Way With Worlds: Worldbuilding Religion, General Advice

Bible Book Church

[Way With Worlds appears at Seventh SanctumMuseHack, and Ongoing Worlds]

(As noted in my past columns, this discussion of religion is focusing on the with some metaphysical or theological elements).

When I worldbuild, I confess building religions and so on are some of my favorite things to do. This of course is part of my own inclinations and interests in people, psychology, culture, and religious experiences. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm.

Fortunately, as I have such enthusiasm, I’ve got plenty of advice to share. Here’s a few things I’ve found help in doing religious world building.

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Way With Worlds: Creating Religion Is Hard

Church Ruins

[Way With Worlds appears at Seventh SanctumMuseHack, and Ongoing Worlds]

So let’s talk about creating and writing religions in your world. You may now start panicking.

Creating religions is challenging,as we all know. That sense of challenge, the burden, the awareness of all the effort it takes can bring us down in our world building efforts. Chances are even mention this is giving you flashbacks.

So before we explore writing religions and creating religions, I want to cover the challenges we world builders face – and discuss overcoming them. Will I cover all possible cases? No theres only so much I can do or remember, swear to . . .

. . . er anyway, lets’ go on and look a some of the challenges facing writing religion and common traps.

But First . . .

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Transhumanism And The Hell Of Heaven

If it came down to a choice, I would rather be mortal and decent, and thus have the chance to leave behind things of real lasting importance, than be immortal but also be an asshole.

Serdar’s rather pithy statement is made on his observations that far too much of transhumanism is way too focused on leaving the human race behind. It becomes a race to “get up and get out” that really comes off as an attempt to coddle or deify one’s own ego.

Frankly, I have to agree with him. A lot of transhumanism I see thrown around casually (note casually) really seems to be nothing more than the idea of getting to a kind of technical heaven. Saint Peter may not be there, it may be an upload or a cyborg body, it it’s still all about “me” getting away. In a few cases getting away from all those “others.”

Some of this sounds the absolute same when I hear people talk about an afterlife of Heaven. Too often when I hear such an afterlife discussed, it’s always about pleasure and reward. Too often when I hear hell discussed, there’s a satisfaction those “others” will be in it.

I’ve discussed Buddhist concepts of the afterlife here before due to the many psychological insights they provide. One of them is that Heaven, the God Realm of Buddhist cosmology, isn’t all its cracked up to be.

The problem is with Heaven, with a realm of pleasure, you loose touch. You don’t feel compassion for others. You don’t feel empathy for others. In fact you don’t really “life” since life is far richer than whatever rewards or spoils you want to get. Heaven sounds vaguely addictive.

The problem with Heaven is that you can’t take a fall. In Buddhist cosmology even gods die, so if you’re reborn in the god realm one day you’ll die and probably will end up in another. As a god, you’ll even see it coming.  Hopefully you’ll reach the human realm, where things are well balanced enough for you to achieve enlightenment, but either way a painful fall.

In short, the desire for a real of perfect pleasure and escape makes you addicted, distant, un-empathetic, unprepared for change. It also probably risks you being kind of an ass as Serdar notes.

I’d even add the desire for a Heaven risks this as well. The desire to get away from people, from life, just deceives you and separates you. I’d say this may explain Jesus oft-forgotten note that all things done for those in need are for him in Matthew 25:31-46 – as a way to build empathy.

The transhuman desire for transcendence as a way to get away really misses what humanity is about. It’s a desire to cut ourselves off, to wrap ourselves in pleasure, to get distance, to “win.” It just makes us less human. It’s not transhumanism – it’s inhumanism.

As I noted, before we can improve who we are we better know what we are.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.