Invent Religious Beliefs - The Art of World Building
Nov 122020
 
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Beliefs

Without beliefs, religions don’t exist. There’s a difference between facts and beliefs. A fact is provable and generally accepted by those who lack a bias for ignoring it. But a belief exists in the absence of proof. If we had proof, it would be a fact, not a belief. Some might debate this, but it’s relevant with religions and gods because, on Earth, most of us accept that no gods are real, with the possible exception of the one God. No one believes in Zeus, right? But people once did, and when they stopped, Zeus vanished. We had invented him.

This is relevant because we should answer the question as to whether the religion we’re inventing is centered around a real god or an imagined one. If real, that god likely has directions he has given to the species. Or the religion is acting on its own and may have concerns about doing its deity justice, given the lack of direction. Or it may be a combination of the two. If the god is not real, none of this arises.

Using the history we’ve created, and the traits of the god (real or imagined), we can invent beliefs within the religion. They are typically centered on spiritual, mythological, and supernatural elements of either the deity or the religion. Here are some fundamental subjects about which to create beliefs (some may be facts if the god is real):

  • Where the god originated
  • What the god represents
  • What the god wants of the world, his followers, and possibly his/their enemies
  • How the god wants to be worshipped
  • What followers must do to be accepted and remain in his good graces
  • How the god rewards or punishes, and for what
  • How and under what circumstances the god’s power manifests in the world, including interaction with mortals and other beings

These basic ideas can result in several behaviors that come to define this religion. Religions are known for their beliefs and how its followers behave (in service of those beliefs), so this cannot be skipped while inventing one. Invent an answer for each, and much of the principal work to create a religion is done.

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