using them in a fantasy or sci-fi setting. I saw on the cover of The Best Short Stories in Science Fiction of the Year there was an angel depicted as an interplanetary being… gorgeous white wings, but she was in a space suit… here is a link.

    The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection: Gardner Dozois: 9781250064424: Books - Amazon.ca

    For me I found this fascinating and wanted to explore it a bit more.

    Thoughts?
     
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