Does God Have a Place in Science Fiction?

Anyone who reads this blog regularly probably thinks the answer is obvious. But the question is asked afresh and explored well in an article by Damien Walter in The Guardian with the same title as this blog post (HT John Morehead on Facebook).

It includes great quotes such as “Any sufficiently advanced technocrat will be indistinguishable from God” and “Religion is a battle ground, and walking away from it only concedes the war to your opponents.”


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  • O.R. Pagan

    In one of my own posts, I have written that one of the aspects that science and science fiction have in common is that they implicitly or explicitly explore the “whys?” of the universe. Now, to me the question of God is THE most important “why?” There is…

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    I love religious themes in science fiction. Perhaps my favorite was Dune Trilogy. It wasn’t really Christian, but I like science fiction that deals with God and Christian issues as well.

    • Nick Gotts

      It’s more than a trilogy. Frank Herbert himself completed six Dune novels (I managed the first four before becoming surfeited), and his son Brian has collaborated with Kevin J. Anderson on numerous sequels, prequels, interquels etc. – indeed, it’s become a franchise, as wikipedia terms it. I actually find the whole thing disturbingly fascistic in its themes of conspiracies within conspiracies, and breeding programmes to create superhumans, but the first three novels are certainly powerful works of the SF imagination.

      • jesuswithoutbaggage

        The reason I say I liked the Dune trilogy is because I loved the first three books, but when God Emperor of Dune came out I was so terribly disappointed that I did not read anything further.
        I agree with you that the first three novels are powerful!

  • Nick Gotts

    There are two very different ways science fiction stories can have religious themes: the societies in which they take place may themselves include religious institutions, conflicts, etc.; or the story itself can reveal that yes, there is a creator. Personally, the latter (as in Olaf Stapledon’s Starmaker or Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee’s Rama Revealed) always seems to me like a failure of imagination – except maybe in Clarke’s short story The Nine Billion Names of God. After all, if we want divine-creator stories, there are plenty already available in ancient myths.

  • John

    I don’t know if this is from you or patheos, but the change to having your rss feed providing barely a single line of content followed by:

    “[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]”

    is going to result in me reading your blog content a lot less (or not at all), not visiting the site more.

    • James F. McGrath

      I just posted about the two different RSS feed subscription options for the blog, for your convenience:

      Hope this helps!

      • John

        Thanks – I appreciate it.

        • James F. McGrath

          My pleasure! I’m glad you said something, and did not just remain silent and unhappy! I really do want things to be as convenient for readers as possible.

  • Ian

    Are religious stories a form of science fiction?

    A lot of science fiction takes some known facts about the world around us, speculates about the gaps we don’t know, tells stories of agents operating in those gaps, and works out the implications of those ideas.

    As such, for a pre-scientific, pre-technical culture, the word is bizarre and unpredictable. So here are stories of why the world is that way, why it came to be, why things are as they seem to be. Here are the characters standing behind that, and the stories of their struggles.

    It seems to me religion has a part in speculative fiction, because religious stories are a form of speculative fiction. Jehovah is no different to the doctor, in that regard.

    • James F. McGrath

      I’ve said before that I think that science in the modern sense is what makes science fiction distinctive, but that framework does not interrupt what is a continuous tradition of storytelling going back to before the modern era. While the modes of travel may have been different, ancient apocalyptic involves many of sci-fi’s familiar tropes: travel to the realm above, encounter with strange beings that live there, etc.