The Dread God Roberts

The Dread God Roberts November 14, 2013

Recently in my religion and science fiction class we discussed the attributes of God or a god, and what makes a being worthy of worship, using Star Trek and the Twilight Zone as points of reference, as well as traditional theology.

I made a reference to The Princess Bride, asking whether we could ever know that a God is not the “Dread God Roberts.” In that movie, the role of the Dread Pirate Roberts became a franchise, passed from one person to another. How could we know that the God currently running our universe did not inherit it from a previous God, who inherited it from someone before him, and so on? How can we know that a deity has attributes such as being eternal without ourselves being eternal?

David Hume’s character Philo makes a similar point in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Even if it is possible to reason to a first cause, and there are some hints to be gleaned from the reasonableness of cosmos, it is impossible to demonstrate the things people have sometimes claimed to by reasoning from the evidence.

I was delighted that not only Hume and lots of science fiction came up, but also Tillich. A major theme for the class was the question of worship, and whether a being  of natural origins who created our cosmos, and actually performed the miracles mentioned in the Bible (or some other sacred text of your choice) by advanced technological means, would be worthy of worship.

Tillich’s emphasis is that God is not a being, one among others but really advanced. If that term means anything less than Being itself, encompassing all of Reality, then the term denotes a god and not God, and our worship is idolatrous.

I love the way that science fiction allows one to explore serious theological questions!

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