Continuing from last Monday, another subject that might be considered sensitive is that of religion. Many stories and novels either barely mention the idea or avoid it altogether. Admittedly, this is often because it is not an essential plot element. However, it helps that this is one area where it is easy to rub people the wrong way. But there are a few simple ways to write about spirituality without committing such blunders, and I shall try to explain them right here.
Probably the foremost way to avoid making enemies when writing about this element is to simply be respectful. If you begin your passages about a given religion by launching into all the things you hate or find flawed about it, you’re probably going to set folks off, or at the very least make them a little more wary about your style. There are a lot of things people look for when determining whether they like an author or not, and frankly you’re nevergoing to please everyone. But one of the quickest ways to earn negative marks on a reader’s chart is to attack his or her beliefs.
On the other hand, you can also use this to help your plot along. If your aim is to make the audience loathe your villain all the more, there’s no better way than to have him or her launch into a tirade against your readers’ religion. And of course, if your intention is to cause as much offense as possible, then I suppose you’re on the right track.
For most, however, this is probably not the goal, so a more delicate approach is in order. That is not to say you can’t criticize other philosophies–like any idea–but it can be done in a more respectful tone as well. You’re still probably going to lose favor among the readers whose ideals you’re going after, but if you make an attempt to explain why you think as you do with less loaded language, then you might not lose as much respect.
And then, of course, there is the opposite approach. Rather than taking a negative tack toward a belief system not your own, it can be much less of a hassle to simply expound upon the positive aspects of your own system. Sure, there are some people who will find this less interesting, but at least they won’t be outright repulsed by it. And if you explain well enough, you might even open up the minds of others to joining your side–or at the very least help them understand it better.
Now, everything I’ve just said applies to real-world religions. There’s always the option of including fantasy religions in your books if you happen to be writing fiction. However, even these are based on certain tenets that reflect those of real-world religions, so it’s good to use caution and think about what connections people might make between the form of spirituality you’re writing about and ones in the real world. It doesn’t necessarily have to affect how you write about them, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind all the same.
That’s about all I have to say about writing on religion. As usual, it’s important to consider aspects about your writing such as audience and genre too, but these are a few added guidelines.
Next week I’ll discuss the third and final topic in this series: politics.