Religion in Fantasy – Values

by Rose Hill

Today we’re going to discuss the values of your religion: the virtues, vices, and taboos.  This ties in very closely to your greater cultural worldbuilding, especially if the religion is the dominant or controlling one in the culture.  What matters to the religion, both positively and negatively?

 

Virtues, vices, and taboos may be explicitly laid out–such as the Seven Deadly Sins or the ancient Hawaiian kapu system–or they may simply be influences within the religion, guiding people towards certain behaviors and away from others.

 

Virtues

 

What traits does your religion value?  There are a wide variety of positive traits you can choose from, but your religion will be diffuse and unfocused if you try to pull in too many of them.  When choosing virtues, think about how the deities/saints/other important religious figures behave.  Think about the climate where the religion originated, and what virtues that might prompt.  (For example, many places with hostile climates had a strong culture of hospitality, because to deny a traveler hospitality might condemn them to death.)  Think about the social class this religion was born from, and what values it might import from that.

 

Think about how these virtues might influence people in their day to day life–is it actually possible for a person in your society to live a virtuous life?  Are certain virtuous qualities effectively limited by class/social/economic status?

 

Potential Virtues:

  • Prudence/Wisdom
  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Courage
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity/Generosity
  • Purity
  • Humility
  • Honesty/Truth
  • Diligence/Discipline
  • Fidelity
  • Honor
  • Hospitality
  • Self-Reliance
  • Industriousness
  • Perseverance
  • Familial Piety
  • Obedience
  • Joy/Mirth
  • Curiosity
  • Vigor
  • Love
  • Beauty
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Compassion
  • Reverence
  • Balance
  • Inter-Dependence/Community
  • Law-Abiding
  • Magic*
  • Tolerance

 

Vices

 

What does your religion see as a flaw in people and in the society at large?  Again, some of this may originate from the culture the religion was born of, if it is not a local religion.  Vices may be dark shadows of the virtues, or they may be completely separate issues.

 

Are there moral tales that exhibit why these virtues are a bad idea?  This can tie into the myths of a culture.

 

How strictly are the vices regulated?  Is there a moral authority in the culture that actively forbids such activities/behavior by law, or is it simply societal influence that warns one away?

 

Potential Vices:

  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Gluttony
  • Pride
  • Envy
  • Wrath
  • Sloth/Laziness
  • Weakness
  • Cowardice
  • Guilt/Regret
  • Dishonor
  • Solitude
  • Magic*
  • Dishonesty
  • Flightiness
  • Disrespect
  • Irreverence
  • Cruelty

 

Taboos

 

Taboos can range from the common to the extremely specific.  If you have a particularly strict religion/culture with a lot of taboos regulating a person’s life, you will need to come up with a wide variety of taboos.  That will be far too many to offer here.

 

Also, keep in mind that taboos might be things outlawed by the state or things avoided purely by social pressure.

 

Common Taboos:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Theft

 

Other less common taboos may be grouped under such topics as cleanliness, sex, food, magic, methods of worship, etc.

 

*=Consider the acceptance of magic in your religion and in your culture.  Is magic restricted to priests?  Is it taboo?  Is magic seen as sacred, and thus highly valued?  Is relying on magic seen as a weakness?

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