Religion and Science Fiction on Halloween

Today was the first time that my class on religion and science fiction has met on Halloween, and so I dressed appropriately, and encouraged students to do the same. Few rose to the challenge, as you can see in the photo (the student on the right explained that she was dressed as a muggle).

I had planned from before the semester began to talk about Star Trek fandom as quasi-religious phenomenon on this day, and so the readings related to that subject were from the book Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion and American Culture, and I showed some clips from the documentary Trekkies which you can rent on Amazon.com for only $2.99. It provides examples of people being inspired by Star Trek, and the discussion about whether Star Trek was a religion or philosophy, and its merits compared to sports, was very vibrant!

The student presentation was about movies that have been purported to have been influenced by Scientology. She focused in particular on After Earth which, coincidentally, I had just watched for the first time yesterday! We talked a little about Scientology, the relationship of religion to mental health, and the apparent therapeutic value of treating that which troubles us as something objective that can be combated and/or removed.

There were other people on campus wearing costumes, and so I was fortunately able to arrange to get my photo taken with the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:

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