A Chat About Religion in Novels

17 Oct

I hesitated to post this. Spent an hour switching between Jango.com and here, mouse hovering over the PUBLISH button. But finally I decided to go through with it. Here goes nothing but blah:

I’m discovering that BTE has a bit to do with religion.

Is it a religious novel? No.

Is its main focus religion/spirituality? Again, No.

I’m finding that BTE is a society  into the future where things have degraded to a level in which no god, or religion any longer exists. The bible, and other books alike have slowly been forgotten or traded away in favor of food or clothing. Most traces of our society as we know it today have been washed away by a utopia that has fallen into desperate disrepair.

You see that was the original idea for BTE. What happens after a utopia falls? I mean we’ve read countless utopian books, MATCHED by Ally Condie, THE GIVER Louis Lowery, etc, etc, etc. But I began to think what happens when our heroes die? What happens after the utopia is gone? Without a government what happens to the people? And that is how BTE has evolved into a sort of steam-punk/adventure type…. thing.

Anyway, back to the “religion” thing.

You see I’ve noticed recently that my MC is in desperate need of some religion, or something to trigger her main character arc. And with the way the society has revealed itself to be I was thinking “religion”. I’m really not trying to make a statement about anything, but I once read somewhere that “religion gives people purpose, and hope. Without purpose and hope there can be no civilized society.” granted that’s not a direct quote but that was the idea behind it.

And I can see that. If people have nothing to work toward, no hope of things getting better if they do so (in this life or the next) What is it that they hold themselves accountable to, especially when there is no really government to enforce any kind of  moral or ethical rules?

Even before I began thinking of this, BTE had little hints of spirituality. The order of the “Guardians” is based upon old testament scripture (though twisted and corroded by time and the order itself) to lay down its laws.

I’m not one to take on controversial subjects, but I think that religion in every form is a very interesting if not touchy subject to use in a novel. What do you all think should I cut it for fear of a turn off to readers? Or keep it and hope for the best?

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11 Responses to “A Chat About Religion in Novels”

  1. Brigid October 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Interesting question, Ally … Personally I don’t have a religion; I consider myself agnostic. My beliefs are a bit complicated, but basically I tolerate all religions/beliefs/etc. as long as they’re not harmful to other people and you’re not shoving it in people’s faces with a “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude, if that makes sense. But despite being non-religious, I don’t have a problem with religious undertones in books, so long as it’s not too preachy. It makes sense for your character to seek comfort in religion if she is in a desperate situation; and if you think it’s essential for her development, I say go for it!

    I don’t think you should let readers’ beliefs stand in your way. The truth is, it’s impossible to please everyone. There’s always someone out there who’s going to be offended by your work, and that can’t be helped. I mean, I know a lot of my work disagrees with certain religions––and although I accept the idea of religion, that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with all religions’ beliefs. So, in my opinion, what’s most important is doing what you know is best for your story. Don’t write something just because you want it to please everyone. I hope that helps! 🙂

    • nkeda14 October 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

      Thanks Brigid! That really helps 🙂
      You are right about the pleasing everyone thing, Religion, for a lot of people is just a really touchy thing, and in novels can go one way or the other.

      Your right though, that plot makes sense for the character… I think I’ll try it and see how it goes 🙂

  2. Michelle Isenhoff October 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    I’d say go for it too, Ally. My faith is very important to me, but I wouldn’t disregard a book with a character who doesn’t line up with my beliefs. I don’t like preachy books either. But if it’s a contextual thing or creates a character, it can be a very important part of developing your novel. It’s validating.

  3. harmamae October 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Something I’ve thought a lot about too – I’m a Christian, but not all the characters I want to write are. Especially in fantasy novels, where a world can be completely different from ours. I’m still thinking about how to write that. C.S. Lewis and Tolkien each had their own way of addressing their beliefs through their writing, but I’m not sure I want to copy them.

    That is the interesting thing about the idea of Utopia – what happens after Utopia is reached? Does society stay the same forever, or continue to change? Can people really live without religion, government, etc.? I think exploring whether society has lost anything by giving up religion would be an interesting direction to go with your fantasy novel. One thing to consider is whether the religion exists merely to give people hope, and if so, is believing in something that doesn’t exist really better than being hopeless?

    • nkeda14 October 19, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

      Yeah, I’m kind of seeing that it’s going in that direction right now…. I suppose I’ll just have to go with it and see what happens. It does bring up some very interesting questions though, doesn’t it?

      • harmamae October 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

        that’s what writers do! 🙂

  4. The Elite of Just Alright October 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Personally, I always say: leave religion and/or politics out unless you absolutely can’t. Way too touchy, but then again, I’m rather apathetic about both.

  5. gabriellan October 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    Religion is such an explosive topic, but it’s a part of life, and it would be really difficult to cut it out of any book entirely. I’ll read books about characters with all different sorts of beliefs, as long as it isn’t waaaaay out there, or too preachy. There’s a balance to be had, and there’ll always be somebody who doesn’t like the way it’s written. I’ve always thought of it this way: it’s a writer’s job to make readers think, not to tell them what to think.

    • nkeda14 October 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      I really like that quote 🙂
      “it’s a writer’s job to make readers think, not to tell them what to think.” I think i’ll use that! Thanks Gabs!

  6. Jennifer Mandelas October 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    From a pre-history standpoint, mankind has always looked somewhere to a higher authority, so it would make sense in world where there isn’t much to believe in that someone would try to find…something. I’m a pretty religious person, so I think that there’s some religion that leaks into my writing whether I want it there or not, but I’ve never focused on religion in a story before. It’d be worth trying out! Go for it!

    • nkeda14 October 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

      Yeah, it seems everyone is thinking the same thing. Suppose it is worth a try right? Thanks for the input it is always appreciated!

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