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Religion/Ethics in Sci-Fi

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message 1: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments I'm interested in how Science Fiction frames and discusses religious paradigms (including alien belief systems). If anyone out there knows of a book that does this, or an author that draws from that well, please share.


message 2: by Marvin (new)

Marvin Flores | 64 comments Some sci-fi fictional religions off the top of my head are Fordism (Brave New World), Mercerism (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Bokononism (Cat's Cradle). I'm sure there are many others. =)


message 3: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Marvin Flores wrote: "Some sci-fi fictional religions off the top of my head are Fordism (Brave New World), Mercerism (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Bokononism ([book:Cat's Cradle|135..."

Good starting point, Marvin! I'd read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? many years ago and I'd forgotten about any references to Mercerism.


message 4: by Tobias (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 16 comments Bokononism is my favorite religion.


message 5: by Damon, ZARDOZ (last edited Jun 09, 2016 10:29PM) (new)

Damon (drasmodeus) | 171 comments Mod
A lot of Philip K. Dick's stories touch on religious themes: especially The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, Valis, and his collected notes published as 'The Exegesis'


message 6: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments What a quick response! Thanks, guys!

I've read a few Dick books, and I'm fascinated by how he is fascinated by 'what does it mean to be alive?' Ubix is probably the most striking but this question pops up all the time with him. I read Brave new World when I was a teenager, and probably missed most of it. Time for a re-read.

Thanks everyone! I'm building up a list!


message 7: by Marvin (new)

Marvin Flores | 64 comments When I read Brave New World, I was also listening to Iron Maiden's album based on the novel, especially the title track called "Brave New World". :-) It was surreal. :-)


message 8: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Although it's not a new book by any means this might be of interest: Orphans of the Sky. It was mentioned in another group.


message 9: by Outis (new)

Outis There's an enormous amount of SF that features religion out there, Bob. Sometimes it's just there for flavor/exoticism but not always. Maybe it'd help if you were more specific about what you're looking for.
Classic SF sometimes dealt with religion from the perspective of the modern disquiet about what the meaning of life and so forth might be. See for instance Stapledon. SF writers later became more cynical and less prone to grandiosity.
In the sixties and seventies, many famous writers such as Herbert (Dune) and Le Guin (City of Illusions) wrote many stories informed in part by Asian religions or new ideas about the origins of Abrahamic religions. Another of these is Lord of Light in which - SPOILERS - the leaders of an colonization project set themselves up as Hindu gods on a faraway planet.
Later authors have usually been more realistic in their approach of religion. De Bodard for instance explored the interaction of technology and East Asian religion from a social perspective.
Hard SF writers have since written about what it'd be like if the phenomena posited by certain religions were for real (Chiang) or about the tension between religious and scientific accounts of spiritual experiences (Egan's Oceanic).
And so on...


message 10: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
There's a discussion of religion in science fiction in The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, which is available to read online here.


message 11: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments Outis wrote: "There's an enormous amount of SF that features religion out there, Bob. Sometimes it's just there for flavor/exoticism but not always. Maybe it'd help if you were more specific about what you're lo..."

I take your point, Outis. In particular, what I think is Stapledon's Big Two (Last and First Men, Starmaker) inspired me when I was younger.

But I deliberately didn't want to be too specific, lest I confine the thread. I was looking for science fiction in which the purpose was to examine religious concepts, and not just include them as part of a plot centred on something else.

Dune is probably the closest I have seen in the 'Classic' line. The CS Lewis trilogy is more to my point, but fantasy rather than sci-fi by my standards. Certainly not 'hard' sci-fi.

Another avenue would be films such as 'Stargate', which seriously questioned the concept of 'godhead' but was really more concerned with the plot action. And more recently 'Avatar' was an excellent juxtaposition of what I might call 'Gaia-ism' compared to godless exploitation.

Philip Dick is a genius when it comes to examining the existential. And he also translates well to screen.

So thanks, Outis, for prompting more clarity.


message 12: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments Greg wrote: "There's a discussion of religion in science fiction in The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, which is available to read online here."

Thanks, Greg! That article is one cracker of a treasure-chest! I'll work through it's references. I was pleased to see Philip Dick get such a solid (even if concise) reference, and a few more titles I haven't read yet.


message 13: by Outis (new)

Outis I don't think Dune is very close to "science fiction in which the purpose was to examine religious concepts, and not just include them as part of a plot centred on something else". I mentionned it because of how famous it is but other Herbert stories are closer (one of them was a source of inspiration for Avatar by the way). Among the 60s books, Lord of Light is closer as well.
Before the 60s, there were Stapledon-esque things which fit your bill I didn't mention such as Clarke's Childhood's End which was recently adapted for TV.

What remains unclear for me is how you define religion for the purpose of this thread.
There's a lot of SF featuring stuff which is kind of on the boundaries such as things which have a materialist explanation but look very much like features of religions we are familiar with, technologically-assisted religious experiences such as the ones PKD imagined or mysticism that makes no explicit claims similar to the ones of the religions we are familiar with.
Especially when it comes to truely alien societies, how do you decide what to call a religion without encompassing everything that relates to traditions and values?


message 14: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments Outis wrote: "I don't think Dune is very close to "science fiction in which the purpose was to examine religious concepts, and not just include them as part of a plot centred on something else". I mentionned it ..."

Your last point is very strong, Outis. Here in Australia the Aborigines have 'Dreaming', which to westerners seems part mythology, part 'just so' stories. But they also embed behavioural paradigms, ancient experiences as folklore, geographic knowledge, survival skills and other themes as well. Perhaps I am being too restrictive in looking for more existential themes.


message 15: by Donna Rae (new)

Donna Rae Jones | 115 comments Bob wrote: "I'm interested in how Science Fiction frames and discusses religious paradigms (including alien belief systems). If anyone out there knows of a book that does this, or an author that draws from tha..."

Hi Bob. If you're not already doing so, you might want to take a look at this month's book, Children of Time. Just finished reading it now; without wishing to spoil it for anyone else, the novel includes the evolution of a belief system augmented through technological advances. An enjoyable read, too. And up for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.


message 16: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments Thanks, everyone. Have I got a reading list with your help!


message 17: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Bob wrote: "Thanks, everyone. Have I got a reading list with your help!"

You're welcome Bob - and there was a lot of interesting discussion in this thread too!


message 18: by PSXtreme (new)

PSXtreme After just finishing the book of the month read...A Canticle for Leibowitz, I can say that Religion and Sci-Fi can occupy the same space at the same time. Being the 1961 Hugo winner, it's definitely worthy of your time and investment.


message 19: by Gav451 (new)

Gav451 | 14 comments Stranger in a Strange land does that but is undermined by the fact that is quickly turns into a lecture and a boring one at that...


message 20: by Damon, ZARDOZ (new)

Damon (drasmodeus) | 171 comments Mod
Dune


message 21: by Gav451 (new)

Gav451 | 14 comments Dune is a classic. A wonderful piece of world building I'm due to read again.


message 22: by Allison (new)

Allison (tethys) | 2 comments The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell involves religion & alien first contact, though the religion is on the humans' part. I really enjoyed that one.

Also, A Case of Conscience by James Blish might fit what you are thinking of, though I didn't really enjoy it.

I would also second A Canticle for Leibowitz, which I thought was really good.

For human-only, The Parable of the Sower/Talents by Octavia Butler is about the development of a religion on Earth after the collapse of civilization.


message 23: by Dan (last edited Mar 04, 2017 02:45PM) (new)

Dan In David Weber's Honor Harrington series religion in terms of fundamentalism figures prominently whenever the antagonist world The People's Republic of Haven is part of the story. Weber is not a sophisticated analyst of fundamentalism anymore than Margaret Atwood is in Handmaid's Tale, but I do find it interesting to see how authors depict fundamentalism as a force for cohesion and the advantages unanimity in belief offers since the western world now confronts it (internally and externally).


message 24: by Mark (new)

Mark Brewer (markgbrewer) | 1 comments I explore some religious themes in my Regan’s Reach series, but perhaps rather cynically. An AI champions my lead protagonist and starts Reganism as a means to take control of a Humanoid system. It mainly Developes in the third book of the series, Confluence Point.


message 25: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 21 comments Dan wrote: "In David Weber's Honor Harrington series religion in terms of fundamentalism figures prominently whenever the antagonist world The People's Republic of Haven is part of the story. Weber is not a so..."

Dan, forgive the delay, but I had not seen your post until tonight.

Fundamentalism (whether Christian, Islamic, Scientific/Atheist or anything else) both fascinates and saddens me. It seems to me to be a retreat from the hard questions of life, a defensive retreat into an illusionary certainty.

Are we as a species so desperate for our beliefs to be affirmed by others that we are prepared to accept pre-set dogmas as our own in order to win that affirmation? Because that is the 'unanimity' that Fundamentalisms offer.

Perhaps that is a consequence of being 'social animals' rather than solitary predators. But in the end it is a self-defeating strategy for survival because it prevents social evolution and therefore technological adjustment, both in terms of competition against societies that accept a wider range of opinions (e.g., Western Europe after the Wars of Religion forced both sides into accepting tolerance, the Islamic world in its Golden Age, Greece in the age of city-states) and also in terms of changing external conditions (e.g., Climate Change deniers seem to be predominantly of Fundamentalist persuasion, either Christian or Capitalist.).

Long live societies who find cohesion in acceptance of 'The Other' rather than in uniformity!


message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim  Davis | 48 comments Greg wrote: "Marvin Flores wrote: "Some sci-fi fictional religions off the top of my head are Fordism (Brave New World), Mercerism (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Bokononism (..."
Probably because it was left out of the movie. The book had many levels while the limits of a film meant that only the central theme of what it means to be human could be dealt with. I think the movie has affected how many of us remember the novel.


message 27: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Jim wrote: "Greg wrote: "Marvin Flores wrote: "Some sci-fi fictional religions off the top of my head are Fordism (Brave New World), Mercerism (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and..."

Yes, that's possible especially as I read the book such a long time ago.


message 28: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "I explore some religious themes in my Regan’s Reach series, but perhaps rather cynically. An AI champions my lead protagonist and starts Reganism as a means to take control of a Humanoid system. It..."

Welcome to the group, Mark! Hope you enjoy posting here! That's an interesting idea - an AI developing a religion as a means to control a humanoid population.


message 29: by Susan (last edited Mar 30, 2018 05:20AM) (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments If you don't mind a short story, “The Twenty-First Voyage” from Stanislaw Lem's The Star Diaries has a robot religion.


message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Allie wrote: "Also, A Case of Conscience by James Blish might fit what you are thinking of, though I didn't really enjoy it. ..."

I liked part one of A Case of Conscience very much, but not part two. Still, I think it's worth reading for the first half.


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim  Davis | 48 comments Has anybody read PJF's "Jesus on Mars"? Very interesting and unique take on religion.


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