Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#1
I think everybody is familiar with this. God bad, religion of any kind bad, church bad, bla bla bla. It got boring pretty fast, franky.

When will I read a story where the established church in a story is actually good? I haven't found even one so far. Why do the gods have to be bad, can't they help the beings they created? Why do they have to be always sadistic bastards? Why does the church have to be bad? The god in the story can give blessings to the priests, for example, which enables them to heal people or remove curses. Let's say they get more power from the blessing, the more pious they are.

Authors always just like to create cheap antagonists with little creativty. Oh, the fantasy world's church is bad? How original.

Another thing, which relates to isekais where the MC meets the god/goddess: you won't be an insolent fool in front of someone that can give you endless torture. Seriously why do people write this? Is it because of all the japanese novels that do this? Think about it, it makes no sense. At most, it can establish that the MC is immensely arrogant or fearless, but that never reflects further in the story.

This is just a rant after years of not seeing any change. The fact that it's always the same probably means that nobody will agree with me, but now that I got this out of me, I don't care

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#2
I think many people will agree. But there's stories where Gods are at least neutral, or where there are good, benevolent gods, too. In "He Who Fights With Monsters", the MC is extremely atheistic and arrogant, but there are good Gods that are fighting the bad ones (and when their churches get too oppressive and greedy, the Gods will sometimes smite their own priests). But sure, here the main villains are a Bad God and his churck/cultists who do Bad Things, together with other Bad Churches with other Bad Gods. In "The Dungeon Challenge", there are Good gods too. In "Candelit Lives", I didn't get the feeling that the Gods were evil, or bad. Divine magic is used to heal, and Divine Paladins hunt Eldritch abominations across the land. We even met a God, for a short talk once, and she was nice. 

So yes, it's a trope, and one that I dislike very much. But there are exceptions! If there is only one God, they will typically be "very bad", but if you have a whole Pantheon, usually a few, or even most, will not be evil. 

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#3
I'd like to read a story with a good/evil beings ditchonomy where the reasonable people on both sides get along swimmingly and just get to work, while the others on both political sides of the spectrum are busy fighting each other. Like, a Priest vs. Satanists kind of relationship, where morally upright priests have absolutely no problems having a respectful relationship with the equivalent of The Satanic Temple or whatever. But they're not going to waste time concerning themselves with the never-ending wars between child-sacrificing death metal satanists and pedophilic tv-evangelicans who paid for their McMansions by church tithe. 

There are plenty of deities that are not evil, though. At least ones where the deities are neutral rather than outright evil. Narnia obviously comes to mind, but there's also stories like Villager 4 and No Epic Loot here on RR. Religion isn't a huge theme but there's no particular lack of stories where it plays a role and the gods/followers aren't automatically evil.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#4
It's rooted in Japanese Light Novels, which is rooted in some of the reprehensible behaviors of 'Catholic missionaries' in the country. So organized religion, at least ones organized like the ones out in the west, get a bad rap there, so that's why western-style, church-supported gods in their stories are either sadists, assholes, idiots and/or villains. They had a REALLY bad first impression. 

In the west, this is rooted to the rise of tabletop gaming, which was demonized by religious ultra-conservatives who blamed it for corruption children, in the same way they blame social media, video games and cellphones now. Turns out, demonizing the inspiration for a lot of fantasy novels to come does not incline the writers of said novels to portray you positively. Add in all the priest molestation stories being reported and... yeah.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#5
*tips hat* Milady. Personally, I find writing villains is just so much more fun.

Regardless, I have three recommendations for you.

Locking Horns, Breaking Teeth features the cleric of a very benevolent trinity of gods.

And Hands Held in the Snow features the priest of another benevolent religion.

Pluto is a little more ambiguous, being as it features the Greek gods, but I would argue it favours a more benevolent take. Certainly much more benevolent than the original source material.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#6

Shadow Wrote: It's rooted in Japanese Light Novels, which is rooted in some of the reprehensible behaviors of 'Catholic missionaries' in the country. So organized religion, at least ones organized like the ones out in the west, get a bad rap there, so that's why western-style, church-supported gods in their stories are either sadists, assholes, idiots and/or villains. They had a REALLY bad first impression. 

In the west, this is rooted to the rise of tabletop gaming, which was demonized by ultra-conservatives who blamed it for corruption children, in the same way they blame social media, video games and cellphones now. Turns out, demonizing the inspiration for a lot of fantasy novels to come does not incline the writers of said novels to portray you positively. Add in all the priest molestation stories being reported and... yeah.

Plus, a lot of fantasy writers are into history. The Church... uh, look even if we ONLY talk about Europe, the basis for much of western fantasy, we're still talking about some pretty major genocides that people are STILL sore about. The story of St. Patrick driving out the 'snakes' isn't the only one of its kind, and some such stories are uncomfortably... modern. 

Edit: And lets be frank, the church isn't helping even if they're currently not genociding. I go to church, but I usually just sit quietly when they get to the parts of the songs that mention killing the heathens. I'm deeply uncomfortable with how many such mentions there are in psalms that are otherwise about love and light and self-sacrifice and whatever. The church isn't perfect in reality either. There's... material there, you don't even need to dig for it. 

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#7
While I do agree that a more reasonable and researched church could help a lot of stories, and it is often done poorly, I would like to offer an alternative reading to the idea of having the ultimate deity in the world to be evil by mortal standards. 

Say the world is rife with conflict, with the different races in constant struggle, each with their own religions that demonise each other, with clergies that are corrupt and too busy to use whatever powers they have or only claim to have for their own ends, and most of the story being either about simply living in this world, or to try and change it, to give a chance for lasting peace and understanding.

How great a turn would it be to find out that all of this was by design, by a being that did so either out of their own larger motives and ideology, or frankly because they are so powerful and bored that they *can*, because mortal lives are as fleeting and worthless to them as a tin soldier to play war with. And that the only reason the protagonists are even able to get to the point where they are, is because their actions were amusing enough for the deity to let them continue. 

It's something I am keeping in my roster of ideas for a future story with a bigger picture, so I believe that again the issue is not the trope itself, but it´s prevalence and poor execution.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#8
I understand where you're coming from, which is why I've tried to make my series different. In The White Horde, a powerful race known as the Celestials traveled from their world to make war on the race known as the Daemo, who came to Earth to enslave humanity. The Celestials won (more or less), driving out most of the Daemo, and a few Celestials decided to stay, becoming the 'gods' of ancient mythology.

Almost 3,000 years later, Earth's mana that the Celestials need to survive is drying up, and the Celestials remaining are becoming desperate to find more. So the evil these 'gods' do is a fight for resources.

The White Horde | Royal Road  Inspired by the intrigue, drama, and destruction whispered to us by ancient history, this story is set in a world where magic is slowly dying, and decadent empires struggle against each other as well as against the barbarian hordes pushing ever westward. The story is told from the viewpoints of three people whose actions will change the fate of nations and empires alike

The White Horde (Revised) | Royal Road The rewritten version of the same ongoing story, recast into Past Tense and lightly edited.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#9

Bellarom Wrote: Another thing, which relates to isekais where the MC meets the god/goddess: you won't be an insolent fool in front of someone that can give you endless torture. Seriously why do people write this? Is it because of all the japanese novels that do this? Think about it, it makes no sense. At most, it can establish that the MC is immensely arrogant or fearless, but that never reflects further in the story.


This exact consideration served as the inspiration behind my decision to depict my protagonist’s encounter with his world’s principal deity with a certain amount of gravitas; the usual Japanese approach struck me as repetitive and lacking in potential, which I was determined to avoid. Numerous readers have commented that they found my interpretation of such a scene quite striking, and it may satisfy your expectations, at least in part. Here’s the link to the chapter if you’re inclined to take a look: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/36157/selenas-reign-the-golden-gryphon/chapter/559630/chapter-1-reditus

Otherwise, one fiction I currently have my eye on is Light Cleric—while it’s early goings yet, and there’s still the possibility of the story taking a turn in the “bwahaha, the church was corrupt all along” direction, for the moment the author is favoring a more nuanced approach. You can find it here: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/38443/light-cleric

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#11
I agree with the OP on all the points they've made. And I, for one at least anyway, will never write a story where religious people are the Bad Guys, and the arrogant, insolent asshat who has killed people by the dozens is cast, for some stupid reason, as the Good Guy. 

Hey! Let's talk about romance novels next! How the guy is always a jerk, and the girl is some dumb dingbat victim. 😸

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#12
 The saying goes that with great power comes great responsibility.  Real world, a case is easily made that with great power comes great potential for massive abuse.  Another aphorism, is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Mythic religions did not base their deities on morality or principle, but were personifications of nature, especially the seemingly capricious horrors the natural world can visit on people. Most ceremonies were structured around placating divine wrath. The tales of these entities embodied this, more than an attempt to moralize  about standards of ethical behavior. It isn't odd therefore to see these themes twine through fantasy, but with at least a head nod towards our modern concept of morality as we now have a sense of this too, being part of divinity. 

I wrote moral principle in as the central thrust of a future religious organization featured in my Sci-Fi called "A theft of Stars", (https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/31666/a-theft-of-stars) as a sort of social projection chronicling institutional religious evolution, much as I would project the evolution of physics into a future frame, out of a sense that things continue to evolve culturally too, not as an attempt to proselytize  for one or another sectarian cause. Overall, a piece of optimism for a work that looks forward to the future being a better place.

I am sure it is not the only work that takes up this theme of cultural forces looking to improve the society they are embedded in.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#13

Elliot_Flanders Wrote:
Bellarom Wrote: Another thing, which relates to isekais where the MC meets the god/goddess: you won't be an insolent fool in front of someone that can give you endless torture. Seriously why do people write this? Is it because of all the japanese novels that do this? Think about it, it makes no sense. At most, it can establish that the MC is immensely arrogant or fearless, but that never reflects further in the story.


This exact consideration served as the inspiration behind my decision to depict my protagonist’s encounter with his world’s principal deity with a certain amount of gravitas; the usual Japanese approach struck me as repetitive and lacking in potential, which I was determined to avoid. Numerous readers have commented that they found my interpretation of such a scene quite striking, and it may satisfy your expectations, at least in part. Here’s the link to the chapter if you’re inclined to take a look: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/36157/selenas-reign-the-golden-gryphon/chapter/559630/chapter-1-reditus

Otherwise, one fiction I currently have my eye on is Light Cleric—while it’s early goings yet, and there’s still the possibility of the story taking a turn in the “bwahaha, the church was corrupt all along” direction, for the moment the author is favoring a more nuanced approach. You can find it here: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/38443/light-cleric

I'll check out both stories, thanks!

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#14
What interests me in this is, like. People have this natural inclination to challenge authority, right? So if you establish an authority - be it a church, a kingdom, a deity - there is this natural storytelling impulse to show how that authority is unjust, misused, is in some sense wrong.
But is that impulse a universal thing, here? I mean. There are tons of stories about Greek gods misbehaving. While there's plenty of medieval tales that in some way invoke God and present God as all knowing and all wise and perfectly good, the godly folk of the era are often portrayed as not living up to that. Lecherous and drunken priests are not a new trope in the slightest.
There's a lot to think about, here!

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#15
To be honest a lot of this is because their is an extreem difference in beliefs from east and west.

In the west we have a culture where there is one all powerful God.

in the east they have a culture where the universe created gods, and so their gods are by no means perfect. Their gods are more or less humans with absolute power.

To be honest with you I am surprised there isnt much more brutal accounts of religions in these stories. For example the hindues burned widows alive on their husbands funeral pyres. Many relgions had temple prostitutes. A lot of relgions had human sacrifice (on a side note dont read about the sacrifices aztecs did some of them are really horrible).

That said most of the bloody stuff from catholism and islam is because they were the state religion and someone read the religious documents found out that the priest/inman was talking out their butt and so a massacre has to happen so the priest/inman can keep their paycheck. I have something of a soft spot for all those little rebels who want the powers that be to actually live up to their own scritpures/laws.

That said in my story sooner or later I am going to have a chapter where a buddist and christian missionary happen to come in on the same day, and the King is bassiclly going to say as long as you dont hurt anybody you can worship however your conscience dictates (Thank you queen elezibeth one of the best decisions ever made by a monarch). And yes in the first century there were buddist missionaries.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#16
i have a lot of stories in my head that have benevolent gods, or benevolent religion institutes, and even a few with both.
it is a shame that there are no stories that actually understand the appeal of such a thing or how to use it in litrpg/xianxia.

i think it is most likely because most people have in their heads that the people that hold the power in our world are bad.
the left think that rich people are bad, the right thinks secret groups that control the government are bad. everyone think politicians are bad.
there is not grope today that you can point to and say they don't think anyone with power is bad.

and thats why everyone has in their had that power-=bad.
and therefore god/religion=bad

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#17

CJ Wrote: To be honest with you I am surprised there isnt much more brutal accounts of religions in these stories. For example the hindues burned widows alive on their husbands funeral pyres. Many relgions had temple prostitutes. A lot of relgions had human sacrifice (on a side note dont read about the sacrifices aztecs did some of them are really horrible).


I want to add; it's true from the arcaeological evidence that the aztecs did practice human sacrifice, but don't forget who recorded these rituals. Christian white people who at the time had a vested interest in making these people look as bad as possible so they could keep their moral superiority on their genocidal campaigns. The aztecs were probably pretty bad in this regard, but they didn't cause the downfall of entire civilizations by killing tens of millions of people. We know that a lot of these records are factually incorrect and exaggerated, or they've been completely misinterpreted (to illustrate this point, imagine what Christianity would look like if told through the same lense that western media tend to portray indigenous religion with in horror movies, and you likely get something of an idea). 

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#19

Haust Wrote:
CJ Wrote: To be honest with you I am surprised there isnt much more brutal accounts of religions in these stories. For example the hindues burned widows alive on their husbands funeral pyres. Many relgions had temple prostitutes. A lot of relgions had human sacrifice (on a side note dont read about the sacrifices aztecs did some of them are really horrible).


I want to add; it's true from the arcaeological evidence that the aztecs did practice human sacrifice, but don't forget who recorded these rituals. Christian white people who at the time had a vested interest in making these people look as bad as possible so they could keep their moral superiority on their genocidal campaigns. The aztecs were probably pretty bad in this regard, but they didn't cause the downfall of entire civilizations by killing tens of millions of people. We know that a lot of these records are factually incorrect and exaggerated, or they've been completely misinterpreted (to illustrate this point, imagine what Christianity would look like if told through the same lense that western media tend to portray indigenous religion with in horror movies, and you likely get something of an idea).


The Aztecs believed that human blood was needed to fuel the sun, and so they committed a lot of human sacrifice. Like a ridiculous amount, much more so than the maya who also practiced human sacrifice. Surprisingly archology proves the conquestidors were not exagerating about the aztecs https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/06/feeding-gods-hundreds-skulls-reveal-massive-scale-human-sacrifice-aztec-capital

That said we are viewing things through our modern world view. The romans had a few human sacrifices, but they committed mass murder quite often. We dont like to talk about it because we would never do the same thing. But every generation there is a few genocides. The aztecs just did theirs through religion. That said probably the worst thing I have ever read was one paragraph about what went on during the rape of nanjing. Reading about the aztecs was uncomfortable what what the japaneese did during the capture of the city was truly awful and disgusting.

That said dont even get me started on how common infantcide was. If the maya didnt practice it they could have taken over all of north and south america with no real competition, the maya was one of the oldest civilizations on the planet when the spanish came but they never grew. They used infantcide to keep their population stable. In rome Christianity likely got a huge boost rescuing all the infants that were left out to be exposed to the elements. From east to west nearly every civilization practiced infantcide to some degree.

Simply put in my experience when history records genocide and death usually what we read is a vanilla version of what really happened.

Re: Your fedora-tipping atheism makes your fantasy gods boring

#20
The gods in the Traveling Dungeon/Dungeon Traveler series are personable and mostly benevolent.  There is at one point a paladin trying to kill the main character, but she was basically brainwashed by another human and has gone rogue.

On the other side of this issue I've seen a surprising lack of Isekaied people who actually are faced with danger if they even mention that they haven't heard of the official religion before.  Nor are there many situations where someone declares the MC out-caste/untouchable because they don't know the customs and rituals locals consider important.