Writing How? Realistic Religion and Magical Fantasy Settings

Yorda

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I don't think this casus belli would work, unless the enemy country is a republic that respects freedom or Mongolian style horde Khanate that don't care about what their vassal believes in.

Or for all I knew it's something like Dutch Indies Company that uses this kind of tactics against the natives.
They are a republic. LOL
At least that was the plan. I'm not sure how else it would go. This is where I am foggy on. I don't understand the history of republics.

This is sorta the main place where I am lacking. The enemy nation's government explanation. I want a republic, but for a world with technology and politics at the 1000-1500 AD level ...

I don't know so many things ... wait. @Assurbanipal_II you know history. Right? Help me, but be warned there are spoilers all over this thread.
 
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Suryae

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Here's some list of interesting historical republics that I found:
-Venice (they elect their leader basically by lottery)
-Florence ( used to be Roman inspired republic, but was under the control of Medici family. Machiavelli was born here)
-San Marino (inspiration behind French republic)
-Swiss (it's a confederacy and the last one in the world)
-Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ( "merger" of Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Actually an elective monarchy)
-Holy Roman Empire ( also actually an elective monarchy. Experienced a lot of interregnum)
- Lanfang Republic ( one of the first republic in Asia)
- Mongolian Empire ( not a republic, but they elect their khans and was a meritocracy under Genghis Khan)
Hopefully this helps.
 

Yorda

Villainess Yorda the Elegant Flower of Evil
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Here's some list of interesting historical republics that I found:
-Venice (they elect their leader basically by lottery)
-Florence ( used to be Roman inspired republic, but was under the control of Medici family. Machiavelli was born here)
-San Marino (inspiration behind French republic)
-Swiss (it's a confederacy and the last one in the world)
-Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ( "merger" of Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Actually an elective monarchy)
-Holy Roman Empire ( also actually an elective monarchy. Experienced a lot of interregnum)
- Lanfang Republic ( one of the first republic in Asia)
- Mongolian Empire ( not a republic, but they elect their khans and was a meritocracy under Genghis Khan)
Hopefully this helps.
When it comes to history I am stupid. Thank you. Meritocracy, commonwealth, confederacy, so many options. This is really hard for me, like I might need to be spoon-fed. :blob_pat_sad:

Human history and politics huh. :blob_dizzy:
 

Cold_Sun

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In a fantasy religion is generally interposed with some tangible benefits rather than spiritual ones alone.
So, a popular way of using religion is that god's bless their believers with powers. This is used along with elements of the deity receiving some benefit in return, playing with elements of conflicts among gods or a person's ascendance to god-like status.
The other form, which I feel is used much less, is the under-current of religious expansionism in the events. Here the gods themselves may not appear, but priests manipulate and spread the influence. The best example of this is in the Song of Ice and Fire.
 

RaidenInfinity

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Imagine a fantasy world that gods do exist and one of them 'descended' to the mortal world with the mc of the story as a vassal (not vessel) to check out on a 'religion' that worships a made-up 'almighty lord'. That's one of my settings.
 
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Assurbanipal_II

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:blob_dizzy: Dizzy, confused. Too many topics, too vague. Anyway what do you even want? Religions? Republic? Democracy? Careful, the latter two are not the same formally. A republic is not necessarily a democracy and vice versa.

And Venice and the Italian Comuni are not a good example. They are republics in name only and more of plutocracy ruled by rich merchants like oligarchy.
 

Mejiro

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Actually having gods or spirits that openly, overtly, obviously exist is going to change things a lot - religious schisms get a lot odder when the god in question can show up and say 'no, that guy is right, that guy is wrong'. Or when the god is mostly interested in worship or shiny stuff rather than 'ethics' - 'give me gold, I give you power' is a nice straightforward faith, that doesn't have a great deal of related moral teachings. Roman religions had touches of this ('I give so that you may give' was a common prayer). So depending on what the gods want and need, you're going to have powerful individuals with their own organisations - some might basically just be standard rulers, except immortal, magical and shiny. Some might run be technically at the top of multinational organisations, but as long as the shiny stuff keeps flowing in, don't really care about the details. Some might have very obvious goals and targets, which they actively seek out, some might just be powerful individuals that have a small group of followers.
 

BenJepheneT

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Religion, as far as I can comprehend, won't matter whether if it's a magical or non-magical setting.

But the SETTING can help you define what sort of religion triumphs in the place.

Is magic a common thing? Is it something you're born with or anyone can attain as long as they work their peasant ass off?

If the former, then you can have some OP, grey-bearded magician claiming to be under the command of the Holy above and anyone that defies is immediately blasted with a Level 35 Red Sea Split *brought to you by God. You could take examples from real life but instead of army power it's just one guy who's really good with voodoo. Imagine the Roman Empire but instead of the king sitting on the throne it's a guy who's really good at walking on water and respawning.

If the later, you could literally just take examples from real world settings. What impact can magic really have it's widely known to be attainable if you're literate enough. It's like being a Pope. Technically, not everybody can be the Pope. But if you ditch the formalities, literally anyone can be the Pope. Except this time the Pope can summon fire, or water, or whatever you feel like magicking this time.

idk man I don't think about things like these often so take my shit with the smallest pinch of salt you can find

whatever you do don't take the old Islamic religion. You know, the one with the Arabs and the prophet Muhammad. The reason the guy won was because he was a dictator who magically got into power after sitting under the sun too long and claiming someone told him to spread Jawi.

You can take any religion. Even the Buddhists. Just don't take Beta Islam,
 

tak

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How does one create a realistic religion in a magical fantasy setting?
By setting some rules and details... that probably won't be mentioned in the story:blob_blank:. I searched how to long ago & forgot to save it.
Here's some question i remember:
  • How many Gods
  • Relationship between Gods (hierarchy, family ties, friend-enemy, etc)
  • God's image
  • Relationship between Gods and Worshipper
  • How (if) God communicate to Worshipper
  • Religious routines
  • Religious reach (the example I remember from this is Catholic Schools)
 

BenJepheneT

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By setting some rules and details... that probably won't be mentioned in the story:blob_blank:. I searched how to long ago & forgot to save it.
Here's some question i remember:
  • How many Gods
  • Relationship between Gods (hierarchy, family ties, friend-enemy, etc)
  • God's image
  • Relationship between Gods and Worshipper
  • How (if) God communicate to Worshipper
  • Religious routines
  • Religious reach (the example I remember from this is Catholic Schools)
to those coming into this thread new, save this. it's actually pretty fucking useful
 

AliceShiki

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Main Question: How does one create a realistic religion in a magical fantasy setting?

Oftentimes people want to include religion in their magical fantasy settings. I am one such person. However, I do not know how to do this in a convincing and serious way. If anyone understands how to craft religions, give religious backstories, or has expansive knowledge about the history religions on Earth that could be useful please help out with a post.

I like making general posts about specific topics that are a bit broad/vague so that they can help out more people rather than just me. I think that this could help out a lot of people. In many stories and even really famous anime/manga/LNs details about magic systems and religion are really left out! It's surprising how much they avoid details despite religion being integral to the main story at times.
I can't give you much advice on how to develop the religion itself, but I can try to give my take on how to work with the setting itself when you want to involve religion in it.

1) In a medi-fantasy setting, Atheism should be inexistent. That's something people don't seem to realize, but... In a world without developed science, it's pretty much impossible to not believe in gods, the very concept of atheism was pretty much non-existent in medieval Earth. Now imagine Earth with magic, how will someone even consider not believing in a god in this setting?
Don't try putting an atheist character in your story, it just... Doesn't make sense, how will one explain the way the world works and the very existence of magic when they don't understand the science behind things? Saying it's God's will that makes things work just makes more sense.

2) Incorporate small bits of religion in character dialogue. This is a small thingy, but like... If at any moment you feel like your character could say "geez" or "Jesus", just substitute that with "dear Gods" or something similar. It shows there is some degree of involvement with the character in question and with religion. The more often those phrases appear, the more religious the character would be... Saying stuff like "Gods help me" when they are troubled or the like could also be good.

3) Decide early-on how much the gods can directly and indirectly influence the world. I personally dislike giving gods the power to directly influence the mortal world, because then I can only imagine how much trouble would it be when 2 countries with different religions went to war... There would be some big conflicts when miracles and blessings were involved and I can't imagine how much trouble that would be... Still, you can allow that, I just don't feel like it makes much sense.
In any case, it's important to be aware of what kind of things your gods can do, if they can send prophecies to oracles, if they can answer prayers, if they can send messages, if they can bring divine punishment to unfaithful believers, if they can give blessings to the primary believers, or even descend directly into the world themselves... Whatever you decide, it's better you decide the cans and can'ts sooner rather than later.

4) Remember that religion probably has a lot of power and influence. Like... Countries with the same religion will often times be allies, and countries with different religions will often times be enemies, and religious wars shouldn't be that uncommon. In a similar vein, the higher echelons of the clergy probably have a big say on what the rulers of each country do.

5) How many religions? That's a simple question you need to ask yourself. How many religions are there in the world? Does everyone belief in the same principles, but in different deities? Or does each country have a different religion altogether? Or does everyone have an unified religion believing in a single god and stuff?
Bear in mind that the more easily your gods are able to interfere with the world, the more likely it will be to have everyone believe in them... But that doesn't stop people from creating other religions, it just makes it more unlikely IMO.
You don't need to develop all religions you create though, they'll probably have different degrees of importance and you can just focus on the ones that have a bigger impact on your story. Nonetheless, it's good to know how many religions you want to work with.
 

NiQuinn

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1) In a medi-fantasy setting, Atheism should be inexistent. That's something people don't seem to realize, but... In a world without developed science, it's pretty much impossible to not believe in gods, the very concept of atheism was pretty much non-existent in medieval Earth. Now imagine Earth with magic, how will someone even consider not believing in a god in this setting?
Don't try putting an atheist character in your story, it just... Doesn't make sense, how will one explain the way the world works and the very existence of magic when they don't understand the science behind things? Saying it's God's will that makes things work just makes more sense.
This is highly debatable. Even with a medieval setting, in our history, people from all social circles did question religion and even the existence of God. It wasn't a hard thing to question if there was a higher power since the acts some people in power - cough *TheSpanishInquisition* cough - proved to be wholly questionable. Here's an interesting article that sheds light on some blasphemers in parts of Spain.

That being the case, I think atheism can exist though the repercussions of having such a stand are up to you, the author. You can even have your own Spanish Inquisitor-like group to deal with such 'blasphemers.'

I have to point out though, Europeans acted differently regarding religion as compared to Asians. I'm not sure how atheism would have been in medieval Japan, for example. I do think though that they wouldn't be as 'hammer of the gods - vengeance upon you' kind of reaction.

Take note, however, when missionaries came to Japan to spread Christianity, they did succeed at first and converted quite a lot of Japanese. However, as more missionaries came, different Christian doctrines were being spread causing influential daimyos to later ban them in the 1500s (Toyotomi Hideyoshi being one of them) because conflicting teachings made the religion sound like a scam. It wasn't until the 1800s were Christians allowed to enter Japan again.

Religion is such a complicated issue and I'd advise you to read up on different religions to help you with your story. Different cultures would react differently and real-life events can help inspire.
 
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AliceShiki

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This is highly debatable. Even with a medieval setting, in our history, people from all social circles did question religion and even the existence of God. It wasn't a hard thing to question if there was a higher power since the acts some people in power - cough *TheSpanishInquisition* cough - proved to be wholly questionable. Here's an interesting article that sheds light on some blasphemers in parts of Spain.

That being the case, I think atheism can exist though the repercussions of having such a stand are up to you, the author. You can even have your own Spanish Inquisitor-like group to deal with such 'blasphemers.'

I have to point out though, Europeans acted differently regarding religion as compared to Asians. I'm not sure how atheism would have been in medieval Japan, for example. I do think though that they wouldn't be as 'hammer of the gods - vengeance upon you' kind of reaction.

Take note, however, when missionaries came to Japan to spread Christianity, they did succeed at first and converted quite a lot of Japanese. However, as more missionaries came, different Christian doctrines were being spread causing influential daimyos to later ban them in the 1500s (Toyotomi Hideyoshi being one of them) because conflicting teachings made the religion sound like a scam. It wasn't until the 1800s were Christians allowed to enter Japan again.

Religion is such a complicated issue and I'd advise you to read up on different religions to help you with your story. Different cultures would react differently and real-life events can help inspire.
Uhn... This article kinda reinforces my point though? Here:
Medieval evidence thus seems to support the general principle that religious doubt is an intrinsic part of faith. Therefore, even if Febvre was right to argue that “atheism”, in any modern sense, was not an option in the sixteenth century or earlier, it does appear none the less that there was indeed genuine religious scepticism in late medieval and early modern Europe.
Religious skepticism is totally fine and something that can totally happen... But in all examples quoted in the article, none of them seemed to disregard the existence of God, they all showed divergences with what the teachings of the church was.

I'm by no means a specialist in medieval history, but I did study around 3-4 years of history in university before I dropped out... And AFAIK, atheism wasn't really a concept even worth consideration back in the medieval times.
 

Mejiro

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Atheism has been around since ancient Greece and Rome, it's not that new. There's also strains of religion that lean heavily into the 'philosophy', without a whole lot of divinity around - some strains of Buddhism get into this. Within the geo-politics of medieval Europe, atheism was pretty much a giant middle finger to all the powers that be; the monarch, the church and the state itself all claimed legitimacy based off Christianity to varying degrees, and the main "competitors" (Judaism and Islam) were derived from similar roots, so there wasn't a lot of 'idea space' for different things. There's also a big difference between 'religion as belief' and 'religion and society' - not going to Sunday church would be wierd and strange, but there's going to be quite a few in attendance whose attitude would vary between 'this is nonsense' to 'don't care' (Roman priests were often political offices, that were sought after for power and influence as much as any piety, and ritual worship of the Emperor was similar to an Oath of Allegiance, where refusing to do so was 'disrespecting the state' rather than 'religious crime')

Also, a world with actual magic is going to change things a lot - 'there's a immortal that can do magical things in the town square!' might elicit a reaction of 'That bastard Gandalf's late, he said he'd deliver my fireworks by last Thursday' rather than anything special or awe-inspiring. When magic is just a thing that's around, it's less special and fantastical, it's like having to get a specialist in for certain arcane tasks IRL. Same for gods - there's no requirement for them to be numinous and 'special', over in D&D there's a faction called the Athar that are atheists. They do this by pointing out that it's possible to go from 'level 1 adventurer killing goblins for fun and profit' to 'deity' by amassing enough power, and thus that the gods aren't some special and distinct class of being that innately and specially deserve respect in any way, they're just powerful beings, like a dragon, angel or demon. Step carefully around them, but hat's about it, they're not 'special' or built into the universe innately, they're just another set of powerful bastards keeping people down.
 
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thepundit

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Main Question: How does one create a realistic religion in a magical fantasy setting?

Oftentimes people want to include religion in their magical fantasy settings. I am one such person. However, I do not know how to do this in a convincing and serious way. If anyone understands how to craft religions, give religious backstories, or has expansive knowledge about the history religions on Earth that could be useful please help out with a post.

I like making general posts about specific topics that are a bit broad/vague so that they can help out more people rather than just me. I think that this could help out a lot of people. In many stories and even really famous anime/manga/LNs details about magic systems and religion are really left out! It's surprising how much they avoid details despite religion being integral to the main story at times.
Hmnn, try reading Throne of Magical Arcana, its a goodie with religion and badass sorcery. It may be a good reference if your aim is to write a realistic religion in a magical fantasy setting? :unsure: :s_wink:
 
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There is very little of me to add after the many, great and thought-provoking replies others have already given you. But I can say one thing, if your novel is about world-building, including religion is a great way to give your universe more depth and tangibility.

To effectively write about religion, look for history. Since the Stone Age, faith had always been an integral part of the human experience. Why ? Because humans had always needed something to explain to them the things they couldn't explain to themselves.

In the context of magical fantasy, just apply the same logic and continue along with it. Why is there magic ? Because the 'gods' made it. Why are certain people born with magic and others not ? Because gods only bestow their blessing on their 'chosen ones'. Why only the 'chosen ones' ? Because the gods have missions for them to fulfill and so on and so forth until you get a somewhat logical layout of the religious ideology of your fictional world.

Something else to note, it does not matter how far-fetch or ridiculous the belief system of your universe is as long as its people believe in it. There have always been some really strange and wacky beliefs in human religions so let your imagination go.
 

tak

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On ancient times atheism, i have no backing to this, but i think when they think "i'm the only one thinking like this" can lead to "i'm the crazy one". But no! How could YOU be crazy? You're nor crazy, you're the same as everyone else! And so, they are doing the same religious routine, like everyone else. They pray, they attend every religious ceremony and say the same things as everyone else.

Who can tell what they really believe?
 

ZynGrand

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Religion is quite complicated
Some make many sacrifices
But my thirst cannot be sated

Religion may be of fated
Or something to be debated
But the thoughts of the people
Is not something to be equated
 
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