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What Is Religious Fiction?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
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Religious fiction is literary fiction that has a religious element. Some people tend to think of religious items of fiction as having to do with the religious affiliation of the author, but generally, experts only consider it religious fiction as it addresses religious elements in the actual work. In Western societies, religious fiction is most often fiction that addresses elements of Judeochristian religion, although smaller alternative religious groups may present their own types of literature under this general category.

One way that religion informs literature is in providing characters and characterizations. Some religious types of fiction, for example, borrow heavily from the Judeochristian notion of God, and the general attributes traditionally associated with the character or characterization of how Jews, Christians and similar religious groups think of God. The same is true for Jesus Christ, known in Judeochristian religion as the Son of God. Other religious fiction may borrow from specific narratives like the Creation story, where additional characters include Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, as well as the Serpent, known in classic Christianity as Satan or the Devil.

Other forms of religious type fiction do not address theology as such, but rather, focus on the manifestation of Christianity, Islam, or another religion over the course of its long history. Some examples would include Victorian literature with a religious element, or even a modern American setting where an authentic religious group figures prominently in a realistic plot of a fiction novel or other piece.

Religion also provides a metanarrative for fiction and other literature. Literature uses religion often to drive home a certain point, to show a certain worldview, or to propound on a theory of morality, cosmology, or other ideas central to the world community. This is sometimes known as providing a ‘moral to the story’ where some religious fiction seeks to implement religious thought through fictional accounts of theoretical situations. In some of these types of religiously oriented fiction, the religious writer would try to show the outcomes in differences between those who practice a religion faithfully, and those who do not.

One use of the term religious fiction is to properly promote and advertise books or other literature. Publishers or others may label a work as religious fiction in order to sell it or to define its sale. Readers may also look for literature according to its designation as religious fiction in a given literary marketplace.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By nextcorrea — On Jan 24, 2012

Christian publishing is bigger than it has ever been before. Christian themed merchandise and media in general are bigger than ever but publishing especially has taken off.

This includes both fiction and non fiction books as well as a wide variety of magazines. The Christina lifestyle and belief system are approached from almost every angle.

As a Christian myself it is sometimes frustrating to see how much the faith has been commercialized. But at the same time I am glad that people are trying to keep the Lord and his teaching so close to their lives.

By truman12 — On Jan 23, 2012

When I think of religious fiction books the first thing that comes to mind is the Left Behind series that was so popular about 7 years ago. I'm not sure how many of the books they actually wrote but I know that the series went on for longer then you would expect. I even saw a spin off series for kids in a book store once.

I never read any of the books honestly but I saw the movie that was based on the first one. It was all right. I am a big reader but it didn't make me want to check out the books.

By nony — On Jan 23, 2012

@Mammmood - Most Christian fiction is religious fiction. I don’t see any difference personally. You’re arguing about what makes a fictional work a classic, or part of the Western “canon.”

That’s an argument for another day. Religious is just a general term without getting too specific. I think an important point to consider is the old fashioned idea of a morality play.

That is basically a story with a moral. You could argue that a lot of religious fiction does that, although it does not have to, necessarily. It could be religious fiction set in a historical time period, the purpose of which is to expound upon the growth of the church or something like that.

By Mammmood — On Jan 22, 2012

One point to consider is how you would differentiate between what is called religious fiction and Christian fiction. Obviously religious fiction could showcase other faiths like Islam, but I think that is the most basic distinction.

Let’s dig deeper. How would you classify the classics of Western literature for example? Think of The Scarlet Letter or Dante’s Inferno. The latter I consider to be religious fiction, but not Christian fiction as the term has been used today.

Christian fiction is popular contemporary fiction with a target audience in mind. I don’t consider most modern Christian fiction to be literary in any sense of the term. The Inferno is a classic. It stands on its merits as great fiction, and it has mass appeal. Maybe some people would argue that it’s not even religious fiction, but I think it is.

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