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Whats it like to be a (insert religion)?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Trick, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. Trick

    Trick Auror

    This was inspired by another thread and I thought it might be very helpful for those of us incorporating fantasy religions into our work.

    I want to represent religions in fantasy without one always being demonized. It seems to be a theme that there are bad religions and good religions in fantasy, or belief systems when the word 'religion' doesn't quite fit. How about just different religions?

    I'm looking for folks, if they feel comfortable, to respond about their religions on here and give us all a better feel for what it is like to be a member of one or another. If a religion is not one of the big three, I'd love even more to hear about what it's like for you to be a part of it. It will help me, and likely others, to create characters with more realistic protrayals of participating, or not, in a religion unlike our own.

    This is just about personal religious exposition for the benefit of other writers. Responses obviously must fall within the MS guidelines. Please review them before posting if you are not familiar: http://mythicscribes.com/forums/news-announcements/2101-guidelines-discussing-religion.html

    EDIT: it occurs to me that perhaps this should be in the research forum...
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2013
    Ophiucha likes this.
  2. Ennokos

    Ennokos Dreamer

    Well I spent nearly twenty years inside the Evangelical Christian church, needless to say, my experiences were more on the negative side that positive. But I will keep to the guidelines and try to give the positives about Christianity, especially since I do like hybrid religions in stories.

    Well in my case, I was part of a church of over five thousand people, so there was a lot of different activities offered to kids and adults alike. There was many different groups inside the church to try to help with any issue you were having. Obviously being protestant it was not as regimented as catholics, but there was communion every month where you wash yourself clean of sin through partaking in the metaphorical body of Christ. (I know there are some protestant groups that do this as much as catholics, and some that don't do this practice at all.) Worship was always very big in my church, taking up pretty much half the service with a hybrid of contemporary songs and hymns.

    I will not write a lot about the negative experiences, mostly due to they kind of undermine the whole concept of Christianity. But I will say that there were lots of times that cliques can start in both adult and kid sections, leaving some people to feel not welcome, and because we are talking about a church, feel that God does not love them.

    Well I think that is a bit of my experiences, I do "follow" more of a buddhist or daoist way now. But I would say do not follow the religion, rather I make it a way of life.
  3. TheokinsJ

    TheokinsJ Troubadour

    On a broader sense, I'd say that religion plays an important part in the real world- so the same holds true for fantasy. I am Catholic, and keeping with the guidelines I'll take a very neutral perspective of Religion. My father is Anglican, my mother is catholic and so I was brought up a Christian. I attend mass weekly and pray every day before I go to sleep. Being any teenager who's religious, I let my faith be known to my friends and close acquaintances , yet I don't publicly shout out to everyone I meet that I'm Catholic, because as you can understand, I would get ridiculed by my peers for saying I believe in Jesus and God. Looking at things historically, if you look back say, a hundred years ago to most western countries, a higher proportion of the population would have belonged to a religion of some kind of another, so if you are wanting to make your fantasy worlds convincing, religion would play a big part in any sort of fantasy setting.

    I think that just like in the real world, where there are conflict between religions, I would say that the same should hold true for fantasy. In many fantasies I have seen there seems to be a 'universal religion', something impossible- people who live in different places will develop different religions, and so there will be numerous ones, which may conflict with each other and with those who do not believe. Back to Christianity, I believe it to be a positive experience, on the whole. I'd say that people need to believe in something, something they can rely upon. That does not necessarily need to be a God or Deity, it could be family or friends or something else, but they need something to support them in their lives. In my WIP my main character needs to rely on something to pull him through his journey, just as I rely on my faith he relies on his family.

    That's how I see my faith, as something I can rely upon. At the end of the day, everyone can chose whatever they want to be their support in life, to get them through hard times, so long as you have something, or someone to guide you, whether that be God, a friend, family-that's what matters.
  4. Aosto

    Aosto Sage

    I was lucky enough to be born into a family that wasn't strict on their religious beliefs. Come to think of it, I'm not even site what my mom believes in.
    My dad passed when I was very young, so I'm not sure where his convictions lay. Judging by that side of the family it was Christianity.
    I simply did not grow up in that setting. I didn't grow up around religion being a thing and was given reign over my own beliefs. I came to adopt Celtic paganism. In truth, it started out as a fanatical obsession with the mythology. That obsession turned to my way of life and thinking.
    I don't shout it to world. But if I'm asked I'll certainly tell you what I am.
    Part of that is my spiritual practice of druidism. I am the scholarly type. I seek to understand nature both physical and metaphysical.
  5. Gecks

    Gecks Scribe

    I think this is because, while there are not necessarily really 'good' or 'bad' religions, members of one religion may consider members of another to be bad. So if you're writing from the point of view of a member of one, they will probably consider another to be bad.

    (Trudi Canavan's 'Age of the 5' trilogy interestingly deals with the issue of religion, and focuses on.. basically a war between 2 incredibly similar religions with very similar gods...)
    which turn out to be the same gods manipulating people to make them fight.

    Anyway in answer to the question..

    I'm from a fairly unreligious background. My father's from a Christian background but is not religious, and my mother is from a Jewish background and is also not personally religious. I was brought up in Norwich, England, and most people I went to school with etc growing up were Christian (usually protestant, Church of England). We had prayers in assembly in school and stuff, and sung Christian hymns etc.

    However, religion didn't really feature in my upbringing at home except for when I asked the irritating question "does god exist?" and was annoyed that my parents could or would not give me a yes or no answer. I was young and couldn't understand how they, as adults, did not know the answer to such a simple question. They would give "no one knows" and "some people think he does, others don't" type answers. I was very frustrated and people at school also told me a variety of different things (some said definitely yes, others said absolutely not, some said they weren't sure...)

    When I asked my parents what THEY thought, they were often reluctant to respond, or changed it back to ask what I thought (though admitted 'no' when I was a bit older). However, my brother believed in a god for a good few years, though didn't directly identify as either Christian or Jewish.

    I got involved in the Jewish society at my uni partly because it was just so tiny (not many Jews, this is an English university and not in London.. I think there was like 9 of us if all were present). It was nice, and we got together on Friday nights to do dinner and stuff.

    But really, I have never felt particularly connected to any religious groups

    I have to say I wasn't actually sure what the big three are? I assume Christianity, Islam and Buddhism purely because they are the 3 largest world religions(?). I wasn't sure if Hinduism might be one though cause that's also a pretty massive/major one?
    (Edit: Actually, looking it up, Hinduism is larger than Buddhism? I got a bit confused cause "unaffiliated" was the 3rd largest group...)
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I think the Big Three are Christianity, Judaism and Islam, because they all are focused on the same God (or at least aspects of Him, since there's some discrepancy about the Trinity).

    Myself, I'm a Christian. I was raised in a blend of Baptist and Mennonite views, and I attended a Christian university-college for the past four years. I don't really have a home church to identify with, since my family stopped attending regularly several years ago due to a falling-out with our church leaders. Like most seem to be here, I'm pretty quiet about my faith around my peers. Actions speak louder than words, after all. :)
    Trick likes this.
  7. Mara Edgerton

    Mara Edgerton Troubadour

    *Officially invites Geks to her next Passover Seder. There will be religious and atheist Jews, disgruntled Catholics and the odd Wiccan or two. We're an eclectic group--you'll feel at home.*

    I can only answer this question for myself. I'm a Jew and involved in my synagogue, and I like hosting or being a guest at Shabbat dinners (those Friday night meals Geks mentioned) and I make a big Passover Seder each year, hosting 18 to 20 people for the first night. And I'm into all of it.

    Granted, I go to an observant but progressive shul with egalitarianism (men and women alike can be rabbis, cantors, lead services, etc.) and a commitment to marriage equality (yes, we've had gay weddings.) Those things are important to me. If I had to choose between a synagogue without them or no synagogue--well, I'd probably choose the latter.

    But I don't have to make that choice, so I can talk about the good stuff.

    One of the things I like about my shul is the mix of people. I talked to a lady today who goes to services not only on Shabbat but throughout the week--and she's a hardcore atheist. But she wants to celebrate her cultural background, and she likes learning more, on an intellectual level, about the Torah and Hebrew and such. Another regular is a young man who is devoutly religious and G-d centered. Still another regular is just as into Lakota spirituality and divides his time between the synagogue and a sweat lodge. And of course we have our Jew-Bus: people who combine Judaism and Buddhism, which is a fairly common thing in progressive synagogues.

    A few regulars aren't Jewish. These are usually the non-Jewish spouses of members who, for whatever reason, don't wish to convert, but nonetheless make a spiritual home at the synagogue. And we had one non-Jewish man (who passed away, unfortunately) who just came to services because he felt comfortable and he liked the sound of the Hebrew chanting.

    And I like our Torah Study. Our rabbi knows his stuff, and he's a G-d centered man, but he's also fine with the Jewish tradition of arguing, so things get loud and interesting as everyone challenges the Torah, G-d, and each other. Some people defend G-d and our ancestors, some people shake their fists at either or both. And that's the cool thing about having a shared mythos wherein different interpretations are not only allowed but encouraged.

    Lots of people have issues with their Jewishness and their Judaism. I get that, but I don't have many. Most of my issues are with G-d--I like to shake my fist and explain how the world would be better run. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying shul. I also have issues with the ultra-Orthodox forms of Judaism, but here in America we have a live and let live situation. (I might feel differently in Israel, however, where various branches of the ultra-Orthodox have obtained political power.)

    So, all in all--I'm pretty happy where I am. :)
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
  8. Gecks

    Gecks Scribe

    Of course I forgot to add the most important part of Judaism is all the food you get to cook and eat for all the holidays. Jewish holiday coming up? Great, what's the traditional food to make? (Ok, so I'm joking in part here, but it's true there is a lot of awesome food involved. My housemate at uni insisted I make her latkes (basically fried potato pancakes) all year round after I first made them one year for Hanukkah. She also insisted I only make them when no one else was home except us (so no one else would eat them all).

    As Mara has talked about, it's fairly regular in the Jewish community to be involved in Jewish events and groups and stuff, even if that person is not religious in the sense of believing in god (which, by the way, shouldn't be written really if you are Jewish. As Mara didn't). There's a big part of it that is really... like being part of a culture or even like being part of an ethnic group, not just part of a religion.

    I have some family in Israel that I visited last a few years ago, and spoke to a (Jewish) guy who asked me if I was Jewish. I hesitated to answer the question, since I'm not really very religious and wasn't really sure to say yes or no. I replied "my family is, on my mother's side" and he said well then, I was definitely Jewish (it didn't matter to him what my personal beliefs were. As far as he was concerned, I was Jewish and it was out of my power to change that).

  9. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    This discussion of Judaism is fascinating. :D I took a course on Judaic Studies in college, and one of the requirements for that was to attend a Shabbat service in a synagogue. I did so with a few classmates, and it was a wonderful experience. The people there were very kind and open to us even though we weren't of their faith. The service was interesting, mainly because it wasn't a typical one; we attended on Remembrance Day, so there was more singing about war and peace, etc. than the traditional songs in Hebrew. (At one point they sang "Colors of the Wind", from Pocahontas. Not something I'd expected to hear!) The leader was also a woman, which was neat. Afterward we went and shared food and drinks in the basement, and chatted with a few of the members. We found out that one of them was actually a friend of a friend of ours from college, which was really cool. :D
  10. Trick

    Trick Auror

    Those were the three I meant. I have heard those religions referred to that way many times but it is not meant to be exclusionary, at least not how I meant it; can't speak for others.

    Since I started the post I'll take part and give a little view from my perspective. I'm Catholic; what some would refer to as Traditional Catholic, though we're not separated from the Vatican as many sects are. I attend a Latin Mass and follow a more traditional set of guidelines than some. This is a choice, not a requirement. I hold a lot of, what have been called archaic, beliefs that other Catholics disagree with and that's okay with me because I don't need everyone to think like me, I'm happy with how I feel. I guess I'm a little old fashioned in some ways but not in others. For me, my Faith is not something I can take part in or not; it's all or nothing. It comes first in my life because it sets a foundation for everything else including my marriage and my life as a dad. I would die for it as quickly as I would for my wife and children.

    I am fortunate to have many friends of different beliefs than my own and I love to get their perspective on things and that's part of the reason I posted this. I respect the beliefs and traditions of others and know I can learn something from every religion and belief system even if they are not what I have chosen to believe.

    Thanks to all who have posted! I hope more will join us.
  11. advait98

    advait98 Sage

    Interesting thread. I'll do my best to explain me.

    I am a Hindu. And while I do not engage nor believe in the idol worship that Hinduism is grossly associated with, I still believe in its essence. Truth be told, I am not sure what that essence is, because I've grown up in an oddly contradictory environment. My paternal grandparents are very religious, and maintain a strong belief in God, as well as engage in what has been termed idol worship. But that's just another way of showing faith, because that idol is just a symbol for God. My maternal grandparents and mother on the other hand, while also Hindu, are more spiritually faithful (sorry if I'm explaining this badly because I know this can lead to misconceptions), that is, they don't take part in idol worship, and they are, well, spiritual.

    The reason I'm telling you this is because I want everybody to know that Hinduism is huge and deeply complex, and cannot even begin to be explained in text.

    I myself have been compelled into my mother's ways because I do genuinely have faith in that path.

    There are many paths within and outside Hinduism that we may choose to take, indeed, anyone can choose to take.

    Sorry if I have been unclear or uninformative, but I'm in a bit of a hurry. Feel free to ask any questions if you have them.
    CupofJoe likes this.
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