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Including Religion in Writing

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Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:31 pm
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Vervain says...

This is not a serious discussion or debate. If you'd like to have a debate about including religion in writing, there's a forum for that! While I'm sure many people would be very interested in that, I'm not.

Here's my question:

How do you include religion in your writing? Do you include it at all? How do you feel it is tasteful to include religion in your writing, regardless of if you agree with it/are religious or not?


I'm not religious, but I was raised Lutheran (Protestant Christian). I have a series of short stories/novellas that all fit in the same universe, but don't necessarily take place around the same characters or same time frames. They're mainly centered on the fact that in this universe, fire-and-brimstone demons are real, and they want to screw things up.

It's all set in the culture I'm familiar with, which is the Southern Christian climate, so even though I'm not religious, I feel comfortable including these religion-coded foci and themes in my work. Even though the stories do include various religious figures and ideas (churches and faith as themes), they're not religious stories, and in fact probably lean more against modern religion than for it.

I'm really curious if y'all include religion at all in your works. If you do, why, and how do you feel about it?

This also isn't an opportunity to evangelize or try and convert people. Let's keep it a chill discussion about writing please!
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Thu Jun 06, 2019 2:14 am
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Carlito says...

I am a Christian, and I also think of this from a YA novel perspective because that's what I'm most familiar with. I personally love reading about any and all religion in YA and I love seeing religion in YA. I think it definitely belongs in literature.

I've only tried to overtly insert religion into my writing once, with my most recent WIP. I always like to try new things when I start a new novel project, and for this WIP I explicitly didn't want a romance (because I always write romance), and I wanted to draw some inspiration from K-LOVE (which is the contemporary Christian radio station I listen to). The overall plot is still very messy, but it's basically a story of a Christian girl who experiences an event that upturns her entire life and she has to grapple with what she thinks about God and her faith now.

I think writing religion has some similarities to other areas of diversity in literature. If you're going to write about a religion or use religious themes that you don't have direct experience with, or you don't do the proper research and end up poorly or unfairly representing the religion, I think that's just as hurtful as other poorly done representation in literature. I also think that no matter what religion is being represented, the goal of the book or story should never be to implicitly convert the reader.

I think it's tasteful to show characters practicing their faith, finding a faith, struggling with their faith, losing their faith, etc. These are real things that people experience, and I think if it's being represented with care, it's great. I also think it's tasteful to add religious undertones or themes into your writing if that matches your personal faith identity or one you're familiar with.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to being mindful in the same way you would with other topics in writing. Asking yourself why I'm including this, what I'm trying to do or say with this, if I've done the proper research, if I might hurt someone by doing this this way, etc.
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Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:30 pm
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Holysocks says...

I really like what Carlito was saying about like tastefully having religion in your work. From my experience, if there's religion in a story, it's usually either is revolving around that religion, or it's portrayed negatively through a character who is simply a yucky person all around. I'd like to see more characters who are religious, but you wouldn't necessarily know they're religious without them out right saying it. That would be cool!

For me, personally I don't really include religion in my prose. For one, I wouldn't want to write about another religion that I don't keep- partly because in my religion, I'm not really supposed to study other people's religions... which, is something we kinda end up doing anyway because we hear about it all the time, and have friends of different religions, etc. I just wouldn't really feel comfortable writing about someone else's religion. And being someone that believes something very different, I don't think I would do it much justice? And maybe I would have an underlying bias etc. And the very thought of like, leaving out certain religions makes me even less likely to write about my own? Which doesn't really make sense, but I just feel like it would be too.. narrow-minded of me in a sense? I don't know if that makes sense. It's probably not the best way of looking at things, in any case.

But then, I wouldn't really want to write about Jewdaism either because even though I grew up calling myself a Jew, I'm technically not. And, my family has always believed slightly different from the different sects of Jewdaism- so there's a lot of traditions and teachings within Jewdaism that I don't even know or understand.

So the only thing I could really write about would be my own brand of religion... and it would feel very odd I think to put that into a fictional setting.

And yet I feel like putting a religion in fiction can really round out a world. Religion is a big part of our world, and what comes with it is a great deal of culture! If I were to write a religion in a story, it would be a fictitious one! But that's just me. And I still don't think I'd do that though? Like if I did, it would just be part of the world, and not at all part of the story. But that's just me!

That said, I would still maybe write a religious character or two. Especially ones that you don't know are religious xP
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