Thursday, January 25, 2007

God and Science Fiction



I was reading the Dallas Morning News' Religion Blog where Jeffrey Weiss commented that he found Evangelical Theological Society President Francis J Beckwith's comparison of the National Association of Evangelicals with Star Trek's United Federation of Planets humorous. (Beckwith's comment is found in Cathy Lynn Grossman's recent article on Evangelicalism in USA TODAY.)

Weiss thought Beckwith's comment was funny because the original Star Trek world was particularly religion-free. Similarly, as I recall from reading Isaac Asimov's wonderful Foundation novels, religion was presented as something only practiced by the uneducated.

The vast majority of the books I read and like are non-fiction. But every now and then I'll find some fiction author I like and tear through many or all of their books. Some years ago, I discovered that practically everyone I knew was reading Orson Scott Card and his Enders series. I began reading them and they were so good I was reading them at stoplights. One of the features of his books that I really appreciated was that religion was not depreciated.

We had Tivo'd Battlestar Galactica's Season Premiere and Tuesday night I was watching it. (For those of you who don't know the series, it's not to be compared to the campy 70's series. It's more sophisticated and darker.) One of the interesting features of the series is that the humans are polytheists but the Cylons are theists. And religion is not only treated respectfully, but is a central feature of the show's story arc.

I can't say that I've read widely enough in this genre to know if this apparent increased religiosity is just a happenstance of my own exposure to sci-fi, or if it's definitely a trend. Either way, I find this treatment of religion interesting in what many would call a secular age.

I do think that it's an evidence of man's hunger for God.

If you're a sci-fi fan, have you noticed the same? Other thoughts?

photo from the hubblesite gallery

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

awww, science fiction, a field in which i excel:) i actually had posted some thoughts a couple weeks ago concerning some of the religious tensions on BSG.

i can't say that i've noticed a trend overall in recent works, but i find myself sensitive in regards to the themes. weis and hickman have a strong theme of polytheism running through their dragon lance series. however i find that the majority of science fiction and fantasy works are usually speaking to larger themes about God and humanity...either the recognition of supernatural being/s or the lack there of.

brad

ps. stephen, do you enjoy BSG?

Stephen said...

SPOILER ALERT




brad,

I think BSG's the bomb. I started watching it last year from the very beginning and it was so good I got thru the mini-series and however many seasons there were up to last year's.

I was bummed they set aside D'Anna but maybe she'll be back.

Anonymous said...

SPOILER ALERT

ya, im betting they bring her back, maybe even by the end of the season. also, im wondering if starbuck is possibly a cylon (with her early paintings matching the eye of jupiter pics).

Anonymous said...

also, robert jordan' (pen name) 'the wheel of time' series has some fascinating exploration of 'the creator' in battle with the escaped 'dark one'.

Rick Meigs said...

I love good science fiction, but have never been able to handle BSG. Maybe its a left over minded set from the original. Lorne Greene was just awful.

Love Firefly. Derrial Book is a "Shepherd" and adds an interesting contract to Inara Serra the "Companion." I also read anything by Jack McDevitt, but I don't recall off hand that he ever deals with religion.

How about Star Wars. Could the Jedi Order be seen as a religion?

Stephen said...

SPOILER ALERT FOR GALACTICA


Right, we know that whoever D'Anna saw when she viewed the missing 5 cylons, it must have been someone whom she wronged due to her apology. I wondered if it was the President.

I also really liked Firefly and was said to see it go.

Definitely think Jedi Order could be seen as religious, now that you mention it, but very eastern

brad said...

not sure why those first comments showed up as anonymous. it was me.

brad