Angels vs. Atheists

Hemant Mehta highlighted this fascinating new comic book. In a manner that is typical of much supposedly secularist or atheistic science fiction, the story has people rebelling and fighting against “gods” and other such “outside actors,” but in the process, makes them literally exist as well. Here’s an example:

It’s a theme I’ve explored before, especially in Star Trek and Doctor Who. Mehta provides some further details from Justin Aclin, one of the writers. Here is an excerpt:

I think the religious people who should take offense would never see themselves in the story, even though I based the villains off of them. In the world of S.H.O.O.T. First, anything that might be considered a supernatural creature is actually an Outside Actor, an extra-dimensional being which can self-evolve and that feeds off the faith of humanity. And many of the Outside Actors fear the degree to which science and reason are affecting humanity’s faith, and they’ve hatched a plan to bring about an Apocalypse and wipe that away. That’s very much based on a certain type of Fundamentalist that’s actively working to bring about the end times, which is a concept I just find abhorrent. I was raised Jewish, and when I realized that there was a group of Christians out there who were cheerleading Israel’s worst tendencies because they think it’s going to bring about the end of the world, and they’d like that, I was horrified. And I took that horror and created monsters out of it.

Have any of you read the entire comic book? If so, what do you make of it?

  • Philip Wesley Davisson

    Sounds like it might be mining a similar vein as Neil Gaiman in “American Gods”.

  • GakuseiDon

    Also sounds a bit like Douglas Adam’s “The Long Dark Tea-time of the soul”.

    I’d like to see the comic series end with all the gods destroyed, but then the SHOOT First team finds out that they were being manipulated by one final creature, “Scientism”, that had wanted to wipe out all the opposition, so that It alone would be worshipped.

  • Tony Prost

    This seems to be somewhat the world of Supernatural (the series)

  • Worthless Beast

    Hmm. Wonder if the writers of this ever saw “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” It’s… a popular science fiction mind-screw anime about young people piloting superweapons to defend the remnants of humanity from creatures called “angels” (“disciples” in the Japanese)… and there’s a secret project to assimiliate humanity to turn us collectively into God… and clones, and a protagonist with Freudian issues…

    Go for the original, not the rebuild. It’s not off-limits to believers… I mean, I was going to a Baptist church regularly when I watched it, but you do have to have an open mind – (I never mentioned the series, nor any of my anime-watching habits, to anyone at my old church).

    With the above, I’m not even sure “atheist” would be the right term for characters of that stripe in such a world. If you know supernatural creatures exist… I’d think you’re more of a “nay theist” – to use a TV Tropes term. An atheist says “gods don’t exist” where a nay theist believes in/knows there are are gods and says “screw ‘em.”

  • arcseconds

    This has something that has always bugged me about how science and scepticism are portrayed in fiction.

    Being ‘a scientist’ or scientifically minded or ‘rational’ normally goes hand-in-hand with a ‘nah spooky stuff’ attitude: everything must have a rational, ‘scientific’ explanation, which normally seems to mean something like a materialist, efficient-causal explanation.

    And this is just treated as an ideological worldview just like any other. That’s one option, being a theologically conservative Christian is another, believing in the gods of your ancestors is just one more. And they’re often all portrayed as having a bit of a tenuous relationship with reality.

    But normally there’s plenty of evidence in the fiction that the world isn’t as real-world contemporary modern science conceives it to be. And what’s really distinctive about science and non-dogmatic, critical belief-revision more generally, is not that it believes in this or that, but is prepared to change those beliefs when new evidence arrives.

    Someone who is open to evidence would be looking at the ‘spooky’ stuff and not denying that it could be happening or ignoring it, but rather saying “well, people really do seem to be able to continue existing after their body as died as some kind of incorporeal phantasms that we may as well call ‘ghosts’”, or whatever…

    and, as McGrath is indicating, in a world where there really do seem to be gods, if you’re an atheist, you’re akin to a climate change denier.

    Of course, one needn’t have a reverential attitude towards powerful supernatural entities…

  • James Snapp, Jr.

    No, I haven’t read the comic.
    The quote in the sample is mildly intriguing: “We believe that mankind should be free to chart our own course.” Haven’t they been listening to Jerry Coyne and others who insist that the laws of an exclusively material universe dictate that mankind is *not* free?

  • Cameron

    I’ll chime in and add that this reminds me strongly of ‘Stargate SG-1′. One of the recurring (and unanswered) questions that comes up again and again is what a god is, if it is not simply a being that wields apparently inexplicable power in order to manipulate his or her followers.

    This was especially pronounced in the final two seasons. The ‘bad guys’ there were a race of ‘ascended’ beings who gained power from human worshippers. They were able to perform all sorts of miracles, including the raising of the dead. The ‘good guys’ spent a lot of their time trying to convince the simple folk of the galaxy that these weren’t gods, but just extremely powerful spirit beings who require your devotion and can do as they like with impunity.

    The biggest weakness of the show is that whilst they were pretty clear what a god wasn’t, they never actually ventured an answer as to what a god might actually be. Probably for the best.


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