When I started my WIP (work in progress) A Quartz Storm, I made a decision that I would broadly avoid talk of religion. There are no gods in this world. Magic and science are intertwined, and whilst some things are more poorly understood than others, there is never any doubt in the protagonist’s mind that there is an explanation for everything.
But religion underpins so much in the modern world, even for non-believers. What would a world look like without sects, cults, mainstream religions? I started to write the dialogue. What swearing could I use, when cursing gods and damning someone to hell are out of the question? What about love, when someone feels it in their very soul? Is a creation story necessary, or do I expect the readers to accept unquestioningly this world where magic and electricity exist (albeit uncomfortably) side by side. And if I am demanding that degree of unquestioning faith from my characters, what could and should they believe in? Should they have an alternate route of escapism? Some of these I have found answers for, others may yet demand that I write a sects scene or two.
Writing is, of course, shaped by our own world view. So I started finding the faith that they did have. Safiya, the protagonist, finds the beauty in everything… and everyone. Tasha, her little sister, has complete faith in her older sibling protecting her. Other characters might have faith in their science, their magic, or the natural world. The passions that they find are not shaped by an all-knowing being, nor even the flawed and powerful gods seen in other worlds. Rather, they find faith in themselves, and those around them. And that, in its own right, is beautiful.
I wonder if sects have stages of growth or are modelable