Waaaaiiiiit a Minute…

whoop by jason tinder, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  jason tinder 
(It’s a whooping crane.)
(Get it? Like, “Whoops!”)

I was trapped on a plane today for several hours, and as I am wont to do when that happens, I either read or listen to podcasts. Today was a podcast kind of day.

As it happens, one of the podcasts I listened to was The Creative Penn hosted by Joanna Penn. It’s a new podcast for me, and I’m still trying to decide if I like it enough to keep listening. For now, it’s interesting and a keeper.

The episode I heard was “Writing Religion and Spirituality With Jill Carroll.” Jill Carroll, as it turns out, is a doctor of world religions. She and Joanna had an hour-long talk about how your own faith (or lack thereof) informs your writing, and how writing characters who follow specific faiths (or none) can help make them more rounded characters.

Which brings me to my epiphany.

When I listen to writing podcasts—and I listen to several—I almost always end up thinking about how whatever the host(s) (& guest(s)) are saying can apply to whatever I’m currently writing. In this case, I’ve been restructuring my urban fantasy universe in my head. I haven’t put much of it down on “paper,” yet, but it’s churning around up in my cerebellum, making waves.

I describe it to people as “It’s paranormal FBI agents and Atlanta police solving crimes in modern Atlanta, only magic works.”

One of the main three characters is a devout Catholic. I know almost nothing about the Catholic religion, so I’ve been glossing over that when I write him. Just mostly using it as “background information” that the writer (me) knows, but the reader (hopefully, you, one day) is not necessarily even aware of, except that that bit of information informs how the character reacts to things that happen in the book.

And that’s when it hit me: in my world, magic is . . . well, it’s special in that not just everyone can do it, but the ones who can do it can pretty much do miracles.

In a world where many people can perform genuine, demonstrable, repeatable, scientifically verifiable “miracles,” . . . well, what place does religion based on miracle-working have in that world?

I just love it—no, really, I do—when a passing thought causes me to go “Oh, crap,” and rethink pretty much everything.

Of course, there’s still the concept of divinity and having a direct line to a god or gods (as it were). But if my characters can do things that are only in the purview of gods in our real world, what, then, is a religion in a world of magic?

I’m gonna have to think on that one.

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4 Responses to “Waaaaiiiiit a Minute…”
  1. Territan says:

    And when you’ve thought on that one, you’ll probably squeeze a whole new book out of it.

    To answer the question of what place religion has in a magically active world, you’ll have to consider what place religion has in a regular world first, just for the differential.

    As there are some religious who can reconcile the apparent discrepancies between religion and science (citing religion as the “why” and the science as the “how,” usually), there are those that can’t, and act as if there’s some sort of awful competition between them.

    Likewise, figure that there are people of religion who will be able to reconcile the existence of magic into their worldview. And then figure that there are people of religion that will NOT be able to, who see it as a threat, and will resort to the worst possible, even hypocritical, tactics to lash out against it.

    If you’re going to go the cynical route, assume that there are some figures in religion (note: NOT “religious figures”) who will use magic to create the miracles that encourage religiosity in others.

    And then consider the reverses of all of those too. Yeah, I got brain-dumpy.

    • Good points, all, Territan. Thanks.

      • Territan says:

        Additional thought-provoking tangent: I’m running a superhero game some Thursday nights, and I have two organizations in that: the “White Shield,” which is a coalition of deeply (delusional) religious folk who see superpowers as the work of the devil, and think they’ll destroy the world, subjugate all normal good people, and turn the planet into their own personal playground. And then there’s the “Black Gauntlet,” a coalition of supers who heard this and thought, “You know, as long as they’re going to fear us doing that anyway…”

        Both groups can be insufferable.

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