I have shared a thought experiment here before, one which I was actually introduced to here on this blog by a commenter almost a decade ago. It focuses on the question, “What would it take to make you lose your faith?” It came up here again relatively recently. And it is also one that I use regularly in a first year seminar class that I teach.
But this year, since the thought experiment has a science fictional element to it (time travel), I also introduced it to my class on religion and sci-fi, and not surprisingly, the discussion went to some interesting places.
The question is fairly simple: if you had a TARDIS or similar time and space machine, where would you go, and what might you see there that could shake your faith?
The most common destination students choose is Jerusalem, to see whether the resurrection happened. I have a story in my forthcoming Cascade Companion volume, Theology and Science Fiction, which explores that scenario. What was new in this semester’s in-class discussion was noticing that the introduction of sci-fi technology complicates even the scenario in which a miracle seems to happen before your eyes. If time travel is possible, wouldn’t it also be possible for someone with advanced nanobot technology to restore Jesus to life by those means? In a sci-fi realm, Clarke’s Third Law imposes itself, not just saying that any sufficiently advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic, but also that it may be indistinguishable from miracle as well.
This led me to formulate the premise for a TV show. Imagine if fundamentalist religious people and atheists, living in an era when time travel has become possible, both start traveling through time to try to make sure that events as depicted in scriptures happen exactly as written – or do not happen as written. A small band of liberal religious people and agnostics would then travel through time trying to stop both groups from messing up history through their interference.
What do you think? If there was a TV show – or a series of novels or short stories – based on this premise, would you watch it? Is it sufficiently different from Voyagers! or El Ministerio del Tiempo to sound interesting?And what would your answer be to the question posed by the thought experiment? Where would you go, and what could you see or experience there that would require a radical revision to your worldview?
For those who don’t have the opportunity to time travel, there is a virtual reality opportunity to visit the temple in ancient Jerusalem (HT Jim Davila).