Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Religion in Your Universe

Religion is always one of those more interesting problems. It's a hand that needs to be played strongly, but not too strongly, and can make or break a comic if played wrong. You need to determine if it's even necessary and then go from there.

Not all comics need religion, or can get away with the barest mention of it. Marvel Comics is probably the best example of that, as there are literally dozens of religious characters but not everyone is even aware of most of it; unless religion is important to a character's development it is hardly ever mentioned. On the other hand, religion can be intrinsic to a fantasy setting, especially one based on D&D, as you need someone to call on for divine favors. You obviously don't need to have it, if Conan has proven anything; it's a world with gods, but they don't seem to exist beyond someone to yell at most of the time.

Where most comics get it wrong is by over-playing the negative aspects of religion. Although that can be the point, it can also cost you readers, even those that are anti-religion to begin with. A compromise needs to be struck between showing the evils of religion and hitting the point where the message gets lost in the noise. Youi can show the local church as evil as long as there are characters within it that are still essentially good people. Obviously evil churches need to be portrayed as evil, and you can have as much fun with that as you want, but try to show the good church as, well, good. The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (the novel, not any of the movies) should be your gold standard.

Once you've decded on your religion you need to decide on what type and how it' organized. Youi can either have one religion or multiple, and they don't all need to be the same. You can have a monolithic monotheist church and a loose pagan religion even in the same city if they work for your comic. Also note that the gods and other mythic beings do not need to be organized like their temples; the Greek gods may have had well-organized hierarchy, but the same doesn't need apply to their temples.

You also need to decide how widespread belief is and how fanatic that belief is. The stabdard "evil cult" has very few members, but those members are extramely fanatic, while the Cathoic Church may be extremely widespread but had relatively few fanatics. It's important to realize that someone who has strong beliefs is not necessarily a fanatic; a person with a strong will is likely to be willing to die for his beliefs, but that doesn't mean that he is a fanatic. After all, any intelligent being can decide that dying for the cause is perhaps the most logical course of action. A fanatic instead does what he does not because it may be the most logical course of action but because he thinks that the reward in the next world is worth it. A group of fanatics is unlikely to make any changes in its policy while any other organization will make changes every so often, if they are by nature coservative

All of these decisions must be made about any religions that you choose to introduce orany school of thought. Ultiately it is up to you to decide what kind of religion(s) you want to include and what role they will serve in your story.

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