Science Fiction and Religion

Random thoughts and musings ensue, feel free to discuss!

A couple of days ago I was browsing through the Science Fiction tag and came across a post that said among the religious Science Fiction might be less popular and as a result, is less popular as a whole. I can’t seem to find the post now so I’m starting my own discussion, if anyone is interested.

As a Science Fiction junkie and someone who used to be incredibly religious and conservative, and someone who still believes in the Judeo-Christian pantheon I figured I’d give my two cents based on that perspective.

More than likely, I guess it depends on how religious someone might be, how open minded they are. Some people’s convictions are so strong that they can’t even enjoy a good story because it’s not centered around their faith. Are religious people the reason why sci-fi isn’t incredibly popular? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t want to give people like Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson the idea that they have that much influence and power…

It could do more with places like Wal-Mart, the number one book seller in the USA (the world maybe); who only carries romance novels and the top 20 selling books according to Times and only switch out their inventory every few months. But then you can’t help but think that Wal-Mart is pretty fucking conservative and definitely likes to hang out on the right side of the aisle. So maybe we can trace it back to that?

There are probably many rabbit holes and side trails we can go down and draw theories from. But let me, as someone who believes in the Judeo-Christian pantheon and used to be pretty conservative talk about the influence that Science Fiction has had on me and why I think it’s important.

Even when I was at my most conservative and religious I still loved a good Science Fiction tale. For the most part I had a pretty open mind as far as the things I read and watched. I say for the most part because there was a time where I was a pretty extreme conservative, hiding behind ignorance in a faith that I believed but hardly understood it. I let the high religious right make my decisions for me.

The more open I became to Science Fiction and the ideas behind it the more open minded I became. Honestly it was things like Star Trek and William Gibson who did wonderful things to my stagnant brain.

Now, this isn’t a post or discussion about whether being conservative or liberal is better. I do know a few good people who label themselves as conservative but tend to be pretty progressive. When I refer to myself as being a conservative, I was pretty extreme. I’m ashamed to say that at one point I was very much against a woman’s choice and the right for gays to marry. Thankfully I’ve moved to the other side of the aisle and strongly support both woman and the LGBT community.

It did take a while though to break that mold and Science Fiction was one of those things that helped drive the change in my belief system. It all started about seven years ago when someone actually recommended that I read Ayn Rand. I went to the used bookstore to find some Rand books but instead something else caught my eye. I came across a dark book spine that featured a pair of glasses staring back at me. What really brought my attention to it was that the figure had on glasses shaped exactly like my own.

I pulled the book off the shelf and read the back and was immediately intrigued. It was William Gibson’s Virtual Light and I read the hell out of that book. Since then it’s become my favorite of his. I looked through my copy the other day and actually came across a bookmark I had in it; a piece of paper that simply had written on it: Ayn Rand.

Obviously I didn’t pick up Rand that day and haven’t tried since. But it was Gibson’s work who opened me up to the likes of Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, Corey Doctorow and have since enjoyed guys like Rudy Rucker and Samuel R. Delany.

And of course I enjoy other sci-fi figure heads like Asimov, Dick, Clark, and Heinlein - whom I have at least 100 of their books combined.

That was basically my introduction into the world of Science Fiction. I’ve never gone back. Of course like most kids I enjoyed Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Wars is the same to me now as an adult but Star Trek grew up in my mind as I grew up. Star Trek became more than space battles and science I didn’t understand. It’s still science I don’t understand but Star Trek, more than anything, has molded a very progressive belief system in me.

When watching Star Trek it’s just impossible to ignore things like interracial and interspecies acceptance, women’s rights, and episodes like TNG’s The Outcast and not walk away with a different mind set… or at least wanting to have an open discussion about it.

Science Fiction has opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world that a lot of books write about; a world that according to many Science Fiction books is in danger because of people with ideas like the “old me.” Science Fiction can open us up to a world of free thought, new ideas, and expansion of beliefs. Science Fiction, like Stephenson’s Snow Crash, can warn us of guys like L. Bob Rife who would much prefer to do away those things and control the masses.

I think Science Fiction can be a part of something much larger that some religious right figures might be afraid of. After all, didn’t Pat Robertson just release a video about the dangers of D&D? Come on, it’s not the eighties anymore dude. I think ultimately they fear the idea of thought, expression, expanding your beliefs, and trying to examine things outside this box that’s been placed over us for the past 4,000 years.

Martin Luther fought against people ages ago who were afraid to let others read and interpret the Bible themselves. They were afraid to give up control. They were afraid of his new and radical ideas of the Christian faith. Science Fiction, among other things, isn’t a new idea of the Christian faith, but it is something that can open up new ideas and allow us to explore outside the boundaries of this world.

As someone who’s religious, should I fear new ideas? Should I fear the idea of life on other planets; something that is littered all through out much of Science Fiction? The sudden existence of aliens or the advances of Science would never sway my beliefs. And they shouldn’t! I mean, if you’re someone who honestly believes in a god that created the universe, would their power and reach really be limited to life on only one planet?

I wouldn’t say that Science Fiction is unpopular among the religious or because of the religious. There may be too many factors that I’m too tired to explore at the moment. And C.S. Lewis wrote a great Science Fiction trilogy after all. I highly recommend Out of the Silent Planet. There are a lot of religious leaders in this country I’m sure who do not favor Science Fiction and the ideas it offers to the table and would be pleased do to away with it.

But Science Fiction isn’t going anywhere; it is becoming reality after all.

If you’ve reached it this far, thank you! And sorry for my scattered brain and thoughts… I can tend to go off on tangents. I’m not sure what else to include or say. Obviously, I welcome all to the discussion and would love to hear what others from different backgrounds, faiths, religious and non-religious have to say.