Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion?

Thanks to Ken for pointing this one out!

The question was suggested by Pyr's editor-in-chief, Lou Anders, and it spawned an interesting discussion.

Two of the most highly regarded fantasy authors - Tolkien and Lewis - were also Christians, whereas the fathers of science fiction were atheists, and SF itself, it could be argued, grew out of Darwinism and other notions of deep time. Is science fiction antithetical to religion?

Check it out on SF Signal!

15 commentaires:

Andrew said...

There's a really good argument in a recent book, the History of Science Fiction, by Adam Roberts, that Science Fiction and Fantasy split as a genre with the split of catholicism and protestantism.

Jason M. Adams said...

I personally think science fiction is antithetical to rigid thinking and therefore most organized religions. That is, I think it is the government of the various religions that has more to fear from science fiction than the belief systems themselves. Regardless of what you believe, you will find justifications and arguments against it in just about any sci fi you pick up, since humans are exceedingly adept at finding what they are looking for.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope so--it's the main reason I read science fiction. And that might also explain why I never liked Lewis or Tolkien.

Foxessa said...

It's curious that no women were answering that question.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Well, I'm a female agnostic who reads both Fantasy and Science Fiction. :)

Btw, I love Tolkien's books (except The Hobbit that's too much a children's book) but could never get into Narnia.

Foxessa said...

One famous female sf writer friend stated she was too busy birthin' babies, washin' dishes, and generally workin' to be bothered rehashing this old chestnut yet once again.

Additionally, of course, female sf/f writers do it all backwards and wearing stilettos too. (Thanks to Ginger Rogers when she was asked how she danced with Fred Astaire. "I do everything he does, except I do it backwards, wearing high heels."

You can't accuse da wimmin of not having a sense of humor!

Victor said...

I'm a Christian who loves fantasy and science fiction and I don't feel threatened by even the more stringent agnostic/atheist writers out there.

For example, one of my current "Buy their next book sight unseen" authors is Robert Charles Wilson, who is very much anti-religion (to read interviews with him). I love all of his writing and stand in awe of his ability to verbalize the evidence of things beyond human understanding (see "Spin" and "The Chronoliths" for starters).

The one thing that science fiction does that directly mirrors religion is nurture that longing and belief that we're not alone. That there's SOMEthing out there. That there's some reason for all of this. That there's some BEGINNING.

I've lost count of how many discussions/debates/arguments I've had with friends and family who believe there IS a God out there, just not the one revealed in the Bible. Even if people don't want to believe in the Jewish-Christian God, they know instinctively that there's something bigger than us out there. (and I've heard all the arguments about 'faith' being nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain or mass hallucinations or fill-in-the-blank on your explanation du jour).

In the end, it's all about faith. The personal proof that I have for my faith is (for me) undeniable and unassailable. On the other side, there are people that are equally POSITIVE that their understanding of the universe is undeniable and unassailable. I don't deny that their proof is 100% real to them. But in the end, whether science or religion, it all comes down to the faith you put in your own experiences and the faith you put in the 'proof' that others put forth.

Science Fiction is FILLED with amazing examples of undeniable proof that something exists for one character than no one else will believe.

If you (being either the religious or scientific unbeliever) can't accept that someone else is capable of having an experience that transcends what you have either experienced yourself or even believe is possible, then that's a failing on YOUR part.

Okay... that's all. Now back to your regularly scheduled debate.

Anonymous said...

I can accept that someone else is capable of having an experience that transcends what I have experienced myself, but that person may still be a complete nutjob. Accepting that someone truly believes something is a far cry from respecting said belief system.

The whole religion vs. science debate can be boiled down to two types of people: people that need proof to believe something, and people that don't.

It seems to me that science fiction would attract more of the former, and fantasy would attract more of the latter.

There are probably enough exceptions to this to make it only a very rough correlation, though.

Anonymous said...

I don't think most people really care. Lewis was good friends with Clarke, there's even a blurb on some of Clarke's books by Lewis, some of which make very "anti-religious" statements.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that in this whole discussion I didn't see any mention of Scientology, though maybe I just missed it ;)

Anonymous said...

The only difference between SF/F and religions is the credibility that is given to them. If i were to write of a "cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father and can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree he ultimately created," i'd get raped by the critics, to put it lightly. No praising blurbs on my covers!

Maybe in a few thousand years people will believe Heinlein to be the chronicler of the prophet lazarus long, and men will charge to battle screaming "TIME ENOUGH! TIME ENOUGH FOR LOOOOOVE!!!!!"

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Joshua Calvert in The Neutronium Alchemist say that he couldn't believe that the universe could exist without some higher purpose. I'm not the most experienced Sci-Fi reader, but thats the only recollection of any reasonably overt religious reference.

Anonymous said...

Go for the fun Mike Carey one.

Anonymous said...

We don't need to wait for Heinlein Rodric, we already have L. Ron Hubbard, who's already revealed to us that all sci-fi is just some sort of genetic memory from be enslaved by Xenu for thousands of years.

Lookf4r said...

Philip k dick incorporated religion/chrisianity heavily into his stuff. In more ways than just slamming it I should point out.