Up Close and (un)Conventional – Religion in Books

Posted 19 March, 2017 by Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms in Discussion Posts / 36 Comments

Up Close and (un)Conventional - (un)Conventional Bookviews

Up Close and (un)Conventional

Welcome to this week’s Up Close and (un)Conventional. This is where I discuss both things that have to do with reading and blogging, and things that just have to do with life in general. This week, I’m going to discuss religion in books. Last week, I posted my review for Tiffany Reisz’ The Night Mark, and Lily @ Night Owl Book Café had a very good comment that made my brain take completely off, and voilà, I have a discussion post 🙂 What Lily commented was that Reisz usually includes religion in her stories. And this is definitely true. However, nobody can be as far from preachy as Reisz, is, I think.

Take her Original Sinners series, for example, where one of the main characters in a Catholic priest. One who is supposed to be celibate, live a clean and orderly life. That’s not exactly how I’d describe Søren, though. But I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read this series yet, so I’ll keep it at that. Reisz actually uses her religion, and the scripture, to point out how it’s possible to interpret the bible in a different way than the church and its priests do today. And I actually love that about her books, because I think religion is a very big part of (my own, at least) culture and history, and thus it is interesting to see another angle when it comes to all things religious.

Tara Lain is another author who does religion really well! Most of her stories include LGBT+ characters, and some of them know their bible and their scriptures. I find it eye-opening when authors include a positive view, even of the characters that some people use their Christianity to condemn. Lain’s stories are beautiful, and if you haven’t checked them out yet, you should.

I have read stories where religion was used differently, though. And when the tone becomes preachy, and I feel like the characters are trying to convert me, I’m not really happy with my story. I understand that some authors feel like sharing their religion is a calling. And I have read some incredibly good Christian romances, so I’m not against that at all. However, I already have my belief system, and I think I can’t really adhere to any religion fully. So if a story is preachy and tries to get me to become something I am not, and refuse to be, it won’t really work for me.

Have you encountered religion in your books? Was it preachy? Different? Did you enjoy it? Do you think religion has a place in fiction? Please share your thoughts.

Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

About Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

Linda is an English as foreign language teacher and has a Master's degree in English Language and Literature. She's an avid reader, blogger, compulsive one-clicker and a genre omnivore. Ever since she learnt how to read she has been seen with a book or two in her hands everywhere she goes.

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36 responses to “Up Close and (un)Conventional – Religion in Books

  1. I really love Tiffany Reisz’s books, as you already know. I love how she includes religion in her stories. I’m trying to think if I’ve read other books that featured religion as a large point in their books. I don’t think I have. I know in Anita Blake, Anita talks about that she is an Episcopalian because the Catholic church excommunicated her for raising the dead. I think that is the closest I’ve read outside of Reisz. I agree with you that if the author is trying to convert me, I want nothing to do with that. It can ruin an otherwise great story (not that I’ve read any, but I think it would ruin a story). Great topic.

    • I love how Reisz includes religion in her stories, too, because they truly add more layers to her characters, and make them even more realistic.
      I have only read one Anita Blake book, so it’s interesting that there is a religious aspect to that series, too.
      I don’t want to read a preachy story at all, as that just makes me feel like I’m wasting my time. I know what I believe in, and where to go for that.

  2. I don’t mind religion in my stories to help establish character or background and I read a smattering of religious/inspirational fiction when the mood takes me. What I don’t care for is soapboxing or the ‘bait and switch’ so that the plot is shoved aside while someone hammers on their point whether religion, political, or philosophical.

    I’ve encountered it a few times when I’m reading along in a romance and it was a significant element and handled well, I thought. Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North was a good one for this. I know there have been others I’ve read. I’ve not read Tiffany Reisz yet, but I do enjoy Tara Lain’s books.

    Great topic!

    • I agree, Sophia, there are stories in which the religion brings more layers to the characters. And inspirational fiction is all good, most of those really have characters who have their faith, and that’s just another aspect of their personality. And if I do pick up an inspirational story, I know in advance that religion will be mentioned, so that’s all good.
      You’re right about the point being either religious or political, I don’t want my books to preach at me – that’s not at all what I’m looking for in my fiction.
      Tara Lain’s books are awesome, and the way she includes religion in some of them is perfect.

    • Exactly! The preaching does not work for me. At all. Thankfully, I haven’t come across that very often, and I couldn’t even think of a book (at least not a title) where that’s happened recently.
      Having religion just being one aspect of a character is great, though, and I’m all for that.

  3. I know a lot of people are very against religion in their books, but I’m perfectly fine with them, as long as the author is not being preachy and shoving ideas down their readers throats. I haven’t read Tiffany Reisz books but you’re making me very curious.
    Miranda Kenneally handled religion really well in Things I Can’t Forget too. I have Emery Lord’s newest one coming up to read and that one has religion too so I’m excited to see how it’s handled.

    • I’m not against religion on books if it’s not used to try to convert me… And if it adds something to the characters and the story overall, I’m all for it, rally.
      Tiffany Reisz The Original Sinners series is pretty dark, and it’s BDSM erotica, but there is still quite a bit of religion, too. I love her writing, it’s so beautiful, and her characters are awesome!
      I am going to check out Things I can’t Forget, thanks for the rec, Nick.

  4. I don’t mind religion in book unless it becomes too much and takes over the story. Religion is an important part of a lot of people’s life and I think it needs to represented in the lives of characters in books as well. I don’t seek out religious books and don’t care for anything too preachy.

    • Oh I agree that it’s an important aspect of many people’s (and characters’) lives, and so, I don’t mind religion in my stories if it is there to help me understand the characters better. However, the moment I feel like it’s preachy, I’m usually out of there, preaching is for church.

    • If I pick up a nonfiction about religion, I’m all good, Aj, and I don’t mind religion in my fiction books, either. However, I don’t like it if the religion comes out of left field, and that the story is an excuse for trying to preach and convert me…

  5. I love it when an author uses religion in their story without being preachy – making us think about things from a different perspective, etc. You know I adore how Lain has used it in her stories. And although I’ve only read one from Reisz, I enjoyed the religious aspect in it as well. I don’t like preachy though. I know I’ve read one that was that way but I can’t think of the title right now. Typically though, I think authors who incorporate religion do it fairly well. I like religion used in paranormal – like in an angel-themed story.
    Great post, Lex! *smooches* {{{BIG HUGS}}}

    • I think the without being preachy part is what is important here, Brandee! I really enjoy it when religion is introduced to us in a way that just seems natural and a part of the character(s). Lain has done this very well, and I loved it. Reisz doe sit extremely well, too.
      Angel-themed stories that managed to also incorporate actual religious beliefs are amazing! {{{BIG HUGS}}}

      Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted: Review: Finding Our Forever – Brenda Novak
  6. I am a religious person, but even I don’t like books that preach to me so as long as it’s done in a none preachy manner I don’t mind it. That would also go for all religions as well, if someone wants to put a character whose culture is religious but it’s not my religion, don’t preach to me and I will read it. 🙂

    Stormi Johnson recently posted: The Week In Review #131
    • I do enjoy it when religion is a natural part of a story, Stormi, but not if it feels preachy and forced. Sometimes, a character with an unfamiliar to me religion will make me curious enough for me to pick up a non-fiction book to learn more about it, too.

  7. I don’t mind religion in books as long as it’s not preachy. Even as a Christian myself, I don’t want to read about preachy Christianity.

    Vespers by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt is a UF/PNR series about a m/m romance, and one of the characters is a super religious Catholic (I think) vampire, the other is a non-practicing Hindu. So there is religion in the books, but it’s never preachy, and the religion actually brings a really interesting aspect to the book because of how the vampire struggles with his religious beliefs vs his sexuality and vampirism. He also a unique outlook on how the bible can be interpreted and coincide alongside science, which I thought was really cool and made me think. It’s also interesting the way the characters have completely different beliefs but are able to have a relationship anyway.

    So yeah, I definitely think religion can be used well and add to a story without being preachy!

    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted: The Weekly Update: 3/19/17 + A Personal Note about Chronic Illness
    • Ha! See, I’m quite happy that so many of us, no matter our own belief system, do not want preachy books, Kristen.

      There’s a big difference between a story where characters are religious, and their prayers and faith is just a natural part of them and their journey, and one where it feels like the whole story is just an excuse to try to push a religion on me.

      And I’m totally adding Vespers to my TBR, it sounds absolutely fantastic!

  8. I absolutely agree. If asked, I am a Lutheran with background and understanding of many other denominations so I do not mind characters discussing God, the Bible, etc. especially when it fits the context of the story. However, when the tone becomes preachy or the circumstances seem forced, that is a different thing altogether.

    I am currently reading the first book in the Cate Kincaid mystery series (I love a good cozy mystery especially with a fluffy kitty among the cast) and the dialogue turns to God at very awkward moments. Plus the characters seem to pray at awkward moments too. There are other issues, but you’ll have to wait for my goodreads review on it. 😉 I’m about halfway through.

    Xyra recently posted: Grace Heads West
    • Forced circumstances are among the worst things in books, not matter what it is that seems forced, don’t you think, Xyra? It just makes me feel far away from the story, and that’s not a good place to be, as I enjoy myself much more if I’m immersed in the universe and the characters.

      I will be on the lookout for your review, Xyra. Sorry you don’t love it as much as you hoped.

      • I’ve been skimming the comments and completely agree with everyone about how interesting it is to read and learn about new religions and cultures through the beliefs of characters. Yes, I have been compelled to do further research to answer questions. Seems a uniting theme as well as the “no preaching.” 😀

        Absolutely forced circumstances in any realm are never good. Like you said, distances the reader from the action when that happens.

        Ah, well, it happens from time to time. Otherwise we wouldn’t have nearly the appreciation for the really good ones when they come along. 🙂

  9. First off this is such a wonderful topic to discuss!!!

    I really like it when authors use religion in romances. Especially when you don’t expect it. For example Christine Feehan implements it a bit in her early books of her Carpathian series which I really loved. Seeing these intense and dangerous carpathians have a softer and gentler side when it came to their belief system. I have strong religious beliefs so I do admire an author than can implement it in a way where its not preachy and adds a nice touch. I do like Christian romances but don’t get a chance to read them as much as I would like.

    • I can do without religion in my romances, but if religion is a natural part of the story and the characters’ lives, I’m good. I need to read the Carpathian series, too, I think I have the first couple of books on my kindle *sighs*
      I agree that those authors who can include religion in their stories and not seem in any way preachy are very good at writing!

  10. I actually really enjoy learning about all different kinds of religions even though I have my own faith. I love learning about other cultures and when authors hit on aspects of a religion that I may not have known before. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book that made me upset by being preachy at me so I don’t know if I just am unaffected by it or if I just haven’t read one yet.

    • I agree Jaclyn. And reading about other cultures, habits, religions, and other things that make the characters very different from me is so interesting. Because if it’s well done, I may have a greater understanding of people who are very different from me as well. I think some books make me walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and that’s truly amazing.

  11. Interesting post! I have read a few books that seemed a bit preachy and I can’t stand that. Like you, I have my own belief system and I am not likely to be changing anything anytime soon just because I am reading a book. I especially don’t like to be reading a book and realize it’s a book where religion features prominently and Net Galley didn’t tell me that ahead of time. And I have read at least two I can think of that I knew about ahead of time and I enjoyed. You just never know how well it’s going to be done.

    • I don’t enjoy preachy, either, no matter what it is that is being preached, really. But I do enjoy it if religion or politics is a part of the characters and how they evolve and change throughout the story.
      I guess knowing about religious themes ahead of time can be the same thing as knowing ahead of time if there is violence or sex included, right?
      Anything at all is good with me if it’s well done, though 🙂

  12. Great topic! I’m a Christian from the Seventh-Day Adventist religion. So I love when Christianity is introduced in books. Something that caught my attention in your post was the LGBTQ+ thing. The thing is many Christians forget that Jesus loves EVERYONE. He loves the sinner through and through. We are all sinners on Earth so who are we to judge others? All we should do is be there for them, befriend them, lend a hand, etc etc.
    As I said above, I love when Christianity is introduced (I don’t call it religion because religion would mean a specific one, when the authors usually write in general)! Love this post!
    Genesis @ Latte Nights Reviews

    • I have read about other religions than Christian in books, and it brought more to the characters because of the importance it had in their lives. I agree, though, about the fact that us humans aren’t supposed to judge – this is a common themes in all the religions I know anything about, but we do see people who kind of hide behind their religion to make other people feel belittled.
      LGBTQ+ is one population that has been mistreated by some people who say the bible explains things in a certain way, while they forget about Jesus washing sinners’ feet…
      Thanks for commenting, Gen! <3

  13. I totally agree with you that preachiness in books can be a major turn-off. I’m Christian, but I still don’t want to feel like I’m being preached at in my fiction. But I love it when an author manages to put religion into a book in more subtle ways or in ways that feel natural—it’s nice to see some positive representation of Christianity since I feel like a lot of times Christian characters in (non-Christian specific) books are portrayed basically as villains.

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