You might take your Sunday morning activities for granted, but even if you live in a small town in Ohio where the zip code of your place of residence is determined by your membership in which quaint, white-steepled House o’th’Lord you bend weekly head, it’s worth giving a bit of mindfulness to the place of God (or Gods, Not!Gods, Sky-Wizards, Great Birds of the Galaxy, and/or Monstrous Tentacular Pasta Manifestations) in your story world.
You’d think that writing a contemporary story wouldn’t necessarily mean you’d need to spare more than a few brain cells about the role of god in the characters’ daily lives, or the role of God in a CBA-oriented story (aka “inspirational”)…but it’s worth sparing more than a few synapses to identify just what role religion plays in your characters’ mindsets.
Religion plays a hell of a role in society (see what I did thar?). Religious matters influence society on a macrocosmic level. As the ultimate authority over the world of your story, it’s up to you to determine how that manifests. “But I’m writing a contemporary story, set in the world we live in, why do I need to think of that–isn’t it obvious?”
To which I answer–which world we live in? A religion that shapes global economic policies is going to exert influence on characters and world–in the few big ways that make the news, but also in a myriad of small ways that then manifest at a much more neighborly level of value judgments placed on seemingly random elements–for example, a burger joint struggling on Fridays in early spring in a heavily Catholic community.
But religion may or may not provide much of a calling to a person who isn’t moved by the spirit in their personal life. And that has a tendency to manifest itself as part of their personality as well. Does your character drop blasphemy bombs out of a great resentment towards the deities influencing his life (or lack thereof), or does he do it simply out of indifference?
Delving into a character this deeply has the side advantage of identifying yet another layer of motive to your characters, as well as providing clues as to how they might act in a crisis, or what their instincts are in trusting a stranger with a terrifying message.