Religions fascinate me from a storytelling point of view. Every real-life religion has a ton of stories. There’s a creation myth, exploits of the various gods or associated characters, and a bunch of tales to illustrate how one should or should not behave. Then there’s a code of conduct, a set of rules to be adhered to, and possibly a dress code.
Coming up with a religious system for a story seemed like a lot of fun. I’m thinking ceremonial hats and a holy scepter at this point, muahaha. No, but seriously, inventing a religion warrants some thought, as the beliefs of a character will influence how he or she reacts to certain things.
That aside, I recently explored how followers interact with their deity. I came up with three very different scenarios.
Bog-standard God with Believers
This is a god (or gods) with certain powers and attributes, possibly a human form they can appear to people in, and a set of characteristic traits. His people worship him through prayer, sacrifices and ceremonies, he grants wishes or punishments as he sees fit. His area of expertise is clearly defined. Straightforward, but perhaps a bit boring.
The unworshipped god
Meet the Lady of the Tides. She is a powerful aquatic deity who controls almost everything to do with the ocean. Her counterpart is the Lord of the Currents, and equally powerful god. Their people respect them and are sufficiently in awe of them, but don’t worship them in ceremonies or through prayer. Since these gods are actual beings, they have an actual body and therefore can’t be everywhere at once. Thus their people believe that there is no point to prayer, unless the deity is physically present to hear the prayer being said. Hmmmm, interesting.
The canonized human
This is the reverse of the above. Followers who worship their god, who is in fact not a god but a human. Meet the High Priest of the Jinhar. He leads his church with absolute authority and may neither be criticized nor challenged. His people worship him like a god and believe him to be capable of performing all sorts of miracles, despite him being human and not a god. Now that I think about it, that sounds like an apt description of the pope, don’t you think?