Religion in Fantasy

Religion in Fantasy is rarely portrayed in a positive light.  In my review of “Orcs” I referred to the author’s caricature of faith.  In modern Fantasy this is generally the norm and not the exception.  Many authors in this genre, especially ones, are staunch Atheists.  Disclaimer: I know that not all Atheists view religion in a cartoonish way.  Many are level-headed, this isn’t an attack on Atheists but an observation that many Fantasy authors are Atheists that happen to have a simplistic approach to religion and that is reflected in their works.

Religion in Fantasy is seen as cultish and for only the extremists.  Many times, they are portrayed as villains or at worst simpletons.  There is rarely a nuanced approach as to why followers of a Religion may hold their beliefs.  “Skyrim” is a video game not a book, but I feel it handles religion somewhat better than most contemporary Fantasy stories.  Even then religion while present and referenced was still seen as culty and somewhat extreme.  The Thalmor are religious extremists who persecute anyone who disagrees with their view of faith.  Them along with the Empire have banned all other religions outside their own.  Other beliefs are still expressed, but for the most part it is subtle, and you can play the entire main campaign without encountering more than a surface level exposure of religion.

Many Fantasy movies and books collapse into the trap of holding religion nothing more than a superstition for the foolish and violent.  I know some of the irreligious persuasion hold that view.  That people believe in a religion are those who have been manipulated and duped by the religious leaders.  However, if anyone has spent a lengthy amount of time around the faithful or read personal testimonies, it becomes clear that this approach is cartoonish.  People come to faith for a multitude of reasons, not because they are stupid or duped by a priest.

The point of this isn’t to proselytize any sort of position, the point is that the Fantasy genre needs to have a more realistic approach to religion.  Yes, there are fanatics in the real world, but those are the minority.  Most have very personal reasons for holding their beliefs.


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