I have been working, the last few days, on the religions of my world. As it is central to the world building I did not want to just gloss over this. However, I did not want to have them come across as these monolithic static entities. Today while I was in class(to be honest, I wasn't all that focused in class, we were just watching Antigone, take of that what you will)I came up with a series of questions, That I think will help me come up with aspects for the religion. For this I will be using The Empire of Man as my sample culture/religion. Here they are:
What behavior does this religion encourage? In the Empire of Man there are two things sought, obedience and loyalty to Sovereign and her Scions. Also there is a sense of family loyalty, and pride in bloodline. People are encouraged to know and keep their place in the world. In the peasant and slave classes Hard work and obedience are seen as high ideals.
How does it encourage this behavior(stories/parables/sermons/etc)? Among the peasants and slaves one day a week is spent in worship and reverence. There are missionaries sent to every zone(an area holding around a thousand people) on those days to speak sermons and stories. They carry an image-staff(need a better name), that adds holographic and other sensory illusions to enhance the stories. The peasants are kept illiterate so this is there main source of education. The houses of the Scions and Monitors are allowed to learn to read, and each house keeps the two holy books in the household. The books are the Tenets, the smaller book that discusses the morality and rules of the faith, and The Histories, containing mythologized stories of Sovereigns lives. they are not raised by the family directly, instead they are raised in special schools where they are indoctrinated into the faith from age five to age fifteen.
Where did everything come from? Long ago, before the discovery of the Gates, before the rise of Sovereign and the Empire of Man there was the age of darkness. Little is known of of this age, or of what came before. All that is known that we came from a place called Earth. During the darkness arose Sovereign. First among gods, she may change her face and body, but her essence remains. She brought forth the Empire of Man.(basically she is the birth of the world the Empire knows. She found the Gate and led them to conquer many many systems. Still working on how to make this sound like...not crap)
What happens when you die? Sovereign died during the darkness, then she brought herself back confirming her divinity(this is how her body snatching is described in the holy books, she dies then is reborn fully formed in a new body). Because of this she became the gatekeeper to the lands of the dead. Please her and serve her and you get sent to the lands of plenty. If you really pleased her in life, she will catch your soul and raise it up, you will be reborn into one of the peasant houses(if a slave), the Monitor houses(if a peasant), or Scion Lineages(if a Monitor).
What is sin? What behaviors are discouraged in this religion? There is a serious difference in taboo/forbidden behavior dependent on your standing in society. Basically the only truly unforgivable behavior is disobeying Sovereign, showing disloyalty, or betraying your family. Those are the only truly unforgivable sins. All others can be bought off with money or service to the empire. This has lead to the creation of the Legion of the Damned. They are soldiers who joined to pay off theirs or another person's sins.
How is this behavior discouraged? For the disloyalty or disobedience, there is only one response, slow public death. For betraying your family you can choose a swift death or becoming a suicide soldier in the Legion of the Damned. There rest of the punishments/discouragements are an intricate web of byzantine rules and bureaucratic red tape.
Why was this behavior originally frowned upon? The first two big rules are fairly self explanatory. So I will work on the last. This came about from the scheming of the Scion Lineages. They were always seeking advancement and it was becoming a detriment to the smooth running of the Empire. So Sovereign declared the rule of Familial Loyalty. This happened so long ago that no one even remembers the original reason. There are a couple of big stories in The Histories that illuminate this point.
Who can speak for/to the gods/god/morality/philosophy? Working on this, haven't quite got it yet.
Is there a hierarchy? Heck yes there is! The whole society is so hierarchical that it would be ludicris to not have the priest class(or whatever) be extremely hierarchical.
How is that arranged? At the end of the day everything is about Sovereign, but I haven't worked out the details.
What external factors effect the religion?
The original world/the government/secular factions(merchants and the like)/etc.
In the Empire religion and politics are practically one and the same. So the highly charged political atmosphere affects how the religion is used in various planets and zones. While you cannot change the Tenets, you can get away with a lot of smaller heresies within specific areas. Corruption is fairly rampant in the Empire.
Is there a method for dealing with those who question the tenets of the religion? I kind of covered this in the Sin bit. But I will use this to describe briefly what I mean by this. In some religions there are rote responses to many questions that have come up over time, apologetic rotes would fit in this. Also there are in some other religions specific people who are allowed to speak out in specific ritualized ways against specific tenets of the faith, that would be covered here as well.
So there they are. Yep. Anyway, let me know what you think. Are there any questions that seem unnecessary? Any that are missing? I would appreciate any feedback on this bit.