“Lord, how they’ve changed things in our ‘parlors’ these days. Christ is one of the ‘family’ now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.”
–Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
The renowned science fiction writer—whose books have sold more than eight million copies in 36 languages—passed away on June 4, 2012, in Los Angeles.
Bradbury described himself as a “delicatessen religionist.” He was raised Baptist—but his parents were infrequent church-goers. He and his wife of 50 years, Maggie, were married in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal. He has been called a Unitarian Universalist—but he eschewed the label.
At the age of 14, Ray Bradbury set out to visit Catholic churches, synagogues and charismatic churches in a quest to figure out his own faith. “I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself,” he said in a 2010 interview with John Blake at CNN. “I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
Bradbury has sometimes been described as a “Christian positivist”—and indeed, he lived a life of great joy. He took no credit for his success, believing that he owed his talent and his success to God. “The best description of my career as a writer,” he said, “is, ‘At play in the fields of the Lord.’”
For Bradbury, God is real, but is ultimately unknowable. But despite his reticence in ecclesial matters, Bradbury’s writing is chock full of faith. In “The Man”, written in 1949, he tells the story of a spaceship which lands on Mars, only to discover that a Jesus-like figure had arrived just hours before them. “Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned” is a story of redemption.
He was captivated by space travel, and believed that ascending to the heavens, possibly discovering new life forms, will only strengthen our belief in God. He saw a parallel between space travel and religion, in that both represent a search for immortality. Bradbury feared that eventually, the sun will either explode or flame out, and the Earth will be destroyed. He saw space exploration as a survival tactic—opening new territory for a re-colonization of the human race.
As Ray Bradbury slips beyond the bonds of Earth, may our Heavenly Father welcome him to His Kingdom and stuff his eyes full of wonder.