Help! There’s Religion in my Story!

It’s OK. Deities happen to the best of us. There you are, standing by the corner of your desk, minding your own business, when ZOT! a character gets religion. Oh dear. How awkward. Now what?

For a while, science fiction in particular was supposed to be faith-free. Oh, the character might use a deity name when swearing (if the editor was OK with that), or the aliens might worship something, but Christianity and other religions were frowned upon by publishers. After all, in the future, people would “grow out of” the need for religion. Or religion was something not-so-good, as seen in Heinlein’s Crazy Years, or some of Arthur C. Clark’s books (that is, when Clark wasn’t dismissing any and all religions with a one paragraph hand-wave.) It was all about science, and technology, and self-reliance and so on. Fantasy was different, but even there? Well, polytheism was good. Or something like MZB’s take on Celtic paganism and feminism.

Me being me, I wrote religion in and took it seriously. Which is rule number one if you have a religion in your story – your characters have to take it seriously. Yes, you can have the cynical guy who privately doesn’t believe, and you can have charlatans, but unless you are writing a sermon-in-novel’s clothing, your characters will believe and do it sincerely. They might have doubts, but remember, this is their world and their understanding of it. Especially if you are writing historical fiction or fantasy set before the Reformation. Do NOT do like one fantasy writer I dropped like a hot potato—the protagonist is an atheist in Normandy and England in 1066-1070. And he knows it. He has a very modern, cynical take on religion. The heroine is a pagan witch, and so on and so forth. Sorry, no sale on that one. The writing was OK, but the male character didn’t fit the time or the place.

So when you come up with religions, if you are not using one of the well known real faiths, you need to make it internally consistent, believable, and satisfying for the characters. It can be monotheistic, polytheistic, have gods that intervene in the world or gods that are just there, or are terrifying and need to be propitiated lest they come back. Which means it needs to have internal logic and constancy. There will probably be a creation story, and myths that explain why certain things are. Those are traits found in pretty much all religions on Earth, be they animist, formalized polytheist (Hinduism), monotheist (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), or others.

What are the books or oral-teachings of the faith? Is it inclusive (goes out and encourages conversion) or exclusive (you are born into it or you are not)? Does it have different sub-groups and denominations? Are there competing tribal deities? Is it based on ritual or something less organized and formal? These are all things that might develop as you go along, but I’d recommend keeping a guide of who is what and any specific names, spellings, scripture references and so on. Trust me on this one – it will save a lot of confusion if you end up with a multi-book series.

Festivals and holy days will probably also appear, unless your religion is more philosophical, like Daoism and Confucianism, certain strains of Buddhism, and the philosophic branch of Hinduism. Popular belief and “pure” belief often differ. Most people like having festivals, parties, seasonal markers, understandable manifestations of faith, and so on. For example, in the variant of Christianity and Judaism that I use in the Colplatschki books, deity, Godown, is only shown as a symbol and has neither male nor female sex. In other words, closer to the Jewish understanding of the deity. So the people developed saints, some based on real people, others probably made up (St. Gimple, the patron of fools and the willfully stupid). The clergy sigh and go with it, because humans crave things we can visualize and show. Most of us, that is.

If you do use an existing faith, and it’s not one you personally practice, research is your friend. André Lestrang (Garry Brigham Priesterson) is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. So is his Familiar. I read LDS scripture, looked in the publicly-available books of doctrine and teaching, asked associates and friends who are LDS about things, and tried to extrapolate from current teaching and general theology what the church’s understanding and teachings about magic would be. But that’s a series where religion matters, so staying close to the actual practice makes sense. You might also have a character who woefully misunderstands (perhaps willingly) a real religion, and you can use that to have the local rabbi sigh and mutter something about people who don’t bother to read the instruction manual (Torah and/or Tanakh). Or have someone discover the hard way that Christianity’s not the only belief system that has demons.

What if you decide to skip religion, or reject it all together? You would do like Anne McCaffrey, who deliberately omitted anything religion-like in the Pern books. She did it well enough that it’s not obvious. She also did that for very personal reasons, as well as being in the era of “religions will die away because they are outgrown superstitions.” If so, study how she worked around that part of culture. What replaced oaths, vows, and religious ceremonies? Is there a belief in an afterlife that sort of develops, or does it stay purely materialistic in the sense that there’s only this life. How does that affect people’s behavior and motivations?

Image: Author Photo, University Church, Vienna, June 2019.

76 thoughts on “Help! There’s Religion in my Story!

  1. McCaffrey wrote a short story late in her career which posited a Pernese afterlife, though left in vague terms. The first dragonrider and dragon to accidentally die by not giving his dragon good coordinates now inhabits an idealized version of the area the colonists first settled and acts as a sort of guide for “going on.” I wondered at the time I read it if she was having a spiritual growth spurt.

    1. She may also have realized Pern HAD a religion, even if accidentally: Ancestor and Hero worship filled the religious psychological niche. She’s actually one of the few who actually FILLED that niche even if subconciously, rather than just leaving it hanging and leaving a hole in the world.

      1. There were “phrases” in the Pern stories that made me wondered if there was “worship of dragons” (mostly by the non dragon riders) or at least a “worship of the First Dragon”.

  2. Does your religion even regard it as a matter of inclusion or exclusion? Or is it a matter of possibly overlapping rites? Do the intellectuals assert that the Egyptians call Hermes Thoth, the Romans Mercury, the Germans Odin, while the masses just perform the rites of their ancestors?

  3. For an otherwise competent author showing how not to do it, see also, any medieval setting work by Georgette Heyer. I recently read part of Christopher Stasheff’s first Wizard In Rhyme book (didn’t like the characters enough to keep going), but it does some interesting things in terms of medieval-ish fantasy world-building, especially with regard to religion.

  4. In my faux-Regency fantasy, a version of the Enlightenment is in the background from some time ago. In the current era there are temples of a more “pagan/patron deity” nature with a faint Eastern flavor (vs real world religions). The deities are not mutually antagonistic, they all have backstories (barely touched on), and people drop their names for casual nominal wishes or curses. The temple custodians are… wily and subtle in some cases, corrupt in others.

    Because of the naming conventions (the more syllables the higher status), the gods are the only ones with six-syllable names (some have only five-syllables, like the higher nobility, which causes puzzlement about their relationships), so shortening those in hasty speech gives some nice expressiveness to exasperation or intimacy with them. The supreme deity, Killercollicola. shows up in “By Kipper, I’ll…” sorts of statements. Pleas or wishes tend to use the full length of the name (to be polite).

    Analogous to the deep background of religion, don’t forget the traditional tales, popular songs, etc., that should show up in cultures. As an example, in describing a girl’s introduction (by a steward) to the inadequacy of income to expense for maintaining a dying guild:

    Cori chuckled. “What really worries Sanfelix are the expenses that can’t be covered, no matter what. The worst is the roof—that budget has its own name. Whenever there’s a tiny surplus, he says ‘Give it to Masescolan.’ You know, like the song.”

    She started singing, quietly, and Viki joined her after the first line, with a giggle.

    “And all the tears of all the maids,
    They wept, oh, and they cried,
    But they could not fill the endless pit,
    Where Masescolan died.”

    “That’s how bad it is,” Cori laughed softly. “They can’t not repair the roof, without causing damage to the whole building, but they can’t repair it, either. So they just shuffle little bits of money around as best they can, and put buckets under the holes they can’t do anything about, like Rush said.”

  5. One of the religiouns in my own main “Future History” is “The Church of the Holy Engineer.” The origin in my own head was a sign in a room in one of Lois McMaster Bujold’s stories “On the eighth day God saw he couldn’t do it all, so He created engineers.” (I want to say Falling Free, but it’s been a long time.) The CotHE is a Christian Sect which has, as an article of faith, that inventing, designing, and building things, acts of creation, are holy acts. Contrasted with that is a line from Leo Graf (this one definitely is from Falling Free) calling a falsified inspection report “the most evil thing you will ever see.”

    And, yes, they’re absolutely serious about it.

    My main fantasy seriss, The Knights of Aerioch, has its own religion, with its own creation story, gods and goddesses, that, well, without too many spoilers, let’s just say they’re just starting to rethink a near complete “hands off” polich with the world under their care.

  6. All of my books to date have Vague Background-y Monotheism with a foregrounded fight between demon-adjacent creatures and good guys who are backed to varying degrees by rather laissez-faire angel-adjacent beings. The angel and demon analogues have categorical names (Vazata vs Avazata, Akh vs Duat) but whatever personal names they might have rarely come up. This is largely done for my own convenience; in any real world pantheon the worshippable-beings seem to multiple like Tribbles, and I’d just as soon not deal with that kind of hassle.

    The first or second thing I wrote in the Jaiya setting was the local equivalent to Genesis (some excerpts show up in the chapter headings to Seeking the Quantum Tree). The Star Master setting had some background notes on where the dominant Vague Background Monotheism comes from (passed onto humans, along with tech and some core philosophical ideas, by the angel analogues), but I don’t recall whether I actually wrote this element into the books in any detail.

    1. Should be “real world historical pantheons” referring to Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc. The polytheistic religions still in continuous existence, of which Hinduism is the most prominent, seem to be less uniform and codified than those ancient Mediterranean pantheons.

      1. The real European polytheism was even less codified. What codification it got was during the struggle with Christianity

        1. Well, not entirely. During the discussion in the Thing assembly in 1000 AD about whether or not Icelanders should convert, the choices were framed as between the White Christ and the Red Thor (and the cross vs the hammer), and the winning argument for Christianity was the promise of an afterlife without needing to be a warrior for qualification for Valhalla.

          So the codification was defined for both sides, and the Icelanders preferred the Christian promise for its greater inclusivity. They admitted they had no proof of the Christ position (re: afterlife), but they knew what the limits were for Valhalla.

          1. Contact with Christianity can have that effect among others,

            For instance, the great rise in the practice of being a devotee in Hinduism after contact with Islam. Before it was very heavily absolute correct in every detail rites, like European pagans. Devotion called for personal emotions and less worry about details

        2. Apparently there is some question as to whether Norse/Germanic mythology emerged from the general Indo-European/Celtic background in the brief time between classical Rome’s decline/fall in the West, and the coming of Christianity. Or even after.

          Probably not,but it is an interesting time full of interesting stuff happening.

          1. One aspect of that is that Roman scholars didn’t seem to be “paying attention to” what Germans/Norse actually believed.

            What little I’ve seen was that they spent more time equating German/Norse gods with Greek/Roman gods than trying to understand how the Germans/Norse saw their gods.

            I seem to remember that they equated Woden/Odin with Hermes/Mercury which doesn’t IMO seem likely.

            1. We have an inscription from Hellenistic times where someone from India recorded that he had sacrificed to Krshna, whom the Greeks called Pan.


              1. Um, Krishna’s a shepherd god, Pan’s a shepherd god…they both have um, colorful love lives and play the flute. Doesn’t strike me as a particularly out there linkage.

                1. Oh, you can find the things they were clicking off of, i’s just a matter of looking correctly (as you point out).

                  … it’s still a head-tilt, the kind that reminds me of the infamous Victorians who spun theories about characters being connected on the oddest traits, then back-filled what they “knew” had to be there!

                  1. I didn’t realize the Victorians/Edwardians did that much of it with regard to fictional characters (beyond addressing apparent continuity errors about Dr. Watson’s first name and number of marriages, or that lady Chesterton knew, who speculated that one of Thackeray’s female characters was a secret alcoholic), but certainly it took off in the 20th c. with stuff like the Wold-Newton continuity.

                    It is true that the Victorians got pretty goofy in their comparative religion/mythology speculations.

                    1. Character does not exclusively mean “fictional character.”

                      The specific meaning I was using was the aggregate of distinctive qualities characteristic of a breed, strain, or type.

                      It can get flat out interesting to look at what different groups found super relevant to identifying who someone “really” was– like, Odin being maimed, by having lost his eye for knowledge, meant he couldn’t be the head god of any sort.

              1. One interesting aspect of Romans equating their gods with other people’s gods was Mars.

                They equated him with the Greek god Ares but Mars wasn’t mainly a god of war.

                Of course, Ares wasn’t really liked by the Greeks. Athena was also a “god of war” and liked more in that function. 😈

            2. Odin has some trickster qualities; Mercury has some wisdom qualities. I could imagine there possibly being Odin stories that haven’t survived but looked pretty Mercury like to the Romans. They perhaps wouldn’t have worried that much about the physical appearances being different, because they saw the Northern cultures as pretty uncouth, with a side order of Noble Savage.

              1. And they both were connected to magic and book learning. (The last is probably what really drew in Thoth.)

            3. Young Mercury was a later innovation.

              Mercury had an earlier old man version.

              The Romans would have done this stuff with the Etruscans first, then the Greeks and Egyptians, with the Norse fairly late in the process.

              Was probably more important to them to match Jove to Thor, and Mars to Tyr.

          2. I wouldn’t default it to Celtic, which has lots of (ancient) idiosyncracies of its own re: IE . The “generic” Matter of the North shows good IE etymological connections across a broad space, (Perun/Perkunas/Fiorgynn/etc. See for more detail: )

            Basically, the attempts to treat apparent correspondence between different European pantheons is unsophisticated in its reliance on “same theological function implies relation”, where the best evidence is actually linguistic “related name implies relation regardless of local function” or occasionally archaeological.

            A very good argument can be made that Western Civilization is a blend of European Paganism crossed with Semitic Religion — you need both strains.

  7. Timely post, for me: I just finished reviewing “Saints of Malta” (, and the very first story provides an expansion of an incident recorded in Acts 27-28. It’s treated realistically, and as a part of the entire historical record of Malta, and it fits just fine with the rest of the stories.
    Of course, ‘non-rational’ (for lack of a better word) stories are the rule, not the exception, in this collection. I don ‘t know that anyone would find those others objectionable, or even out of place, were they to be found in some other context.

  8. There is a story brewing in the back of my mind that very much is about the power that faith gives to an otherwise unremarkable God.

    Religion is human, and in the absence of religion, we create our own.

      1. Lovecraft never codified the Cthulhu Mythos into an actual pantheon. That was later writers. What we get in Lovecraft’s own stories are bits of lore from various cults and cultists who often misunderstand it or mix it with superstition – or who are being actively deceived by the horrific entities who wish to use them.

        There are some commonalities: there are some supremely powerful godlike entities and Nyarlathotep is their agent. Cthulhu’s awakening will herald the end of the human era, but beyond that it gets vague. I’m even of the mind that Dagon and Cthulhu are the same being, just misunderstood by the Innsmouth cultists.

        We get a clearest picture of the wider universe in Mountains of Madness and Shadow out of Time, but even those are just a couple of advanced but limited alien races without all the answers.

  9. It takes a huge amount of faith to be an atheist. All those “religion-free” sci-fi novels really worship the god of progress.

    My characters believe but their belief varies according to their location, personal needs, culture, and so on. Like the real world.

  10. One thing that bothered me about Mechwarrior’s Word of Blake thing is it was always a manufacturered religion.

    I liked how the Warhammer 40k universe, the god emperor became worshipped, largely unintentionally.

    1. Very rarely in history do religions seem to have appeared de novo, or been deliberately created. They either build on something already there that’s seen as flawed (a new revelation is given that might end up changing things a lot), or you find what appears to be slow growth from honoring something to worshiping it to a formal “religion.”

      1. But the closest example I can think of to WH is the deliberate creating of a “state cult” around the Roman Emperors.

        1. And even that can be seen as “taking from other people’s beliefs”.

          Egyptians (and others) deified their Rulers.

  11. My background has led me to understand that humans are wired for religion. I observe this in things like the modern Church of Woke which has a great overlap with the Church of Scientism. The adherents take things on faith that are provably incorrect. But the need for faith and belief is so great that some people will ignore the evidence and trust that the scientists and academics are telling the truth.

    1. I just finished John McWhorter’s book about Woke Racism. He point out how much of a religion “Woke” has become, including holy texts (Ibrahim X. Kendi’s book, among others), rituals and creeds, and a promised paradise somewhere in the future. I don’t agree with all of his ideas, or one of his three proposed steps to fixing things, but I really like how he laid out the analysis and belief system. It tracks with what I’ve observed in the environmental movement.

      1. Since all of them came out of the Christian heresy that is Marxism, Sooprise, Sooprise.

  12. As a reader– even if I don’t like a faith, I get very upset when it’s not treated “fair.” If you’re going to stay out of it, stay out of it; don’t do a paper-thin caricature and then act like it’s an Insightful Statement.

    All it says is that you’re holding the pen, which I should hope the author is aware of and which the reader isn’t supposed to be prodded with.

    1. Nod.

      When the only religion you have in your story world is the “Church Of Elvis”, don’t expect me to like your story world. 😡

        1. LOL 😆

          The Church of England isn’t a terrible church but the Church of Elvis is a mockery of Religion. 😈

  13. I do have a guilty soft spot for thing that are very very strictly not even paying attention to religion… and have a Christmas Episode of some sort. 😀

    It works just as long as you can keep dancing along the edge without getting into theology, INCLUDING the apparently irresistible desire to demonize (sometimes literally) Ol’ Saint Nick.

  14. My books are practically riddled with religion, which is very much not something I set out to do. It just appeared every time I was faced with characters that WOULD NOT do that thing I wanted them to go do. They had beliefs and morals built into them.

    Example, machine intelligence Miss Smith does -not- kill the man holding little children captive in a brothel at the beginning of Unfair Advantage. It seem logical and proper too do so, but something holds her back from doing it. Some disturbance of perception and programing keeps her from doing it. Even the machine can compute that while killing the evil man is expedient, it is not -right-.

    The theme keeps coming up as the books progress. The little detail of how humans are going to react to a sentient AI, a living, thinking robot, is again a spiritual one. That’s a -person- over there looking at you, but not a human person. And how is it going to be for the robot? Here’s this squashy bag of water, and it is ALIVE just like you are. It seems reasonable to say that the experience would be… intense. Probably unforgettable.

  15. If you do use one of the existing real-world faiths that is not your own, you should be aware that you are bound to get some things wrong, in spite of your best efforts at research. There are elements of mostly unwritten practice and custom that will sneak by and jar the reader somewhat: “A real adherent would never say (or do) that. They would say (or do) this, instead”. It’s going to show. What you can do is make a good-faith effort to treat the religion respectfully. Readers will forgive the occasional lapse if it’s not a major plot point. They will not forgive mockery, condescension, or caricatures for shock value. They will (at best) wall your book and say nasty things about it (and you) in reviews, Unless you are being deliberately provocative and attempting to alienate adherents (It’s been done), this is one case where you would be well served to run your work by a genuine adherent before you let it out into the wild.

    1. This is part of why my Jaiya books have Vague Background Monotheism rather than anything closely based on Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism. The first ones I wrote in the series were NaNoWriMo projects that I thought of with not really enough time in advance of November to do a deep dive on Indian religions.

    2. If you do use one of the existing real-world faiths


      And, somewhat related, in defense of the author– you’re also likely to run into arguments inside of that religion.
      One poor political commentator got freaking slaughtered when he did the research, was able to give citation, went with the majority stance in the relevant country, and because there existed anyone who disagreed, got attacked by folks who wanted a reason to disagree him.

      DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP based on nothing but “someone was angry!” ^.^

      1. There are those, too. And then, the closer you get to the truth, the more likely it is that you will anger someone. Especially in religious matters. Whether you get it right or whether you get it wrong, someone will be angry. Different people and for different reasons.

    3. You will get things “wrong” even if you are an adherent, most likely, because of differing practices or faulty teaching (whether of you or of the reader).

      I still remember the critique that said that I had made the religion of A Diabolical Bargain too Protestant and didn’t understand Catholicism. sigh goes the Catholic.

    4. The one time I put in a conflict between two religions (“The Lion and the Library” for the curious) I carefully made them both fictious.

  16. One hint that struck me about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time was the lack of religion. Admittedly I quit reading in disgust around Book 8 or 9 and just read plot summaries and occasionally looked over some just too see if it really getting that bad, but there is never any indication of what people believe happens to them after they die. Magic, deities and prophecy, yes, but no afterlife.

    There seems to be some kind of reincarnation, but your next life doesn’t have any connection with how you lived your prior one. And the Dark One apparently captures and can torment souls, or claims to in the early books.

    1. I know that some branches of Hinduism and Buddhism believe in temporary places of reward or punishment after death and before reincarnation (others seem to believe in something closer to Hades or Mandos occupying the same slot in the reincarnation process).

      Possibly Jordan was riffing on that, to the extent that he was doing any metaphysically coherent world-building.

      1. The closest thing I remember to a reflection on this was someone – I think Perrin – commenting that Rand was the Dragon Reborn, but that everybody was someone reincarnated, but in Rand’s case it’s somehow special. Rand was the only one who’s past life’s burdens and memories actually seemed to follow him, and he wasn’t reincarnated as anyone in between the Breaking and the events of the books.

        It’s odd someone so meticulous about how the One Power/magic worked and the history of his world wouldn’t put much thought into the metaphysical aspect.

        And I wince when I consider what the TV series might be doing to the characters and world. I haven’t watched any episodes, but apparently Moiraine, the woman of mystery we don’t know anything about at first, is the main character now, and the Dragon Reborn can be a man or a woman (ignoring that having a female Dragon would eliminate any fears from tainted saidin and toss out the trepediation that the new Dragon could save or doom the world – the lore is specific that it’s a MAN who can channel) and I guess Rand and Egewene are now co-Dragons, just like Neo and Trinity are co-Ones, because a man can’t be the savior of the world unless he shares with a woman, until she eventually takes over as the One, ala Rey.

        1. I am only vaguely familiar with the books, but I did watch the series. Moiraine (Gandalfina, as we call her in my family) didn’t strike me as being the main character, but she is very prominent, as you might expect from her being played by one of the few semi-famous people in the cast, who is also listed as a producer. (The other actresses struck me as bland and inexperienced, maybe cast to make her look good).

          The “men or women could be the Dragon” is mostly used to spin out the mystery of who is the Dragon (Rand is revealed to be the Dragon in one of the last episodes, and becomes more prominent at that point). Egwene is actually rather underdeveloped and not portrayed as a co-Dragon or anything, much more prominence is given to her mentor the Two Rivers wise-woman (who is awful and annoying and represents pretty much everything wrong with the way women are written in modern TV.)

          1. Well, I haven’t seen the show but that wise-woman wasn’t “fun” to be around in the books (she gets better over time). [Wink]

            1. Trouble is, the show doesn’t seem to realize that she’s flawed or annoying, she’s just this mouthy, self-righteous, highly gifted person who we are supposed to admire. As with Angrodriel (Rings of Power Galadriel), any indication that *maybe* this lady isn’t infallible is confined to the last episodes of the season.

              1. Nod.

                Of course, in the books we see things from her point of view as well as from other people’s points of view.

                Part of the problem with her (in the books) is that her position is one of the two most “powerful” positions of the village.

                As Wise-Woman, she is head of the village’s Women’s Council and is the equal of the village’s Mayor who is head of the village’s Men Councils.

                But she is the youngest Wise-Woman that the Village has had but she doesn’t look her real age (there’s a good reason for that which comes out in a later book).

                So the Sorceress gets off on the wrong foot with her when she doesn’t think the Wise-Woman actually is a Wise-Woman.

                Mind you, the idiots script-writers could have written her wrong.

                She honestly cares for her apprentice and cares (in her way) for the young men that the Sorceress Have Lured from the Village.

                She doesn’t trust the Sorceress but then most people in Randland don’t trust Sorceresses.

                So these young people are Her Young People and she has the responsibility (as Wise-Woman) to safeguard them.

                By the way, later in the books she surprises one of the young men by joining into a festive dance. 😉

      2. For that matter, the Darkfriends don’t make any sense if you think about it. I mean, why would anyone sign on? They want immortality, but the Dark One can’t give it until he’s free and wins, and it’s been thousands of years since the Breaking without him returning, so uncounted Darkfriends lived and died without ever getting the promised reward, so who’d join? Sure, some of them get worldly power, but the main promise is immortality. And a little worldly power doesn’t mean all that much when it’s death for you if you’re found out, and higher-ranking Darkfriends can order you to do repugnant things and have you tortured or killed if you screw up.

        1. Why do people become Satanists?

          Apparently, there were “Darkfriends” who became Darkfriends in name only but found themselves under the control of the Real Things but couldn’t break the oaths they had taken.

          1. Mostly to be edgy and LARP and rebel against the status quo (or the perceived status quo) when they know they won’t face real punishment. But in Randland, there ARE real consequences.

            I was about to post, but I thought back and remembered that a lot of the people away from the Borderlands and the Aiel didn’t really believe in the Dark One or that the Last Battle would really happen, so yeah, I guess that explains some of it.

            The methods seem similar to what real life cults do: get members to commit some crime, then they have something to hold over them.

            Still, in Randland the Dark One’s main promise is immortality, and there’s been 3,000 years of Darkfriends who haven’t gotten it. And they’re going to be the lucky ones?

            1. Well, one of the Forsaked (powerful sorcerers who were trapped with the Dark One) periodically was free to roam Randland (sometimes seen as the Dark One) and was “keeping the Faith alive”.

              That could be a factor.

              Of course, most of the Darkfriends (we saw) had some flaw which could have made them vulnerable to recruitment by other Darkfriends. IE Join us and you’ll be free to practice that creepy thing you love. Of course, once the other Darkfriends know about your “secret pleasure”, they can keep you under control via blackmail.

    2. That is not entirely unknown. I have read a traveler’s tale that recounted that the Druse believed that your rebirth did not depend on your merits. Instead, everyone was going to have the chance to live through every permutation of circumstances. On Judgment Day, you would be judged on your average, and could not plead your circumstances, because everyone else had been through the same circumstances.

  17. I have religion in all my stories, because it’s human nature, especially for soldiers or other people who live close to death. Sure, there are atheists, but most people aren’t. And I guess, growing up in the USA, I don’t see religion as being uniform.

    From fanfic: Fullmetal Alchemist has the monotheistic Ishvalans, and presents monotheism as something rather rare. So I base the other religions I use on ancestor worship. I also include religions with literal sacrifice (original meaning of priest or priestess was the one who killed or burnt the sacrificial offering).

    Here’s a short piece showing what two of Mustang’s team, Vato Falman and Kain Fuery, do after a close call in a combat situation, where Kain killed a misidentified friend by mistake, thinking he was an enemy.

    Vato Falman went over to a small table set below some pictures of the people in his family who had died. He stuck a couple of incense sticks in the holder and lit them. Vato wasn’t a true believer like Kain or so many of the Ishvalans, but he was a soldier and he believed in hedging his bets. A little reverence to the ancestors couldn’t hurt. He fell asleep to the sweet smell of the burnt offering.

    Kain Fuery had his own preparations to make before bed. There was a prayer and a ritual that needed to follow the killing of a man. He’d have a priest do the last part when he had a chance. He fell asleep with the image of the Ishvalan he’d fatally shot still in his mind.

  18. Observation: it is important to not do a Guy Gavriel Kay, who did three religions each of which worshipped a different celestial body (that being literally the only tenet or practice we learned of) that were nevertheless obviously intended as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

    1. The only real problem with that is that none of those religions actually did worship a celestial body. It sounds like he took the practices? of the religion while changing the actual core of all three. I do base my religions on actual kinds of worship and beliefs in existing or past religions. But just saying “they worship a sky thing” seems to be a shallow interpretation of what religion actually is, on par with the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever that meme-thing is.

      1. Actually, he stated that they worshipped the celestial body. Then he had no actual religious practices. Literally the entirety of the religion was, “We worship the moon/sun/that star.”

        No, come to think of it, we are told at one point that certain people practice a pilgrimage to a woman’s grave. That proves how evil they are, because the woman said abusive things about another of the religions.

      2. The reason you could tell it was the three religions was that it was in a Spain-equivalent and the history matched up too closely.

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