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Religion and science fiction make strange bed fellows, though the intertextuality between the two is as old as the genre itself. In this post I want to explore what it means to me as an atheist sci-fi writer to use religion within my work, and look at the broader context of how religion is used within the genre to explore the meta nature of religion. There are potential spoilers across the whole genre within this piece, though I only briefly look at ideas from 2014/2015.

Right from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where the good doctor is an allegory for human hubris in trying to take God’s power through to Parson Nathaniel inWar of the World to modern examples like the faith in the 12 vs monotheism in Battlestar Gallactica and the exploration of personal faith in the Mass Effect trilogy religion permeates the stories as metaphor, allegory, and personality trait for characters driving the narrative forward. This is why I like having religion within my universes, as it gives added depth, narrative conflict, and best of all a way to express a character’s personal views in a manner which a reader can understand. In the Arz setting I have used religion extensively, creating new ones, adapting old ones, and finding ways to allow a character to express their faith which is both natural and workaday. I use terms like Deus, Mater, and the Unifier to express religious affinity, all of which harken back to our own experiences.

I find it interesting that in a seemingly atheistic universe such as Star Trek the only group that are really without a religious creed motivating them; the Vulcans have the tenets of IDIC, Klingons have faith in Kahless, and the Bajorans have the faith in the prophets. What makes this so interesting to me is that Gene Roddenberry uses none of the tropes of religion per se in the original series aside from a humanist universalism, it is only with the advent of the Next Generation era does religion become part of the saga. For me this is an indication that the audience was both ready and receptive to the idea of religion within the setting, while at the same time happy to allow religion being dissected by the show’s writers. I think this came in as a reaction to the post Jedi era, where science fantastical ideas overlapped with the harder science fiction of the 1960′s and 1970′s. The Star Wars saga helped legitimise overt religion within the genre, and writers/film makers/directors responded to this. Both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan have strong religious undertones

Blade Runner is an existentialist take on the human condition, questioning the very nature of what it is to be human, and took the scientific outlook of the 1970′s science fiction into the 1980′s. This outlier in the 1980′s gave a good template for the existential science fiction film, which explore the human condition without tripping over into overt religiosity. As a writer I think this philosophical take on the genre serves it well, as films like Solaris, Sunshine, Oblivion, and Edge of Tomorrow all carry these ideas through in their plots. This philosophical take on the human condition is generally religion free, preferring the humanist ideals as the backbone to the story; or completely ignoring religion altogether. This is why I think it is so stark when a writer does overtly use religion in their work, as it is a complete counterpoint to the humanist science fiction that is often presented.

So, as a write, why do I use religion within my work? Well, personally, I am what I call a recovering Christian, namely I am an avowed atheist who used to be a Christian. Because of this I am steeped in the religious narrative of Christ and the bible, and I have penchant for religious allegories  such as the war in heaven and the fall of man. Both of these are used within Arz to a lesser degree, and I used them because I find the idea of free will v overt authority a very intriguing idea. I also find that by giving characters belief, or a lack of belief, it helps add flavour to them, giving them a view on the universe that is their own. The over arching philosophy in the Arz setting is a mix of Roman emperor worship, Buddhism, and Taoist ancestor worship, as I wanted to create a timeless faith that fits the concept of the greater good. By cherry picking the ideas I feel fitted the setting I think I have come up with a good framework that fits the narrative I want.

Ultimately I think this is the key to using religion, philosophy, or the lack thereof within your stories. Personal ideology should never be a sledge hammer, unless that is crux to the tale (Contact being a good example of this), as you can end up with films like Battlefield Earth which take the allegory too far. George Lucas used the dichotomy of the force as the singular impetus of theStar Wars sage, yet Episode Four is essentially a rescue the princess/save the day/coming of age movie where the force could be removed without any detrimental effect to the plot; lack of faith indeed. When writing religion into your work always think about how religion can serve the character/plot, not the other way round. Even George Lucas retconned the force in Episode 1 to fit his own original ideas into the wider story he wanted to fell.

In the end religion and sci-fi can work well together as long as the writer/creator has an appreciate for using it as a facilitator for the plot rather than shoehorning religious ideology into a science fiction setting. Done well you get Deep Space Nine, done badly and you end up with Battlefield Earth,enough said really.

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371 deviations

Religion and science fiction make strange bed fellows, though the intertextuality between the two is as old as the genre itself. In this post I want to explore what it means to me as an atheist sci-fi writer to use religion within my work, and look at the broader context of how religion is used within the genre to explore the meta nature of religion. There are potential spoilers across the whole genre within this piece, though I only briefly look at ideas from 2014/2015.

Right from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where the good doctor is an allegory for human hubris in trying to take God’s power through to Parson Nathaniel inWar of the World to modern examples like the faith in the 12 vs monotheism in Battlestar Gallactica and the exploration of personal faith in the Mass Effect trilogy religion permeates the stories as metaphor, allegory, and personality trait for characters driving the narrative forward. This is why I like having religion within my universes, as it gives added depth, narrative conflict, and best of all a way to express a character’s personal views in a manner which a reader can understand. In the Arz setting I have used religion extensively, creating new ones, adapting old ones, and finding ways to allow a character to express their faith which is both natural and workaday. I use terms like Deus, Mater, and the Unifier to express religious affinity, all of which harken back to our own experiences.

I find it interesting that in a seemingly atheistic universe such as Star Trek the only group that are really without a religious creed motivating them; the Vulcans have the tenets of IDIC, Klingons have faith in Kahless, and the Bajorans have the faith in the prophets. What makes this so interesting to me is that Gene Roddenberry uses none of the tropes of religion per se in the original series aside from a humanist universalism, it is only with the advent of the Next Generation era does religion become part of the saga. For me this is an indication that the audience was both ready and receptive to the idea of religion within the setting, while at the same time happy to allow religion being dissected by the show’s writers. I think this came in as a reaction to the post Jedi era, where science fantastical ideas overlapped with the harder science fiction of the 1960′s and 1970′s. The Star Wars saga helped legitimise overt religion within the genre, and writers/film makers/directors responded to this. Both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan have strong religious undertones

Blade Runner is an existentialist take on the human condition, questioning the very nature of what it is to be human, and took the scientific outlook of the 1970′s science fiction into the 1980′s. This outlier in the 1980′s gave a good template for the existential science fiction film, which explore the human condition without tripping over into overt religiosity. As a writer I think this philosophical take on the genre serves it well, as films like Solaris, Sunshine, Oblivion, and Edge of Tomorrow all carry these ideas through in their plots. This philosophical take on the human condition is generally religion free, preferring the humanist ideals as the backbone to the story; or completely ignoring religion altogether. This is why I think it is so stark when a writer does overtly use religion in their work, as it is a complete counterpoint to the humanist science fiction that is often presented.

So, as a write, why do I use religion within my work? Well, personally, I am what I call a recovering Christian, namely I am an avowed atheist who used to be a Christian. Because of this I am steeped in the religious narrative of Christ and the bible, and I have penchant for religious allegories  such as the war in heaven and the fall of man. Both of these are used within Arz to a lesser degree, and I used them because I find the idea of free will v overt authority a very intriguing idea. I also find that by giving characters belief, or a lack of belief, it helps add flavour to them, giving them a view on the universe that is their own. The over arching philosophy in the Arz setting is a mix of Roman emperor worship, Buddhism, and Taoist ancestor worship, as I wanted to create a timeless faith that fits the concept of the greater good. By cherry picking the ideas I feel fitted the setting I think I have come up with a good framework that fits the narrative I want.

Ultimately I think this is the key to using religion, philosophy, or the lack thereof within your stories. Personal ideology should never be a sledge hammer, unless that is crux to the tale (Contact being a good example of this), as you can end up with films like Battlefield Earth which take the allegory too far. George Lucas used the dichotomy of the force as the singular impetus of theStar Wars sage, yet Episode Four is essentially a rescue the princess/save the day/coming of age movie where the force could be removed without any detrimental effect to the plot; lack of faith indeed. When writing religion into your work always think about how religion can serve the character/plot, not the other way round. Even George Lucas retconned the force in Episode 1 to fit his own original ideas into the wider story he wanted to fell.

In the end religion and sci-fi can work well together as long as the writer/creator has an appreciate for using it as a facilitator for the plot rather than shoehorning religious ideology into a science fiction setting. Done well you get Deep Space Nine, done badly and you end up with Battlefield Earth,enough said really.

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:iconfunkwood:
funkwood Featured By Owner 3 days ago
Thanks for the add! :)
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:iconaegiandyad:
aegiandyad Featured By Owner 4 days ago
I love Cornwall and think you may have done better than Cornwall stock-55, but that's the one I accidentally came across and decided I could work with. You won't have seen you stock used like this before Random-Acts-Stock's Cornwall-55 Extremanip by aegiandyad ! I'm going to look at the others and may pick out a better lit and more crisply focused specimen just to favour.
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:iconmaximus666:
maximus666 Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you for the favs
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:iconmaximus666:
maximus666 Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I use your stock here maximus666.deviantart.com/art/…
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:iconpaulodroid:
Paulodroid Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for favorite my art. Hugs!!! 
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:iconburningrage8-13:
burningrage8-13 Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
flower ~ thank you for the fave 2 by AStoKo  
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:iconlulebel:
LuLebel Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2015   Digital Artist
hi! Used your stock here:
A Great Journey

Thank you!
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:iconjackewa:
Jackewa Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey there! Your stock fotos are pretty and absolutely awesome! 
I used two of your pictures by the way here in my last work :) 
Rite of Merit Aeresella and Zahavah by Jackewa
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:iconanovius:
Anovius Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for adding me to your collection!!
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:iconivanvladik:
IvanVladik Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks very much for the fave! :-)
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