Only a Game: Religion in Science Fiction

Today Chris Bateman reposted a link to a post about religion in Doctor Who that previously appeared on the blog Only a Game. This in turn made me aware that an entire series about religion in science fiction appeared there around the same time.

I just found out about these posts, and so have yet to explore them, but given their subject matter, I thought I not only could but should go ahead and share this find here right away.

In related news, Tony Rossi blogged about the movie FrequencyTheofantastique shared an infographic about 2001, and Inter-Galaxy Portal has a post about building a TARDIS.

  • Jax Hill

    OMGoodness – I don’t see RELIGION in science fiction but I do see JESUS all the time in Dr Who and Star Trek and — well, face it — the mailman, my dog, the sunflowers in my backyard. As Rob Bell said: The Apostle Paul saw Jesus in the “spiritual rock,” but then he saw Jesus in everything. I feel the same way!

  • Russ Reeves

    Very cool… except no Babylon 5. Oh well, maybe I’ll write one.

  • T. Webb

    Virtually all of the SF authors I’ve read, from Isaac Asimov to A.C. Clarke to present-day Alistair Reynolds or JMS of B5 or Joss Whedon of Firefly are all very vocal atheist. Yes, religion has a place in SF, for scorn and ridicule.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      You somehow managed to skip Bradbury, Simmons, and Sawyer, and BSG and LOST, making it possible to give an impression of uniformity where there is diversity.

      • T. Webb

        Dr. McGrath, sorry, I only check social media a couple times a week, so it seems like I always miss out on the “conversation”. Perhaps I should have explained more that I often participate in forums for fans of science fiction, and the large, or at least vocal, percentage of SF fans have a shared “eschatology” in which reason, naturalism, and materialism will win over the minds of all, with the result looking something like the secular humanism of Roddenberry’s original vision of the future of “Star Trek”, which was extremely antagonistic of religion (“You may pray to your gods, if you still believe in them”). Of course, there will be some diversity in any field, but by and large, as far back as H.G. Wells (meaning more “modern” SF in a larger view) atheism has dominated SF. You can talk about your god-stuff if you want, just like you can read a Hallmark card and your heard can be warmed or something, but it is completely unnecessary, unneeded, and unwanted by most. Sorry, as usual, I was unclear.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Yes, there certainly is no doubt that there is a strong representation in the realm of science fiction by atheists, both as authors and as fans. I am still not sure from this comment whether you really do understand that that is one subset of the phenomenon of science fiction, and not the only one either historically or in a particular time period. I suppose it may seem that way for those whose fandom is limited to Star Trek and a few particular authors. But even in those works, religious themes are often treated with more nuance than you acknowledge. Certainly there is a fair amount of scorn and ridicule aimed at superstition and particular forms of religiosity. But those are not the only sorts of religiosity, any more than atheist anti-religious science fiction is the extent of sci-fi. And the latter often results in ambiguity, whether in the form of Pullman’s Dust or Roddenberry’s Apollo, who (in the Star Trek universe) exists more literally than most scholars of religion are inclined to think. :-)

    • Russ Reeves

      It doesn’t follow that the only way an atheist can handle religion is with scorn and ridicule. In fact, some of the authors you list are evidence to the contrary.

    • arcseconds

      JMS doesn’t think so.

      His portrayal of religion and religious people are usually sympathetic and somewhat understanding, and indeed often quite positive. G’Kar is an excellent example.

      I don’t know about Joss Whedon for sure, but I imagine the same is true of him. The Shepard in Firefly is hardly an object of scorn and ridicule.

    • David_Evans

      Some SF in which the protagonist’s faith is central, and not ridiculed:

      James Blish, A Case Of Conscience (Catholicism)

      Philip Jose Farmer, The Unreasoning Mask (Islam)

      Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow (Catholicism)

      Also reincarnation (a religious concept, even if not yours) is central to:

      Arsen Darnay, Karma

      Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years Of Rice And Salt

      and paganism features in more SF than I have space for.


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