I was thinking about Religion, the nature of good and evil and Eragon. But my mind slided away from the paper cut out world of Algesia and wandered into Randland, the world of the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. And I realized, once again, just how annoyed I was at him and these books. I would do an analysis of his books, but then I'd never be done. I maybe crazy, but even I know a fool's task when I see one.
But I digress. The Wheel and Time and Religion. The basic belief in the world of Rand is that the Creator "Light" is good, and the Dark one "Dark" or "shadow" is evil. It's a fairly simple view of the world and doesn't leave much room for gray areas. But lots of fantasy worlds have that sort of narrow minded belief, with the defenders of the light and dark lords of doom. While that is horribly cliched, that's not what really bothers me about this thing.
What does bother me is that EVERYONE in Randland worships the Creator. And they all have the same name for him and there is no variation on it. Jordan constantly is creating all sorts of interesting (if slightly absurd) cultures that are very different from everyone else's. They all have their strange little quirks. Which leads to, of course, the constant, well they're just idiotic because they're not doing it right sort of fights that are found so often in the books. Really, that plot device got old in book three. Despite this vast abundance of cultural differences, they all have the same religion. They all worship the Creator. And they all call him that. Even the Seachan from across the sea do it.
Which, I think, is highly implausible. If you're going to have such disparate cultures, then they're going to have different forms of religion. Religion is one of the backbones of society. It's the "What we believe is important" thread of society. We have, in Randland, a culture that doesn't believe in fighting back and have their little thing called "The Way of the Leaf" and they still worship the Creator. There are the Aiel, a warrior society that lives in the desert and find water the most precious thing they have. And they also worship the Creator as the Creator. There's no variation. It's all the same.
You would think that different societies would have different names for the Creator, even if they all worshiped the same being. Or that there'd be other religions and beliefs that made the Creator a more multiple aspect or a hundred different possibilities. But, no, it's not there. And that is a real problem. It shows that Jordan doesn't understand what makes a society. It's not all the weird cultural things that they do, but what they believe as a whole.
In my world, one of the things that I've been trying to do is create different belief systems. I have several different cultures present in my world and they're not going to believe the same thing. I don't have a single "creator" that is good and a "dark one" that is evil. Because that's unrealistic. Instead I'm trying to find compatible belief systems that may have arisen based on the world around the people. So far, I have three. One group that worships gods based on the Elements, one group that worships Lorac, whom they think is a deity, and another group that worships the moon goddess. The element worshipers have a conflicting view point with the Lorac worshipers, but they don't mind the moon goddess worshipers. Each of these cultures have their own society and thus developed their own beliefs based on how and where they lived.
There is no "right" religion in my world. There is just multiple belief systems. You're not evil for believing in Lorac (though the wizards might disagree with you) nor are you good for believing in the moon goddess. The religion may shape your beliefs in something, but it doesn't automatically mean that you're good for believing in one thing and evil for believing in another thing.
I think this is why these "Light" and "Dark" religions bother me so much. Because it assumes that you're either Good or Evil and that's the only choice you have. And you can tell your alignment by what god you worship. The real world isn't like that, and why should our fantasy worlds be like, except that it makes it easier if not more believable to do split the belief line down the middle. No one goes to a religion to on the idea that they're going to be worshiping evil. At least, in a realistic world.
It is more difficult to create different beliefs systems for different cultures, when you're creating a multifaceted world. But even if they aren't used or talked about explicitly, if they're there, just in the background, it adds more flavor to the world. It makes it different to the others.
Mercedes Lackey did a good job in her The Heralds of Valdemar series, where there are multiple religions present. Herald Albrich is from a place where there is only one religion and is surprised to find that there are other religions out there and that they're tolerated. The religions are really mentioned as "And there is this religion that believes in this" but it's just there in the background. And it makes the world that much richer.
One of these days, I'm going to create a culture that finds the "dark" good and the "light" evil.