Are You Afraid of Religion?
On January 1, I started my new volunteer role as the Director of External Communications for the Women's Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).
I'm learning about the various programs and meeting the other talented volunteers.
The Rising Star Award for unpublished women's fiction is one of the most anticipated contests WFWA sponsors.
Commercial Break: If you have written a novel, and are seeking agent representation, check out the site. The competition is open to anyone with a manuscript. However, first preference is given to WFWA members as there are only 75 slots.
WFWA solicits 75 volunteer judges. They are selected based on a qualification criteria, which I will not go into here, but feel free to contact me if you are interested in becoming a judge.
I've learned it's tricky finding judges because there are many subjects she or he may be squeamish reading.
"Oh, like erotic sex scenes, suicide, and child abuse?" I said to the coordinator.
"Sometimes, but actually, religion is a big issue," she said.
Social etiquette recommends avoiding sex, religion, and politics in polite company. But these are some of the juiciest, tension-laded issues in the world to write about. Why would you not want to dive into a work of fiction that explores these topics?
According to a 2016 PEW Research survey, "About half of U.S. adults tell us they seldom (33%) or never (16%) talk about religion with people outside their family. And roughly four-in-ten say they seldom (26%) or never (13%) discuss religion even with members of their immediate family."
Who Talks About Religion?
The survey says (I encourage you to read it) that highly religious people talk about religion, with "Protestants and members of historically black Protestant churches are especially likely to have religious conversations." Aha! that explains so much, if you consider your Twitter feeds, pundits in the media, take your pick of the swirling, churning news cycle.
This survey blows up many of the myths about religious conversations. According to PEW, "in our survey, when we asked people what they do “when someone disagrees with you about religion,” just 10% of evangelicals say they “try to persuade the person to change their mind.” The vast majority of evangelical Protestants (70%) try to “understand the person’s beliefs and agree to disagree,” while about one-in-six (18%) say they “avoid discussing religion with the person” altogether."
The survey also states," most atheists and agnostics have a live and let live attitude about religious disagreements."
Does this translate to an avoidance of religion in stories? I've not done any research on titles. Is it hard to write about a religious trope or character? Is it hard to internalize the feelings of these characters based on your personal beliefs?
Stories allow us to experience another reality. Perhaps if we read more about religion, we'd understand more, and the swirl of fear, prejudice, and hate-speak we hear daily would truly turn into live and let. Or better yet, live and let love.