Fantasy Counterpart Religion
You want to have religions in your setting without insulting anyone
Some writers created fictional religions for their settings. Religious subjects in fiction are a sensitive issue. Targeting certain religious groups may cause Unfortunate Implications or have the work Banned in China, or induce an Audience-Alienating Premise. Some of the most common usages of this trope are:
- The work is located in an entirely fictional universe, thus no Earth religion can exists there —for example A Song of Ice and Fire, Star Wars.
- The setting is ancient times, like a Medieval Prehistory and Istanbul Not Constantinople, thus all religions that existed there are already forgotten —for example Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings.
- In sci-fi settings, especially those in the far future and/or interstellar civilizations, it is expected that religions change or that the religions of one epoch disappear and are replace by other as already happen during our history, thus in this settings modern religions may already be mythology like the ancient Pagan religion, or replace by new (often sci-fi influenced) religions or if the traditional religions still exist they have competence from the new ones
- The writer wants to do some sort of social commentary without directing insulting anyone —for example Discworld, The Chronicles of Narnia.
Examples:Anime & Manga
- In Berserk: The Holy See, a very evil fictional version of the Catholic Church.
- The Jedi religion in Star Wars is based mostly in oriental philosophies most notable Buddhism and Taoism. The structure of the Jedi Order is also very reminiscent of real life Buddhist and Taoist orders, including the requirement of celibacy (Jedi can't marry or have children, nor fall in love).
- J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings:
- The myth of the Ainur and Valar is very similar to that of Norse Mythology (even the names sounds similar to Aesir and Vanir) with a polytheistic pantheon of gods for different aspects of nature (earth, sea, animals, etc.), the final resting place the Hall of Mandos is similar to the Norse Walhalla. This religion is followed by Elves and Men.
- Elves also seem to believe in some sort of reincarnation, though.
- The Dwarves worship only their creator god Aule, thus are monotheistic (or henotheistic as they do not deny the existence of other gods), no wonder according to Tolkien the Dwarves were based on the Jews.
- Isaac Asimov's Aurelionism is a new religious movement inside the Galactic Empire that is sometimes persecuted or tolerated by the Emperors up until an Emperor converts to it. So, is clearly Christianity in the Roman Empire.
- Frank Herbert's Dune:
- The Bene Gesserit are a mysterious order of powerful women who develop strong mental abilities for years of discipline and practice. Their leaders are called Reverend Mothers and seems to be extremely influential in the Empire. As such it has certain similarities with the Catholic Church, but also has similarities with some female Pagan orders like the Vestals, and of course, they are called witches by their detractors.
- The Fremen of Dune worship of the Muad'Dib has many similarities with Islam in its first centuries, as it a messianic figure for a desert dwelling tribal people.
- Of course should be notice that the Dune novels also establish that many modern religions survive 25000 years in the future in which the events of the novels happen, but in most cases they are mixed; like Budhislam, Zensufism (Zen+Sufism), Mahayana Christianity and Third Islam.
- Fordism in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: Is the cult and worship of Henry Ford. Huxley was trying to do a commentary on extreme capitalism and what would be a too radically libertarian-hedonist society. Some commentors have found similarities between Fordism and Ayn Rand's Objectivism.
- George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire:
- The Faith of the Seven is the mainstream religion in Westeros. It postulates that there's only one God who presents itself in Seven forms. Because this concept is similar to the Trinity and the hierarchy of the Faith resembles the Catholic and Anglican churches (having a head of the Church in the High Septon) is generally agreed that this is this world's counterpart of Christianity.
- The Old Gods, praised by the Children of the Forest and the First Men before the Andals brought the Faith of the Seven from Essos. Still practiced in the North in a somewhat syncretic fashion. This religions is clearly based in pre-Christian European Paganism.
- The religion of R'hllor, the Lord of Light, is based on Zoroastrianism: A religion native of the East, based on the dualistic conception of a Good God of Light and an Evil God of Darkness fighting each other and has fire as symbol of the sacred.
- Mother Rhoyne, still worshiped by the remaining Rhoynar: a Mother Goddess of Nurture and Nature, clearly based on the matriarchal Prehistoric Mother Goddess cults.
- The Drowned God, worshiped in the Iron Islands, seems similar to Norse god Odin who is also known as the Hanged God. No surprise in that the Ironborns are the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Vikings.
- The Faceless Men worship Death itself, named the Many-Faced God. Similar to several death worshiping cults of Asia like the Assassins and the Indian Thugs.
- Barsoom: Burroughs gave the Red Martians their own religion based around the goddess Issus. The second book in the series, The Gods of Mars, prominently features this religion and the eventual discovery that it's all a fraud. Issus is just an old Black Martian, not a goddess. The book The Master Mind of Mars introduces another Martian religion centered around the god Tur. Unlike the Issus-based religion, which is global, this one appears to be limited to just the city of Phundahl. And like Issus, it's all a big scam. The statue of Tur in the temple is just an animatronic operated from within.
- The Esperathian Church of Anticipation in Reflections of Eterna is based heavily on Catholicism, down to its own self-governed Holy City and The Pope. Their dogma is based on anticipating the second coming of The Maker and the subsequent final judgement. There is also the Ollarian splinter church, which is based on Anglicanism and is headed by the king of Talig (instead of the Pope), who also appoints its bishops.
- The Elenium the Elenes worshipping a monotheistic god simliar to Christianity, with a hierarchy for priests resembling Catholic hierarchy.
- Babylon 5 has Foundationism. Details of the religion are never given but what is known is that they consider that God is in all religions and that they take the best from each one. A particular ritual, taken from the Australian aboriginals, it's described as: The person, having discovered they have lost themselves, would leave everything and start walking and keep on walking until they (metaphorically) meet themselves. The person would then sit down and have a long talk with their "self", about everything they have learned and felt until they run out of words.
- Star Trek:
- The Klingon religion: A warrior-based religion where honor and courage are quintessential and warriors are rewarded with an afterlife of glory fighting alongside their god Kahless in the halls of Sto-Vo-Kor. Obviously based on the [Hollywood version of] Norse religion, just change Kahless for Odin and Sto-Vo-Kor for Walhalla.
- The Bajoran religion: Spiritual worship of the Prophets who are not gods, but (at least for the Bajoran) enlightened beings, with a well-organized religious hierarchy and a common leader. Probably a counterpart of Buddhism with some Catholicism in the mix.
- The Church of S'allumer is patterned after the medieval Catholic church, with some of the heterodoxies (and heresies) being directly named after real ones.
- Lutarism is based on a mix of Germanic and Celtic mythology combined with a bit of animism.
- The Phelan have druids.
- "Book of Horn and Ivory" introduces Malachism, an obvious parallel to Islam, and opposed to all forms of magic.
- Dragon Quest IX: The main religion in the game has some resemblance to Christianity, but has some other religions as well: Zenus (the Almighty) saw that humanity was turning to evil, and decided to destroy them. His daughter managed to persuade him otherwise by turning herself into a World Tree: she would only return to her true form if humans did enough good deeds (releasing benevolessence, gathered by the angelic Celestrians and returned to the tree). However, Zenus ends up split into various aspects (which become the higher end grotto monsters).
- Futurama: Has the First Amalgamated Church, the combination of all the mainstream world religions into one. It also features Robotology, a religion specifically for robots which is the main focus of the episode "Hell Is Other Robots". And although they are never seen in full detail, Professor Farnsworth mentions "Voodoo" and Oprahism as mainstream religions.
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