Religion & Spirituality

I could go on about religion and spirituality for ages. Really, I could. I find it one of the most fascinating parts of human society, and it’s ridiculously interesting to me to study how and why religions formed. So when I’m doing it for my own story, it’s even more fun. You have a lot of degrees of freedom when you create religions (or spiritualities) for your storyworld, and religion can often be a major factor in your plot (or a subplot).

First of all, I should probably clarify what religion and spirituality are. They are different things, although they can be combined.

Spirituality is as follows: a private, personal path to either enlightenment, ultimate reality, or inner peace. It can involve things like prayer, private contemplation, incorporation of various aspects of religion, and meditation. The goal is to have a more rich and fulfilling inner life.

Religion is as follows: A set of beliefs, practices, and routines practiced by either a solitary person or a group of people to relate humanity to spirituality. Religion is not necessarily private, but spirituality is. Religion also tends to be more organized in a lot of cases, and often preaches about moral values. Religions can have sacred ceremonies or texts.

Hopefully, those are loose definitions that clarify the difference a little bit. You can have both spirituality and religion in your life (or story)! For instance, if you follow Christian practices, the practices and the traditions of Christianity could be your religion, and the inner fulfillment you get from performing those practices is your spirituality. I’ll explain how you can weave either religion, spirituality, or both into your story.

If you’re writing something where there is a lot of introspection but you don’t necessarily want to write about religion, spirituality can still work for that. Spirituality doesn’t necessarily have to do with a higher power, either. It can be your character slowly discovering who they are, or what they think is right. Focusing on that can help a lot when it comes to making dynamic characters. You could also have it happen in reverse - a character loses their sense of self, their faith in humanity (or society), or their moral compass.

Religion, on the other hand, has more far-reaching aspects than just affecting one character (although a character affected by a change in spirituality can certainly affect other characters). Here are some things to consider when involving religion in your storyworld:

Religion is complicated and very interesting. Hopefully those bullet points will give you a starting point, when you’re brainstorming your world’s religion. Good luck!