God, Gods, New Edens, and Imperfect Saints on Star Trek: Discovery and Beyond

God, Gods, New Edens, and Imperfect Saints on Star Trek: Discovery and Beyond July 6, 2019

Another book chapter that I finished a draft of this summer is about gods in the Star Trek franchise. I managed to include a pretty good swath of examples – even from the animated series! The show is full of deities, and yet there is throughout a fairly consistent “humanist theology.” Those two things are sometimes felt to be in tension. But they aren’t really. Gods are the potential future of humanity. What they are, we can become. And indeed, we can become better than them. If Apollo is more powerful in some ways than humans are (although our ingenuity and technology enhance us and level the playing field at least to some extent in this and most other cases), he is vain in demanding worship. The message is that one day we can be like Apollo, but should be better, less arrogant and self-absorbed.

I also explore an idea that occurred to me while listening to a sermon by my then pastor Mark Pittman (who has unfortunately now moved on from Crooked Creek Baptist Church). He mentioned God not being bound by a Prime Directive of the sort that is featured in Star Trek. Suddenly it struck me: gods may be advanced beings viewed from the perspective of pre-warp societies on Star Trek, but there are many such species, and so what makes a being a “god” is interference in some way in the lives of technologically less developed societies. That’s the idea I explore in the chapter. I may have to go back and add at least one additional reference, since I read something more recently that highlighted how the Prime Directive, and the flouting of it, parallels American non-interference in other nations, unless they are supposedly non-democratic, in which case we interfere all we want, when it suits us or is to our advantage to do so.

Here are some other interesting things related to Star Trek:

The Religious History of Star Trek

Star Trek Discovery: New Eden

IO9 has had and continues to have lots and lots of articles and posts related to Star Trek: Discovery that fans will enjoy exploring and responding to, whether in agreement or disagreement. Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko have also been discussing recent episodes, sometimes at length:

“Nihilistic Squids are my new punk band”: Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko discuss <i>Star Trek: Discovery</i>

I blame the Marvel universe: Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko discuss <i>Star Trek: Discovery</i>

Of related interest, here is an interview with Leonard Nimoy about the sales pilot brochure for Star Trek, in which they changed Spock’s ears and eyebrows because they were afraid that viewers in the Bible Belt would be offended by this “devilish” looking character.

You can find photos of the brochure he talks about online. See also the article about Mohammed Noor’s Star Trek course at Duke. Also of related interest, in case you missed it:

The History of Women in Sci-Fi Isn’t What You Think

As for the Picard show we’re looking forward to, IO9 has information on that topic too, including the title, the first teaser, and what made Picard quit…as well as something on the digital return of Capt. Lorca. I’m also looking forward to the DS9 documentary that will be released this summer.

See also the New Scientist article about antimatter and warp drive. Of related interest to the title of this post, see Michael Pahl’s post on God and gods.

“You Have Only Your Trust in Me”: Star Trek and the Power of Mutual Belief

The humble heroism of Captain Picard.

More Short Treks are coming.




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