Fantasy Counterpart Religion

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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:

  1. The work is located in an entirely fictional universe, thus no Earth religion can exist there — for example A Song of Ice and Fire and Star Wars.
  2. 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 and The Lord of the Rings.
  3. 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 such settings modern religions may already be mythology like the ancient Pagan religion, or were replace by/be in competence with new (often sci-fi influenced) religions — for example Dune and Futurama.
  4. The writer wants to do some sort of social commentary without directly insulting anyone — for example Discworld and The Chronicles of Narnia.

This trope is for in-universe mainstream religions. For religions that are considered cults in-universe there's already Cult. Settings After the End where trivial things from our culture are misidentified as sacred fall under All Hail the Great God Mickey!. For specific counterparts of Scientology check Church of Happyology.

A Sub-Trope of Fantasy Counterpart Culture. May be involved in a Fantasy Conflict Counterpart. Compare with Fictional Political Party for the political version. Super Trope to Crystal Dragon Jesus (when the religion is more or less analogous to Christianity), Fantasy Pantheon (for a made-up polytheistic religion), Interfaith Smoothie (when the fictional religion is influenced by several real-world religions).


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ishvalan religion seems to qualify as Crystal Dragon Islam. The Ishvalans have a vaguely Middle Eastern feel, and they are monotheists who worship a deity called Ishvalah, which sounds a lot like Allah (as well as Ishvar, the Sanskrit word for "god", so it could be coincidental). Word of God says that they're essentially what would happen if the indigenous Ainu settled in a Middle Eastern environment.

    Comic Books 
  • Lady Death: Maklu is a religious figure that vaguely resembles a demonic Buddha and he is worshiped across the Labyrinth by both humans and demons. Though not much is known about him and his religion, its presumed he is a benevolent being despite his hellish visage, with some of his ardent followers such as Satasha serving as companions to The Heroine. The look of the demonic Buddha is very similar to that of Real Life Tantric Buddhist and Hindu deities.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Jedi aesthetic and motifs in Star Wars are based on aspects of Buddhism and Taoism:
    • The Jedi believe that one must surrender anger and negative thoughts and note that the Dark Side is driven by those negative attitudes. A true Jedi must not be driven by passion and emotion but rather surrender one's drives and desires. This resembles parts of Buddhism namely its identification of desire as one of the great sources of strife. It however differs in that Buddha's recommendation was moderation and not full and total repression which is what the Jedi actually encourage, and which leads to Anakin Skywalker's conversion to the Dark Side.
    • The structure of the Jedi Order resembles many monastic traditions, from those of Christianity to Buddhist and Taoist orders, including the requirement of celibacy (Jedi can't marry or have children, nor fall in love). The Force, in so far as it is a non-anthropomorphic godless cosmic force, likewise reflects Eastern beliefs (similar concept of the Chinese Chi and Hindu Prana). The ins and outs of "Forceism" can be found in detail here. It is notable that this did not start out this way, as the Jedi and their traditions were a relatively undeveloped backstory element to the plot of the original trilogy, but expanded over time into its present form as successive movies and materials expanded on the nature Jedi, the Sith and the Force.

    Literature 
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings:
    • Many of the Valar — the god/archangel-type figures who rule over the world — are inspired by the gods of Classical Mythology. Yavanna, the creator of plant and animal life and referred to as "Queen of the Earth", is inspired by harvest and earth goddesses such as Gaea and Demeter; Aulë the Smith, the lord of metal and craft, is reminiscent of the smith-god Hephaestus; Ulmo, the fearsome and temperamental ruler of the seas, is inspired by Poseidon; Namó, the grim and unyielding ruler of the afterlife, draws inspiration from Hades, while his realm (a place of dreariness and waiting) is not unlike the Greek underworld. There is also the addition of a form of reincarnation — it is possible for deceased elves to be reincarnated, and indeed a few characters in the books are reborn in this manner. Valar worship is practiced by Elves and Men. Still, in keeping with Tolkien's Catholic beliefs, there is one creator on top of everything who fits the Abrahamic conception of God-Eru Iluvatar. The Maya and Valar are something akin to angels. This includes having fallen ones like Morgoth and Sauron.
    • The Dwarves worship only their creator god Aulë: thus, they are monotheistic (or technically henotheistic, as they do not deny the existence of other gods). This is one of various other links supporting the theory that 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, making it the Christianity to the Galactic Empire's Roman Empire, with some similarities with Greek philosophy and Mystery Cult.
  • 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 (to be specific, he derived it partly from the Jesuit Order), 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.
    • It should however be noticed that the Dune novels also establish that many modern religions survive into the time 25,000 years in the future in which the events of the novels happen, but in most cases they are mixed. For instance, you have faiths like Budhislam, Zensufism (Zen+Sufism), Mahayana Christianity and Third Islam.
  • Fordism in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the cult and worship of Henry Ford. Huxley was trying to do a commentary on extreme capitalism and what would be a too radically hedonistic society. Some commentators have found similarities between Fordism and Ayn Rand's Objectivism.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's fiction abounds with strange gods and creatures, an entirely fictive cosmos whose deities are merely advanced alien and/or interdimensional beings who cannot be understood by human minds.
    • Lovecraft did admit in a letter that he saw what he described as his "Yog-Sothothery" (which fans call the Cthulhu Mythos) as a "parody religion" and aspects, The Call of Cthulhu was based on Roman-era Mystery Cult, as well as Pre-Christian Mesopotamian beings like Dagon and Baal (the formed being adopted for one of his beings). Likewise, the revival of Cthulhu has been seen as a take on the Antichrist.
    • Nyarlathothep is a Satanic Archetype being a more worldly being who incarnates in human form, is usually dressed in black and unlike other elder beings who are indifferent to humanity, delights in inflicting cruelty on humans.
    • Some have seen occult influences, for instance, Yog-Sothoth's description as a being composed in lights and spheres is seen to be a reference to Kabbalah and the Tree-of-Life.
  • George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, enjoys taking aspects of real-life religion and making decomposites of them:
    • The Faith of the Seven is Westeros' version of the organized Christian Church, being that it has institutions organizing a common doctrine, regulating practices of priests, complete with monasteries and nunneries (called Septries) with a Pope being elected by high-ranking Septons. It's doctrine with one god in seven aspects is an elaboration of the Holy Trinity. However, the Faith lacks many other features familiar from the history of the Catholic Church or Christianity overall, namely a Christ figure and a Passion Play on which the religion is built, as well as a veneration of saints. Likewise, in terms of how the Church is directly under control of the Crown, it is significantly weaker than the Church was in the Middle Ages. In this aspect it may be more akin to the relationship between some Orthodox churches and the Church of England with their respective states.
    • 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 and still worshiped in the North in a somewhat syncretic fashion. This religions is clearly based on pre-Christian European paganism and frequently invokes shades of various druidic and pagan faiths of pre-Christian Europe, as well as other animist religions such as worship of trees on which faces are carved and a past that includes human sacrifice.
    • The worship of R'hllor, which comes from outside the Seven Kingdoms, bears a great similarity to Zoroastrianism, with two diametrically opposed but equally powerful deities locked in conflict. Also, as with Zoroastrianism, adherents of R'hllor place a high religious emphasis on fire, believing it to be sacred. It's also greatly inspired by Christianity in its militant missionary zeal, its aggressive monotheism and dismissal of polytheism and demands of conversion from prospective initiates and adherents.
    • 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 because he hanged for nine days of the Yggdrassil. No surprise in that the Ironborns are the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Vikings. It's also inspired by Christianity in that the Drowned God is a dead-and-resurrected God,note  and the religion emphasizes identification and emulation of the Drowned God's ordeal, and the fact that baptism, or dunking beneath the water, is a major part of their religious practice. Other parts of the religion, and the Iron Islands on the whole, is more or less a kind of Lovecraft-inspired cult.
    • The Faceless Men worship Death itself, named the Many-Faced God. Similar to several death-worshiping cults of Asia like The Hashshashin and the Indian Thugs. However those were a part of Islam and Hinduism respectively. The Faceless Men are explicitly syncretic, seeing all gods as simply aspects of theirs, and this is reflected in their temple, which holds the statues of many major deities.
  • 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 and The Tamuli:
    • The Elene church is a Catholic substitute. There is no direct proxy for Jesus himself, though. With no Jesus proxy around, David Eddings is thereby free to parody dogma by making the Elene Church a massively complex and encroaching institution worshiping an aloof and distant sort of god. One of the other, more interventionist gods actually complains about the fact that the Elene God is a crotchety old bugger obsessed with making up rules. Mind you, that's the worst thing she has to say about him, and they seem to have a decent working relationship. The religious hatred among their human followers was the followers' own idea.
    • The Eshandist Heresy, an early offshoot of Eleneism, is located in a region that is reflective of the Arab region, and its leaders are compared in an unsavory way to Islamic prophets.
    • On the neighboring continent, an offshoot of Eleneism is similar to Protestantism in its rejection of the central authority.
    • The Styrics have many common traits with Jews: largely without a homeland, persecuted and frequently slaughtered by Elenes for no very good reason, plus they eschew eating pork. However, their actual theology is polytheistic, and their relationship with their gods is more personal than that of Judaism.
  • The Quintaglio Ascension trilogy features a species of intelligent Tyrannosaurs who worship a planet as "The Face of God", discovered by the Prophet Larsk (whose descendants are the imperial rulers of their people), which they make a ritual pilgrimage to view. In some ways it's more like a fantasy Islam: the prophet, the secular rulers staking their claims to power through relation with him, and pilgrimages. However, it has a clergy which seems more like Catholic Christianity, although they are portrayed as pretty corrupt (they are the only Quintaglios able to lie, for instance). However, they also have the bloodpriests who kill seven out of eight hatchlings to keep the population under control, which has no real counterpart in either religion (although many cultures have practiced infanticide, just usually not ritually). The discovery that the Face of God is merely a planet explicitly parallels Galileo. In addition, there's a religion which exists underground at first which was the dominant one before worshiping the "Five Original Hunters" with a prophesied savior known as "The One". Both religions worship a Goddess that created all things, sacrificed parts of herself to create the Quintaglios, and has Sacred Scrolls as their scripture.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5
    • Foundationism is a new religion among humans. 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.
    • The Narn have different religions but the most presented in detail is G'Kar's who is a follower of the philosophist G'Quan and seems to be similar to Taoism.
    • The Minbari religion is based in Pantheism and have a believe in reincarnation similar to many Eastern religions.
    • The Centauri religion is more of a Pagan polytheistic religion with 50 official gods (and one unofficial based on a noble man who bought his way in the pantheon). Resembles the Classical Roman Pagan religion as the Centauri are essentially Space Romans, and like them it's mentioned they deify many past emperors.
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The Lord of Light, a fire deity whose followers insistently describe him as the "one true God" in opposition to a evil counterpart god, bears a strong resemblance to Zoroastrianism and Gnosticism.
    • The Ironborn's faith of the Drowned God, inspired by Scandinavian mythology, is a monotheist religion based on a god who died (drowned) but came back to life and is eternally at war with the satanic Storm God, similar to the Norse religion worship of Odin's death by hanging in the Ygdrassil, resurrection of the warriors after death and the war against chaos represented by the Ice Giants and other Always Chaotic Evil forces of the Cosmos. This resurrection is the basis for the Ironborn's creed "What is dead may never die," and their practice of baptism in sea water. They also believe that if they serve the Drowned God well (by keeping to the Good Old Ways of Rape, Pillage, and Burn) they will be reborn into his halls beneath the sea after their death.
  • The Orville introduces us with the Krill religion (pictured), which seems to be heavily based on Judeo-Christianity and Islam. Their temples look a lot like chapels and they have a holy book, also the idea that only Krills have souls is very similar to the concept that Abrahamic religions have that only humans have souls (other religions like Buddhism and Hinduism disagree on that), which is actually invoked in-universe referencing a part of the Bible. The fact that Krill are warrior-like and inspired, follow a single god (monotheism) and make chants very much similar to Allah'u'akbar is also not very subtle in the message of Religion Is Wrong, probably a case of Author On Board due to Seth MacFarlane view on religion. The religion shown on the ship in "If the Stars Should Appear" also seems to resemble Christianity, as they have a holy book and one creator god, plus more specifically nastier aspects of certain historical Christian churches (a theocracy and Inquisition-like authorities).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ironclaw:
    • 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.
  • In Rocket Age the main Martian faith seems to resemble Hinduism or Buddhism. It has a reincarnation system built along caste lines with an end goal of ascending to heaven to be amongst the Ancients.
  • Iron Kingdoms:
    • The Church of Morrow is this setting analogue for Christianity.
    • The Thamarite cults are a weird blend of theistic and LaVeyan Satanism, with a vaguely-Objectivist moral philosophy, emphasis on magic, and worship of the Morrowans' Satan equivalent (and Morrow's twin sister).
    • The Menites are more of an Interfaith Smoothie; they worship the creator of humanity, Menoth, exclusively, and are the religion that Morrowans grew out of, making their religion an obvious counterpart to Judaism (complete with being a persecuted minority in strongly-Morrowan Cygnar). They also have elements of the more sinister side of Catholicism (their Scrutator priest-judges are heavily inspired by the Inquisition, and they really like burning heretics), and in the Protectorate, they have elements of Islam (they even recently converted the Idrians, the setting's resident Arab equivalents) and possibly Mormonism (forming a new nation in the desert after the rise of a new prophet and violent conflict with America-equivalent Cygnar).

    Video Games 
  • There are two major religious and spiritual beliefs in the Dishonored Series:
    • There is the Abbey of the Overseers which is a take on Christianity in its organized religion, based more on the Anglican Church than the Catholic Church, i.e. it is patronized and supported by the Crown and has simultaneous repressive and progressive aspects, i.e. a history of attacking dissenters, heretics, and persecuting magic users and witches (the latter of which was something Protestant Christianity did far more than the Catholics) while also patronizing and supporting science and using mathematics based devices in their activities similar to the Anglican Church which did support the Royal Society in the 1700s.
    • Worship of the Outsider involves creating makeshift shrines made up of wood and other household parts and fashioning them in private and secret while collecting strange runes and charms in the hope for luck and fortune. This resembles Haitian Voudou religion in the creation of shrines and syncretic ritualism, as well as in the manner in which Outsider worshipers generally hide their faith in the privacy of their homes since it is an Illegal Religion by the state. Outsider worship is also associated with witchcraft and the occult similar to the Hollywood version of Voudou.
  • In Dragon Age, the Andrastrian Chantry is a fantasy version of the Catholic Church, except with a Gender Flip on the power dynamics with women at the center with Andraste, the martyr who founded it, its priestesses being required to be celibate, and a female leader known as The Divine. It also underwent and internal fracturing, with Tevinter having its own version of the Chantry with a male leader, rather like the split between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
  • 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).
  • The main religion of the Britain of Guenevere is a kind of monotheistic goddess worship presided over by priestesses. It seems to be a mix of real world paganism with a monotheistic Christian aspect.
  • In the Pokémon world, some religions seem to worship Pokemon, typically powerful Legendaries. The anime has a few Buddhist parallels early on, but the game religions don't really seem to be based off anything. However, there is a church type building in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, where the people talk in a rather preachy manner too.

    Web Comics 
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The multiverse is clearly very heavily inspired by Hinduism, with a multitude of gods that are technically the same being, themes of balance and mirrored forces, and so on. At the same time, it is not actually attempting to be Hinduism. It does have a few Christian elements, with angels as upholders of the Law and devils as powerful tricksters that exist outside it.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: The First Amalgamated Church, the combination of all the mainstream world religions into one ála New Age. It also features Robotology, a religion specifically for robots which is the main focus of the episode "Hell Is Other Robots" and which is mostly a pastiche of Christianity with robot and machine terms sprinkled everywhere. Although they are never seen in full detail, Professor Farnsworth also mentions "Voodoo" and Oprahism as mainstream religions in the future.
  • Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender is an interesting case. The concept of an "Avatar" is one taken from Hinduism and Buddhism, meaning a god who has taken mortal form. However, there are many separate philosophies across the world which seem to hold elements from other Asian, Pagan and Native American belief systems. Specifically, the mythology of Aang as the Avatar is lifted directly from The Dalai Lama, down to reincarnation and being chosen at a young age by ancient toys and heirlooms from the previous Avatar's possessions. The creators even named him "Buddha Boy" as a working name before they came up with "Aang".
  • In The Legend of Korra, the Avatarverse's cosmology is basically made into a blend of Shinto, Taoism and Zoroastrianism: as with the previous series, nature spirits are abundant, but the two most powerful ones are embodiments of light and darkness that are constantly fighting for control of the world. And the Avatar is the light spirit's fusion with a human soul.

Alternative Title(s): Fictional Religion

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