Science Fiction with Spiritual Themes

9 Apr

3rd article in our series: “Spiritually Uplifting Films in Hollywood!”

A topic that is difficult for some, this article is committed to discussing “Science Fiction with Spiritual Themes.” If this premise doesn’t make you immediately react negatively you might finish this article pleased with what you read. If you did react negatively then maybe the rest of the audience should understand why you may feel this way? 

Many believe that on a good day, the discussion of the terms science and the spiritual have an oxymoronic (meaning logically impossible) relationship.

By any means formal definitions, yet when you hear the terms below you might hear them spoken in contexts that include the following notions.

When people hear the topic “science” they might assume that term proposes that: evaluations are statistically driven, statements were validated with proofs, ideas are verified by evidence, expectations were extrapolated from facts, and only the most conventionally accepted truths ground all expectations.

When people hear the topic “spiritual” they are likely to believe: all thinking is driven by faith, statements will be argued from beliefs, values will be recognized due to unwavering devotion, viewpoints will be rationalized with deep commitment, relationships will be demonstrated with loyalty, and continued assurances will be practiced with dedication.

To simplify these differences, one topic appears to be reasoned intellectually and other seems to be affirmed by one’s heart. Yet, many may already suspect that these separate domains may sound forced, artificial or untrue. The actual commitment to go to the moon was largely accomplished with technological might, but the effort to go was partially driven by competitive passion also. The faiths demonstrated by so many religious faiths are built on the literate understanding of texts whose soul purpose was to assist the reader’s rational understanding. Seeming to be so different in character, what could these topics possibly provide for one another?

Let’s return to those who originally reacted with displeasure when they heard the two topics expressed together. From the skeptical perspective, many believe that science is a haven that should protect individuals from the vagaries of spiritual belief. For many atheists science rejects the belief that the world is dependent on theology of any kind. When Guardian.com writer, Damien Walter says:

“Tell them God is good and they’ll prove why he doesn’t exist. Show them there is no God, and they’ll invent one just to prove you wrong. Science fiction isn’t so much about science as it is about the quest for new ideas that will smash apart the old ones. That’s why the best SF is always outside the mainstream.” [1]

He is arguing that science fiction is not a sanctuary for the spiritual. To him good science fiction may disregard the passé beliefs of spiritual believers. Or at best spiritual beliefs are plot details or devices a good narrative will eventually discard.

Individuals like him believe the discipline (science) helped abandon beliefs that could not be verified in a laboratory. Many of the disciplines admirers believe science can actually dispose viewpoints from the spiritual world and those of its committed followers.

On the other hand there are equally many who see science fiction as more permeable than that. These individuals do not believe the science of science fiction loses it’s authority, validity, or integrity by embracing notions that tend to be a product of spiritual belief. In fact they believe the science fiction of books or movies are richer for their belief in spiritually derived ideas and truths.

When Belief.net’s John Brooks says:

 “…got us thinking about the great relationship between science fiction and religion. And so, we give you our list of the ten greatest spiritual characters in science fiction.” [2]

He sees great wealth in so many books and movies’ investment in characters that are either religiously or spiritually committed. Speaking of science fiction characters from movies though he admits to not recognizing them all, he does list many. He lists “Palmer Joss” from “Contact” (1997), “David” from “A.I” (2001), “John Connor” from The “Terminator” Series (1984-Present), “Shepherd Book” from the “Firefly” TV Series (2002), “Obi-Wan Kenobi” from “Star Wars” (1977), “John Locke” from the “Lost” TV Series (2004 – Present), ‘Kara “Starbuck” Thrace’ from the “Battlestar Galactica” TV Series (2003 – Present), “Dana Scully” from the “The X-Files” TV Series (1993 – 2002), and “Yoda” from “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). Though the contexts and beliefs are different as the science fiction, these characters ultimately ground these narratives in ideas that contradict these story’s frequently fantastic locales or premises.

What do you think? Do spiritual ideas make the material worlds of science fiction seem more believable than they would appear otherwise?
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Essential references:

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jun/07/god-in-science-fiction

[2] http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/idolchatter/2008/05/10-greatest-spiritual-characte.html

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6 Responses to “Science Fiction with Spiritual Themes”

  1. Open Book April 10, 2014 at 9:55 AM #

    U Said;”Do spiritual ideas make the material worlds of science fiction seem more believable than they would appear otherwise?”

    CR- Great, article and question. My answer. YES! In your article “The Terminator” and “Star Wars” are more believable because of the Spiritual elements. Another film and characters not mentioned but were hugely Spiritual are “Neo” and “Trinity” in “The Matrix.” I mean come on, those two characters were all spiritual and it went on to revitalize the genre. TA-DA!

    • 1option April 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM #

      Thanks OB

      • Open Book April 10, 2014 at 3:55 PM #

        Ur Welcome. 🙂

    • littlebells April 12, 2014 at 1:06 AM #

      I agree. I think it’s because adding that element is a way we can connect to the science fiction. “Star Wars” is a great example of spiritual themes, and one I usually refer to.

  2. littlebells April 12, 2014 at 1:09 AM #

    CR, great article! I think combining science (fact) with spiritual (supernatural, cannot prove as fact) is a great combination. But then again, this is a person who believes in God and that he created all things which all rely on science.

    • Open Book April 12, 2014 at 1:18 PM #

      Hi LB. Nice to see u.

      If I may add to your great observation. I think combining science and spirituality sustains balance.

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