Science Fiction examines Religion

One of the most important aspects of Science Fiction is its ability to present us with ideas that are typically difficult for people to discuss or to help break us away from our preconceived ideas and think about things in a new way. The most difficult and important of these ideas are religion and the different ways that the science fiction franchises deal with religion are an excellent way of examining some of the different ways that people look at religion.

The Agnostic/Atheist

Humans in Star Trek almost never have a religion yet that general ignoring of religion among the humans of the show never stopped them from exploring religious ideas. The Agnostic humans are almost always meeting with "gods" from the original series with Greek gods and a god trapped in the center of the galaxy through the next generation where they met the devil, aliens from alternate dimensions who claimed to be god, and Q.

But most of the discussion of God was in Deep Space 9. It was here that the agnostic had to deal directly with something that he couldn't fully understand, and at the same time deal with being a religious leader. The final battle even came down to a battle between gods.

In the end the agnostic is still an agnostic, or possibly even an atheist but he has learned to accept and even embrace the beliefs of others and more than anything that is the message of Star Trek.

The Unknowable God

The god of Battlestar Galactica is not an agnostic god. He interferes directly with the characters but the idea of worshiping him is difficult. Even the name of god evidently bothers it. Yet the ideas of destiny and belief are examined well in Battlestar Galactica.

And the question of destiny is one that is unavoidable when talking about God. If God is all knowing then how can we have free will? Battlestar Galactica falls on the side of free will, implying that God has been working to bring about solutions but allowing humans to fail.

Sadly the more important point that the God in Battlestar Galactica brought out is the danger of having an active God in any plot. Deus Ex Machinca(god from the machine) is one of the worst ways to end a story. Having the solution to everything be God did it, isn't satisfying or good writing.

The Mystic

There is no real hint that anyone in the Star Wars movies really believes in god, yet these six movies are about a religious order and this disconnect from God allows us to look at the ideas without the debate.

The chief religious idea of Star Wars is that there is a force outside of us. Something that connects all living things and allows for a priesthood who can perform miracles.  One of the important aspects of this mysticism is that it is unexplained. This is something that just is.

This idea that there is something greater than us is the universal center of all religion. We may disagree on what that force is or what it wants of us but the core of religion is its existance and Star Wars has that core.

The Enlightenment

Star Gate, though it is almost exclusively about religion, deals with it very little. The Egyptian gods are safe because very few people on earth belive in Ra and they don't watch science fiction TV series. but it does examine one aspect of religion very carefully in later episodes through the character Daniel Jackson.

That idea is that of enlightenment. The idea of ascendancy through some type of moral or physical purity is as idea of great importance to religion and yet even through this enlightenment we soon find that they are imperfect. Even those with true godlike power can make mistakes and be corrupted like the Ori.

Another important concept in the idea of ascendancy in Star Gate is the idea that people are unable to archive it on their own. Humans, at least in their current form, are not ready to become truly enlightened beings.

The Inclusion

There is an episode of Babylon 5 where every alien race is showing off their religion. This puts the commander of Babylon 5 in a tight spot because the idea of choosing a single religion from Earth is basically offensive.

In the end the solution of bringing representatives from all of earths religions could be considered avoiding the problem but only if you don't understand the point he was making.

The religion of the humans in Babylon 5 had at least for that moment moved beyond a petty argument over who was right(not to be confused with enlightened debate which is good and healthy) to the uplifting of the ideas of diversity and love as the true religion of humanity and that idea wasn't lost throughout the series in which humans, who were far from the most advanced or powerful of the races became important more because of their ability to unite people than anything else.