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Designing a Religion: Faith in Strange Places

Discussion in 'World Building' started by OberonLordofSylva, May 3, 2020.

  1. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    Sorry Red Star but I've got another entry in this weird community chest of a series! One of my shorter WIP's takes place in a low-magic aquatic setting(I'm aiming for something called Oceanpunk) and focuses heavily on the conflict between two religions. The Legio Aqua Vitae is the dominant religion of the setting and worships the ever-present ocean as a divine figure. The Legio is divided into halves: the actual religion and it's elite military, the Fisher-Knights. The story follows Nota Lucia Dea, daughter of the previous Arch-Priestess who's basically the head honcho of the Legio Aqua Vitae and is said to be possessed by the Goddess(so in summation, Aquatic Pope Lady), as she goes on a pilgrimage to become worthy of the Goddess' will and authority. The antagonists are the Church of the Old Ways, a cult based around the same false god whose teachings were what pissed off the ocean and triggered the great flood 100 years ago that sunk all the land on the planet, causing thousands of extinctions and killing 80% of all Humans(although that was more because most of the humans were too self-absorbed and stupid to get in the boat). My big concern is that the more I'm developing the Legio Aqua Vitae the more it comes across as just "Catholicism with lots of water". Any help fleshing out this idea or ways to make these two more original would be much appreciated! And don't be afraid to post the religions of your exotic settings down there either, hopefully this thread can help you out too. PS: Humans survived by building massive boats with science laboratories and food factories built in. Using the resources now sealed away beneath the waves they built small artificial continents called Villae to live on and still use boats as transportation amongst many other services.
     
  2. huscarl

    huscarl Dreamer

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    Congratulations Red StarRed Star you have started something.

    Hi OberonLordofSylvaOberonLordofSylva,

    Because of tropes, I immediately thought of Cthulhu when I read Old Gods, cultists & destruction. Can you provide us with a little more detail on the religions themselves? Is the Ocean a being or just the ocean that is worshipped? Why is the cult god false? False to the Ocean (goddess)?, the people or in reality not divine and was created by crazy people? Why the split of Legio? Schism? Yin & Yang?

    My own thoughts on including religion as players in stories is that one needs to create the mythology before the religion. Mythology is the basis of religion and also influences culture of the people(s). So, what is the origin myth of the world before the flood, during and after?

    Also, you started off saying the story, "focuses heavily on the conflict between two religions." Then you say the main religion has 2 halves and introduce the cultists. Are there 3 entities in the story or are the cultists one of the halves? If the cultists worship a false god.. I'm confused, sorry.

    Semper Fidelis
    Eric
     
    Red Star likes this.
  3. Nirak

    Nirak Minstrel

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    One thing you might consider is killing the Latin. Latin is VERY strongly associated with the Catholic church, since that's one of the few places its used now (and for a really long time). Otherwise, not knowing what the tenets of your religion are, it's hard to give suggestions on how to make it different. But I'd start with - what do your people value? And what mysteries do they need to solve? It sounds like there's a "true" religion with an actual, real deity. So what's that deity after? What do they want, and how could they get it? That would also help determine the religion. I can't tell if the people all live underwater or just on big boats. If it's all on boats, have you watched media where that's the setting? Waterworld comes to mind, but there are others. Those might give you some ideas too.

    As for the other religion, if you have your main religion that is demonstrably true, as in the world can see impact from the god, why would anyone worship a false god? Especially knowing what happened last time? So figuring out those motivations might help. For example, what if instead of the same old religion, they're worshipping some sort of effigy or idol of science? And the concern is that it will cause the same thing - people turning away from the true religion and creating another flood. Science is a conflicting enemy, and is a little more morally grey (and to me more interesting), because it, too, can be demonstrably true. I think having people turning to science when religion is too out of their reach makes sense. There could also be a catalyst that causes it, as in some kind of disaster that's looming and religion has provided no answers.

    Just some ideas!
     
    OberonLordofSylva likes this.
  4. enoch driscoll

    enoch driscoll Scribe

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    to break outside of Catholicism, the easiest way is to go to the opposite side of the world. Catholicism and Christianity are very similar and very western-based. the opposite of this is Buddhism and Hinduism, which come from literally the other side of the world. throw around words like inner peace, spirit dimension, reincarnation, higher knowledge, animism, and other things.

    also note that i think there is nothing wrong with a very watery catholic religion, it sounded cool until you 'degraded' it. the readers will take what they are told. great job by the way.
     
  5. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    A lot of you guys seem to be confused about a couple things. I apologize for using unclear language.

    1: The Villae are above water. An underwater city, while a fun idea and one that I have been playing with, will likely not make the cut. Likewise the Legio Aquia Vitae is not "split". The Fisher-Knights are a branch of the church, not a separate organization.

    2: It's supposed to be ambiguous whether or not the Water Goddess is real or not right up until the very end where the protagonist reveals the goddess's name. Even then, if you don't read other materials produced separately where Shalut(the goddess) is a major player then the scene where Nota does the name dropping falls flat because that scene is meant to tell the reader, "hey this is part of a shared universe!". In short, the goddess is real just not in the way the characters think she is.

    3: I like the idea of the Church of the Old Ways worshipping a Lovecraftian creature. It fits well enough with the shared universe and in the context of the narrative. I didn't have them fleshed out so thanks for saving me from that problem.

    4: I want the story and the setting of Ocean's Avatar to function as a critique of religion and as a model for how I think religion should operate. There will be no science vs. religion plot because that juxtaposition contradicts the message I'm trying to send. The idea that religion should harmonize with nature, science, and the community rather than attack those things, that's the main idea I'm trying to send.

    5: Nirak suggested that I consume other media with an aquatic setting as I attempt to worldbuild. That's a great suggestion and I would really appreciate a reading list for books set in such worlds.

    6: I'm not against the Legio Aqua Vitae taking elements from Catholicism. I just have a complexity addiction and don't want my fantasy organization to be a simple echo of the real world. For me, if the reader can summarize the setting in three sentences or less than I've failed as a worldbuilder.
     
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  6. Angry Briar Rabbit

    Angry Briar Rabbit Dreamer

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    Regarding #4, the argument is Yin vs Yang. Conquer the Earth (Yang) or work with it (Yin). This is an idea which manifests itself with: a) consumers and b) interactors. The consumers would be the drunks, the simple minded "just chop down all of the trees" -type. The interactors would be those that feel one should interact WITH the world instead of forcing the world to fit within one's own mind.

    This further refines to:
    Do I modify myself to fit Nature
    VS
    Nature needs to fit my own definition, but because I'm small minded, Nature needs to be made small (so that I can comprehend it)

    As Nirak has mentioned, I would pass on the Latin except knights. The reasoning is that by using already religiously charged terms the audience will instinctively take a position for or against your story. Using more abstract, non-previously defined terms allows more thought to take place. We are allowed to observe the problem in its core state without the polarity.

    Regarding #1, the idea of an underwater Oceanpunk city which uses boats and submarines to move about is a really neat idea! Is there ocean-breathing vs air-breathers or just humans?

    Regarding #6, I disagree. The ability to communicate quickly and easily is what makes a commercially successful product. A fan needs to communicate easily to a future reader if you want to build a fan base. The novel I am presently writing has a simple premise: Take the baby dragon home. That's it.
    Your story: An Oceanpunk world. The plot lines are complex and so are the characters. Simple and can be communicated well.

    Extending #6, Catholicism is a Yang structured political system which uses religion as its mechanism. This was very common up until some nobility told the Vatican to go fishing all by themselves. Religion and Government have always been intertwined. It's a human development thing.

    All the best. ABR
     
    OberonLordofSylva likes this.
  7. cak85

    cak85 Dreamer

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    6: I'm not against the Legio Aqua Vitae taking elements from Catholicism. I just have a complexity addiction and don't want my fantasy organization to be a simple echo of the real world. For me, if the reader can summarize the setting in three sentences or less than I've failed as a worldbuilder.

    One way that I have seen writers handle this situation is to go with the "Everything I ever believed is a lie and now I am really mad and ready to make a change." I like this approach when handled well.
    So maybe you have a super dogmatic character but then gradually comes to learn how there is a lot of breaks in the faith?
    Or maybe you go the exact opposite and have an atheist person as your main character? That way they can give their jaded opinion on religion
    Or maybe you have 2 characters come into conflict with each other - the atheist and the dogmatic person. Then you're basically using the characters perspective of religion as the source of conflict and not just the religion itself.
     
  8. cak85

    cak85 Dreamer

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    I think the main question I'd ask is - is your story driven the religion? Or is it driven by how your characters interact with their religion?

    So I would say go for creating a semi-Catholic sounding religion! It could give your reader something relatable to hold on to as they read the novel. There are plenty of fantasy and sci-fi stories that all borrow from common religions
     
  9. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    I appreciate your input and it's a good thing that this is the first thing I see online today. By "more abstract terms" do you mean Conlang or just pick a different language? If the latter, I've been looking for an excuse to learn French and this might be it. I did make a short story about the collapse of an underwater city for a high school writing club so maybe I'll try to use that for a spin-off of Ocean's Avatar if OA gets popular. Also, the setting is just regular humans with the exception of a pair of alien catfolk twins.
     
  10. Angry Briar Rabbit

    Angry Briar Rabbit Dreamer

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    Consumers vs Preservers is typical. The "short sighted" simply want to consume. They don't care. Just eat for today. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Of course, if they did that, then they there wouldn't be any food left. Hence the "other side" in conflict.

    For languages, Old French might work. As a type of slang. I am using the term 'Sapiens' to describe any bi-pedal creature from the point of view of the dragons in my fantasy novel. You might be able to borrow a few older words as stand-in's. Word or warning, Conlang is VERY addictive. Once you start figuring out words and phrases and meanings, that will become your new novel.

    All the best!
     
  11. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    Thanks! Ocean's Avatar is low-magic, ideally zero magic, so no fantasy races or monsters aside from maybe genetic engineering experiments gone wrong. That means "slang" as I think you mean it, is out of the question. I don't know how to conlang but I don't have the money to hire the services of a professional conlanger. That's why I take a real-world language, attach it a fantasy group(for example: "Fairytoungue" is just a mishmash of German and Old Norse and dragons speak Russian), and then try to learn the language. Step Three, as you might expect, is the hardest and most expensive.
     
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