Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith

Dr. David Powers, who I mention in this post, is continuing the other half of this discussion on his blog. Here is the link to his page. Dr. David Powers – http://coffeescholar.wordpress.com/

I’m a sci-fi nut. Seriously, if I didn’t have to ever work again, I would likely spend my time watching sci-fi on TV, reading sci-fi, and writing more sci-fi novels. I’d be lucky to get out of bed. Why do I love science fiction? We all have our reasons, but I love that it envisions something other than what is here. I have a degree in political science. Talk about a quick way to get depressed about reality. Turn on CNN or Fox News and you get pounded with stories about how bad everything is and how its the fault of one political party or another. Sure, I recognize there are important things we have to take care of, but sometimes I want to transport somewhere else. That’s what science fiction does for me. It allows me to read and write about things that help others forget, if only for a little while, about the mess here on Earth.

Before I delve into a potentially explosive theological issue, I should disclose that I am by no means qualified to write about anything religious. It has taken me years to open my heart to Christ and it has been a recent development. I essentially know nothing.

So, what do we have to talk about? When I was teaching, religion was a touchy subject. In the public school system, the topic becomes the third rail in which you just don’t touch. I’m fine with that, but I know many that aren’t. I did get to talk to some students that were worried about their biology class. They worried because the concepts and issues that they had to learn contradicted their beliefs. Since this blog rotates around writing, I won’t get into my views on science more than saying that I was actually a science major in school for two years (before I realized how much I hated physical oceanography). I mention the science and religion issues because I think there are some parallels to religion and science fiction.

Look at the major themes in science fiction: space, aliens, time travel, habitable planets, warp speed, the afterlife, etc. Every science fiction show I have watched has some element that is contradictory to any number of religious beliefs.

Let’s look at some questions that are meant to make you uncomfortable, no matter which God you worship. My love of science fiction almost demands that these questions be asked when facing my Christianity (Please don’t take these questions as my challenging your religion(s). I am challenging myself more than anything).

  1. The galaxy is bigger than any of us can begin to comprehend, so how could we possibly be the only planet with life?
  1. If there is other life out there, which every statistical probability would say there is, who put it there? If God did, is it the same one that you believe in?
  1. So you believe in Genesis, huh? If God created the Earth and everything on it in six days, does that make us gods for writing about terraforming on other planets? (Looking at you Trekkies and Whovians)
  1. On that note, how many days did it take God to create those other planets? Do you even believe there are other planets out there? (I ask because many people don’t believe the dinosaur fossils are real)
  1. If God created us in his image, who’s image are Klingons created after? Wookies? Vulcans? The Q Continuum? (Now there’s a loaded one)
  1. If we leave the planet and expand, as so much of sci-fi portrays, then will Revelation only affect Earth?

Those are just some of the many questions I have though of. I’m positive you have some of your own.

If you are a fan of any series of sci-fi shows, you will have noticed that each of them undoubtedly brushes the ideas of religion. Try as they might to not slander any religion, they almost have to question the beliefs without saying that’s what they are doing.

There have been plenty of science fiction authors and creators that have dabbled in what is obviously a faith based concept. Lost, one of the most popular shows in the last decade, made it abundantly clear that the whole show revolved around spirituality.

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There are a few routes that I think science fiction fans can take regarding this topic.

  1. Don’t worry about your religious beliefs while you are watching and reading the material. It is, by definition, fiction and you are allowed to treat it as such.
  2. Pose the same questions above to yourself and (uh oh) to your spiritual confidant. Let’s face it, if is hard to watch and enjoy the genre without wondering if what they present could be true. By doing so, the next logical step it to face your beliefs.
  3. Pull out your Bible (Torah, Koran) and try to wipe your mind of all science fiction. Ask for forgiveness for ever enjoying such things. Turn on Touched by an Angel reruns.

My great friend and mentor, Dr. David Powers, is also a sci-fi crazy. Seriously, check out his blog here. He owns one of the largest private collections of comic books on the East Coast. He eats, sleeps, and breaths all things sci-fi. Here is the kicker – he is also my pastor. On the surface, this may not seem to be a contradiction, but the way I see it, it certainly could be. He is not one to shy away from potential contradictions. Somewhere you will find a photo of him at the Myrtle Beach Xcon convention leading the Sunday service in the middle of the floor. Click this sentence to check out his response and, as I see it, a continuation of the discussion (There is also a link to his blog at the top).

The title of this blog post tells you where I am on the topic. I am trying to reconcile my Christian beliefs (which are infantile and growing) with my love of this genre. I want nothing more than to jump on a colonial ship and head out of the galaxy to explore, but I wonder if just wanting such things makes me less of a Christian. What if I run into an alien with a different god?

Please join in the discussion in the comments section. I would love to know what some of you think about this. (Be respectful…I don’t feel like putting my comments on moderation)

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About Allen Watson

I've finally decided to write out the stories in my head. Reading has always been a passion of mine, but now I want to get my own book out there. Bachelor's Degree in Political Science Master's Degree in Teaching View all posts by Allen Watson

14 responses to “Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith

  • Reconciling Science Fiction and Religion (a shared post w Allen Watson) | Mastering the Art of Living

    […] I’ve done this, but this post is a shared one with Allen Watson. Be sure to check his blog HERE for the alternate viewpoint and point-counterpoint to my entry […]

  • Justin Sargeant

    Hey Allen, good post. I understand what you’re getting at. I would consider myself a long time Christian and I guess quite knowledgeable about the word. But I was just thinking that in watching sci-fi I suspend my disbelief just as I do every other type fiction genre. I don’t feel that because I enjoy watching the shows that I necessarily have to believe in the real possibility of them. I just enjoy them for their stories and sometimes reflections on mankind. So I guess I reconcile it by remembering that it is all make believe anyway.

  • ctfranklin28

    This was a very interesting post! I have never seen the sci-faith conversation at all except when a book goes way out of line Your post reflects a deeper conversation into sci fi and how it relates to faith that I hope more of us have. Most “religious” people I know either don’t touch sci-fi books or don’t bother to ask how such books can impact their faith. It is not an easy answer, but we have our whole lives (with our conscience as a guide) to find our own answer to it.

  • sleeplessdave

    Hey, Allen, I really loved the post. I certainly think you can suspend reality (for those of us who consider our faith reality) and escape into fiction. I don’t know that’s the healthiest life coping mechanism, but it’s certainly the one I use. I have a MASTERS in political science so perhaps that is what drives all of us out into the galaxy. I don’t think concepts of other planets and other species are antithetical to Christianity. CS Lewis explored some of this in his space trilogy (Perelandra, Out of Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength). If you’re a new Christian, I highly recommend Lewis. I was in church my whole life, but I don’t think I firmed my beliefs until I confronted questions he raised in a lot of his books. If there is life on other worlds who’s to say God didn’t fashion it? We’re created in His image, but I think it’s terribly linear to think any image of God couldn’t be multifaceted. I hate to use two Lewis analogies in one post, and Narnia is fantasy not science fiction but the principle holds. In Narnia, Lewis creates a God/Christ in Aslan who appears as a lion and tells the children that he lives in our world but he has another name. I’ve thought about these questions too, and they’re fascinating. I don’t think it requires you to throw over science fiction or science at all. Our world fell and required the sacrifice of the Son of God, but what if God created life on a world that didn’t require that sacrifice? Their whole interaction and relationship with Him would be different but that wouldn’t make Him less God; merely His interaction with His creation different. This is way too long a response, so I won’t go into all the other points you raise, but excellent thinking and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Allen Watson

    Thanks for the great response! I stopped in political science after my bachelor’s, so I know what you mean. Haha. CS Lewis is on my reading list, so I should probably bump it up.
    The reason I wrote this was to see what others think about this, particularly other Christians. Being able to separate the two, scifi and reality, is an option, but I think I’d rather confront my faith and science fiction upfront. I have a continual fantasy about being a space colonist, and if the opportunity arose, I would take it. I just wonder where that leave me spiritually. I have my own ideas about how God interact with the universe, but who am I? I balk at the idea that I even have an idea of God. I also wonder if we’re not supposed to explore farther out. Somehow, I think that if we area able to do it, we should. Though, I guess one could apply the same argument to cloning or drug usage. Ya see, I’m a bundle of contradictions!
    Thanks again for the post!

  • katyandtheword

    Hey,
    I find Sci Fi and Christian faith to be extremely compatible–I have been studying theology and sci-fi/fantasy for years. I would love to found a ministry based on Sci Fi and Church (ex: I did a Bible group on the theology of Firefly). After all, Sci Fi asks the questions about humanity that religion asks, and both try to come up with answers. Of course, some of why this is I’ve put in my post about Dr. Who and Star Trek http://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/star-trek-and-dr-who/ (which you already found). I think that Christ is totally cool with sitting with the Geeks and positing theories about why we act the way we do. Who knows, he may even RPG or D & D occaisionally….I think its more religion that has a problem with Sci Fi than an actual real incompatibility (interestingly enough Mormenism totally supports Sci-Fi as a genre…granted I don’t agree with the theology of Stephanie Meyers or Orson Scott Card, but its interesting to me that fantasy works with their beliefs)…As a PCUSA person, I think that Christ meets you wherever you are: up a tree, by a well, on the cross, or even at a ComicCon 🙂

  • katyandtheword

    Allen,
    Thanks for your response–I had already linked and am following Dr. Powers thanks to your website 🙂 For my specific Fantasy theology take a look at http://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/vampires-harry-potter-and-the-wonderfulness-of-fantasy/

  • 100-Word Challenge, Day 246-249 | My Writer's Cramp

    […] Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith (authorallenwatson.wordpress.com) […]

  • Hodge Podge

    The Battlestar Galactica remake has very explicit religious themes. And I really enjoyed the James Blish book A Case of Conscience, which stars a Catholic priest questioning if the newly discovered alien species has original sin or not.

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