14.19: Religion and Ritual

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

We often worldbuild religions and rituals for the stories we create. In this episode we discuss the decisions surrounding this, and our approaches for doing it well.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Attend a meeting of religious or worship service which is not yours.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

8 thoughts on “14.19: Religion and Ritual”

  1. Very interesting topic.

    One thing that can be good to research is the contacts between religions in the real world. For instance, I’ve read that Scandinavians accepted the existence of the Christian god relatively easily early on, because when you already have a whole pantheon, what’s one more god? There seem to have been an attitude (and this isn’t just Scandinavia) that different peoples could have different gods, and believe in the existence of other peoples’ gods without venerating them, staying loyal to their own. But then monotheism doesn’t leave room for that, so Christians forced them to forsake the rest and adopt Christianism fully.

    On the other hand, Japan happily mixes Christianism with Buddhism and Shitoism. As a culture, it seems to care more about traditions and rituals than beliefs.

  2. The trifecta, Brandon, Dan, and Howard, sat down with Mahtab to talk about how we create religions for fantasy and science fiction stories. Why would you put religion in your story, how do you build a religion, and how do your personal religious beliefs affect your writing about fantastic religions? From the superstitious wearing of lucky socks to the invocation of falsifiability and reproducibility in science, this episode covers it all. And you can read it in the transcript available now in the archives.

  3. I feel Mahtab missed an excellent opportunity to talk about caste. I have rarely seen any speculative writer successfully attempt a realistic caste system.

  4. When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale I thought it was kind of odd that the religion of the Republic of Gilead forbade women from reading, since if you look at that culture’s real-world precursors, they have no problem with female literacy, if only because a woman who reads is a woman who can read the Bible. (In eighteenth-century America, woman were literate at about half the rate of men. Today, the vast majority of the people who buy Christian-oriented fiction are women.)

    But after rereading the book, I realized that a religion that forbids women from reading is a perfect antagonist for the main character of the novel, who (we can tell immediately from her writing style) loves language, has some kind of liberal-arts education, and had a job in a library right before the religious movement took over.

  5. I loved this episode, and Howard’s number system sounds so cool. What research went into that? And Dan’s comment about science fiction wasn’t something I’d noticed, but that’s a really good point.

    Religion is something I find fascinating. I’m also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I’ve done research on a great deal of other religions and they really can be a great source of world building material (if you handle it right!!), like Mahtab says. Ancient religions seem the most useful, since there are many that aren’t practiced today. History in general really is a fabulous source of world building.

    Thanks again for the episode!

    1. I also will have a chance to complete this weeks home work later this month.

  6. The religious situation in the Wheel Of Time series was briefly addressed. I always found that situation interesting. The situation is that there is clearly a devil, but there is no evidence of an active creator. There is nobody that claims to have direct contact with the creator or his emissaries, and as far as anyone can see, it seems that the devil is only opposed by people. And yet everyone believes in the creator. How odd.

    Also, I disagree with the statement that there are no churches in the Wheel Of Time. The Children Of The Light are quite clearly a church.

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