The One About Religion

When Lemony Snicket was asked about the religion of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events, he responded, “The Baudelaires are Jewish! I guess we would not know for sure but we would strongly suspect it … I’m Jewish so, by default, the characters I create are Jewish, I think.”

Personally, when it comes to writing, religion is a touchy subject for me.  I suppose I consider myself a religious person, but I am by no means the most qualified person to write about it.  I’ve seen my religion grossly misrepresented in the multitudes of media – both by bad apples who happen to also observe my religion, but are certainly not the majority, and by lay people who are simply ignorant and are making things up as they go along.  That has been a big problem in the literary world, but I’m not the most qualified writer to fix it.  Basically, with a few exploratory exceptions, I just don’t write about it at all.

I try to make characters that people of any faith can identify with, by keeping religion just barely out of the picture.  That’s a general rule I try to follow in general – if one’s religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation aren’t particularly relevant to the story, I don’t feel it’s my place to turn the story into a soapbox for those issues.  I just don’t mention any of it, and leave those details to the reader’s imagination.  That way, nobody’s excluded and everyone can assume they’ve been included.

Like Lemony Snicket, I think I instinctively assign my own religion to the characters I create.  My characters don’t do stuff that would outright conflict with my religion.  That’s also kind of instinctive.   Whether my characters would consider themselves observant or affiliated religious people … well, that varies.  But the knowledge of their religious beliefs, like what color socks they’re wearing or what they ate for lunch the week before the story begins, really only get to see the light of day in random authorly headcanons.

I don’t personally believe in proselytizing or encouraging others to join my religion.  I don’t write stories for that purpose.  (And I have nothing against people who do it well.)  I write to tell a story, with messages that hopefully everyone can appreciate, regardless of who or what they are.  Well, except maybe hamsters.  That’s what I do.

What do you do, and why?

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