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Villians and Religion
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Villians and Religion:

Okay, so I'm aware that making the villian of a story an atheist just because 'obviously, atheists have no sense of morals' isn't okay. But exactly how do you write a villian that believes in some sort of afterlife where they are punished for their bad deeds? Obviously there's a couple ways you could do this
  • They are insane
  • They believe what they are doing is completely justified and right and perhaps may in fact get them to paradise
  • They belong to a Religion of Evil
  • They are bad at long term planning

But what if I'm writing a character who doesn't fit into any of those catergories? Obviously, there may be the chance they are Agnostic or are of a religion that doesn't believe in an afterlife (although that brings another helping of Unfortunate Implications)

TL;DR: What are reasons a religious character (I don't mean pious, just at least minimally theistic) would turn to the path of evil, even when it doesn't make sense for their religion?

It would help if you told us about the nature of the gods in your universe, what genre this is, and a few facts about your villain.

 3 JHM, Sun, 13th Jan '13 12:53:09 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
They could be aware of the consequences of their actions and tormented by the conflict. Perhaps they are genuinely penitent, yet think themselves too far into what they are doing to turn back. They might have reconciled what they do with what they believe in a way that works for them, even if other people do not entirely understand it. Maybe they simply do not fear the consequences, or see them as fitting in some way. Consider that, like the rest of the population, most criminals are religious to some degree, some very devoutly so.

People are complicated. Recognising, accepting and utilising this fact are all essential to good story telling.
...can still bite
Maybe they want to take over Hell.

Maybe they decided they're going to Hell anyway?
I'd say I'm being refined

Into the web I descend

Killing those I've left behind

I have been Endarkened
Terracotta Soldier Man
Another possibility: They know that what they're doing now is wrong, but that the goal they're striving for is right enough to balance that out in the divine scales. The ends justify the means, in other words.

Or it won't balance the scales in the eyes of the god(s) or whoever sorts souls into whatever afterlives, but the character considers their own fate unimportant compared to the amount of good it will cause. They might consider their own selflessness a virtue even higher than the gods even if the gods disagree, or have a martyrdom complex, or think that being punished is good and right because that will balance out the evil they must do in order to accomplish a good thing.

It really depends on what the villain is actually doing, though.
You will not go to space today.
A majority of my villians are doing some seriously messed up shit (murder, explotation of the poor, etc.) but have their own (varying) justifications for it.
  • Ex:
  • I just need to do this until I have a stable lifestyle and can defend myself
  • For Science!!
etc. But there are a small amount of them who are probably described as manipulative Jerk Ass es who are on the side of the Evil Empire mostly because they believe they are on the winning side.
  • But then there's the whole thing, 'sure you're alive now, but you'll die eventually' A few of them are self absorbed to almost get to the point of A God Am I, but yeah. Any thoughts?

Ah, so they won't be able to claim they're doing the right thing in any way?

Well, there are some who might be able to twist the texts of the religion into somehow claiming that their particular evils don't count or don't matter ("Yeah, it says not to steal, but they're choosing to give me all this stuff after I threaten them", "Murder technically only means [oh so many choices] and what we're doing doesn't fall under that, it's not like divine law bans all killing", etc), but it really is incredibly human to not consider and internalise far-off consequences. Look at how widespread procrastination is, for example; a procrastinating student isn't unaware that they shouldn't procrastinate, but they do it anyway because oh hey I haven't read this TV Tropes page yet. And look at how humans as a whole are kinda meh on the whole environmentalism thing—not even like looking at all the facts and actually thinking we'll all be okay, but most people just don't think about it. Most people who believe in some divine afterlife reward aren't dropping everything in order to be the most charitable ever and get their rewards in heaven. These are more things of apathy, which is a lot easier than going out and murdering someone yourself, but it's realistic to just not think about what's going to happen to you later, if it's not constantly being shoved in your face now.

That's rather similar to being bad at long-term planning, I guess, but not especially so, since their afterlives might just be a specific area they don't think about a lot since it's not intrusive. People will also go through a lot of mental gymnastics to justify doing the things they're doing since it's really hard to change: it'll be okay, this fate people are warning about isn't real, oh it's real? well it's not our fault. oh, it is our fault? eh, whatever, I'm sure the next generation will figure out how to deal with it—it'll be too late by then? oh, well, what a shame, we're doomed anyway so whatever, may as well keep acting the same way, it's too late to save ourselves...
You will not go to space today.
Here's a classic one: use evil to obtain immortality, and therefore never die and never have to face the consequences of your actions in the afterlife. Problem, God? Of course, it requires that immortality is on the cards, and it never works.

Alternatively they might not belong to a religion of evil outright, but have some justifying headcanon about specifics. There's disagreement amongst Christians for instance about whether punishment after death is truly eternal or truly punishment, some call it 'eternal life without god' which could potentially be a reward for a non-Christian, while others believe it's simply a choice between eternal life with god and obliteration, which again might make the sinner's option more appealing to some. There's even a plausible case to be made that the bible doesn't actually advocate the existence of an afterlife at all.

Also on the subject, in general Satanism basically follows Christianity in its mythology, just with the caveat that the bible was a case of unreliable narration. Not that most forms of Satanism advocate evil as such, but they do advocate a wider range of moral behaviour than conventional Christianity using support from the bible, and cast Satan, and therefore presumably also Hell, in at least a neutral light.

edited 14th Jan '13 6:23:37 AM by Kesteven

...can still bite
Actually there is one really simple explanation: they simply don't care, or they think that what they want to accomplish is worth it. Sort of like Lelouch in Code Geass.

 12 Tiamatty, Thu, 17th Jan '13 6:36:59 PM Relationship Status: Brony
Bieber My Balls
Another reason: Sometimes, people are just really frigging stupid. They can believe in an afterlife, have every desire to go to Heaven, and still engage in awful acts. Often, they'll justify it in their own heads as being different from similar acts committed by other people. "That thief is just a greedy good-for-nothing, but I'm not like that, because I only stole so I'd have money for food and shelter and maybe a TV. I had no choice, so it's OK. I'm not a bad person."

And that last part's kinda key: People never really see themselves as bad. Our minds are set up so that we always see ourselves as being the good guys, and we'll justify to ourselves anything we do.

It's self-delusion, and it's something we all do. Not to go all Godwin, but even the Nazis thought they were good people. "I was just following orders." I'm sure there were some devout, god-fearing people working in those prison camps, who nonetheless did horrific acts, and didn't feel too guilty, because they were "following orders." They didn't send people to the gas chambers, their superiors did.

That's really all the reason you need for the vast majority. It's not quite a lack of long-term planning, it's simply a matter of people, as I said, being really frigging stupid.
 13 Wolf 1066, Thu, 17th Jan '13 8:09:30 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
[up]Everyone's the hero in their own story.
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Total posts: 13
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