Crafting a Homemade Religion

It’s nighttime. The bats are fluttering, the animals are awake, and all the humans are in bed. At least, MOSTLY all. There’s a small sect of people, meeting in the barn to concoct a ritual sacrifice of, say, somebody’s runaway dog. This ritual is being made to please the ancient god Hio’Kranz, who is responsible for horrific, bloody wars. He takes great joy in inciting civil wars among proud nations. If the ritual goes successfully, then Hio’Kranz will curse Poland with ten years of bloody war with Russia. Creepy, right?

Sometimes, in a story, you may find a need to introduce a little religion. One of your own invention. Religion is deeply grounded in lore, so they can be fun to make. You can inspire great feelings of sympathy or disgust, depending on what you have chosen to make.

One note: I am speaking specifically of fictional religions. Within the course of a story, there may or may not be a Hio’Kranz demon-god who exists, and that’s for you decide, but NEVER treat the religions in your story as if they are real. Just a note of caution. Keep your created religions at arm’s length.

That being said, this is one of the areas in storytelling that involves fine-tuning. The theology of your fictional world can be HYPER-irrelevant, so it may or may not be one that plays a main role in your storytelling. It does, however, make a great way to build a world. It gives it MUCH more character to your world, like lore.

First: there has to be one omnipotent, all-powerful entity, personal or non-personal. This takes the form of the Force in Star Wars, this is Issus from John Carter, and this is Amon from StarCraft. There has to be a loyal following to this entity who believe in the entity’s existence and affirm its all-powerful traits.

Please note: within the story, this made-up religion can either be true or untrue. The followers of the cult of *Insert name here* can either be talking to a genuine god, but if you wish, they could be talking to a humbug, or nothing at all. Not all made-up religions need to really be true. They could be a hoax. However, the one thing that is important is that you reveal to the reader whether the religion is legit or a hoax. Don’t leave that up to your reader. Make sure, in the end, you make it real or unreal.

Secondly, you need to decide whether this religion is good or bad. As in “good or bad”, I mean whether this particular religion is dedicated to something evil, or whether they spend all their time pursuing a code of honor for the betterment of mankind. Question the motive. Are they dedicated to anarchy? Justice? Honor? Gain? Death? The preservation of life? Freedom? The motive you give your religion tattles on its purpose. If your motive is morally good, then the followers of this religion will strive to be good. If the motive is evil, then the followers will be wicked.

Then, concoct what these followers do to honor their god. Ritual sacrifice? Helping old ladies across the street? Burning down buildings? Executing convicts? This may tie in with part of the lore around the god that these people serve, i.e., this god was a reincarnated slave who was constantly bullied by his masters. So, the followers of this god honor him by correcting whatever injustice they come across, especially slavery. Make a theme and stick to it.

Creation Challenge: Use these three archetypes. Take them and create a make-believe religion, its followers, who they serve, their code of honor/principles, and how they honor whom they serve in the comments section below. You may even want to add something fun like social standing: are the members of this religion held higher in social standing than those who aren’t?

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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