problems with creating a religion.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Jungly, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. Jungly

    Jungly Apprentice

    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. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Scribal Lord

    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.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    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?
  4. ascanius

    ascanius Grandmaster

    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. Jungly

    Jungly Apprentice

    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. ascanius

    ascanius Grandmaster

    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: Feb 2, 2012
  7. Jungly

    Jungly Apprentice

    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. Ravana

    Ravana Istari

    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.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  9. Jungly

    Jungly Apprentice

    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. Vendari

    Vendari New Member

    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.
  11. ascanius

    ascanius Grandmaster

    Thank you but I think I get the jist of it so far. Remember you need to know how the different peoples in your world view the religion. I am guessing that they believe the gods exist right? So finding a way to incorporate magic into the religion is easier than you think. Just find some way to explain it based on the religion. Do you see what I am saying? When writing about the religion it doesn't matter so much if you know the gods don't exist but how these people view the existence of the gods? Change your perspective to theirs. How would you explain magic if you were ignorant to the laws of physics and the like? You have priests running around doing magic. Each priest is the servant of a god. So...
    That was why I asked the question about a lay man learning even he could do magic, in my first response I think it was, I raises the question of does magic actually come from the gods and that question alone can raise conflict.

    First I want to point out that the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians did not view the gods as immoral whatsoever. Nietzsche's book On the Genealogy of Morality explains this spectacularly if you are interested. Basically the Greeks view of morality is very different from the way it is today. Look at the Greek hero's, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and many others. What we view as immoral now was at the time the definition of morality. Even the Athenian Philosophers had the same views of morality. Aristotle believed that the goal of life was happiness, and to become happy one must have honor, it was a good think to kill an enemy in combat etc. Those are bad examples but it is difficult to explain this without going into each philosopher, so I will leave it up to you. But basically morality did not become what we know of it until the emergence of Christianity in the Roman world circa 100 AD give or take a few hundred centuries. If however the people of your world believe in morality is opposite what the gods believe, or how they act then I ask the question. Why do they believe in the gods at all. Morality is a product of religion, basic necessities, and community belief. Morality reflects the beliefs of people, if people believe in gods it will reflect that belief. This can be seen even in small tribal based religions. The Himba for instance have a keeper of a sacred flame that must always be lit, this reflects their religion, and in turn that religion influences their everyday life. This is to some extent, however. It does not mean every aspect of life reflects the religion. An interesting point is many aspects of everyday life have a religious meaning but the reasons have been forgotten. None come to mind at the moment but it is not uncommon. Now what I am saying is I would try to keep the morality of the gods and worshipers the same of at least similar. Think about it, it would be strange for us to have a government such as we do now but the people acted like the Greeks and Romans, killing those who insult us, having slaves, women as property, the complete mistreatment of lower classes etc.

    I really wish I could remember the name of these people but I don't. I think you would be interested it this society. I do remember that they are Chinese and that they are virtually cut off from the rest of the world. Anyway it is a completely matriarchal society. men are sperm doners/lovers and the women do all the work, and have control. It is very interesting form of society. If I can find my anthro notes ill let you know what they are called. However because they are completely separated from the rest of the world there is almost zero outside influence, this also means now war. As far as I can remember there never was any either.

    What is the role of the father/male in society and the family, is he a sperm doner?.

    First I am sorry but I take offense to that statement, just because a father supports his children doesn't mean he as to take control of them and his wife. I have every intention of supporting my family many many years into the future when it happens but I have absolutely no intention of taking control of my wife, now my children that is a different matter. Knowing me I will be whipped beyond what is healthy. This was common early in history, and still common, Islam comes to mind, but that does not mean you cannot make it different. Also even among that Chinese people I mentioned women were the dominant sex. Just thought I would throw this out there as food for thought. Julia was Pompeii's wife through arraigned marriage by her father, it was a match made in heaven. Those to adored each other and when she died in childbirth he was devastated, they have found inscriptions by him on at her grave telling her how much he missed her. Wikapedia has a little but I feel it does not do them justice. Also just because a society is patriarchal or matriarchal doesn't mean there is no dominant sex, it just describes inheritance rights. Second if disputes between to different people arises over resources war can break out, how is this resolved, and who fights? Both, that is how I have it for two of my own society in my book. Also I would be wary about men being unimportant or bad, which is the impression that I am getting. I am really starting to get annoyed with this anti male attitude. I cannot see the men of your world accepting to live as second class for long without some sort of revolt, though magic could...... ;)

    Hope you can answer this one yourself. Think like they would in the face of the unknown and without your knowledge and you shall have the answer.
  12. topazfire

    topazfire Master

    It can be argued that the Catholic practice of the eucharist (the piece of bread) becoming the body of Jesus is an act of magic. There are modern religions and belief systems that practice magic (read: Prayer/concentrated will to impact a goal) without having gods/goddesses that demonstrate direct influence.

    If the religion does not affect the morals, what is the basis of the philosophy? It sounds like your philosophers are somewhat athiest or at least anti religious (and could therefore be powerful themselves for their students and followers) if they are contrasting good morality against the immorality of the pantheon.

    Also, every religious figure you have mentioned (priest) is a male identifier. Are there male and female religious leaders? Can women be religious leaders if it is their responsibility to look after the children? Do they have relations with more than one man and look after all of the children? What is the purpose of reproduction if not for the creation of a family (or an army...). Don't make your men so disposable if you actually want an equal society as stated previously.

    In addition to that - a matriarchal society, just like a patriarchial one, is inherently not equal. If it is a matriarchal society then, by definition, they are the dominant gender. If you want an equal society there should be a partnership between the sexes - especially in raising children as it is the passing on of culture from generation to generation that solidifies or erodes certain practices. In a matriarchial society girls would be treated differently from boys - does the religion justify this practice? Do the gods/goddesses set an example for this? Does magic help erode gender difference or enhance it?

    There is a huge amount of gender discourse, particularly in the international development and womens studies fields. Perhaps doing some real world research into gender relations as well as gender within religious practice would give you some inspiration on how to proceed.

    Good Luck!
  13. Jungly

    Jungly Apprentice

    I that suppose that they would see their gods as virtues. With virtues like courage extra. I will just make up a myth about the creation of magic. I just wondered if anyone integrated religion and magic because magic is unexplainable by logic.

    They are completely isolated. A couple of billion years ago the two moons of the planet collided. One of the moons had intelligent life on it. A fragment of that moon landed on the planet. The people on that fragment managed to make life support systems. The made one tunnel to the out side world to see if it was hospitable and found that it was not. Soon after there life support systems failed because it was made in such a rush. Over the next few billion years life evolved. About three thousand years ago some people were fleeing their home land and being persuade by enemy soldiers. They were being forced to flee strait into the cliff face of the fallen continent and thought that they were trapped. however they found the tunnel and managed to make their way up to the top. Their pursuers were totally baffled as to where they went. Magic is caused by some piece of technology hidden deep below the surface of the fallen continent.

    I think Vietnam was a matriarchal society before it was concurred by the Han dynasty.

    Maybe a matriarchal society is the wrong word. This is how my society would work.
    All children are taken care of on the mothers side.
    Nobody even knows who their father is.
    Men would only have a family life through their maternal relations. So the role of father would be taken over by an uncle.
    Men and woman could both have important positions in society and army.
    Their would be both priest and priestess.

    In nearly all society were children are taken care of by the fathers side men are almost completely dominant:
    The middle ages in Europe; Ancient grease except for Sparta; Most of the Chinese dynasty; India; The Middle East and African tribes.

    Our modern society is an exception. I just mentioned a general rule.

    I think that both genders are equal. I just think that a society that children are taken care of by the mothers side makes more sense.

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