Welcome to the Sunday edition of this week’s craft post, Religion, and its Purposes. This is coming late after a last minute move across the country from Arizona to New Hamshire. I arrived yesterday but was way too worn out write and post this article. For those of you who are new or haven’t read lately, we have been working through a Series on Worldbuilding, and a sub-series on Religions. Last week, we wrapped up the first half of the religion series on Gods. You can find all the posts so far in the religion sub-series here. You can find the who series of posts on Worldbuilding on the link in the toolbar under Worldbuilding.
Before we start, I want to put up a warning. This post will be talking about religions in the good, the bad and the ugly. To create religions, you need to know why they original existed and why they still exist today. This is in no way trying to disprove any religions or try to convince any who are religious to walk away. This post is just a look at religions. With that said, let’s dive in.
Why do we have religions? Well, when you have a race of animals with the great potential at a stage in their own development where they can learn new things and adapt but don’t fully understand why things work this way. They look for answers. What easier explanation for to how things work than all powerful beings are behind them. Why does the branch of a tree move on its own? Oh, a goddess or god create wind. Why did we not have a god harvest this year? The people pissed off the god of grain.
Religions built around the gods help provide answers to questions. That is why religions still exist today, because even with modern science, there are questions that have yet to be answered 100%. Science has proven many things and answered questions like why the branches in the tree move on their own. The Wind, and how wind currents happen. It has provided an answer to the basic questions all religions answer, how was the world created. While science answer seems just as random as some creation accounts from old and new religions. The Big Bang Theory has more evidence than there is for Genesis account in the bible.
Religions original were for answer questions a young developing race had. What are some of those other reasons for religions? This is where it gets tricky. Let’s look at some of the problems with religion.
Religion creates closemindedness in its followers. How many devoted religious people do you know who are open to new ideas? You may know only one or two or none, or maybe you know quite a few. As someone who use to be extremely religious, I can tell you that not all religious people are close minded. Those who aren’t close-minded, seem to have a better understanding of their beliefs and views than those who are close minded. They understand that what they believe, and while they may wish other who do not share their beliefs to join them, they don’t shove it down people’s throats.
While there are many who are religious who are open to outside ideas and willing to have a rational conversation, there are far more who aren’t. Now, when I refer to someone who is close-minded, I am not talking about just ideas outside of their religion or to other religions. No, I am talking about those who will not listen to a fellow believer who holds to the same main tenants they themselves hold to, but differs on small really not important tenants.
This leads me to next negative of religion. Power. People in religion love power and those who really like it will find these close-minded people and convince them to follow them. I am not talking about a cult level. However, I have talked to Christians who would not change their views on scripture solely because their pastor disagrees with me. These pastors may not be telling their followers to drink the kool aide or get bit by rattlesnakes to prove their faith.
Some religious leaders do talk their follow to a cult level, while others don’t, but they will on certain issues. An example of this, is the Conservative Christian Church believe that Homosexuality is wrong. They will point to the bible and several passages to back them up. I can attest to this, I know those passages. Accord to the bible, homosexuality is a sin. I am not saying agree with this or disagree, the bible texts do say this. It is just one of many different kinds of sin. However, Christians in the past few years seem to act like Homosexuality is one of the worst sins or is a sin that gets you sent directly to hell if you dabble in it. Even if you are saved.
Please forgive the constant use of Christians, but this is a religion that is easy to give examples because it is one of the largest religions in the world. These movements are lead by power hungry pastors who lead the charge in a hateful way. Not all pastors who think or even preach that homosexuality is wrong are power hungry. This leads me to another problem of religion, Hate, and prejudice.
Religion has been and still is used to backup hate and prejudice. Look at the KKK, they use passages from the bible to back up slavery. Religions have been used to support a specific race or skill color as superior to others. Look at today’s, Presidential Race and how much hate has been used by the Republican Party. No, not all of them agree with Trump’s statements on race, but there are many Christian Leaders who are going to back for Trump, all who have loyal listeners or followers and they listen to them. When you have hate and can target a group of people you can then gain the support to go to war.
That leads another problem, Religion is used solely as reasons to go to war. Convert or die. That statement is used by a very small percentage of Islam and why they have declared a holy war against us. Nowhere do all Muslims believe that this, but people in power want us to think that, so we can go to war. A war we have no reason to fight unless you are an arms dealer who wants their profits to go up. Or, you are a recruiter for the radical faction who say Americans hate them and want to wipe them out.
That’s all for the negatives of religions. I could dive into the problems forever, but that is not why I am writing this. Yes, there are problems with religion, but there are also good things about religion.
The biggest positive of religion is a sense of purpose. Being someone who was very angry at the world when I was a teenager and had no purpose or confidence in myself, religion can help you find that purpose. For me, it ended up showing me how to have confidence in myself and how to recognize my own talents. For others, it gives people a purpose to stop drugs, live, serving a higher power. When you meet people who have turned their lives around from horrible drug filled lives or abuse or rape and you talk to them and they have true happiness and love for those around them, you see just how good religion can be.
Religion provides people feeling of protection from outside forces. That god is protecting them. Yes, this can end up being taken way too far, or be done out of fear. That’s while there is a balance. Sometimes that feeling and belief that someone greater than themselves is looking out for them is all the motivation or feeling they need to take a risk and try something new.
There is new research that suggests because religious people who believe in the possible of being healed through god allows them to heal the mind and body. Having that mind frame of being able to survive has shown cancers patience go into remission than those who didn’t. Religion also promotes charity and helping others. As someone who use to help others or give money to causes more when I was religious, I can attest to this. It is also something I am looking to go back to.
Religion has many purposes and they can be good or bad. What you need to understand from this and studying more on your own, is that take the good and the bad for positives and negatives for your characters and for conflict in your book. You don’t need to have a holy war going on as the many plots, but you can have one going on that will never come to the forefront of the book. That news can be conversations starters for your characters to try to meet or gain information about something else. Or even have your characters have to get around a battle between these two or three warring religions.
At the same time, you can show the good sides of a religion of those who don’t take their beliefs as radical as some, by having your character give food to poor children or even praying for other characters. Rising up from a bad life through finding their religion.
That’s all I got today. Hope you enjoyed it and I didn’t piss anyone off with my examples. Yes, the negative part of religions is longer than the positives, but it is easier to show negatives side with more examples. Also, this post was getting long and I have other things to do tonight. If I have some free time I will spend more time and add more to the positives.
Next weeks, post we will dive into structure of religions and see how some of these things we talked about good and bad can happen. Check back next week. There will be no Writing Wrap-up this week as I got little writing done thanks to my move.