I've been doing some editing and design work on my campaign world of Thandor, and was looking at different details on my in-game religions. When I first developed my game world many years ago, I was certainly inspired by numerous historical religions in the process. For gaming purposes, however, I thought it best to avoid adopting real-world, historical religions--at least entirely in whole-cloth, so to speak. One concern, of course, was the ever-present concern and consciousness of religious sensibilities of various players.
However, I've never been overly concerned with that, because all of my players are also good friends of mine, so there is never any kind of negative assumptions, or assuming the worst possible motives for much of anything. Rather, there is always an attitude of charity, acceptance, and good faith. Not that even that was needed--and certainly not relied upon, because it was not necessary. My friends--my players--all generally agree with myself and each other on religious matters, and what is not always agreed upon is simply gracefully accepted as being uniquely different and worthy of respect, because of who we are. No one gets all worked up about some wierd point of difference in some obscure theological matter, or even broad concepts and beliefs.
My friends and players first and foremost embrace attitudes of general good faith and acceptance of what others believe, blended with healthy doses of skepticism towards the claims of any religion in regards to absolute certainty, absolute primacy and superiority over any other religion. That central doctrine--primarily held by and esconced within Christianity, Judaism and Islam--is probably a central reason why none of my friends are what the religious fundamentalists of any stripe would consider to be "religiously pure" "devout" or "walking with the Lord" sufficiently. It does, however, make them far better and easier to get along with, and socialize together in mixed racial, cultural, and religious circles where many such ideas would easily clash and cause division with others.
To my friends, religion seems too abstract too hate people over. They are all well-read and highly educated, and are familiar with the evidenciary, anthropological, and philosophical problems and doctrinal contradictions within almost any religion that tends to make such claims of primacy. There's so many convoluted problems and contradictions that stack up the evidence that there's something wrong with religious fundamentalist that make such claims. From this, then, if such claims are genuinely saddled with so many evidenciary, philosophical, and logical problems, it casts serious doubt on any such claims of primacy and absolute truth. That then opens the door to easily being more open-minded and accepting of other people, other religions, other points of view. Even if one finds deeper disagreement with someone else's beliefs--it still remains far easier to maintain a foundation of respect and acceptance for them. I have found embracing such attitudes of respect and acceptance to be very positive and enriching, regardless of the details of particular beliefs.
Having said that, then, philosophically, it is much easier to explore, question, and confront whatever ideas, cherished "truths" and sacred cows in any manner of organized religions without offending each other. With such a foundation then, certainly in game terms, my friends hold to few "sacred cows" concerning religion--and th more theologically obscure, the less likely they are to give such ideas a great deal of respect. They certainly are not going to be offended by some twisting, reshaping, or tweaking of ideas in dealing with religions in a role-playing game--even if doing so holds echoes of historical religious practices, beliefs or doctrines. They have no problems making distinctions between what people consider to be the "real world"--and the "Fanasy world".
So, it is good to be inspired by historical religions. I enjoy studying them, and embracing different ideas, philosophies, and art, concepts and visuals in my own games. It is very fun, fascinating, and doing so opens eyes and brings genuine enlightenment and knowledge about all kinds of ideas and philosophies, from throughout history, from all over the world.
However, while I have always wanted to avoid offending anyone's religious sensibilities purposefully--especially my friends--it has not as I mentioned ever really been an issue. Thus, I have not had to deal with that burden, either in play at the table, or in designing customs, religions and so on for the game campaign.
The second consideration though, as to why I have not been terribly enthused about using historical religions whole cloth has been a sort of "restricted" feeling, both in play and design-wise, that I just do not enjoy. There are the concerns of not knowing enough, for example, or precision, to capably and faithfully reflect concepts accurately and so on. That also disrupts the game play and suspension of disbelief and all that artistic stuff if you can avoid all the "wait..they don't really believe THAT! or "No, that's not how it's done" and so on. Whatever it is, such kinds of real-world details brought into the game front and center seem ripe for just technical arguments alone, quite apart from heated philosophical or religious arguments.
The deeper, central advantage with creating and using mostly fantastical religions--that may, to one degree or another--be inspired by real-world, hsitorical religions is that there seems to be far more acceptance and comfort with I suppose I would call it, "artistic license". If a game religion is mostly fantastical, then you can freely change and mutate whatever you want, and it just is what it is. There is far less room for someone to get all bent out of shape over some fictitious artistic detail of a fantasy-based religion in a game. Thus, I've preferred making and using fantasy-based, somewhat original game religions, infused with historical inspirations, rather than real-world religions in their entirety. I have devloped these preferences based then on a philosphical point, and an artistic, or authorial point. Plus, it's great fun to get all creative and such, in blending historical ideas and concepts, with the crazy, fantastic game stuff we have in the game books and resources.
That's how I deal with real-world religions in the game--they don't get to be there to begin with, and certainly not to any philosophical level that someone could realistically develop a huge passionate argument about. I think such people inclined to do that have one central failure--they have developed little ability to comprehend the difference between whatever it is they believe and see and feel in the "real world"--and what goes on in, and what is believed and practiced in a fantasy world.
Friday, October 21, 2011 2323 Hours