📚The Comfort of Fictional Religions: the Monk & Robot books
This is an entry in The Good Books. I’ll be writing about various fictional religions on Tuesdays for the next few weeks. Subscribe if you haven’t already for just $5/month.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fictional religions the last few months.
When your faith of origin is also the origin of a grievous wound, there’s an odd solace to be found in knowingly made up things. Fiction, the old adage goes, is a lie that tells the truth—and there’s a lot of truth to be found in fictional religions.
I don’t mean “fictional religions” in the sense of religious fiction you’d find at a Christian bookstore; and I don’t mean the “all religions are fictions, bro” atheist hot take, either. I mean religions invented by fiction authors for their characters to inhabit and practice. These are religions & practices invented, often by a single mind, to express something. Sometimes, as in the case of Octavia Butler’s Earthseed, they are invented in knowing juxtaposition to a religion of our world; sometimes they are entirely fanciful. But they each offfer something to their reader—an opportunity to explore something of lesser “real” consequence than the beliefs that burden us here. Each fictional religion provides a window into what religion and spirituality are for—which is first and foremost for the well-being of the practitioner. (They should be, anyway.)
Religions don’t merely offer worldviews. They offer comforts large and small, the rituals we tuck our bodies into.
Today I am thinking of Allalae, god of small comforts, from the Monk & Robot books by Becky Chambers. Allalae is represented by a summer bear.