Christianity vs. Science Fiction

Of late, I am sensing that lines have been drawn and sides chosen in the camps of Science Fiction (& Fantasy) and Christianity. There’s a virtual wall between the two fandom groups- and that’s a darned shame.

I count myself as a Christian- not the in-your-face, you’re-going-to-burn-in-Hell kind. I’m more of the quiet introvert when it comes to my faith- if you don’t want to hear about it, I don’t feel like it’s my place to make you hear it. When it comes to science fiction I’m far more outspoken- voicing my opinion on various Science Fiction & Fantasy topics at the drop of a hat. Many in the Christian world would blast me for that and say I had my priorities mixed up. I don’t really think so.

Why can’t Christians and Science Fiction & Fantasy fans get along?

I have been pondering this subject of late after seeing several ads for the novel “The Davinci Code”- that it’s free this Easter season. That strikes me as a little rude. Easter is a religious holiday where Christians celebrate that Jesus died on the cross for all mankind and then was resurrected. The Davinci Code is a book/movie that flatly contradicts that, saying that not only did he not die on the cross, but that he married a hooker and had kids. (okay, I know, scholars say she wasn’t the hooker from the whole stone-throwing bit). Pushing this book during the Easter season is a little insensitive, like trying to convince people Santa isn’t real at Christmas, or arguing about gun control hours after a mass shooting.

On the one hand, I admit that it’s marvelous that we live in a modern world where folks don’t get stoned or beheaded for writing such blasphemous stuff. That people are actually free to believe, or read, or write what they want. I mean, can you imagine publishing a book like the Davinci Code in the 1600s? Or even the 1700s?

On the other hand, I have to wonder where all this Christian animosity in Science Fiction & Fantasy has come from. Sure, I realize there are a lotta overzealous religious types spewing hatred on a daily basis, instead of the compassion and respect Jesus preached. But c’mon, has it really been that bad? No one alive today was ever tortured to death in the Inquisition (unless you believe in reincarnation) so why is it often used as an example of how bad Christians are? Shouldn’t non-Christians take the high road and not follow in the footsteps of history’s worst “Christians”? Get some compassion, not some contempt.

I’m digressing… the point here really is, where has Jesus gone in the Science Fiction & Fantasy world? He was once there, you know.

Case in point- two of the largest blockbusters in SF/F ever, that to this day have a profound effect on modern storytelling and popculture: Indiana Jones’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Last Crusade”.

Both of these films revolve around the concept that yes, God and Jesus are real beings. I’m sure a talented debater could weave a tale of the Ark being something other than the Ten Commandments’ final resting place, that it really wasn’t magical, etc. etc. But how about the Holy Grail? We all saw it heal Dr. Jones Sr. We saw the old Crusader still alive due to its magical, Christ-given powers. Clearly, to accept the Grail, around which the whole movie is based, you have to accept Jesus as a divine being and not get all hatey-closedmindedy.

SF/F fans, what really is so bad about Christianity? (The Biblical teachings of Jesus, not the televangelist pleas for donations). There seems to be a recent trend to exclude or discredit Christianity in Science Fiction. I mean, c’mon- it’s just as plausible as Ancient Alien theories. Or that we all evolved from poop-slinging monkeys as a result of hitting the random event, Big Bang Lottery.

When I read a Bible, I read about a guy not unlike Yoda. Compassionate and caring, with super powers, who didn’t really want to hurt anyone. In fact, I think Jesus probably would enjoy the Star Wars franchise (if He hasn’t already watched it).

Some of you might argue there’s no place in a Christian world for science fiction. I’d disagree. I think there’s tons of story-telling potential in a Christian world. Imagine a world where Eve didn’t eat the apple? Or a world where before man was wiped out by The Flood, he made it to the stars. You don’t even have to imagine our own modern world with a Christian/Science Fiction & Fantasy slant- it’s been portrayed in many tales without getting preachy. Constantine. Supernatural. The Life of Brian (not modern era, but it’s got Jesus and aliens, you know).

What’s with the idea that seems to have swept the Science Fiction & Fantasy fanbase that Christianity is the enemy? It sure seems that way to me, with all the poor depictions of Christians or the knocks against Christianity in general. I have yet to see any Science Fiction & Fantasy that knocks Bhuddism. Yet, isn’t it a religion? And no one seems brave enough to mock Islam in Science Fiction & Fantasy. Where’s the Muhammad-was-really-an-alien story?

I’d like to hope that being a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy community I can feel comfortable reading my Bible for a bit while I wait for the latest episode of Doctor Who to come on, or that I can wear a Hellboy t-shirt to church without a second thought. Why can’t I love Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Jesus and his portrayal of a Space Viking?

I guess what I’m really getting at is that Christians and Science Fiction & Fantasy fans need to take cues from our Lord and our last Time Lord and treat each other with some respect and compassion and leave the hatin’ to the Daleks.

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37 thoughts on "Christianity vs. Science Fiction"

  1. Ah, indeed, thank you for pointing that out.

    Here is the thing about the scientific method which is frequently misunderstood not only by the more science-denying among the religious, but also, and very importantly, among the more fervently religious believers in the existence of "known facts" who classify themselves as supporters of the scientific world view.

    The scientific method NEVER PROVES ANYTHING.

    It is an intrinsic part of the definition of the scientific method that it can only ever DISPROVE THINGS – namely, when new observations of facts emerge, which contradict the latest hypothesis on how the world works.

    Any explanation we have come up with, any *hypothesis* about the big bang, or the frequency of cars in passing in the street, is just that – a HYPOTHESIS. Not a "known fact".

    In that sense, there is no real breach between the explanations of creation (and other matters) which are given in the bible and other religious writings or myths, and the explanations that modern science has come up with. They are just hypotheses which have been superseded by more recent observation.

    It is very likely that as observation continues, many of our dearly held "known facts" – especially about such arcane matters as the origin of the universe, and life, and the evolution of intelligence – will seem as nonsensical and naive to future generations, as some of the beliefs held by people say, in the 16th century – or even as recently as the beginning of the 20th century – now seem to us. It was once, and not so long ago, a known fact that black people are genetically inferior in intelligence. Remember that? That was a "known scientific fact", to some.

    Or as a guy by the name of Socrates, who lived in Greece a little while ago, once said: "I know that I know nothing".

    Personally, I think it would be well for people on both sides of the fence to remember that.

  2. I think that this was a noble experiment, but I also think that we should move on. Here are my thoughts:

    1. it seems that discussing this issue has demonstrated that even when those participating in the discussion are doing their damndest to remain civil and keep the discussion on subject and not personal, it is nearly impossible to do so in a manner that someone won't feel has crossed the line.

    2. It seems that it is also virtually impossible for issues involving this subject to remain confined to a single issue: I'm apparently as guilty as anyone of spreading the subject.

    3. I don't think that there isn't a one of us here that doesn't respect everyone else working on this project as a person. Even where I have very strong feelings about religion(s) and those feelings may sometimes extend to religion's adherents, they are directed at those concepts in the abstract – never the individual. I have no trouble separating a person who I like, admire, am friends and colleagues with from any particular thing they may believe because I deal with the totality of that individual in anything but the abstract. A person is not their beliefs. If they were, we'd all find something about everyone else to be upset about.

    4. We are all – each of us – tied together here by one thing – bringing this venerable magazine back, using that project hopefully to mutual benefit. I have tried very hard to maintain complete openness, fairness and respect for a wide variety of views, interests and desires because I believe a couple of things: my own likes and dislikes are not necessarily shared with the rest of the world; I don't have the answers to everything; I learn far more along the way. Most importantly I believe that striving for a goal with a team of individuals requires it in order to have any chance at success. I think that here, on this platform, we should all remember that one of the ideals that is incorporated into science fiction fandom – and by virtue of origination and extension the concept of Amazing Stories – is the willingness to embrace diversity. I know that sounds like a platitude, but that shouldn't diminish it's value. We should all be willing to start from the position of accepting each other for who that person is; if we find greater commonality with some individuals and not others, well then so be it, but first and foremost we're members of a team and teams don't win games by bickering amongst themselves.

    5. I think this post and the following commentary can serve as an excellent example for us all as to exactly where the boundary lines are: go back and re-read them. I think everyone here has been remarkably controlled (I've seen similar discussions go right off the rails many times elsewhere), and I thank everyone for their restraint. I apologize to anyone who's feelings I may have hurt – it wasn't intentional. I apologize to CE for being responsible for misdirecting the conversation – that wasn't intentional either.

    I would like us to end the internal debate on this subject; I'm not going to close comments, merely request that we use this whole thing as a learning experience; we've learned where some hot buttons lay, we've learned what kind of arguments some are going to put forth, we've learned that there isn't that much new under the sun so far as this subject is concerned. I hope that as we move on, we can also learn to forgive any of the hurts we may have experienced (and I hope that any apologies that may be necessary have been offered or are forthcoming) and that we have also learned, as a group, that we can handle this kind of thing without falling apart. Later on we can analyze this more and maybe figure out a way to engage in these kinds of discussions without endangering our relationships with one another.

  3. Gary Dalkin says:

    "After a while, these discussions are so boring….and useless…aren’t they? Trying to explain rational thought to anyone intent on believing in superstition is a doomed enterprise. … I don’t bash anyone’s beliefs…"

    Actually you do bash other people's beliefs, first characterising religious or spiritual thought as 'superstition' then suggesting that those who hold religious or spiritual beliefs are incapable of rational thought. I consider that pretty insulting. And it is, of course, patently untrue.

    "Fact is not an opinion, an attitude, a supposition, a faith, or a trust that something is true. Facts can be inconvenient and unsettling, and facts can change…"

    You write that and think Christians are incapable of rational thought. Oh the irony. Indeed, a fact is something which is true. Facts can not change. If a 'fact' is proved untrue it was never a fact in the first place, only mistakenly thought to be such.

  4. C E Martin says:

    Wow! Thanks, guys n gals! First, for making this one of the top 25 posts of the month, here at Amazing! Secondly, thanks for proving my point. Instead of talking about making Science Fiction fandom a place where all are welcome, the comments quickly devolved into bickering over who's right about our origins.

    For you anti-Christians that so fervently keep beating the dead horse, consider this: the Christians who do like SF/F are more open minded and less preachy than those on TV that give Christianity a bad name to start with. Instead of mocking, belittling, etc. 'ing us, why not just drop it and enjoy some Science fiction with us?

    I swear, the venom spewed here, proving my point that Christians don't seem welcome in Science Fiction fandom almost made me quit writing for Amazing.

    1. David Kilman says:

      Thanks for not quitting – honestly.

      I prefer to live and let live. I always go under the assumption that none of us have a clue. As a species, I think it would be generous to describe our collective store of knowledge to be 99% ignorance. So why not let be.

      In the words of Kurt Vonnegut's fictional holy man Bokonon, "Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."

      Here is another favorite Bokonon quote on the ignorance of learned men: "Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before. He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way."

    2. Gary Dalkin says:

      Absolutely. If you start with the assumption that those who believe certain things are stupid and incapable of rational thought it might just be that you will bend over backwards to fit reality to the image you already have in your head. Or as Rick Warren said, if you find God hates all the same people you do you can be pretty sure you've made God in your own image. Anyway, it's all getting boring and a distraction from discussing SF. It has however proved that prejudice, bigotry and misrepresentation is ever a two way street.

  5. Apparently only so many replies are allowed.

    They called Spinoza an atheist. Many would call Einstein one. He certainly didn't believe in anything like Judaism, Christianity, or any conventional and popular modern religion.

    But it's ridiculous to make arguments based on what any individual, scientist or otherwise, believes. People are inconsistent about their beliefs, no matter how smart. What matters is their evidence and argument, whether it's intellectually consistent and consistent with repeatable and observable data. If it isn't, it may be dismissed out of hand, even if it is true. Science is the only system that has been proven reliable in developing new knowledge about the properties of the universe we exist within. It's not perfect and it's not all knowing, but it beats any other system.

    Claiming a list of Christian scientists is implicitly an argument for compatibility between faith and scientific thought. It isn't, however. It's just a demonstration that humans are inconsistent, even some pretty smart ones. It is by no means an argument for consistency because that would depend on humans never being intellectual inconsistent, which is not true.

    1. Gary Dalkin says:

      "Apparently only so many replies are allowed."

      I have no idea what you mean by this.

      "They called Spinoza an atheist. Many would call Einstein one. He certainly didn’t believe in anything like Judaism, Christianity, or any conventional and popular modern religion."

      Read what I quoted about Einstein. I did not say or suggest that he believed in anything like Judaism, Christianity or any other popular 'modern' religion. I noted, for the sake of factual accuracy, that the man himself did not accept other people denoting him an atheist.

      "But it’s ridiculous to make arguments based on what any individual, scientist or otherwise, believes."

      And I did no such thing.

      "People are inconsistent about their beliefs, no matter how smart."

      I didn't say they weren't, and to the extent that science is a human activity – which is to say, 100% – science is likewise inconsistent. Gradually working towards answers and offering differing solutions at different points in history.

      "Science is the only system that has been proven reliable in developing new knowledge about the properties of the universe we exist within. It’s not perfect and it’s not all knowing, but it beats any other system."

      True. Science has proved extremely successful at quantifying and explaining the mechanics of the universe. The How. It is not well equipped to explain the 'why'. Presupposing there is a 'why'. If there isn't, the 'how' doesn't matter.

      "Claiming a list of Christian scientists is implicitly an argument for compatibility between faith and scientific thought. It isn’t, however."

      Nowhere did I do that. I pointed out that many leading scientists had no problem doing so. That is a different argument.

  6. Many leading scientists are human and subject to rationalizing anything they want to. Moving away from individuals, leading scientists as a group were not very religious a century ago, and are even less religious now:

    http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm

    A lot of people like to play this game of saying, correctly or incorrectly, "Scientist X (who was very smart and probably smarter than you) believed in god (and you probably should to) and therefore science and religion are compatible." Which is fallacious in several ways, of course. Einstein, an atheist, albeit a spiritual one, is often invoked (incorrectly) for these purposes since he used the term "god" in a way casual observers take literally to indicate a conventional belief in a deity.

    Science may not have all the answers, but it does have many reliable answers to a lot of questions. Religion has a lot of answers, but none that can be shown to be reliable. Faith-based thinking is the antithesis of scientific thinking, and the two are nowhere close to equivalent ways of knowing or appropriately split into different aspects of the universe unless it's the imaginary one and the physical one.

    The truth is, with appropriate conditioning, you can get just about any human to grow up believing just about anything. The only things you can rely on are those you can verify objectively, which may be tough for some people to accept, but it's the truth.

    1. Gary Dalkin says:

      "A lot of people like to play this game of saying, correctly or incorrectly, “Scientist X (who was very smart and probably smarter than you) believed in god (and you probably should to) and therefore science and religion are compatible.” Which is fallacious in several ways, of course."

      I didn't do any such thing. I simply posted evidence to argue that many leading scientists have found no difficulty being both leading scientists and Christian. I did not argue that this was a reason anyone else should believe in Christianity, or indeed, believe in science. Why is the argument, which I did not make, fallacious?

      "Einstein, an atheist, albeit a spiritual one, is often invoked (incorrectly) for these purposes since he used the term “god” in a way casual observers take literally to indicate a conventional belief in a deity."

      Einstein refuted the idea that he was an atheist. According to Wikipedia, which I know, like all human projects, is prone to error: "He said he believed in the "pantheistic" God of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal god, a belief he criticized. He also called himself an agnostic, while disassociating himself from the label atheist, preferring, he said an "attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.""

      "The truth is, with appropriate conditioning, you can get just about any human to grow up believing just about anything. The only things you can rely on are those you can verify objectively, which may be tough for some people to accept, but it’s the truth."

      Nothing can be verified objectively. Ultimately everything becomes subjective. Science progresses by disproving, till what remains works, until that apple cart gets overturned by a new paradigm.

  7. I think your knowledge of the history of science may be a bit limited.

    Take paleontology, for instance. In England in the early 19th century, when human-made flints were discovered amongst the bones of extinct elephants, the scientists of the time interpreted it as evidence of Noah's flood. Later, of course, it became clear that both flints and bones were from a geological period that was hundreds of thousands of years before any time period when Noah could have lived.

    Similarly, it became obvious from the geological record that there had never been a world-wide deluge. As the evidence that the earth is billions of years old became overwhelming, it became impossible for anybody to simultaneous believe (at least while maintaining a shred of intellectual consistency) in both the validity of the scientific method and also in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

    Also, I think you may be treating the term "holding Christian beliefs" with a certain amount of mental flexibility. It's one thing to believe in the idea that there was a creator who set the entire universe in motion (as our friend Gene describes below) and quite another to believe in the divinity of Christ and yet another thing again to believe that a voice that you hear in your head is God telling you what to do.

    I suspect that few of the more recent scientists who "hold Christian beliefs" are fundamentalists or belong to the "Christian identity" movement, for instance. Very few probably believe in present-day miracles, in the sense of God suspending the laws of time and space for the convenience or edification of His adherents.

    1. Gary Dalkin says:

      "I think your knowledge of the history of science may be a bit limited."

      My knowledge of all sort so things is a bit limited, as is yours, but stating such doesn't invalidate my original point.

      "Also, I think you may be treating the term “holding Christian beliefs” with a certain amount of mental flexibility. It’s one thing to believe in the idea that there was a creator who set the entire universe in motion (as our friend Gene describes below) and quite another to believe in the divinity of Christ and yet another thing again to believe that a voice that you hear in your head is God telling you what to do."

      You make a lot of assumptions about my assumptions. People who believe in the idea that there was a creator who set the entire universe in motion are not necessarily Christians – they may be of one of many faiths, or no faith but just generally 'spiritual' in outlook. It takes accepting the 'divinity of Christ' to be a Christian, and the list of scientists I linked to was a list of scientists who were / are Christian. People who hear a voice in their head telling them what to do are usually mentally ill and require medical help.

      "I suspect that few of the more recent scientists who “hold Christian beliefs” are fundamentalists or belong to the “Christian identity” movement, for instance. Very few probably believe in present-day miracles, in the sense of God suspending the laws of time and space for the convenience or edification of His adherents."

      Again, you are making assumptions. I have absolutely no idea of what the "Christian identity movement" is, not having ever heard of it.

      1. Gary,

        I'm really sorry if I left the impression I was characterizing your personal beliefs. As I read over what I wrote I can see how it might have seemed that way. Apologies.

        My first point is that your list of great scientists who were Christians consists largely of individuals who lived in a time when scientific fact was not generally seen as being in conflict with revealed truth.

        My second point is that "holding Christian beliefs" is a concept that's imprecise, especially when one tries to compare what that concept means in contemporary America to what it meant in earlier historical periods.

        For example, the concept of a "personal savior" (practically universal in evangelical Christianity in the United States today) was unknown in Newton's time. The theology of even highly conservative sects (such as Catholicism) have changed significantly over the past two or three hundred years.

        Because of these two points, there's a danger that somebody reading your list of great scientists might assume that 1) those scientist's perception of the relationship of science to religion was similar to how that relationship is perceived today and 2) their idea of Christianity was similar in a meaningful way to the general consensus among the majority of Christians in the United States of what constitutes "Christian belief."

        Put another way, if Newton were alive today (and held a comparable position in the development of contemporary science as he did in his own century), he would probably be either an agnostic or an atheist, like the vast majority of today's scientists. As such, it may be misleading to use Newton (et al) as examples of the compatibility of belief in the scientific method and belief in Christianity.

        On the other hand, if one stretches the idea of "holding Christian beliefs" to encompass agnosticism (as in your example of Einstein), the concept becomes so fungible as to be rendered meaningless.

        1. Gary Dalkin says:

          "I’m really sorry if I left the impression I was characterizing your personal beliefs. As I read over what I wrote I can see how it might have seemed that way. Apologies."

          Thanks Geoffrey. I appreciate your graciousness.

          "My first point is that your list of great scientists who were Christians consists largely of individuals who lived in a time when scientific fact was not generally seen as being in conflict with revealed truth. "

          Point taken.

          "My second point is that “holding Christian beliefs” is a concept that’s imprecise, especially when one tries to compare what that concept means in contemporary America to what it meant in earlier historical periods."

          Again, point taken. I have both the advantage and disadvantage of being 4000 miles from the Madding Crowd.

          "Put another way, if Newton were alive today (and held a comparable position in the development of contemporary science as he did in his own century), he would probably be either an agnostic or an atheist, like the vast majority of today’s scientists. As such, it may be misleading to use Newton (et al) as examples of the compatibility of belief in the scientific method and belief in Christianity."

          It's impossible to say, given people are products of their times and environments, as much as their genes, so if Newton were alive today who knows what he might be.

          "On the other hand, if one stretches the idea of “holding Christian beliefs” to encompass agnosticism (as in your example of Einstein), the concept becomes so fungible as to be rendered meaningless."

          But I didn't do that. I only corrected a factual error, pointing out that Einstein refuted the notion that he was an atheist. Nowhere did I make any claim that he was a Christian.

  8. I don't know; all I can say is that I do enjoy discussing religious belief(s) (as they mystify me) and think that comparing them to reality can be a valuable exercise; I disagree with them, but can (and do) still respect the person that holds those beliefs – just as I continue to respect friends who hold political opinions vastly different than my own.

  9. Jane Frank says:

    After a while, these discussions are so boring….and useless…aren't they? Trying to explain rational thought to anyone intent on believing in superstition is a doomed enterprise. I gave it up in college, after long, frustrating "talks" into the wee hours with big kids who – like you – took their "cues" from the lord. Whatever. And yet here we all are, big kids, still at it. 😉 Doesn't it get old? I don't bash anyone's beliefs….but neither do I "believe" evolutionary theory to be true: I know it to be true. And that is the difference: Fact is not an opinion, an attitude, a supposition, a faith, or a trust that something is true. Facts can be inconvenient and unsettling, and facts can change (that's why we test, experiment, study facts) but what they are not, is "beliefs". In the same way that science fictional writing is not science non-fictional writing. 😉 So long as we can make this distinction when having a conversation, all is well. Sharing our different beliefs can be fun and enlightening. It's when these things (fact and belief) become confused and 'fuzzy' as concepts that I have a problem with the discussion. And by confusion, I mean people who can establish such public institutions as The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky – that shows humans co-existing with vegetarian dinosaurs. And it's not a science fiction museum. We here in the blog may take a loftier view, discussing CS Lewis, Heinlein et. al, but OUT THERE in the real world there are children who are being taught such nonsense as historical FACT. That is where Christianity (indeed, any religion) has the potential to lead us, if we are not vigilant. An open mind is not an unreasoning mind. I would like to think we are as capable of progressing culturally, as we are able to progress, technologically. We're just a couple of thousand years behind, in the former department and have some severe catching up to do. Just my two cents.

  10. C E Martin says:

    The responses here seem to be gravitating toward a debate about whether or not Christian beliefs are true (I'm pointing at you, Steve). Tnat wasn't the point of the article.

    The point was, show Christians some respect, don't bash their beliefs/faith, and just enjoy science fiction with them as a common ground. If I as a Christian don't take the opportunity to try and convert you, have a little respect for me and reciprocate.

    1. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm perfectly happy to accord devout Christians the *exact* same amount of respect that I give to people who wear magical underwear, believe in astrology, or think the planet Xenu really exists. I spent mental energy trying to "bash" everyone who believes in the supernatural, I wouldn't have time to get any real work done.

      1. C E Martin says:

        Careful, Geoffrey- your prejudice is showing.

  11. I doubt if many fantasy writers feel particularly averse to the New Testament. Consider: the main character is born through a magical process, fights off demons, enlivens parties by spiking the water pitcher, makes a zombie or two, and then, when opposed by the powers-that-be, turns into a zombie himself and, then, destroys the world by creating a series of monsters.

    That's a smashing good plot, IMHO.

    I do believe, however, that most fantasy writers think it's a bit odd when they encounter fans who seem to believe that the stories are actually true. So, if you are perhaps being given strange looks at fantasy conventions, it may be because the other attendees are treating you in the same way they might treat a person who insists that Hogwarts is a real place.

  12. Just to throw it out there: RK attempted to create parity between religious faith and what many call 'scientism' (the "preaching" of the scientific method).

    Unfortunately there is no real parity. All faith-based systems are subjective and non-verifiable, while science is objective and verifiable. Anyone can test the various theories, replicate the results (or not).

    I will also suggest that a large percentage of the perceived animosity is not necessarily due to overt hostility so much as it is a function of a variety of external factors: Christianity is a widespread religion and therefore will attract a corresponding percentage of negativity; those in the US are regularly battered by media wars on this and that – which are always blown way out of proportion; the internet allows us to be more aware of the background noise, etc.

    Christianity is also a proselytizing religion, some sects more vociferous than others and this can engender backlash.

    And a goodly portion of it can also be blamed on the general erosion of formal religion in the western world.

    Personally, I find it difficult to fathom how faith-based beliefs in this or that can be reconciled in the mind of someone engaging with science fiction, whose primary feature (used/ought to be) some connection to science, which is in turn based on the benefits of several hundred years of research and exploration utilizing the scientific method. That some manage to do it apparently comfortably boggles my mind.

    So far as the works that were mentioned: one must remember that the christian allegory is itself based on themes and structure that far predate the advent of that religion (Joseph Campbell); it's our culture that links it to Christian allegory rather than Greek mythology, for example. (Though of course there are some that deliberately hewed to that line – C.S. Lewis for example.)

    1. Gary Dalkin says:

      Here's a pretty impressive list of Christians who engaged in 'research and exploration utilizing the scientific method': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_th… Names include Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, John Fleming, Lord Kelvin, Louis Pasteur, Asa Gray, Gregor Mendel, James Maxwell, Charles Babbage, Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Robert Boyle. Western science was born and developed for hundreds of years within a Christian culture. Many scientists have found nothing incompatible with their faith and the scientific method.

      1. Most of the examples you cite are from a period in history when science was largely seen as confirming Christian myths rather than debunking them. Newton, for instance, tried to prove "scientifically" that the world was created in 4004 B.C.

        That all began to change with Darwin, the advent of atomic theory, and the discovery that the universe is incomprehensibly huge, all of which has tended to indentify the stories in the Bible as being myths rather than statement of fact.

        By 1914, a majority of scientists were expressing "disbelief or doubt in the existence of God." That percentage has continued to grow and today no serious scientist believes that the Bible is literally true.

        Just out of curiosity, though, do you *truly* believe there's an entity who created hundreds of billions of galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars, who specifically selected a minor tribe on a tiny, unexceptional planet as his uniquely chosen people?

        1. Gary Dalkin says:

          The examples I cite are from among the most famous names in science, cited simply to indicate that many leading scientists have had no problem being both at the cutting edge of science and holding Christian beliefs. Given Christianity is 2000 years old some of them will date from earlier periods. I could have listed scientists from more recent years, but these have stood the test of time as some of the greatest of all scientists. The Wikipedia page I linked to does continue up to the present, but what scientist, Christian or not, is currently as famous as the names I quoted.

          I am sure they did not see themselves as confirming myths – that is your perspective showing through – any more than they were debunking them. It is not a scientists; job to do either, but to attempt to find the truth of the matter.

          Regarding your final paragraph, I gave no indication as to my own beliefs, but I am a Christian, and I don't believe this planet is unexceptional – for one thing, it is the only one in the universe we know of so far to support intelligent life.

          1. Nicely put, Gary. Science plays a great role in everyday life and is the path to material improvement (or, alas, destruction) in the future, but it doesn't have all the answers.

            I, for one, find it easier to believe in God the creator than the theory that everything in the universe was compressed into a single particle smaller than an atom just before the Big Bang. If there was a Big Bang, God lit the fuse.

    2. Actually Steve what I intended to say is that Evolutionism as a religion is practiced by those that are taking on faith the science behind it. They have no personal proof of evolution. They have not applied the scientific method to evolution. Most can't even explain the scientific method.

      They take evolution on faith. Darwin: "Yeah I ran the numbers. We evolved."

      Some: "Okay, good enough for me."

      That is really my point. Some point fingers and say how ignorant people are by not looking at the scientific method as if that is the end of the debate. While they themselves may not have looked through it.

      By a show of hands who has done the research and calculations to prove evolution.

      By observence we can all see that evolution exists by definition. In debate by many is whether there is evidence that we evolved from monkeys.

      Many might point to the precambrian explosion and ask "Scientific method that."

      Others might wave their hand and say ah. Yes, that is one of those unexplained things in science that we just assume will work itself out when we evolve further.

      1. Paul,

        it is showing up here as being Draft status.

        When you want to change a post's status, it is necessary to do two things – first you have to select the status (ready to go) and then click on "OK".

        THEN

        you need to click on the SAVE button (which should change from "SAVE" to "SAVE As Ready To Go" after you click "OK".

        other than that you are doing fine.

        steve

  13. David Kilman says:

    I think what you are seeing is not really about SF/F fans, but rather a microcosm of western society at large. Hostility toward Christianity is on the rise as Secular Humanism pushes to become the dominant religion in the culture.

  14. A very timely post, C.E. Christianity-bashing is hardly exclusive to sff, but you're correct to point out that there are unusually concentrated levels of anti-Christian vitriol in our community, and that really saddens me. There are certain authors whom, as a Catholic, I find it difficult to enjoy any more, because try as I may, I can't separate their work from the hateful comments they've made in public.

    I dunno. Christians certainly are perceived as being anti-science. That's probably got a lot to do with it, although as Gene noted, the perception is fallacious.

    Isn't there perhaps also a resistance to any suggestion that the answers to the really big questions may come not from us, but from God? Science fiction seeks answers to cosmic-scale questions, celebrates humanity's power to conquer adversity and discover new (scientific) truths — perhaps some people conflate scientific truth with absolute truth, and resent any suggestion that humility might be in order? A future-oriented genre may naturally oppose itself to truths that were revealed long ago.

    Then again, some people just enjoy taking easy shots at culturally approved targets.

    In either case, you've got the right idea, C.E.: turn the other cheek and extend the hand of friendship! I *love* knowing people with diverse beliefs and ideas, and believe in the possibility of really enriching ecumenical dialogue that includes the non-religious, too, in a spirit of mutual goodwill.

  15. Standing ovation. A very brave and inspired post.

    You are very correct that Christianity has historically had a large place in Science Fiction. Frank Herbert wrote most of his works with Christianity as a theme. Jesus Incident. Dune series. Robert Heinlein created a religion in his Stranger in a Strange Land that is rumored to still exist today. Ron Hubbard = Scientology. Many other examples can be found of both Christianity and those trying to create their own religion. Tolkien was a Christian. There are books written about the metaphors of Christianity found in LoTR. CS Lewis is the most famous of Christian authors. He was more open with his belief in Christianity.

    There is an underlying angst towards Christianity in the western world. Possibly this is due to the thumb of Christianity being put on some of them during their youth by parents or others. Some of the most anti-Christian people I know had devout parents that tried to preach with the hammer. This creates a lot of hostility.

    Eastern culture doesn't really have this anger towards Christianity. When I have visited the Far East, they go to the Buddhist temple and burn incense to a half dozen different Buddhas and pull the answer to their prayer out of a drawer like a fortune cookie, and then they go celebrate Christmas without a thought.

    The pillars of Islam do not preach war, but there are those amongst them that preach you believe or you will accept it by the sword.

    Some amongst Christians I fear don't really get it either. They attempt to force their beliefs on people, missing the entire point of the freedom of choice God provided. They judge others and help to foster the anger and hatred.

    In my opinion these are both examples of error in mankind and not the faith.

    I have been to a Christian church and seen people wearing Bud Light shirts. I've been to places of business where they would get tossed out for that.

    If we look at all the religions around the world, study the characteristics of those that believe and follow the religion, I don't see how we could see Evolutionism as anything other than a religion. I'm sure there are some college religion classes that have explored this. I would be interested in reading a paper on it.

    Some study the bible and preach the word.

    Some study the scientific method and preach the word.

    Some listen to the word and believe whether they know the facts or not.

    I don't see the fighting between Christians and the Science Fiction community. A vast majority of people I know who are Christians love Science Fiction and Fantasy Passionately.

    SF, F, H is meant for entertainment and opening the mind. If the literature is attacking you personally or your beliefs, no matter what they are, you're not going to be inclined to read it. I just don't see the need to attack anyone. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

    In my mind

    I say 2+2 = 4

    You say 2+2 = 3

    She says 2+2 = 88

    Nothing I can say will get anyone to change their mind. Only they can do that.

    RKT

    1. To be precise, Tolkien was a Catholic and C.S. Lewis was an Anglican and their writing reflects those specific theologies, both of which are quite different from biblical fundamentalism.

  16. C E Martin says:

    I agree the animosity needs to go, but there's a basic flaw with your reasoning- unless you've polled all Christians, you can't really say what "most" believe. Most Christians I personally know aren't fundamentalists, but also don't believe in evolution as our origin. We may be a small minority, but we also love our science fiction.

    1. Well, I haven't conducted any polls, but virtually all the Christians I know, whether regular church-goers or lax believers, believe in at least some aspects of evolution. Maybe it's the neck of the woods I live in. I'll grant you things are probably far different elsewhere.

  17. I suspect the rancor between Christians and SF/F fans stems from the creationism-evolution dispute. What non-religious fans might not realize is that many devout Christians fully embrace the theory of evolution. While they credit God with creating the universe and life, they view the Book of Genesis as an allegory, not a factual recounting of history.

    Most Christians who believe the Bible is literally true are Protestant fundamentalists. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, made its peace with evolution decades ago.

    A little less animosity between the groups certainly would help fandom as a whole.

    1. I believe you are correct, but there still remains a problem here. If one accepts that evolution is the process at work, then one must accept the principles of the scientific method, and if one does that, than any presupposition about the origin of the Universe (or however far you wish to push things back) is an improper application of the methodology. We don't pre-suppose anything about the origins of the universe – except for that which is supported by the observable evidence and the theories posited to explain that evidence.

      1. My problem with the "observable evidence" is that every time we observe it it changes. Just recently the photos of the Big Bang have put in some uncertainties and inconsistencies in the scientific method. They thought the big bang dispersed evenly in all directions. Photos show this is not the case. Furthermore now they are thinking the universe could be spinning. It could be finite. Everytime we observe something new, the scientific method shifts to accept it. Science has a shifting belief system based on what we've seen or proven lately. Frequently our evidence is shown to be false.

        I found it interesting when doing my research for the post I had this week, that many of the scientists who responded to the Sigma Xi survey firmly planted science in the science fiction category. That is the proposals they draw up are fiction. The conclusions made by some scientists are fiction. These answers came from scientists at ground zero. I like the scientific method and support it, but to suggest that is is proving anything is a bit of a stretch.

        Every time I step outside my house a car drives by. If I step outside my house every ten minutes, then I can say either a car drives by my house every ten minutes or I can say the result of me stepping outside my house causes the car to drive by.

        The Xeno Paradox: In science distances can be measured in infinite scale in theory. If the universe is expanding, then there is no limit to it. It is infinite. If I take a measurement, by scientific proof I can cut that measurement in half. Given this evidence, through math I can continue to split a distance in half infintily. There would be no limit to the number of times I could do this. Each time I cut the distance in half, I put a point at that spot. So then I would have an infinite number of points.

        Given the distance X. Say X = 2 meters. I could by math cut this distance in half an infinite number of times and present an infinite number of points. The premise of infinite is that it can never reach an end point. So X= 2 meters. X has an infinite number of points along it.

        Scientific evidence would suggest that I cannot travel across an infinite number of points. Yet I can stand up and walk two meters.

        1. What you point out as an "inconsistency" in the scientific method is, in fact, the scientific method.

          With the scientific method, one's understanding of what's true changes to accomodate new evidence.

          In the scientific method, "uncertainty" is assumed to always be present, even with theories that seem to accurately model reality.

          I'm at a bit of a loss to see how citing Xeno's paradox somehow negates the scientific method, since the paradox results from how the problem is stated, rather than from the observation of evidence.

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