Vulcan Jesus

I came across this on Pinterest and thought I would share it – and not only because it is firmly at the intersection between religion and science fiction. Spock was arguably the most openly religious character on the Enterprise – he had rituals and practices of a sort that no other crewmember was shown to have. Vulcan religion certainly seems to be non-theistic, and focuses on logic, but that simply illustrates that Zen Buddhism was the pattern on which it was based. It is illogical to use the most religious figure on a secular show to make the point that religion is illogical.

Beyond that, there is something intriguing about the use of a Vulcan in an attempt to commit blasphemy. Who exactly would find this blasphemous, and why? But more importantly, who thinks that this attempt at making a blasphemous image is logical and in the spirit of being Vulcan? And why make the figure in question “Vulcan Jesus”?

I suspect that there are probably at least as many Star Trek fans who would find the Jesusing of Spock blasphemous, as there are Christians who would object to the Spocking of Jesus.

So much of interest here to talk about!

  • Marta L.

    I’m one of the few Trekkies I know who actually liked the Enterprise series because, for all it got wrong, it actually did something new and original on the intersection of faith and reason and all the way that plays out. And one of the best examples of this is the recurring theme of how the teachings of Surak had been misinterpreted by the Vulcan mainstream and he was really trying to integrate logic and emotion, not banish emotion entirely. At some point in I believe the final season, T’Pol uncovers a new revelation from him which is described, IIRC, as having the power to reshape Vulcan religion. I’m almost certain that’s the word they used. It’s certainly the impression I got – that we were talking about a nontheistic religion rather than a simple individual philosophy.

    What most impressed me about all this is the way it got at a basic truth I don’t see reflected in things like the Blasphemy Day: that tearing down is relatively easy, but dangerous and destructive. To really change the world you need to have something ready to put in its place.

  • Raymond

    Well, Spock DID die and came back to life.

    • Mark Gibbs

      I doubt anyone would find this blasphemous today. Besides, the concept of “blasphemy” has been so abused in the past that even the word itself is something of an anachronism. Here’s a famous blasphemer:
      http://www.markgibbs.net/doubting_thomas.htm

  • Michael Wilson

    Great insight James. Spock was the only character on the show that had any sort of religious belief. I think this is an interesting point about religion. While your right that Spock’s ceremonies do reflect the notion that Spock is ultimately a space Zen Buddhist, I think in order for a society to maintain such a disciplined outlook on life would require the sort of symbolic reinforcement that we associate with religion. Wasn’t there a movie where a Vulcan rejected logic, choose religion and was exiled from Vulcan? Classic case of religious intllerence.

  • Mark S.

    I never saw Spock as having anything remotely resembling religion. Yes, he meditates (as does Sarek). He plays a musical instrument. But those are hardly religious rituals. So what are you thinking shows us Spock’s religion? The mind meld? The Ponn Farr? Getting snarky with McCoy?

    On the other hand, I think Blasphemy Day is entirely logical. Blasphemy is the orignal “thought crime”, though to really count I guess you have to say it out loud. The *existence* of Blasphemy Day is a way to say to the world “We do not ackowledge your claim to a right to shut me up so that you are not offended”. It is a visible resistance to the idea that you should kill people for the cartoons they publish in a newspaper.

    Blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder. This image clearly “mocks jesus” and there are people who get offended by anything that is not sufficiently deferential. It doesn’t matter that you are not offended. Somebody is. And if they want a free society, they have to tolerate this offensive material, just like I have to tolerate Fox News.

    And why Spock? He is known worldwide for being logical (even if he sucks at statistics). This was probably done by an atheist, and a frequent characteristic of atheists is that we find religious beliefs to be illogical. From my point of view, it is quite amusing satire to present Spock (so tightly coupled with science and logic) in the style of Jesus, a character that represents an illogical belief system.

    The point is to challenge the concept of blasphemy. If it goes unchallenged, people start to accept it. This picture reaches two significant demographics:

    - People who need to be reminded that there are others in the world that do not share in their beliefs.

    - People who need to be reminded that there are others who do share their non-belief.

    I think it succeeds in both ways.

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

      If one arbitrarily defines meditation as having nothing to do with religion, ignoring the origin of the practice, then one can make the assertion that you do. But why not simply acknowledge that Vulcan religion seems to be patterned on non-Theistic human religion, and Zen Buddhism in particular?

      • Mark S.

        I’ve always known that many religions involve meditation, but I was not aware that Buddhists invented it. My earliest contacts with meditation were through the counter-culture movement that was left over after the 60′s. I personally knew people who used meditation as a relaxation technique, without religious content. I knew of people who thought they could fly by meditating, but who apparently attached no religious significance to it. Of course, I also knew that the priest at the Catholic Church meditated.

        So, it would appear to be entirely a matter of perspective. I watch Star Trek and I barely detect any religious content at all except in a few episodes. I’m actually impressed how secular Star Trek is, for the time it was produced.

        I suppose if I were to conjecture that Vulcans have a religion, I might expect to see more of the attributes of the religion poking through. Of course, maybe they are and I do not recognize them. It’s been a long time since I studied any of the eastern religions.

        • Deloreansteel

          Mediation has been bound up with religion since time began, at least on earth, so safe to say the correlation of religion and mediation is a normal coarse of thought.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

          now as far as a Vulcan religion:

          http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Vulcan_mythology

          looks like the Vulcans do have one. But granted this was all written by man as fiction and we all know that its best to write what you know.

          Now as far as the graphic the OP posted, pretty neat. My first take is that a spiteful atheist authored it to offend the religious fanatics, lord knows Im fed up with them, but I like the OPs take on it. Very good discussion topics. Aside from the Star Trek and theological arguments, I would say this was a good meld of famous icons to invoke the silliness of it all, faith and devotion so often fought and seemed invalidated through science and logic, the pure essence of the Vulcan persona.

          The interesting part of what I see in the pursuit of understanding in science is that many ideas, or hypotheses, always starts with a belief. That belief is then challenged with data and facts, what I find to be the antithesis of religion. Faith is a different animal all together.


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