F is for Fate – Worldbuilding Religions

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There are so many fun ways to play with fate when it comes to religious beliefs. Later on, we’re also going to look at prophecy and that will be connected to fate, but for now we’re not going to worry about the implications of foretelling the future or fate of someone or something, and simply look at the concept of fate.

Destiny

Destiny means, essentially, a series of events that a person is meant to walk through.

There’s two ways you can play with destiny (probably more, but two specific ways I can think of at this moment). One—a force outside your character (whether it is a deity or something more benign, such as the ‘universe’ that is a controlling force but isn’t personal in any way.) controls events that must happen to that character, regardless of decisions your character may make; or two—a character controls their own destiny based on their choices, but they may not be able to predict the paths those choices will lead them down.

You can also have some combination of the two, where your characters are destined to go through certain things regardless of the choices they make, but their choices may determine the outcome of those events. Make sense? If not, leave a comment below and I’ll try to clarify further.

Karma

In its proper definition, the word karma specifically applies to the Buddhist/Hindu belief in reincarnation—that what one does in a current life decides what they are subject to in the next one.

In modern culture, we also see it used very casually, and almost always in reference to the same lifetime (because Western culture doesn’t really adhere to the belief in reincarnation, since most modern Western cultures find their roots in Judeo-Christianity). You may see phrases like ‘what goes around comes around’ as well as ‘what you sow is what you reap.’ The latter is actually taken from the Bible.

No matter how you decide to use the concept of karma, though, the basics of it is that a character’s actions and choices pre-determine their destiny. Depending on the amount of good or evil acts one performs, it may or may not balance out favorably.

Predestination

Predestination is actually a term derived from Christian theology, but it’s not a belief that every Christian church adheres to. It comes from a scripture (Romans 8:29) and people like to interpret it as meaning that God has predestined all those who will ever be saved. It essentially implies that people have no true choice (and therefore no free will) in whether they go to heaven or hell. (I personally do not hold this specific view.)

The concept of predestination is an excellent theme to play with in fantasy (whether or not you have a religious aspect to your story) because fantasy in particular likes to play with the archetype of The Chosen One. If you’re also playing with the idea of free will in your character arcs, though, it can add an extra layer of conflict to your story.

Worldbuilding Exercises

  1. What does your religion believe about fate? Do deities or other forces control anything (or everything)? Or is an individual in charge of their own fate?
  2. Is any form of karma in play in your world? Is it possible for one to outweigh their bad deeds with good ones?
  3. Does predestination play into your religion at all, even if not by all sects?

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

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2 Comments

  1. This is another one where there can be a clear distinction between what people in your world believe and what is actually true in your universe. Fun stuff can happen in the space between those two, when people’s actions are determined by what they believe but would not necessarily have happened if they hadn’t believed that it would… self-fulfilling stuff.
    (Click the Blog link on the second row) : F is for Fiddlers

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