Fantasy Requires Religion

I’ve been debating posting this for a very long time. There are numerous drafts I’ve deleted and rewritten only to delete later, but here, I think I have it.

First, a definition for the sake of this article of religion. For the sake of this article it’s believing in something we do not fully understand, and following it as a belief system which guides are actions. It seems a lot of people tense up at religion and think about the church, but really it’s just a set of beliefs as a moral code and how you believe everything was created.

Now to history. Religion has always existed in some form, until very recently. Whether we believed there were spirits in the rocks, a god in the sky, numerous gods wandering the world, or that our ancestors watch us from beyond, it is religion. We need answers, and we will conjure them up through our creativity if the answers are not presented.

Yet in fantasy, we seem to think they’ll be exempt, just like we are (kind of) today. Don’t get me wrong, there will be nonbelievers, individuals embittered against the faith, and so on, but they’ll be individuals and personal stories with personal reasons. Today we just don’t feel the need for it. We shrug off religion and step forward into the glories of science. Your fantasy likely does not have science on the scale required.

But wait, what does science today tell us? Once upon a time there was a very small ball, made of a substance that we do not understand, with an energy level that we cannot comprehend, which existed before time, and randomly existed from nothing. It then blew up and the universe was created. The Big Bang theory is an incredible creation myth.

Ritalin in the average brain causes the brain to fire randomly. In a very specific case, it causes the brain to regulate when it is firing randomly. We don’t know why, we just see evidence it works and run with it. If that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is.

We have faith in science. It’s our modern religion. We even have our modern day witch hunt. “If you don’t believe in evolution, you’re an idiot.” People in colleges for even voicing doubt in evolution, or bringing up briefly the creation theory, are let go. Science is a religion.

There are more actual atheists than ever before, I’ll still agree, a large group of people who simply don’t believe anything. In most cases they were disenfranchised or apathetic, but they exist in droves.

To summarize, my reason your fantasy needs religion is because that’s how civilization works. While different trends and eras may occur, religion is a constant. It happens all the time. When you show me a time devoid of a belief system, I’ll back down from my stance.

Here is the only exception: when it’s intentional for a certain lesson. If you need there to be no religion for an express purpose, then go for it. The moral of the story comes before accuracy.

In short, have a religion. It’s human nature. I don’t care how much you marginalize it, how much people flaunt it, and how much it may not matter overall, but people create religion and belief when there’s nothing to be had. They rationalize and use immense imagination to do it. So include religion in your fantasy because it’s realistic.

7 Comments on “Fantasy Requires Religion

  1. I actually started writing a fantasy story the other day for my little writing group at work. And the first few two pages were all about religion and belief systems – setting the stage and foundation for the whole story. Basically saying, everything you think you know about belief systems is wrong and here is how it really is. So I definitely agree that religion/belief systems have to be in fantasy. Imagine if you didn’t have it in there in one way or another!

    • I’m finding it’s a growing trend to exclude religion.

      More importantly, you have another round going!? I’m so jealous that you can do that. 😦

      • We do have another round going! It does take away from my other writing projects, but it’s a good learning experience and I get to finally write down some stories beginnings that have been living in my head since forever (it seems).

        It seems strange to exclude it all together. Characters need something to believe in or not believe in – I think anyways. And besides, it’s really hard to exclude all religion – I’ve been trying to do that with Mad Dogs. Remove faith and church and religion – but then you can’t say God or Hell or Heaven… and it’s really hard. There had to be something at some point.

      • Actually, I was thinking about Mad Dogs while writing this. I could see it having no religion. Often tyrants either destroy religion or use religion to control the masses. Or at least marginalize religion.

      • Yeah – it’s going to be in one of those “There used to be a religion of some kind, but it’s gone now” situations. So there may be references to the old days when there was some kind of religious structure, but it’s not something people practice or do. And it’s not a very strong plot point.

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