Gods, Heroes and Terminators

I’ve just been catching up on some of the TV shows I like to follow. New seasons have begun, but I’ve only just managed to watch the Heroes season premiere and that of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which has already aired its third episode).

Both seasons began with an increase in God-talk, all the more noteworthy since such language and imagery was already present to a significant degree in seasons past.

My first reaction was to suspect that religious elements are becoming a fad, and that these might simply pepper the episodes the way they pepper the speech of many (perhaps most) religious adherents, with no deeper significance or meaning.

But I’m starting to wonder.

Both of these shows are about humans building or turning into beings with the powers that characterized the divine and the demigods of epic myths and legends. Perhaps, as technology increasingly holds out to us the possibility of overcoming death (although perhaps not permanently), becoming powerful, and many other things humans admire and aspire for, it is becoming more rather than less important to us to ask what is ultimate, what is even greater than these new heights that are, for the moment, just out of reach, but may like forbidden fruit soon be within tasting distance.

One of the greatest mysteries that still puzzle us is consciousness, how the functions of body and brain become mind and self awareness. Can a machine ever say “I love you” and really mean it? Cameron, the reprogrammed terminator, keeps looking at Jesus on the crucifix in a Catholic church with an inquisitive gaze. Eventually she asks Sarah if she believes in the resurrection. When Cameron says faith isn’t part of her programming, Sarah suggests that neither is it part of hers. Once again, the question of how the human mind is “programmed” begins to come to the fore, and hopefully will continue to be explored in a serious and reflective manner.

If machines begin to explore religion, some will treat it as proof that religion is just a result of our “programming”, while others will treat it as proof that machines can think and feel or that religion is indeed universal. But in fact, it is unlikely that machine religion will prove anything more than human religion will – except perhaps from the point of view of the machines themselves, if they have one.

  • http://www.cleverbadger.net Clever Badger

    If you think about it, The Terminator mythos has had religious overtones since the first film in 1984. John Connor is a classic Jesus figure in two glaring respects:1) Born under unusual circumstances2) Destined to redeem/save humanity from great evil or oppression at great cost to himself(Not to mention the term “Judgment Day” in reference to the destruction of humanity by the machines – not especially subtle.)The series has the potential to explore some very interesting aspects of what constitutes our essential humanity. I hope the writers are skilled enough to do so without being too ham-handed with the material.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    I just came up with an idea for a cheesy evangelical TBN movie. An android spends a long time looking for his creator, but he finds his creator isn't all he's cracked up to be, but is somewhat of a jerk (sounds like this one hour-long Twilight Zone episode&). Then, someone tells the android that no human creator can meet all our needs, so we should accept our divine creator. Of course, the problem there is that Christ did not die for androids (as far as I know–though there is that Colossians passage where Christ is said to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth). But the aim is to preach to us anyway, so why would that matter?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    James, the android in question could start imitating Jesus and get itself executed, hoping to die for the sins of all androids…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    Actually, your idea has potential.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395422809298131385 Levi

    if you haven’t seen the 2nd episode that aired last Mon. DON”T READ WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAYso what did you think about Sylar being the son of Angela Petrelli? I’m wondering if she means that he is really her son or if she meant something else by that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06039130895443623988 Karen

    That line where Cameron asks Sarah about her faith was extremely clever. The writers get kudos for that. It reflects how some people feel in a witty way.


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