Category Archives: Science Fiction and Religion

Science Fiction and Religion will be an ongoing category where we explore the existence of Religion in Science Fiction stories.

There are two sorts of posts. One is exploring how Science Fiction informs us about religion, and about the idea of a creator in Science Fiction. The other sort of post is more of a case-study of Religion in (or absent from!) a specific Science Fiction story.

Book Review – Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End CoverRecommended to me a few years ago during, of all things, a job interview, I recently finished reading Childhood’s End (1953) by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. In the same set of recommendations as A Case of Conscience, the book that got my whole Science Fiction and Religion series going. As this might be considered the formal end to that series, maybe it’s fitting.

One of the most interesting things, in my edition at least, is the introduction by the author written in 2000. An interesting year for Clarke, given that his great saga began in 2001… Anyway, he focuses on two interesting things in the introduction. One is that he felt like the movie Independence Day owed a lot to him, and his opening chapter. An alien invasion arrives, and pulls into the sky over all the major cities of the world all at once, trailing their reentry burn. I think that Clarke might have had a better mental image than what he put on the page… because I wasn’t seeing the similarity other than the base concept.

The second was that he was apologetic about the plot content of the story… but didn’t feel that it overpowered the book. That’s probably true, but we can get to that… The story ends up, however, in a very supernatural place, as an explanation of why the invading aliens end up not aggressive, but peaceful. That leads me to the story, so let’s start there!

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Science Fiction and Religion – The Apocalypse

Is there just an apocalypse waiting?

From Avengers #3 by Jonathan Hickman.

I love Hickman’s Avengers. I’ve written about that fact before, and especially one of the things I love about his Marvel work – and his other comics – is how he works with both science and mythology. In Avengers, especially, he works on larger, over-arching mythology for the whole Marvel Universe. Its origins… and its ending.

That ending was last summer’s big crossover event, Secret Wars. I reviewed that recently. But it was a lot of time and comics leading into it, not just one crossover and everything is over. The apocalypse did not happen suddenly, although it may have felt that way if you were reading other titles… or just reading about the whole thing in the press about it.

No, in reading the whole thing, the buildup and then the collapse, I got to thinking of two things. One is the obvious, I suppose: other apocalyptic literature. Religious especially, the sort that seeps out into shows like Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We were reading a lot of the book of Daniel recently at church, and it’s also just chock full of apocalyptic dreams and visions. So the end of the world: symbolism, signs, and things that are either super literal or completely metaphorical…

The second thing I was thinking of, however, was the Final Fantasy XIII series, wherein the world ends between Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns. In particular, at the end of XIII-2, time itself ends, and the power of death along with it… but as Mr. Fantastic might say, everything dies, and ever so slowly that world does too.

Taken all together, you get what I considered as the alternate title to this blog post: how to end the universe.

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An Easter Observation

Yesterday for Easter, hearing some of the story again, I had a thought. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples all sorts of things. Foretelling events, items of faith, things like that. And throughout, every time, they doubt him. Such that, on Easter morning, confronted with angels and an empty tomb, there’s still doubt.

My Easter observation was that skepticism, that doubt. That questioning every statement, every claim. Yet still having faith enough to follow. And I thought about how media portrays cults, and secluded communities, and things like that. And I thought about political leaders and parties and their followers.

I imagine you know how those thoughts went. We always seem to be seeing the blind followers. The completely indoctrinated. No questions, all faith.

And it’s just interesting to me… In one of the major world stories of a group like this, it’s full of skepticism and doubt. Yet, we expect that in this sort of situation in life today, the followers would follow blindly. And that anyone who doesn’t is either the right-hand-man… or is going to be on the out-and-out soon. Maybe they’re even the main character in a story, turning away from that life.

Do we see stories – real or fictional – like that of Jesus and his disciples? Can you think of any? Let me know in the comments below!

Science Fiction and Religion – Prophecy, Part 2 (Science Fiction)

So recently I wrote a part 1 about prophecies in fiction – mainly in Fantasy. Prophecy is a frequent plot scheme in Fantasy, playing a big or small part, and generally about the main character and/or the main plot. The prophecies are generally old, and predate the plot itself – often causing the plot, as the villain takes action based on it (like Harry Potter), or else just pointing to our main character as a chosen one.

That all sounds a lot like the Bible, full of prophets and prophecies of the Messiah. And thinking of villains taking action based on the prophecy, I referenced that as well (via the Inhumans) – Herod, killing the babies to try to kill the Messiah. All of which to say is that these prophecies in Fantasy have a strong cultural connection to the Judeo-Christian tradition. We’re rarely following the action of the prophet themselves – which is some of what makes Dominic Deegan so much fun!

In Science Fiction, however, it seems like if there is prophecy – which is rare – you often get to meet the prophet as well. And here, prophecy is less supernatural, and more explained in science – in a quantum way, or a mathematical one. But when it comes to prophecy in Science Fiction, there’s one that stands well above the rest as an example – and which has a lot to say about religion as well. And that’s Dune.

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Science Fiction and Religion – Prophecy, Part 1 (Fantasy)

One of my favorite literary devices is prophecy. A good prophecy, sufficiently vague and mysterious, riddle-like and maybe rhyming, to keep you thinking back, keep you wondering. It can easily drive a plot. It usually points to a chosen one. Indeed, a recent favorite of mine hits all the important aspects:

“One day, a talented lass or fellow, a special one with face of yellow, will make the Piece of Resistance found from it’s hiding refuge underground, and with a noble army at the helm, this Master Builder will thwart the Kragle and save the realm, and be the greatest, most interesting, most important person of all times. All this is true because it rhymes.”

-Vitruvius, The Lego Movie

See? It rhymes. Must be true.

Prophecy, and indeed prophecy pointing towards a chosen one, is grounded in religion. Okay, so for our science fiction and religion series, this post is halfway there. But what about science fiction? One of the fundamental aspects of science fiction I have seen since the series started is that science fiction tends to stay away from religion. Meaning similarly, it stays away from prophecy in large part.

So I’m calling this post part one because I want to talk about prophecy, and the better way to do that is to talk about Fantasy. Then in part two, I’ll go into a couple of good science fiction examples and see how they differ. So onward for Fantasy prophecies, and an open thread!

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