E is for Evil – Worldbuilding Religions

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What is evil, truly?

This has been the discussion of religious debates and philosophy many times over, and I am not even going to pretend to try to give it justice at this time. The definition can be very broad, and in general it can simply be the absence of good.

For the purpose of worldbuilding religions, let’s assume that evil is a supernatural force able to influence a character, or that evil is a state a character comes to by repeated, deliberate choices (or some combination of these two scenarios.)

Religion, at its core, is almost always about finding redemption or escape from evil. Many religions also contain some sort of mythos that humanity (or, possibly for your story, any type of sentient being) had a point early on where they were completely innocent and unaware of evil. Their introduction to evil—corruption, if you will—usually involves some sort of trickery.

To figure out how your fictional cultures view the problem of evil, you’ll need to play around with why they believe evil is a problem, as well as what their first true encounter with it was. For someone to be lured into committing a truly evil act, especially for it to be the very first time, there must be something they want to obtain that is inaccessible any other way (or that they believe is inaccessible.)

So, in a sense, you might say that evil is simply selfishness.

Worldbuilding Exercises

  1. What was the first instance of evil that occurred in your world?
  2. What consequences occurred from that act of evil, and how widespread was it?
  3. What solution to evil does each religion in your world offer?

Leave a comment below if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!

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