Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Creating a Fictional Religion in 4 Steps

A major theme in a lot of popular works is religion.  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe has religious undertones. Dan Brown has taken his own liberties with religion in The Da Vinci Code as well as his other books.  

This isn't a post about my personal beliefs or what anyone else may or may not believe.  I am not writing this as a commentary on what is good or bad about any one religion.  I am writing this purely from the standpoint of creating a fictional religion for use in a work of fiction. So let's create a fake religion!  Please do not start following this fake religion.  It is NOT meant to be real. The religion I am going to create is based off an idea an old college friend of mine came up with.  He never fully explained it, so I have filled in the parts that I don't know.  The main idea is all his.

1. Figure out a basis

There are many different types of religions across the world.  You can base it off an established religion.  My upcoming novel has a religion that is based off Christianity, but it continues the story after Revelations.  You can build it up from scatch as well, but you need a basis.  What is the main point of the religion?  Monotheism, Polytheism, Atheism, Nihilism, etc.?

 So this religion we're creating is based off The Chickens!  Polytheism at it's best.  There isn't really any singular chicken that controls anything, but this is purely worship of "the chickens" in general. From here on I will call it Chickenanity.

2. Create a hook

All religions have a hook that pulls people in.  They offer a sense of community and stability.  Or they offer answers to questions like "Where do we come from?" or "Why are we here?"  Or they are state mandated by penalty of death.  I don't want to live there!  There are usually multiple reasons for people to follow a religion.  For each character that follows the religion, there is a reason they believe.  Maybe they were taught by their parents at a young age, and never questioned it. 

For Chickenanity there are very few followers.  Actually just one that I am aware of.  He had a traumatic experience as a child, and several chickens saved him.  At least that's how it was imprinted in his mind as an infant. 

3. After Death

The question "What happens after death?" is a major theme of religions.  Some examples of possible answers for a fictional religion: Nothing happens.  Your ghost roams the earth until the energy dissipates. You are transported to a realm of two dimentions where you can be a square, circle, rectangle or triangle. 

Chickenanity maintains that if you are buried in a field that produces food for chickens then you can be reincarnated as one of the chickens and thus obtain enlightenment.

4. Create Lore or an Explanation 

This is basically filling in the blanks.  It's the back story for your deity.  It's the scientific explanation for how characters in your world have their souls removed  from the body before death and then inserted into newborn babies. If it comes up in conversation you want to have an answer that your character can give that doesn't sound like they are just making this stuff up on the spot.  You made it up well before your character could talk about it!  Think of common arguments against it, so your character can address those when they are questioned.

In Chickenanity they believe in the Big Bang Theory.  The difference is that the chickens created an egg which contained the entire universe.  The chickens inside the egg broke out when they were fully mature.  When they broke out of the egg, that was the Big Bang.  The chickens continue to watch over the universe to this day.

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