Writing with religion

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A number of fiction novels touch upon the subject of spirituality, religion, and faith. Some make a point; the author using his story as a soapbox to share his views with readers. Others use the element of religion to flesh out characters, or a people.

I remember the story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. (The movie Bladerunner was based on this book). He included a unique take on adding religion in the form of futuristic sci-fi where people ‘plugged in’ a world where they join a man and his suffering called Mercerism. Mercer is this messiah like character. You can read more about it here..

What I found fascinating was the idea of experiencing Mercer’s suffering, like Christ on the cross. The plot touches upon humanity and empathy; that plugging into Mercer’s experiences,  you gain empathy. Since the novel’s protagonist must hunt down androids, the main test to discern man from machine is empathy.

While one story might offer religion as something to hold the hero together, to guide him/her through their hardship, another author might use religion as a vehicle for the villains to persecute others.

While playing the video game, Dishonored, they have an interesting character known as The Outsider- a neither-good-nor-evil supernatural god-like being that ‘gifts’ the main hero, Corvo, with his mark. This enables Corvo to use abilities to achieve his goals. How Corvo accomplishes this is up to you, however. The Outsider doesn’t seem to mind if you use the gifts for good or evil.

Another aspect of spiritual belief you can often find how it reflects the environment in which a people live. Harsh environments often give rise to unforgiving gods, while abundant environments often lead to generous, loving gods. All reflect humanity.

What are your thoughts on religion in books? Do you add spiritual beliefs for your characters, or avoid it? Post in comments.

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