• Is Sci-Fi A Vaccine Against Religion?

    I’m pretty excited because on Saturday I’m going to the Wizard World Comic Book/Sci-Fi convention. This got me thinking about the link between science fiction fans and atheism.

    Atheists tend to be science oriented. Many active atheists promote critical thinking, skepticism, and science. Not surprisingly, many of us love science fiction too. But I think it goes the other way also. I think that many science fiction fans also love critical thinking, skepticism, and science. I also think many science fiction fans are atheists.

    The thing is that many sci-fi fans who are atheists might not be engaged in atheist activism. They may not even identify as an atheist and I think we should start to change that.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that many of the top rated sci-fi franchises like Star Trek, Firefly, Babylon 5, and many others were created by atheists. Some even have subtle atheist themes running through them.

    Science Fiction is far more compelling than religion and far more honest about being fictional too (it’s right there in the name). So what is someone going to be more interested in, Noah’s Ark or the Starship Enterprise? Which seems more believable? Which is more motivational? Which is more inspirational? I’ll go with Star Trek over the Bible any day. It isn’t even a contest.

    When people started to form a religion around Star Wars, it quickly gained support because Jedi are way cooler than Jesus ever could be. Sci-fi does it better. What does it do better? As the new Kahn put it, “Everything!”

    So when people are young and impressionable religion is quick to try to indoctrinate, but if the young person is exposed to science fiction at a young age, religion just seems less interesting. Young people love lightsabers and starships. It gets them away from thinking about the mythical stories of our ancient past and more focused on the possibilities and potential that await in humanity’s future.

    I think science fiction is a vaccine against religion. You would be hard pressed to find a religious fundamentalist who loves science fiction. They do exist, but they are few and far between. I think that many people who love sci-fi are either culturally religious or completely lack a belief in deities. I would love to see some studies on this.

    What do you think? Do you science fiction is a vaccine against religion? What has your experience been with sci-fi fans and religion? Are you an atheist sci-fi lover? Comment below.

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    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.

    7 comments

    1. It’s an interesting point, but I note that just as many geeks/nerds/skeptics/intellectuals enjoy fantasy as science fiction. And fantasy, of course, is all about the made-up magic and miracles. Sure, Jedi Knights are cool; but so are Gandalf and Aragorn.

      Perhaps it’s just exposure to a broad range of imagination-driven ideas and worlds that contributes to and supports skepticism, rather than SF in particular.

      1. To be honest Brian, Star Wars isn’t Sci Fi, it’s space fantasy.

        Think about it: There is a magical force that controls everyone’s destiny. Some special wizards can tap into that energy to create power for themselves. A big, evil wizard captures a rebel, who ends up being the sister of a Knight who has to rescue her. Solo is the classic hired mercenary/rogue. Obi-Wan is the wizened old mystic who teaches the magical secrets to the young hero. After death, some mystics can commune with the living. I could go on, but that’s the gist of it.

        Real Sci Fi has an element of reality. Warp Drive is based not on traveling faster than light (because it’s impossible) but on warping space time. Compare that to the Hyperdrive, which has no explanation as to how it works, ships just magically ignore the laws of physics.

        And that’s just comparing Trek to Wars. Look at other great SciFi like Blade Runner or Aliens where they have a real, logical reason for the technology they have.

        1. It’s not even space fantasy, it’s space opera. Star Trek is sci-fantasy, it’s really a fantasy world with a thin veneer of science laid over the top of it. They just babble a lot of nonsense to make it sound like they know what they’re talking about, but in reality, they haven’t a clue.

          You’re right, there is a lot of really good hard sci-fi, but far too much of it sacrifices character development for tech masturbation, it’s all about the science and technology and not much about telling a good story.

    2. I read Harry Harrison’s “Deathworld” Trilogy many years ago, and it was the second volume that did it for me. There had been others who touched on the subject before him, and I’d seen a few, but Harrison really opened my eyes. Star Trek also dealt with religion often, of course, but there does seem to have been an increase of counter-religious entertainment in the past thirty years.
      So yes, I’d say sci-fi IS a religious vaccine, and we must keep the ‘laboratories’ producing it.

    3. I’ve previously noticed that science fiction isn’t usually atheistic but involves some religious beliefs that are very different from traditional religion. That led me to wonder what science fiction would look like if the rules of the universe included traditional Christianity. It would be hard to portray Christianity favorably: I can imagine space missionaries trying to convince alien cultures that the creator of the universe only communicated with a small tribe on our planet. And the resulting crusade. I can imagine the same god communicating the same message to each planet. That would just highlight how bad the evidence for religion is in our reality. I can imagine other planets with forms of Christianity where they never left Eden or refused to kill Jesus, and are therefore convinced that humans are heretical monsters.

      And most of that applies to other traditional religions: it’s just too hard to take them seriously in a sci fi universe that’s so much bigger than ours.

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