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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)faith, belief
Related tropes/genresafterlife, Judaism and Fandom, Christianity and Fandom, Holidayfic, Bible (New Testament), Hebrew Bible, Buddhism and Fandom, Islam and Fandom Pop Culture Paganism, Atheism and Fandom
See alsomagic, supernatural, priest!fic
Related articles on Fanlore.

A religion has been defined as "an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence."[1] Religion is strongly associated with the concept that one or more powerful higher beings exist and are interested in mortal activities. Religion often encompasses beliefs about how the world was created, what constitutes moral behaviour, and what happens after death.

Religious elements are common in media sources and in fanworks; this article focuses on these aspects, rather than the interaction of religion with the fannish community.

Media Sources with Religious Elements

Diverse media sources have a significant religious element, either drawing on existing human religions or, more rarely, inventing their own system. Many sources have characters who are deities, other religious figures, religious ministers, or who have deeply held religious beliefs. Objects with religious significance such as the holy grail also appear. Religious observance is often suppressed in dystopian universes.

A selection of sources with some fannish engagement includes:

Religious Fandoms

Some religious texts have a rarelit fandom, particularly the Hebrew Bible/Tanakh, the New Testament, and Greek and Norse Mythology. Fanworks in these fandoms range from gapfillers fleshing out the bare bones of the story whilst remaining firmly within the spirit of the original, to re-envisionings highlighting perceived flaws in the canon (for examples of the latter, see Canons with Flawed Religion below). All are Yuletide staples.

Other sources explore religious figures/concepts with a decidedly humorous slant; the film Dogma and the novel Good Omens are typical examples. Fanfiction here usually adopts the tone of the original, and frequently explores new corners of the underlying religion in the spirit of the modern source. C. S. Lewis's devil Screwtape occasionally turns up in crossovers with broadly Christian sources.[2]

Religion in Fanworks

Some themes or tropes relating to religion seen in fanworks. Fanworks often encompass several.

Canons Lacking Religion

Integrating religion into canons that lack it, such as Blake's 7, Doctor Who, Harry Potter or Star Trek: TOS.

Canons with Flawed Religion

Fixing perceived problems with the presentation of religion in the source. For example, the problem of Susan in the Narnia fandom and DS9's treatment of Sarah Sisko. Religious texts themselves come in for the same treatment, for example, feminist rewritings and much Bibleslash.

Canons with an Invented Religion

Several sources invent a religious system that isn't obviously based on a human religion, for example, the Quintarian religion in the Chalion series and the Bajoran religion in DS9. Fanworks flesh out the details, or sometimes integrate them within a human religion (usually Christianity).

Religious Background

Exploring the religious background of a character. Particularly common where his/her religion is name-checked or implied in canon but never explored, but fanworks also claim characters whose religion isn't clear, and some works explore the beliefs of a character whose faith is well established in canon, such as Kira Nerys in DS9.

Religious Struggles

Characters struggle to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sexual orientation. This is a theme in sources such as Brideshead Revisited and Lewis that is picked up in their fanworks, and is also seen in some RPF. Also seen with political beliefs or supernatural abilities.

Religious Celebrations

Christmas is probably the most popular, but there are also numerous Passover stories and most festivals get a look in, including invented ones.

Religious Figures & Religious Events

Jesus is probably the most common figure that characters meet, popping up in all kinds of sources. Characters are sometimes present at Biblical events such as Noah's flood, the Nativity or the Crucifixion.

The Afterlife

Either after death, or due to some form of magic. The Christian, Greek & Norse afterlives are the most common.

Religious AUs

Where the characters are recast as religious figures or ministers. For example, priest!fic. The converse, mundane AUs starring religious figures, also exist.

Background Religious Events

For example, the characters get embroiled in a religious war in an action plot. This is often invented, for example in sf sources such as Star Trek, but the Crusades feature in several historical canons such as Robin Hood and Kingdom of Heaven.


  1. ^ First sentence of Wikipedia's definition of religion, accessed 16 August 2014.
  2. ^ For example, the Angel story A Letter from Screwtape to Mr. Holland Manners by HonorH
  3. ^ Espresso Recommendations: Harry Potter (accessed 15 August 2014)