Fleshing Out a Religion

Discussion in 'World Building' started by D. Gray Warrior, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

    I'm working on a couple of fictional religions. One of them centers around the worship of one god, though the religion itself is vague on the existence of other gods, so it's not truly monotheist, and individuals have their own thoughts on whether other gods exist. Either way, they believe only their god is worthy of worship and the existence of other gods is irrelevant to their religion. My goal with this religion is to create a monotheistic religion that isn't based on the Abrahamic faiths. I'm trying to figure out how evil, monsters and all sorts of suffering came into this world as they might not have their own Satan figure. The god is portrayed as having "relative" omnipotence. The deity itself isn't actually omnipotent, but it seems that way from the perspective of mortals, so he is omnipotent as far as they are concerned, if that makes sense.

    I've looked into some other monotheistic religions, though monotheism can be debatable for many non-Abrahamic religions, it seems to me. For example, I have seen Zoroastrianism considered monotheistic, but you could argue that it is actually dualistic, as I think their religion has two different gods opposing each other, though only one of them is actually worshiped, to my knowledge.

    Hinduism is pretty interesting in that you could make a case that it is both polytheistic and monotheistic. The religion has many gods, but I think some Hindus consider them to be different aspects of the Supreme Being rather than entirely separate beings.

    Then there's panentheism (not to be confused with pantheism) which the universe and all that is in it consists of God, but God also transcends the universe, and I have seen it called "monistic monotheism" as you could argue that there is one God, but it is just present everywhere, and impersonal.

    I'm sorry if I'm not understanding any of these religions right.

    How would you go about creating a monotheistic/monolatrist religion while still having myths and explanations for things other than just "God did it?"
    Night Gardener likes this.
  2. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

    Well, you can make up whatever details you want.

    If it were me, I would say that myths would arise independently from religion, and focus on folklore as the source. The best way I can explain is this example.

    Fairies. There's so many creation and origin stories for them that it would be exhausting to elaborate. Certain populations and demographics believe in them more than others. If your grandparent told you a story that their grandparent's grandparents' grandparents' and their children were abducted by fae folk after trampling a sacred berry shrub, and the townspeople had to go into the deep dark woods to find them... and one person was maybe particularly brave and became the hero to confront the fairies, you'd have a legendary figure. And, well, you might grow up cautious of that stretch of woods, and not offend the faries the same ways your ancestors accidentally did. It wouldn't necessarily matter if your ancestors were Catholics or Buddhists, etc. and you're not, it's a story (myth) independent of your own religious affiliation. Now, different religions might offer different interpretations of your family's story, but it doesn't change the core of the myth. Even if the towns church going affiliations and habits change over time, the narrative doesn't change. Its more likely The moral interpretation changes over time.

    What's a mythic event, vs. an act of divine intervention or a miracle? That's tricky. It would depend on how interactive your god(s) are with your population.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

    I would get specific. What myths do you want? What things need explaining? I also wouldn't try to invent the whole religion in the abstract. Come up with a story. It doesn't even need to be one you expect to see to publication. If there's a merchant going to another town and he receives some omen or warning, but he goes anyway and something happens to show the omen was right after all ... where in there is a need for an origin myth?

    Or go right into the heart of it. Maybe your protagonist is a priest in this religion. Does this religion have priests? Shamans? Monks? How is the religion experienced, practiced? You can have a whole shrine complete with rituals without really needing to know all the theology. To paint a picture you don't need to have every color on your palette.

    To put it another way, just as a writer does not have to outline every single beat in the story, but can proceed with only general ideas of tone and direction, so it is with world building (and religion building).
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

    Just me, but I tend to start with the religion’s creation myth. Piles of details tend to jump out at me when I get into the creation myth, and it forms a foundation for more of the belief system.

    Similarly, what huge events (natural or otherwise) occured in the world and how does the religion explain them? Good fun.
  5. Yurinii Gallon

    Yurinii Gallon New Member

    So. Is this like the religion has many gods and one of them is the one who created both the other gods and the world? It fits in on the 'not truly omnipotent' part, but then it's a common concept, I think. It's something similar to the Pokemon creation myth and the Hindu beliefs.

    Religions have their own sets of laws and whatnot. So base on that, I think, you should draft a doctrine of the religion your making. Some thing like a statement that says one should do this 'thing' in order to ascend.

    You could also add in something like 'helpers of god', angels, spirits, or furies, or even daemons. And a sacred object is a must have, 'holy water that flowed from between the legs of the goddess' or something like that.

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