Religion in fiction

It may be my destiny to offend people.  I don’t want to, but I can’t help myself.  Every one of my as yet unpublished novels deals with religion in some way. When I build a new world, it just seems reasonable to put some kind of religious belief system in place for my characters.  There’s no culture on earth that hasn’t been influenced by at least one religion.  Why should fiction be any different?

My first two novels, Dangerous Talents and Forbidden Talents, are about the descendents of a lost Vinland colony and their adventures in Alfheim.  So far, so good.  Not many people will be troubled if I take a few liberties with the old Norse religion.  (Cultural drift changes beliefs over time, you know.)  But remember, the Vinlanders had been exposed to Christianity.  They don’t follow that religion, but they do have an opinion about it.  Not satisfied to stop there, I also populated Alfheim with the descendents of the Anasazi Indians.  (The Anasazi disappeared as a distint culture from Arizona about 800 years ago — I say they went to Alfheim.)  Their (the descendants) beliefs are derived from those of the Hopi Indians — the Anasazi’s actual descendents — but I couldn’t leave them untouched either.

My third book, Veiled Mirror, only deals with ghosts — but how can you talk about ghosts without asking questions about the afterlife?

In my lastest book, Lightbringer, I go all the way.  I have a fallen angel trying to protect a psychic from a demonic assassin.  How could I let the characters ignore the obvious questions?

Religion isn’t necessary for a book to be compelling.  If I’m swept up in the story, I may not notice its lack until later — as I did with Souless by Gail Carriger.  Souless is a lot of fun — I highly recommend it.  It’s what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should have been.  The heroine, Alexia, is souless.  She is a proximity antidote to both vampires and werewolves.  When she touches them they instantly become mortal.  The plot hinges on this fact.  Yet I realized as I began writing this blog that the author had barely touched on the existential questions that should arise from the premise.

I don’t know if readers will be offended by anything I’ve written.  I hope not.  But there is a vocal minority who aren’t very tolerant of differences of opinion.  I guess that’s just another reason why authors need to grow a thick skin.

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