Religion in Science Fiction
June 18, 2009
This serial ran from April 23rd to June 18th 2009, in nine parts. The purpose of this examination of seven of the most popular science fiction franchises was to expose some of the hidden nuances in the interaction between traditional beliefs and a genre which is often assumed to be inherently hostile to religion. Each of the parts ends with a link to the next one, so to read the entire serial, simply click on part one, below, and then follow the "next" links to read on.
Here are the nine parts:
- Metaphysics of Science Fiction
- Star Trek
- Doctor Who
- Battlestar Galactica
- Star Wars
This serial was first conceived while I was living in Knoxville, Tennessee, over a year ago, and was triggered by my astonishment that the new Doctor Who episodes were showing metaphysical bias to a degree that - had it been religious metaphysics - would have courted considerable criticism. I delayed the serial to expand the research, and to allow the new Battlestar Galactica to finish airing. I never intended it to be quite as much work as it was!
If you enjoyed the serial, please leave a comment. Thank you!
A superb set of essays Chris, in my view worthy of collating into their own stand-alone / customised blog, as I feel the trouble with posting them here is they will in due course get 'buried' and forgotten, which would be a pity.
I think perhaps a conclusion that ties everything together and wraps the series up would be handy. And whilst I get the impression that you consider Red Dwarf to be a bit 'naff' in relation to this project, I would suggest that it would in fact provide a highly effective counterpoint to the maybe rather too 'academic' and occasionally over-sincere tone of your posts (sorry!... just a personal impression :).
After all, it is because all forms of philosophical enquiry - whether secular or sacred - are entirely speculative and quite unprovable, that their more zealous practitioners over-compensate and take themselves so seriously in the first place! The intellectual insecurity that this creates in the advocates of such schools of thought is what provokes such irrational hostility and extreme bitterness between the various factions. So gently 'taking them down a peg or two' in a good-natured light-hearted way can help to maintain a proper perspective and maybe defuse such antagonisms.
So whilst the first series of RD was certainly a bit 'painful' to watch (just like the first series of Blackadder ;), the creators subsequently found their 'sweet spot', and transformed the program into a parody that mercilessly pilloried the more pretentious excesses of the genre you have been discussing here. I especially recall the episode that put forth the notion that life is but a multi-dimensional video game, it made the subsequent Matrix series look like something that was taking itself way too seriously!
All The Best!
Posted by: one billion daleks | June 18, 2009 at 12:45 PM
Definitely enjoyed this serial :)
Posted by: Katherine | June 19, 2009 at 01:30 AM
I absolutely adored this series, Chris! So amazing of you to share your thoughts and analysis. It really was such enjoyable reading.
So thank you! Will me tagging them all for future references.
Posted by: Linn | June 21, 2009 at 08:46 PM
Very intresting! thank you very much for the info!
I always thought that scifi was a mystical kind of genre, cause it always has implicit faith in different ideas that are not the usual ones (god or science).
But it also think that it is quite a paradox that the futuristic is somehow so related to something that barely evolves (the simile religious beliefs).
A guy who was an excellent scifi writer and turn completely into mystic things is philiph k dick.
I have been thinking lately that I wanted to review the sci fi classics, because they can provide a lot of information about the future and the present of humanity.
Posted by: mariana | June 22, 2009 at 09:44 AM
Thanks for the kind words everyone!
obd: I was ruling out Red Dwarf not for any reason based upon the show, but because I purposefully choose franchises for this piece that I felt that people would know, and outside of the UK I'm not sure how well known Red Dwarf is... It just felt too obscure.
If I was going to include a science fiction parody for this serial, it would have to have been The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (much more widely known) - and indeed, in the original draft version of the list of science fiction to cover Hitchhikers was on the list. It even made some neat cross-connections because of Douglas Adams' work on Doctor Who. But as the research proceeded, this one fell by the wayside as other things came to the fore.
mariana: yes, Dick goes into a really wild space! It's more a mystic space than a religious space, though, don't you think?
Alright, I must get ready to depart. Have fun while I'm away everyone! :)
Posted by: Chris | June 23, 2009 at 01:46 PM
Enjoyed this series a lot. A very refreshing look at some of my sci-fi favourites.
Dune is the only thing I am unfamiliar with. I may have to read the first book now.
Posted by: ohms | December 08, 2009 at 11:04 PM
Ohms: thanks for letting me know you enjoyed this serial! I highly recommend the first "Dune" book - well worth a read.
Posted by: Chris | December 09, 2009 at 07:54 AM
I would have liked to see Supernatural listed in this. I have been amazed at how much religion is in this series.
Posted by: rehabber | June 14, 2010 at 01:01 PM
Great series! Took me a whole day to read through it all. Highly informative. Though I was disappointed to notice that Babylon 5 was not added on the list.
Thank you for all the hard work you put into making this!
Posted by: Elie Khoury | June 15, 2010 at 02:52 AM
rehabber: I couldn't cover everything - there was too much. :) Also, Supernatural strikes me as closer to the "fantasy" pole than the "science fiction" pole... I tried not to be too controversial with what I called sci fi in this.
Elie: thanks for the kind words! I originally planned to include Babylon 5, but it fell out at a later point. But I am currently beginning to scope out a possible sequel to this serial that would include Babylon 5, although it has a slightly different (although related) theme.
Posted by: Chris | June 25, 2010 at 12:07 PM