Re: Breathing life into a fantasy religion
I actually went the other way, and made mine as close to the Catholic church/ Christianity as possible. However, as a non-believer I specifically wanted to do that so I could provide commentary on religion and draw parallels with ourselves. Now, in my books the religion as important as one of my characters is the Messiah. For the most part, unless the religion is specifically relevant, readers don't generally care.
For example, in Ice and Fire it is relevant at times, but not for the majority of the perspective characters. Though it plays a part in the plot etc, it isn't necessary to outline all the ins and outs. In truth, if I was asked I'd say- well, some believe in a pantheon, then there's this fire chick, and later on a sea god dude, but that's about it.
Religion is appearing less and less in fantasy nowadays (which I hope indicates that a younger generation of writers also sees it as irrelevant, but that is just my opinion). It might be more effective not to have religion at all. I think much of it comes from our inability to disconnect medieval fantasy from religion because of our own european medieval history, of which the church was a driving force at all levels of society. However, on the worlds we create, why have a religion at all?