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What do you base your world's Religion on?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Zander Willmore, Nov 17, 2019.

  1. Zander Willmore

    Zander Willmore Minstrel

    If you have religion or a strong church in you world what do you base it on? Do you create your own gods or base it on a real world religion?

    I am working on two fantasy stories and I use a different approach on each. In my Crown of Power Saga I base my church off of the catholic church with the rank of cardinal being the head of the church.

    In my Chronicles of the Dreamer I created my own gods and based my religion on them. I find that I enjoy both aspects and each one works very well for my stories.

    So how do you all do it and what do you enjoy more?
  2. Yora

    Yora Maester

    I'd say the main influences for me are Buddhism, Animism, and Jedi. These are much more principles than specific doctrine and practices and so you don't end up with something that looks like a repainted version of an existing religion.

    Where religion in fantasy often falls flat for me is that the worlds have multiple gods, but not multiple different and conflicting conceptions of the world and the supernatural. That's where interactions with religion get interesting, instead of having the knights in white armor say they fight for the good god and the knights in black armor say they fight for the evil god, and both agree that it's the will of the universe that they must always fight each other.
  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Inkling

    One of religions in my world is based on a combination of Christianity, Mithraism, household gods of ancient Roman religion and Celtic belief systems. Others I will look at what they will be based on, but I am currently thinking combining Islam and Zoroastrism - if it can be done at all.
  4. I don't think I have ever written story around a religion/belief system. For me, they usually evolve from the story and the world itself as needed.

    I have been tinkering with an idea for a world where the Saints of Catholicism actually had the power to grant the favors associated with their patronage. The ability is passed on, like Buddhist dharma transmission, or genetically passed down, but they aren't alien or superhuman. They bestow their "blessings" through physical contact and, being real people, are quite flawed in their various ways of going about soliciting the granting of their favors. Some will be main characters and some, like say, St Francis, may just be the person with 20 cats or the reclusive bird feeder in a park. (Some saints may have transmitted their powers to MANY people as well) Right now I am just working on which saints to use, wanting to pull from some of the lesser known especially, and who they might be in as people in the current world. I'm sure to have Saint Joan of Arc play a role as it was her that inspired the story idea in the first place.
  5. Hexasi

    Hexasi Scribe

    Usually, I do the history before the religion. I know that sounds weird given as it isn't how real world religion forms, but I find it really works for me. The questions given by the peoples and histories of the world give rise to the answers given by the religions. Sometimes I may take inspiration from real-world religions, but generally I consider it good practice to interconnect my world's religions with the environment they grow in.
    TheKillerBs likes this.
  6. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

    I have a load of different pantheons, most of them related in some way to those known in our world (but definitely not clones of any particular belief). Oceanic, Greco-Roman, Slavic, Turkic, etc. The gods occasionally interact with humans but for the most part pay little attention to their followers.

    In the relatively late period of my Donzalo stories, one of those sets of beliefs have evolved into a dualistic religion fairly obviously copied (at least some) from Zoroastrian concepts. This has become the dominant religion in some areas, though plenty others hold onto their older beliefs, and has undergone a schism not unlike that Christianity underwent in the Middle Ages. That of course has plenty of political ramifications, especially in my setting in the great valley of the River Weldar, where various independent Counts lean toward one side or another as seems expedient.

    Actually, a similar sort of evolution occurred in the Oceanic-based religions, where many now follow the concept of 'Munu,' an all-pervading force. A sort of monotheism—but not quite. Fairly obviously based on the idea of Mana. And speaking of monotheism, there is a very old and oft-persecuted cult known as the Jevotes who have found their way in and out of my novels. Sort of Christian, sort of Jewish, and much fragmented into competing sects. Its origins are lost in the past, not that I don't have ideas about them! ;)
  7. Gotis

    Gotis Scribe

    I've based some on real world religions. Others I've taken common elements and tried to craft something new. For each group/nation/whatever I try to come up with an official religion and then introduce a few points of contention and a some fringe beliefs. I keep the gods largely out of it. People talk about them, swear by them, and even kill in their name, but they never actually put in an appearance.
  8. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    When building religions, do the inhabitants of your world really believe?

    One thing I notice in a lot of fiction is that religion is mainly used to give characters a deity to swear by or to have some nice buildings lying around where some action can take place or as landmarks to describe. But few characters really believe in the sense that a religious believe dictates their actions. Most employ a western approach to Christianity, where for a lot of people god is more of a distant figure and not a direct influence, and it's as easily forgotten when it's convenient.
  9. Yora

    Yora Maester

    One setting I can think of where religion actually comes up quite a lot is the world of the Dragon Age games. The dominant human faith believes that there is a creator god who used to be actively involved, but he got so fed up by the sins of the mortals that he closed the heavenly afterlife and refused to talk or listen to anyone again. But the church has adopted the belief that he will return to them when all people in the world become faithful worshippers. To save the world, they have to convert the whole world. They look pretty Christian on the surface, but draw from different denominations and add some new elements. They also believe that mages messed everything up with their hunger for power and wanting to steal the gods power for their personal use, so all mages are heavily regulated and barely tollerated.
    They also had a schism with a group that plays a similar part like Byzanthine Orthodox Christianity, but it does not believe that magic is evil and has mage priests. They obviously can't get along peacefully.
    There's also another religion that playes a role like the Islamic Empire, but has a more Buddhist belief that believes in Dharma. They believe that there's a universal order that must be obeyed, and since it's universal they also have to convert the whole world. And they fear magic even more.
    And you also have still remnants of polytheistic elves surviving in the wilderness. Who also see magic as sacred. And they also believe that their gods are trapped in the underworld, so they are silent too.
    That mages are highly vulnerable to demonic possession doesn't make anything easier.

    It's quite easy to see where a great deal of elements and aspects are taken from, which makes these religions almost feel recognizable. But everything is assembled differently which makes it feel original. What makes it really interesting is that there are never any gods showing up that would prove or disprove any believes.
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I find most of the religions I see in fantasy stories to be a big turn off, and if it's mentioned in the blurb or looks like it'll be a big feature of the story in the first few pages, that's usually a deal breaker for me. It's always just so poorly done, and if the gods are a presence in the story, somehow it usually gets worse, in my opinion.

    That said, I have a number of story concepts where the gods are an important part of the story. For example, in the Chosen One: Trope Reboot, I described a setting where it became the main character's job to search for the region's deities and yell at them for giving up on their people. I have a setting based on Daoist beliefs where the magic systems flowed from the six gods who made a vow to restrict their involvement that way; when one of the gods broke the vow, it was truly earth shattering.

    In Smughitter, the immortals of Tierna Alvone and their counterparts in other magic systems are "kind of" deities. There's about fifty of the immortals inside Tierna Alvone and about seven who've crossed into the mortal world. They're powerful, and they've helped shape the region into what it is, but they're also characters, with quirkiness and emotions, and their own dramas worthy of the Greek tragedies. They harness tremendous amounts of Seelie magic, but it doesn't for instance give them power over life and death, and they're celebrated and cursed in ways closer to celebrities than gods. The ones in Tierna Alvone have gifted powerful artifacts to the fairies in the mortal world roughly once every 80-100 years, each one changing the nature of seelie magic in the world, but the ones who have actually crossed into the setting have ... somewhat dubious histories.
    skip.knox likes this.
  11. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

    I don't think I intentionally based this religion on any real life religion, but it was largerly subconscious and likely inevitable to have some similarities to the Aztec religion, Buddhism and maybe Shinto.

    The religion revolves around the worship of the Phoenix, which is the world's alternative to a sun. The followers believe that the if the Phoenix dies, then the world will end along with it, so they must worship it and provide offerings and sacrifices to prevent that from happening.

    They believe in reincarnation since the cycle of birth, death and rebirth parallels the Phoenix's life cycle.

    I imagine there being shrines maintained by local priests where people go to to give offerings and are often located in places the Phoenix is believed to occasionally land.
  12. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    When I began my work in progress I decided that the predominant sexual orientation would be bisexuality. As such basic things like marriage, relationships and families were not going to be the same as in our world.

    I borrowed the fourteen gods of the major pantheon of Greek mythology but changed the gender of two male gods to transgender to bring balance. The basic tenets of the Faith are from Islam with elements of Buddhism as practiced in southeast Asia tossed in. The institutions of the Faith were modelled on those of the Catholic Church and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). And there was also some obscure new age claptrap, Balinese Hinduism and Polynesian mythology tossed in as well.
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I try not to think of any Earth religion at all outside of basics, but I have a lot of religions, so there are echoes of the real world to be found. But, I never think “i’m going to base this religion on...”
    TheKillerBs likes this.
  14. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I usually take three parts; needs of the story, a real world equivalent and creative moulding. That means that I usually know what the religion is supposed to do, then I have to start from, and then I get my creative buttons turned and start to form it into what I need and want it to be.
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    All of Altearth's religions are based off real-world religions because most of Altearth itself is based off our real world. That approach presents its own interesting challenges.

    For example, because the Roman Empire never fell, the Roman religion is still the official state religion. Two complications come from that. One, no religion remains static; no matter how conservative on doctrine, religious practice changes. So I have to take what I know about the state religion in the time of Marcus Aurelius or thereabouts and wonder how it might change over the course of a thousand years and, not least, how such a religion would react to the arrival of magic and of non-human creatures.

    With dwarves, I started with ancestor worship then started fiddling with it.

    I gave monotheism to the orcs. Here I draw from each of the Biblical religions with at least one eye on Zoroastrianism. But, really, between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are plenty of interesting variants. Someone--not sure who yet--is going to get Bogomil dualism. The orcs, though, instantly adopted the sun as the symbol of their deity, and quickly copied the hierarchical authority system of the Roman Empire for their priest-kings.

    Trolls get animism; specifically, the type found among the pagan Wends, the Celtic druids, or the Letts. I was just tickled by taking the modern stereotype of medieval paganism and handing that over to the trolls. Tree-huggers can be monsters.

    But one quickly runs out. What religion do the elves follow? Well that's complicated and would make this post too long, but even that's a walk in the park compared to the religion followed by sprites. Or ogres. And don't even get me started with pixies. Point is, there comes a point where a person just has to start thinking things up. I try to avoid such points as they are perilous and bounded by cliffs. :)
  16. Zander Willmore

    Zander Willmore Minstrel

    I made a change in the religion of my story. As I stated I based my religion on the catholic church. I made the head of the church The Cardinal. But this left too many Arch Bishops in the land and confusion on which Arch Bishop held rank over another. So I changed it and made the head of the church the pontiff or pope just like in real life. I have edited the stories in my port to reflect the changes.
  17. Artemis_Foo

    Artemis_Foo Acolyte

    Ive based my story on an alternate history of the world, when magic and monsters still existed and how the world became what it is now. So I figured that society would be based before the idea of gods were used to explain the unexplainable, so there is just the concept of light and dark. Not good or evil, just 2 primordial and basic powers that drive the world based on the constant cycle of day and night.
    It is only now, in recent times, that light is being associated with good and dark is being associated with dark, entirely propegated by the people that chose to either worship light, or worship dark.
  18. James Wilson

    James Wilson Dreamer

    I start with the cosmology and then design the religions to fit. While there are several religions based on lies, most are set around real deities that can influence the world as much through the cosmology as through prophets and disciples. I very specifically kept real religions out of it, though ethical systems and elements of them are inescapable at least to a degree.

    My religions are pretty extensive, the Sundered Spheres World Guide Volume 11 - The Mysteries and Powers of Amelek is already at 109,000 words, and that’s just one area of the planet. My favorite goofy religion is Paradoxy, which pretends to disbelieve all supernatural phenomena in a world where priests heal and magicians enchant and every home has a crystal with a candleflame spell lighting it. No reason you can’t have fun, because if the internet has taught us anything it’s that somebody, somewhere, believes literally anything, no matter how absurd,

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