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Religion In Fiction

March 21, 2012

A discussion on Goodreads really rubbed at me. It was a talk about religion in M/M fiction, though what I have to say really applies to religion in all fiction.

Religion exists. I’m not big on organized religion (as I identify as eclectic pagan), and those in my life don’t lean toward the religious. K. is about as religious as those in my life get, which is not all that much. She has her faith, identifies as Christian, but that’s about as far as it goes. We don’t discuss religion too much, as I have a very negative view of Christianity as a whole, but I respect her religion and she respects my lack of religion. I’m more spiritual than religious.

That doesn’t mean I pretend religion doesn’t exist or that it has no place in fiction – especially in gay fiction of any kind. Religion has its place. Characters should have wide, diverse lives and opinions. Religion, sexuality, friends, jobs, everything. Having readers demand tolerance of sexuality and race but be so very… negative and intolerant of religion makes me sad. To ask for tolerance while being intolerant isn’t a pretty.

Personally, regardless of reception, I like writing in the Christian mythology. The Keeper‘s biggest complaint is that it has a religious backdrop. Well, it sort of had to given who the main character was. I know Morningstar has been given some negativity because it’s religious backdrop (again, main character is from Christian mythology… how else could it have been told?). I also have a couple other pieces that are steeped in Christian mythology as well as others coming in the future.

I don’t like making my ‘villains’ fanatically religious. It bothers me to depict Christianity as a terrible thing. While I know there are bad aspects of it, I don’t like to include those in my fiction beyond a mention or two (like the priest Hadi sees in The Keeper). I prefer my villains to have more than religion driving them and their hate.

Religion should be a part of fiction, especially character driven fiction like romances. Anything a writer can add to their character gives them depth, believability. I love multi-faceted characters. In fact, most of my negative reviews for books are because characters wind up being too flat for me to identify with and root for. Giving them friends, family, religion, political view, schooling… it all adds up to character development and depth, and to simply say, ‘No religion in M/M!’ is about as bad as ‘No women in M/M!’ to me.

I might be in the minority. 🙂 I might be one of the few people to take offense to something that was probably meant to be a casual conversation. But, in the end, the tone of the conversation was very negative in many ways, and such intolerance in a community that preaches tolerance was bothersome. I just needed to get that out there, out of me.

Religion isn’t bad, and it shouldn’t be treated like the red-haired stepchild. 😉

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Carole-Ann permalink
    March 21, 2012 2:58 pm

    I agree. Religion isn’t bad. Nor is aetheism or agnosticism. But whatever religion we do adhere to, then tolerance and acceptance of others SHOULD be implicit.

    In ANY fiction, religion should be a minor factor (unless dealing with a specific aspect, like a priest as a MC, etc.)

    I do not want to be told what to believe; I do not want to be indoctrinated with spurious tenets; I do not want to be told my beliefs are fake; – and anyway, none of this should really occur in ‘Fiction’. 🙂

    But what happens in fiction is precisely what you have described – character building – and no-one should decry that! So please keep on writing your ‘christian mythology’ and I’ll keep on reading it!!

    Hugs
    Carole-Ann

  2. valarltd permalink
    March 22, 2012 12:36 am

    So many in the QUILTBAG have been horribly abused by the church and by religious people. Fred Phelps is not actually considered wrong, he’s simply too loud for the sensibilities of most Christians.

    But I think religion and faith, like women, are a part of life. And if we want our characters to live, they need to have a full life. In “Songs for Guitar and French Harp,” Arthur has a background in Bible stories and believes in God, as most young men of his time would. Power in the Blood messes with almost every religion, because how else do you have evangelical vampires? In the post apoc piece I’m doing, we get a glimpse of a gay biker gang member, who is also a preacher. And when one character is being named in the gang, the story of Cain and Abel is retold.

    I’ll keep having female characters and I’ll keep writing religion. I’ve done the “Let’s watch Angel deal with her religious issues in fiction” novel. My mother is still unhappy with me about that one.

  3. March 25, 2012 12:09 pm

    Carole-Ann — Religion–in and of itself–isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s how the people use it that usually winds up screwing it all to hell. 🙂

    The blanket demand of removal of religion from M/M fiction (or even fiction in general) because you (general you, here), the reader, don’t personally subscribe to that–or any–religious doctrine is just intolerant and narrowminded. It reminded me of the time a reader demanded there be no more romantic monsters! OMG, the erasure of ANYTHING isn’t good, and telling authors what to write because it just isn’t your thing is entitlement at it’s worst.

    I try to never preach in the books I have that use religion. I was accused of twisting Christianity to my own beliefs and preaching in The Keeper, but that couldn’t be father from the truth. 🙂 I just tell a story. If someone thinks I’m preaching, I tend to be more inclined to believe it’s them more than me that’s putting that emphasis on the work, you know?

    I have plenty waiting in the wings dealing with Christian mythology! Cain, Lilith, angels, so much! I just love it. The mythical beings and people of the Bible just fascinate me when I start to think of them as real people. What must it have been like for Cain? For Lucifer? If Michael had been in love with Lucifer–and Michael was the one to cast Lucifer from Heaven–how would that have broken both their hearts? OMG, I could go on and on. XD

  4. March 25, 2012 12:18 pm

    Angelia — I don’t doubt that those in the QUILTBAG are routinely fucked over by religion. Me, and those I love, who weren’t ‘normal’ were victims of such bigotry and religious zealousness. I mean, I remember for the first Pagan Pride Day in Birmingham, AL I took part in, because the Planned Parenthood was closed the day we held the event (and they were located across the street from the park we were holding it in), Operation Rescue decided to bring their abortion posters over our way and spent the next six hours preaching at us about our evil ways.

    Religion isn’t the problem, though. To me, it’s the people practicing that religion. You’ll have normal, tolerant people who just worship whatever they worship, and then you’ll have the intolerant, scary people who would rather put a bullet in every trans* person’s head than let them go to school with their kids. But there’s a whole spectrum in between, and I think its that spectrum that should be explored, played with, and pushed in fiction. Fiction is built not only for pleasure and fun, but to explore life and death and art and culture and every aspect of reality and non-reality.

    I love my female characters, my religious characters, my non-religious characters, my non-white characters, and every other diverse, strange way I choose to explore my mind, my life, and my views of the world. 😀 I hope you do, too, ’cause your fiction has been awesome!

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