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How to Create a Fantasy Religion

RELIGION
Creating fictional religions can be dangerous. Don’t undertake it if you feel it has the possibility to offend. I’m sure nobody wants to start a cult, but you may enjoy making religions for fantasy fiction. It gives stories extra depth. I enjoy spiritual thinking, and loved researching and learning about all types of world-religion.

I don’t believe in any organised religion, but I am not an atheist. I think atheisms aggressive point that there is nothing spiritual in the world is a silly view to take. It means you stop looking for the answers to life’s mysteries. Who am I? Who are we? Where are we going? Where did we come from?

However, I fully stand for anyone’s rights to believe whatever they want, religious or atheist, they are just not for me. People attempt to convert me a lot though. Conversions show no discrimination either. Christian, Mormons, Muslims and Scientologists have all tried to convert me. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s my beard.

TYPES
Some people will not follow religion. These people identify under many terms.

Atheists don’t believe in any god. Agnostic, which is my views, cannot be sure of a god or lack of god. Apatheism means you disregard both belief, and disbelief.

Theists believe in at least one god. These are the folk to focus on when creating religions. Remember, people who follow religions can choose not to follow it strictly, if they desire.

As there are so many world religions, I have not listed them all. This shows general ideas behind belief systems, so you can create your own easily.

CONCEPTS
These basic concepts will feature in most world religions. Try to make variations from familiar parts of religions you know.

·         Texts - The Bible, Torah and Quran are examples. They are scriptures to give people a moral code for living life. People may come to different conclusions about the words meanings.
·         Beliefs - A religions fundamental ideas and thoughts will set them apart from the rest.
·         Rules - Religions will feature a more moral code that is included in their scriptures. Think of the 10 Commandments and others. This can often tie in with common law dependant on the influence of the religion.  
·         Mythology - Stories involving supernatural beings may feature heavily.
·         Deities - These may be gods, demigods and beasts. They could be immortal.
·         Saints - Mortals who perform miracles may be legendary.
·         Leaders - These can be vicars, rabbis or others. Make your own for consistency in alien religions.
·         Buildings - Religious buildings include churches, synagogues, mosques and more.

PRACTICES
Many religions have certain protocol members are required to partake in, which shows faith. A few are included in this list, but fantasy religions can do anything they like.
·          
·         Services - A weekly talk, by a holy person, on a holy day gives believers guidance through life.
·         Charity - Collective values include aiding and supporting the community, and those less fortunate.
·         Healing - A holy person can perform dubious miracles.
·         Ritual/Ceremonies - Birth, Puberty, Marriage, Death.
·         Festivals - Easter, Hanukah et cetera.
·         Sacrifice - Animals or self-sacrifice may be common.
·         Conversion - Religions ask members to get new members.
·         Prayer - Many religions use prayer to connect to their gods to ask the gods to do something for them.
·         Cleanliness - All religions preach cleanliness. This is to promote good health. It’s important if you want to believe your god is protecting you.
·         Education - Religions require strict education before allowing them to take confirmations into faiths.
·         Discipline - Unwavering thought is essential to belief.
·         Discussion - Although scriptures may be written, it can be useful to argue them if they’re inconsistent with facts.
·         Advice - Groups offer help with health, life and more.
·         Fantasy - Religion indulges and encourages magical thinking, despite having rules forbidding it.

THEMES
This isn’t a complete set of religious themes. It contains some I noticed that recur in many religions.

·         Creation Myth - This answers the question of the existence of humanity.
·         Flood Myth - Many religious feature flood myths.
·         Demigod Hero - Think of Hercules, Jesus and more.
·         Allegory, Parable & Moral - Stories with deep philosophical meaning. Some believers follow symbolic stories literally.
·         Prophecy - Prophecies and predictions may not come true, but followers believe them without question. This creates fear. Think about every doomsday conspiracy.
·         Peace - Religions offer salvation and eternal happiness after death, but only if you obey their rules.
·         Alternate World - Other worlds explain life before and after death. They include heaven, hell, the underworld and more.
·         Change - Through strict following of religious codes, believers can group together to reform for their benefit. Religions can also evolve, and altering themselves, or forming splinter sects.
·         Death - Religions answer questions about life after death, such as the essence of the soul, the spirit and ghosts, all of which are synonymous in religion. These include the following: -
-      Reincarnation
-      Ghost/Spirit/Soul
-      Alternate World
-      Memories
-      Nothing

CONFLICTS
Just as humans have mixed feelings about each other, religions and other whole groups of people can conflict with each other. You need friction to create good stories.

Here are some conflict examples. Don’t use them to belittle anyone in your storytelling. Having different religions is a good way to be inclusive of everyone’s feelings.

·        Religion - One of the things about religion is, while it preaches tolerance, it also suggests that they are right, and every other religion is wrong. How tolerant. This can be the cause of religious wars like the Crusades.
·         Citizens - A religion can be against a certain class, creed, sex, race or anything else. They can also attack their own followers.
·         Politics - Whether it is a gay marriage or abortion debate, politics and religion have never been a good mix. This is because religions moral code is often unwavering, whereas political ideas progress through time.
·         Monarchy - If royalty doesn’t agree with parts of religions, they can change them to benefit themselves. This is how the Church of England, a branch of Christianity, begun.
·         New Age - Old traditional educated scholars have to fight for their beliefs against enterprising young modern philosophies. How would religion cope with new sciences and technology not expressed in scriptures? What would gods make of cloning? Alternatively, what would your followers say about what their gods views are of cloning?

Happy Creations!