Worldbuilding Religion | How To Create Impactful And Immersive Religions For Your Fantasy World
Worldbuilding religion is an important thing when you’re creating a fantasy world. Religion is something that defines a culture’s morals and the way they live their lives.
Religion can create conflict, solve a conflict, and create different kinds of laws the people in your fantasy world must live by.
But, I’ve noticed that not many worldbuilders actually care about writing religion for their world.
This is a huge missed opportunity simply because of the mere amount of depth you can bring to your fantasy world by implementing a fictional religion.
So, today, I’m going to give you some worldbuilding tips on creating believable and impactful fantasy religions!
Building The Base OF Your Fictional Religion
When you begin, it’s good to consider the following questions:
- Is your religion polytheistic, monotheistic, or even animalistic?
- How organized is the religion? Is it an official religion of a prime empire or is it a small cult?
- What is the basic beliefs and laws of the religion
- What is the role of the religion
These are questions I asked myself when I created my own fictional religion, “Ys Chotor os Aleirn”, which translates to, “The Warriors of Gods”.
My religion is polytheistic, for there are two main gods, but the people also believe in a god of gods. That sort of thing.
Thus, when you start working on your religion, I suggest you first start with the actual gods. I have an article dedicated to creating gods and myths, so if you’re interested in that, click here to read it!
After you have your pantheon of gods and goddesses, you can start figuring out the rest of the questions. Let’s dive deeper into them.
Figuring Out The Basic Organisation Of Your Fantasy Religion
This is actually a fun thing to do, for you have basically unlimited possibilities.
You can organize your fantasy religion in so many ways. For example.
You can create entire kingdoms that are basically ruled by a leader of a religion. (Papal State)
Or you can make it to be something closer to the real world or even the world of Westeros, where the church is a different entity from the kingdom itself, though it still holds power and influence over the people.
There’s also the possibility to make “holy military orders,” like crusaders of sorts. I’ve actually created this kind of group, for writing military monastic orders is incredibly interesting and fun!
Your religion can also be a cult. If you go with this route, you don’t have to spend so much time figuring out the structure of the organization, for cults tend to be more chaotic than organized churches for example, though it’s possible for a cult to be extremely organized.
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After figuring out the basic structure, you should start thinking about the positions and roles in your religion.
Who is in charge? Are there priests? Monks?
Who deals with teaching, who with keeping the church’s money in check.
You can go real crazy with these questions. You can have countless roles for every single job imaginable, or you can have just a few.
No matter how far you want to take this worldbuilding, you should know who is the boss in the religion. Is it the god himself? Or is there an “avatar of god”, to whom the people pray?
The possibilities are endless so don’t be afraid to try things out. Even the craziest of ideas can bring glorious stories!
Part of making a religion realistic is also to consider the “holy places,” if you will.
Where do people go to pray? To temples? Churches? Maybe even to an open field, from which one can see the stars perfectly? Are there artefacts in your religion?
You should really try to make sense of the religion as you place it in the world, for if you have no idea where the people go to pray, the parts where your protagonists see religious people might be confusion or bland, to say the least.
Like with all worldbuilding, take your time
It’s not uncommon to think about a few questions before stopping for a while until inspiration hits again and you keep polishing your fantasy religion.
It will all take shape in time. Worry not, fellow worldbuilder!
What Are The Core Beliefs And Laws Of The Religion?
These should be thought through with mind put into it, for the way you make this question answered will affect your entire worldbuilding, especially the possible conflicts.
If your religion promotes peace and being merciful to people, this will, of course, have an impact in the culture the religion stands in.
It would be much harder for people who believe in the Goddess of mercy to go to war, for their core belief is to have mercy.
Can you see what I mean with the core beliefs affect the possible conflicts?
Religion can also affect the laws your fantasy people live by. Is it illegal to use certain weapons, clothes, or fight for a lord?
Maybe your fantasy people believe that the Gods desire them to conquer and slay the opponents of their faith, which in turn would create more conflict in the world.
The religion of the Valnorians is basically a faith of strength. Valnorians believe that the gods created them to fight against the evil of the world and that they should stand for the gods, no matter what. This makes Valnorians very reliant to religion, which, of course, affects their culture and politics.
Once again, this is something you just have to start thinking about. You’ll figure out more questions and more answers as you go. Just remember the effect the religion has on people and culture in general.
What Is The Role Of The Religion
This is the final step for this article, which kind of ties the rest together.
This is something you will figure out as you build your fantasy religion, but the basic question is,
How much does your religion affect your world?
Your religion might be just a background thing, giving your world some depth, or your main conflicts could revolve around religion.
The answer to this is different for every story. Figure out what works best for you, what gives you the best sources for conflict and go with that.
There are so many ways to world-build religions that I might write an article about specific types of religions one day.
That promise is one more reason for you to follow my blog so you won’t miss it.
Religion offers great sources of conflict and it shouldn’t be forgotten when you create your world.
It affects your nations, your heroes, everything, so give it time to grow into a fully fleshed out story element and don’t rush it.
Hopefully, you found this article inspiring and helpful!
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