The world, and every part of it, is incredibly complex. For a lot of writers, this can make world-building seem impossible or even terrifyin...

The world, and every part of it, is incredibly complex. For a lot of writers, this can make world-building seem impossible or even terrifying! When I world-build, I love to ask myself question after question after question. This enables me to delve into the deeper layers of my storyworld, and breaks down the mammoth process into smaller chunks.

So today I've put together a list of more questions to ask yourself, when creating a fantasy religion! The first post focused on basic ideas, so I've tried to ask deeper questions in a Part 2; questions that will (hopefully) inspire you or give you ideas to play around with!

1) What is this religion's view on gender? How is this translated through the responsibilities its members fulfil, in religious gatherings, the home, larger society, etc.?

2) What stories are narrated to children? Do they differ from the original story in the religions' important texts, or are they exactly the same? What core beliefs are introduced to the children first, and what laws? Are parents considered responsible for bringing their child up in the faith?

3) What rituals and customs does this religion have? What do they involve? Which rituals can only be done publicly (eg. praying at a temple) and which ones are done privately (eg. offering incense at home shrine)?

4) What does this religion say about the existence of an afterlife? Do its members believe in reincarnation, a version of Heaven or Hell, or none at all? How is this reflected in its members' everyday beliefs?

5) Has the religion spread outside of its core geographical area? How has it spread? (Merchants, missionaries, trade, printed books, etc.) Has it been widely received or rejected?

6) Why are people drawn to this religion? What hope, purpose, or meaning does it offer them? What demographics highly populate the religion, and which are under-represented?

7) How does the religion and its members respond to people with different beliefs? Do they engage with respect, or do they silence any opposing voice? How has this affected the view of the religion, in the community outside of it?

8) What images, texts, colours, and smells are associated with this religion? Are these mocked by others, or considered sacred objects?

9) Are there any songs or chants associated with this religion? What do the lyrics/words convey? (Eg. a story, key beliefs of the religion, praise. etc.)

10) Do laws exist in the holy texts that dictate how members are to live their everyday lives? What values do these laws reflect? Do the laws outline how to proceed with everyday activities/relationships, or are they general laws relating to conduct across a variety of activities/relationships?

11) Who wrote the religion's holy texts? How are these texts contained (eg. scrolls, books, etc.) and where are they kept? Does every member have a copy, or is it only accessible to a select few?

12) Where are the religion's deemed holy places? Are there holy places (eg. temples, shrines) in every local area, or is there only one per continent or country? What is the significance and meaning of these sites? Are members encouraged to go on pilgrimages to them?

13) What technologies in place have allowed, or discouraged, the spread of this religion? (eg. magic mental links with those countries away allows discussion of faith without sitting next to each other, etc.) Have the religion's members embraced or resisted the technological changes?

14) Are members required to give offerings to a statue/god(s)? Are these offerings animals, fruit and vegetables, flowers, money, or something else? Where do these offerings take place, and who conducts them?

15) Are there monasteries, nunneries, or the equivalent for this religion? How are the members within these buildings economically supported? What activities and studies do they commit themselves too?

16) Can anyone become a leader/teacher/priest? Is there any special training required for it? If so, who trains them, and what level of leadership do they enter once finished with training?

17) How closely tied is this religion with the surrounding country's government? Are members of the religion the sole owners of political positions? Are laws influenced by the religion's beliefs? Or is the religion declared unlawful and its members oppressed by the government?

18) How inclusive is the religion? Is it open to all, or is it against receiving new members? Are there any initiation rituals? If so, do they have to be at a certain age to participate, and is it only be performed at certain times of the year?

19) What stance does the religion take on all levels of romantic relationships? What is its perception of marriage? Are members encouraged to have multiple partners or only one?

20) Is fasting a requirement? If so, when do these fasts take place, and for how long? What do these fasts represent, and what is their significance?

More in the Questions to Ask When... series!

Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religion (Part 1)     

What's your favourite part of world-building? Any topics you'd like me to cover next in the 'Questions to Ask When Creating...' series? How is your writing going?
Have a wonderful day and best wishes with your world-building! <3

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  1. Ahh these are awesome and super helpful! I'm actually working on a religion for my current fantasy so I should go through these. :D And I was always impressed with the Game of Thrones representation fo religion and the detail and how it influenced the world...if you're going to put it into fantasy, it NEEDS to be complex and dynamic!

    1. Thanks Cait!! <3 Ooh you're working on a fantasy?! I hope these questions can help you out then! GOT is great at detailed world-building! Absolutely; nothing works in isolation, and world-building needs to reflect that. :) Can't wait to see what you come up with!

  2. Nice!! Even if you're using an established religion as the basis of the religious beliefs, these questions really help clarify how characters and world relate to religion.

    Awesome post, Melissa!


    1. Thanks so much Catherine! :D Definitely, you can use the basis of an established religion, and use these questions to think about how it would have developed and influenced the story-world. :)

  3. You should make a e-book out of these.

    1. It's something I'm definitely thinking about! :)

  4. These are so helpful! I need to answer these questions for my fantasy religions. I have three that really need fleshing out.

    1. So glad they might be able to help you out! Thank you, and best wishes with your world-building! ^_^

  5. Hi Melissa, I just came across your blog posts and they are awesome and so helpful! I've been going through each of them and they are so insightful. I am trying to build up a fantasy world based on the medieval Celtic, Nordic and Viking peoples, cultures, mythology, legends and lifestyles (with my own twist added of course!) and have been having the hardest time deciding if I am going to include magic in my world or not (I have a race of Druidic peoples that I want to seem very realistic but think incorporating magic, if done correctly could turn out amazing!) Also, trying to come up with 2 or 3 main religions and a couple of lesser ones has been so hard! Oh my gosh, these blogs have been awesome! Could you possibly do one on developing cultures in your fantasy world?