As authors, our influences can come from many places. Religion is definitely one of many influences on people's work. I believe a work should be a reflection of its author, yet religion can be really polarizing. How can I bring aspects of my personal belief system (Christianity, if it matters) into my writing without marginalizing my audience, who may not feel like I do?

For instance, some of the fiction I've read feels like thinly veiled propaganda (Pullman's His Dark Materials), while some has a lot of hidden meaning without being obstructive to the point (Card's Ender Saga). How can I express my viewpoint in my fantasy world without seeming propaganda-ish? To clarify, I'm not interested in writing an allegory; that would be marginalizing. While they have their uses, and can be wonderful on their own right (Lewis' Narnia), that's not what I'm doing.

If there is a particular example of writing that illustrates your point, I'd like to know what it is, and have a small summary of it. :)

closed as not a real question by John Smithers, Monica Cellio, Standback Mar 13 '12 at 18:23

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  • Can you be more specific? As it stands, this question is really looking to start a discussion, and would be difficult to answer without speculating about what you're writing. – Neil Fein Mar 13 '12 at 5:15
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    Related: Sympathetic portrayal of devout characters. Does that cover your question? – Standback Mar 13 '12 at 5:19
  • I don't think it needs to be more specific. I'm asking how one can incorporate religion into their writing without being hamfisted about it. I'm not interested in discussion. I'm interested in answers from people who have thought about it before, and have examples to back themselves up. Style != discussion. – Gabe Willard Mar 13 '12 at 5:20
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    Sorry, Gabe, if you don't think this needs to be more specific, I strongly disagree . Do you want to invent a religion in your book and do not want that it looks awkward? Many fantasy authors make up religions for their books (Eddings would be one to name). Do you want to write about existing religions and their interactions in your novel (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, ...)? Do you want to write a novel about Scientology and do not want to chase people away from this sect topic? Your question is broad and unspecific. – John Smithers Mar 13 '12 at 9:44
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    Some clarifications, please. (A) Is your question is about including your own religious views in your work? You say "my belief system," but I'm not sure if you mean "the things I believe in" or "things I made up which my characters believe in." (B) If your own beliefs- in what way/sense do you want to include them? Do you want representatives of your faith? A cosmology based on a literal interpretation of your faith? A thematic connection? Something else? (C) I'm not sure if you're discussing fiction or nonfiction - comments imply both, but those are extremely different issues. – Standback Mar 13 '12 at 10:04

Present your views as the views of a character, who is also "human" ( i.e. normal, fallible ). Present other views alongside, from other characters. Don't push your views as the narrator or other super-being within the context.

Also, show the doubts the questions, why your character has come to believe what they do. Not in depth, but at least demonstrate that they have thought through their views.

If you need a character with strong, extremely polarising views, make sure they are seriously challenged.

The reasoning is that if you present an argument for a religious view, and explore how it impacts a person, that is a better way of reflecting the holistic nature of their belief than simply explounding dogma.

If you are writing SF or fantasy, then you may have to modify some of these ideas, but the principles apply just as much.


My suggestion is that you introduce characters with views that oppose your own, and don't try disproving their views.

By doing this, you'll make your readers more accepting toward your own views for two reasons:

  • By being willing to accept other views within your work, you remind the readers that each is entitled to his own opinion - and that includes you!
  • Readers who disagree with your viewpoint will still have "representation" within your work, and won't feel that by having your own view you are disqualifying their views.

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