Religion, Faith, and Writing

Why religion, faith, or a set of beliefs should be considered when writing stories.

We constantly hear that it is not advisable, and sometimes downright inappropriate, to speak to others regarding the subjects of religion, faith, or any particular set of beliefs. In the overwhelming fear of offending someone, or bringing ridicule upon ourselves we may keep that part of our lives to ourselves. Somehow, the First Amendment seems not to apply to these topics.

I am a regular everyday person, but I say that it is time we talk–albeit respectfully–about religion, faith, and beliefs as it applies to our writing.

Defining Your Concept of Religion, Faith, and Beliefs

If you shudder at the mere mention of the word “religion”, be at ease knowing that I am not actually going to discuss any one particular religion in the hopes of converting anyone. Instead, I’d like to encourage you to define your own concept of religion, faith, and belief. Here is how I look at the three, but your own interpretation may be different:

Religion
To me, religion is the organized practice of a belief or faith. There are many definitions of the word religion, but for the purposes of writing I stick to this one.

Faith
Faith is the belief in something we don’t typically have tangible proof of, or lacking empirical evidence. It doesn’t need to be overly religious in nature, or it can be. Since most people view it as religious, I use that definition.

Belief
This is the “other” category, and one which seems to be either quite neglected or over-emphasized in many cases. As an example, we might put Agnostics and Atheists in this category. For writing purposes, let’s think of this as a set of beliefs about life that don’t fall into the other two categories.

Why Religion, Faith, and Belief are Important for Writers 

Hopefully, the above definitions can help you categorize these concepts into specific areas, but now we need to know why all of that even matters. Sure, these subjects can be extremely important to each of us, but we also have to investigate the bigger picture.

Here are a few reasons why it can be helpful to really think about religion, faith, and belief when establishing characters.

  • More realistic characters
  • Knowing your character’s beliefs/faith/religion helps you know how and why they act/react in certain scenarios
  • May give your character certain motivations that may not make sense without the context of religion/faith/belief
  • Helps you create a more intricate culture and environment surrounding characters
  • May effect situations in the story that may otherwise seem trivial: eating habits, music preference, character’s daily schedule, etc.
  • Can be used as a tool to show a character’s thought process or attitude regarding religion/faith/belief

I’m sure there are many more reasons, but it’s amazing when you begin to think about the implications how crucial it is to at least ponder these things. Even if there is absolutely no religious or faith-based overtone, our actions and interactions display our beliefs. We all act according to some set of beliefs about what is wrong and right, but those beliefs can be tremendously different and pave the way for a unique story with realistic characters.

What do you think? Do you consider religion, faith, or beliefs when writing, or do you avoid them? Do you think it depends upon the story itself? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments section if you want! Thanks for stopping by!

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