Genres 101: Today’s Lesson Religious Fiction

Filed in Genres 101 , The Quirky Lover Posted on July 6, 2011 @ 2:00 pm 5 comments

I’m not a religious person, to say the least, but this has never stopped me from reading any type of book, regardless of its designation. In fact, it often surprises me as I’m reading a new author to find a religious element within the story. The thing within my own mind, though, is the stereotype I often associate with this type of literature: the preachiness of it all. Thankfully, this is very rarely the case when we’re talking about fiction. The ‘lessons’ seem to come in a more subtle form, with the ‘human condition’ as the whole point of a story, and the associated moralities displayed through the action and characters.

So, off I went to my first stop for research (and by now, I should really know better): Wiki. This time, I found  Wiki’s article on Religious Fiction to be incredibly short sighted! It seems to indicate only variations on Christian themes: Christian Fiction, Christian Science Fiction, and LDS/Mormon Fiction. Seriously?! This is not the only religious affiliation worthy of being mentioned! What about Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism (to name just a few)?! Which then makes me curious if there are fiction books with these religions featured…

Well, let’s start off with Christian Fiction and its Wiki definition: “A Christian novel is any novel that expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.” There are many examples in popular fiction of authors that fit this category, like Nicholas Sparks and even Anne Rice, really.

One of the examples offered is Ted Dekker. Having just finished reading his The Priests’s Graveyard, I have to say, I was astounded that his writing would be considered ‘Christian Fiction’; it was so dark! At the end of the novel, I reflected on the story and thought “wow!, I can see it now…”. Again, this was a major misconception on my part about the kind of content a religious infused book should have. Shame on me! There are other big names mentioned within the label of “Christian”, such as J.R.R. Tolkein, Madeline L’Engle, and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series. The Mormon Fiction link cites authors such as Orson Scott Card and (you know I have to add it in) Stephenie Meyer.

I think that overall, the idea of “Inspirational Fiction” (another name associated with “Religious Fiction”) and  the notions as defined above can be easily given to all of the other religions. In my personal readings, I have seen this positive thinking in the pages of The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, which features three religions blended into a more useful one that helps a boy survive a ship wreck. I also found information on Judaism within Anne Rice’s novel Angel Time and in Mitch Albom’s work, which fits in fiction and non-fiction categories.

Here’s where I draw a blank and need help from you. What other authors/novels are out there that feature religions? As a fan of knowledge, I enjoy learning about different cultures and religions, despite my own personal beliefs. Am I missing any great books because of lack of popular exposure?

I personally feel that with anything I’ve been exposed to, nothing has been overt, nothing has attempted to convert me (the same cannot be said about people I know, but what can you do?). Instead, it’s about life, how to cope, and what lessons can be gleaned from it. Whether you subscribe to a particular theology, or even agree with any of them, I think enjoyment can still be found when reading Inspirational Fiction, providing you go in with an open mind.

(Ironically, the Religious Fiction part of the Wiki genre list includes a sub-link for “Luciferian Fiction”. Since it was linked on that main page, the “Luciferian” page has since been removed. But it still begs the question: why so much Christian and anti (in the extreme) Christian fiction versus listing other world religions? And, of course, I do have an example that could very well fit a category that would contain Satan as a main theme, Joe Hill’s Horns.)

How many of you have read anything that would be considered Religious Fiction? Do you have similar impressions to what I’ve come across, as the delivery means and intent?

About Jackie

Jackie is a quirky mom, living in Ontario, Canada. She's a bookkeeper by day and a book lover by night. She also blogs at The Novel Nation and writes occasionally for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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  • okbolover July 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I've read about 4 books that would be considered "christian or inspirational" fiction. I like them. I am taking a liking to the historical fiction ones they're well written, and they have romance without the smut. Which I like very much. Although some do come off as preachy, I found some don't have that at all and are very good reads. I suggest everyone give them a try, at least to open up their horizions a bit 🙂

  • Sheree July 6, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    I'm assuming all those Love Inspired and Inspirational/faith-based Romances don't really count in this? And all those Amish romances? They are Christian-based. I don't think I've read any that are based on other religions.

    As a rule, I don't seek out religious fiction, mostly because they're like small town fiction to me and I don't enjoy those that much either (yes, I know they're very popular). Sometimes they sneak up on me, but as long as it's not too preachy, I'll finish reading the book (and then stay away from anything else the author has written).

  • Jackie July 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

    @Karoline – I totally agree with the opening up of horizons, especially when books can teach you something about human nature without smacking you over the head, so to speak.

    @Sheree – That's a good question! Even lumping in Stephenie Meyer here, because she is Mormon, not necessarily that she writes Mormon literature, seems a bit off. Overall, though I think there are varying degrees of religious content…take Lamb by Christopher Moore vs The Priest's Graveyard, for example. Lamb is all bible but so tongue in cheek, it doesn't fit here. The Ted Dekker book has a serial killer priest! but is full of reflection on right and wrong, rather than direct biblical influence.

  • Ju Dimello July 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I somehow can't read much of religious fiction 😐 I have tried a couple of inspirational, but that's about it….

  • Jackie July 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    @Ju – I think there's a big difference between the non-fiction Inspirationals and the fiction version, especially when the fiction is done right…

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