Ambiguous Religions

This is the "vaguely religious" part of White Male Lead, but it can occur with non-white, non-male, and non-leads.

Using vague references to religion resolves a conflict writers face while developing characters in their stories. The conflict is between two rules, "Make your characters relatable" and "don't alienate your audience".

Characters who expressly follow a specific religion — with Show, Don't Tell actions included — can alienate audience members who don't share the same beliefs. Sometimes they can even alienate those who do, but aren't exactly as religious as the fictional character. Even a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant can alienate American viewers who are of a different denomination, or simply not Christian. Outside of America, non-White Anglo-Saxon Protestant audiences are the norm, making the character a minority figure.

Choosing a minority religion is an even worse offense, according to the common wisdom. So it is better play it safe, and not make any mention of specific faith.

But characters must still be relatable, which means they have to do the things you do. The audience has beliefs, whether they be a belief in one God, or many gods. Those beliefs shape behaviour. Fictional characters have to follow the behaviour that Real Life religious people have, because the Theists outnumber the Non-Theists.
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     Ambiguously Islam 
Literature
  • In The Privateer by S.M. Stirling and James Doohan, General Scaragoglu makes an offhand reference to "God and His Prophet", with the implication that he's a Muslim. This is the only hint we get to the religion of anyone besides the Mollies.

Film — Animation
  • The characters in Aladdin manage to be Ambiguously Muslim. The Sultan does shout "Praise Allah!" at one point - but it should be noted that "Allah" had previously been one of the Arabs' pagan gods, and is also used by Arab Christians and Jews to refer to God. The marriage ceremony in the sequel also appears to be Christian in nature, which would be strange given the supposed time period. Also, the Cave of Wonders is guarded by a supernatural being that the script refers to as a "tiger-god". And the magic-carpet ride around the world during the "A Whole New World" sequence implies that the action is taking place anywhere from a few centuries to over a millennium before the birth of Christ, never mind the rise of Islam. Ultimately, most of the ambiguity can be chalked up to a giant case of Anachronism Stew.

     Ambiguously Zoroastrian 
Video Game
  • In Eternal Darkness, Karim is transported to the "Forbidden City" from Persia, 565 A.D. When he interacts with one of the shrines, the text box description calls it "blasphemous", which suggests he considers the shrine an insult to his religion, which is most likely a form of Zoroastrianism.

     Deliberately Ambiguous 

Anime & Manga
  • Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in a universe where Christanity doesn't exist, or more specifically, in a universe where it became a dead religion centuries ago. It's unknown what most characters worship (besides Ishvalans worshipping their God) or who is an atheist. Roy is explicitly an atheist, while Edward is an agnostic who has no interest in worshipping God. Ed's brother Alphonse seems to have heavier religious beliefs than him but even with him it's ambiguous if he might be agnostic or not.

Comic Books
  • Superman Clark Kent's faith is written ambiguously much of the time, though most modern writers lean on him being some-sort-of Christian (and adaptations such as Man of Steel portray him as such). He is either Ambiguously Christian or Ambiguously Jewish. He comes from a stereotypical traditional rural upbringing in Kansas, which means he's likely to be Christian, and he's often portrayed as a Christ metaphor. On the other hand his original origin has elements of Moses' story and his Kryptonian name "Kal-el" uses an "-el" ending, which is common in Jewish names.

Newspaper Comics
  • Get Fuzzy: Any indication of Rob's religion seem to be left up to the imagination. He seems to be familiar enough with The Bible, as he is able to quote Scripture (particularly to try and set examples of how Bucky should behave), though on one specific occasion, where he's asked if he minds stating his religion, he responds, "Yeah, I kinda do mind". At the same time, Rob also expresses having doubt that there is an Afterlife, and even finds the idea of it to be weird and far-fetched, though admits that if there is one, he hopes to be there.

Western Animation
  • As Told by Ginger:
    • Lois has a Jewish father but she doesn't seem religious herself. The Christmas Episode shows that the Foutley's celebrate Christmas, though whether it's secular Christmas or Christian Christmas is unknown. Ginger learned about her Jewish heritage and became interested in it but it's never stated if she converted or not.
    • Lois believes Carl is an atheist however lines imply he believes in a god. It's unknown if he is agonistic, atheistic, Jewish, Christian, or whatever other religion.

Alternative Title(s): Ambiguously Religious

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AmbiguousReligions