A short primer based on a material I've had sitting in "draft" for awhile.
First, somebody makes a cultural observation which -- although it lacks any factual support to the point of being frankly silly -- nonetheless fits neatly into one of our cultural opioid receptors.
In this case, the alleged divide between science-stuff and God-stuff:
Religion in Science FictionNow I don't know a thing about Professor B.J. Keeton (who clearly shares my love of this genre and could in all other regards be a fine and noble human being) other than he got this one thing rather pretty flamboyantly wrong. A fact which would never have come to my attention had it not tickled someone else's cultural opioid receptors and been picked up and passed along by...
by B.J. Keeton
Very often science-fiction writers treat the ideas of religion and spirituality as being quaint at best and harmful at worst. Characters who believe in a higher power are often ridiculed for their faith, for not supplicating themselves before science as being the be-all/end-all.
There are exceptions to this tendency; however, positive religious SF stories are much harder to track down.
Alien Mormons?And even though the basic premise was respectfully and firmly debunked in the comments section...
An essay on how to incorporate religion into science fiction, prompted by a short story about alien Mormons.
Very often science-fiction writers treat the ideas of religion and spirituality as being quaint at best and harmful at worst. Characters who believe in a higher power are often ridiculed for their faith, for not supplicating themselves before science as being the be-all/end-all. ...
"There is certainly science fiction that takes religion seriously, and Battle Star Galactica is certainly one of them, moving the struggle between Christianity and the pagans in the Roman empire forward into the far future, and re-enacting the wanderings of Moses and his tribes in the wilderness....the conceit was so tasty that it teased yes another person's cultural opioid receptor, who, in turn, pushed it along still further:
"As a genre, science fiction probably more often takes religion considerably more seriously than, for example, mystery novels (I've read only one or two, e.g. "The Quaker Witness," that take religion seriously), chick lit, thrillers (Dan Brown's novels are the only notable exception that comes to mind), or romance novels that aren't expressly written for an inspirational sub-audience.
Religion In Science FictionNow this is a deliberately light and kind of silly example of how a false idea gets up a head of steam. A false idea which can have been fairly easily taken apart if one is so inclined.
08 Aug 2010 10:43 am
Bainbridge mulls it. More here.
Frankenstein -- arguably the first and most famous of all science fiction novels -- is subtitled "The Modern Prometheus" and is all about where the boundary between human and divine powers should be drawn.So, do "science-fiction writers [very often] treat the ideas of religion and spirituality as being quaint at best and harmful at worst"?
In Arthur Clarke's "The Star" the priest/narrator must cope with the tragic secret of the Nativity:
"[O]h God, there were so many stars you could have used. What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?"Half of everything Ray Bradbury ever wrote are meditation on Christianity.
Half of everything Harlan Ellison -- from "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" to "The Deathbird Stories" -- are meditations on what happens when humanity worships the wrong Gods. Also super-atheist Ellison has a ball here telling the story of Jewish aliens who need to make a minyan but come up one participant short.
Arthur Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God" for fuck's sake!
"Dune" is about the terrible power of faith.
Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" is the retelling of the Passion, positing a literal afterlife, where different faiths contend and interact with each other.
Heinlein's "Job: A Comedy of Justice" spends an assload of pages playing with the realities of Hell, Heaven, salvation and sainthood (Hell, if I remember a'rights, is run as a lazzire faire capitalism paradise by banks and credit card companies.)
Phillips Jose Farmer's entire "Riverworld" series is set along a giant river alongside of which every human who ever lived is reincarnated over and over again.
David Brin's "Uplift" trilogy is shot through with distinctly religious overtones.
"Snow Crash" is about a plot to reboot humanity to a pre-Tower of Babel mental state.
Most of "Star Trek" [TOS] are reworkings of Greek, Roman and Christian stories and tropes, up to and including a literal retelling of the rise of "The Son of God" in a parallel, 20th Century Roman Empire.
"Star Wars" for fuck's sake (even though it's not science fiction)!
In "Inferno", Larry Niven sends his protagonist to Dante's Hell.
Spider Robinson's "Harmony"-themed stories (including his "Callahan's" tales) are all about the salvation and redemption of the entire human race.
Islam in science fiction? Yep.
Not at all.
In fact, the opposite is true. As a genre, science fiction spends a lot of time contemplating the concept of God, the power of faith. It is constantly asking what it means to be human, what it means to be alien, in the end, how much difference is there between Clarke's "any sufficiently advanced technology" and the according-to-Hoyle divine.