Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Sacred Trust

Sacred trust is one of the most fundamental elements of religion, and yet it’s rarely talked about explicitly. Religious belief of any kind is built on relationshipsrelationships between the divine and the human, between the community and the human, between powerful humans and humans without power, and between humans of equal footing. All of these relationships are based on trust. Most religious people have some kind of trust that their God(s) won’t abandon them in this life or the next. We trust our communities to give us support when we’re in need (spiritually or materially) and we honor our obligation as a member of the community to help others. It doesn’t matter if that community is found in a one-room chapel, a megachurch stadium, or an internet forum. Religious people trust their leaders, who have been given the authority and ability to act (essentially, power), to lead their communities in responsible ways consonant with their belief system’s moral codes. We trust they won’t just make things up as they go along or abuse their power for their own gain, we trust they’ll use their education and experience and wisdom to guide others rightly. And we trust our equals to help us in the day to day lived practice of our faiths.

But what happens when that trust is broken? It’s a vehicle for compelling storytelling.

Spoilers for Game of ThronesFirefly, and Serenity after the jump.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Deities: Religious Diversity and Game of Thrones

faith of the sevenInnovative worldbuilding is the true backbone of all fiction which is celebrated by geek culture. Our most beloved authors, artists, and filmmakers create worlds in which we can imagine ourselves. There are plenty of things storytellers do to make a world convincing: use science or magic to explain (or enhance) strangeness, compose detailed descriptions of food or foreign landscapes, or even base it on our own. When most storytellers create worlds, unfortunately, they usually do a poor job of including any kind of religion. It’s either ignored altogether, or inserted via boring stereotypes. That’s a pity, because religion can be one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal to tie together a peoples’ culture, history, and motivations. One author that does a great job of exploring this is George R. R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, adapted into HBO’s Game of Thrones. 

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