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Science Fiction and Religion

By Emissary in Culture
Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 09:29:48 AM EST
Tags: Focus On... (all tags)
Focus On...

I was reading an interview with Ted Chiang, and the first lines struck me:

All science fiction is fundamentally post-religious literature. For those whose minds are shaped by science and technology, the universe is fundamentally knowable. Faith dissolves, replaced by a sense of wonder at the complexity of creation.
What do you think of this?

There are sf works from Stranger in a Strange Land to A Canticle for Leibowitz to Dan Simmons' Hyperion novels which all deal with religion and are overtly religious. At the same time, my favorite definition of sf, from Kingsley Amis' New Maps of Hell, seems areligious by implication:

Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terresial in origin.
This definition has dated a little since 1960, I think; but what he is saying is that the only difference between science fiction and a genre like fantasy or pure horror is that science fiction tries to justify itself, something which in my experience religion always fails to do.

The interviewer's statement that faith dissolves for those shaped by science and technology also mirrors my own experience; my parents and siblings are deeply religious, and while I appreciate their faith, my most religious memories are of discovering a box in the attic containing my uncle's old Heinlein young-adult paperbacks when I was nine years old. Fortunately there was also a copy of the first book of Illuminatus in there ;)

So, what does Kuro5hin think about science fiction in the context of religion?

Sources and related links:

Religion and Science Fiction

Definitions of Science Fiction

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Science Fiction and Religion | 157 comments (150 topical, 7 editorial, 2 hidden)
Not universally true (2.33 / 6) (#2)
by localroger on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 05:57:49 PM EST

Just as there are plenty of scientists who remain religious, there have been SF authors who did so. James Blish comes immediately to mind; several of his novels actually turned on matters of semi-Christian theology.

My own novel would also seem to fall through the cracks in that definition. Indeed, the whole idea of the Singularity is inherently religious, although it's a new idea in that humans will create the god(s) most depictions of the Singularity imply a godlike relationship between the evolved machines (or transhuman humans) and any humans that remain in our current form.

Oh, and what about The Passage Home? Sure there's a religious cult in there but the kicker is that Bringer really does fit the definition of a god even though it is explicitly the end result of human engineering and has no metaphysical powers.

And then you have forms of religion that aren't well known, such as neopaganism, which are syncretic and don't require faith. David Brin wrote such a religion into Earth and I thought it worked pretty well.

Humans being humans, religion is going to probably exist as long as we do. But it is a proper role for SF, and many authors have gone there, to ask what religion will be like in the future.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

and don't forget Orson Scott Card.... (none / 1) (#16)
by JayGarner on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:36:02 PM EST

dude is a Mormon.

[ Parent ]
Exactly right [n/t] (none / 0) (#24)
by eldonsmith on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 10:32:56 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Typo? (none / 2) (#26)
by Drooling Iguana on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:01:22 PM EST

Was that extra "M" a typo?

[ Parent ]
heh heh heh (none / 1) (#32)
by JayGarner on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:22:39 PM EST

I be laughin. u so funny

[ Parent ]
not to mention The Sparrow (none / 0) (#71)
by livus on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 05:57:15 PM EST

which is about as religious as you can get.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Dick and Herbert, (2.50 / 4) (#4)
by cachilders on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 06:34:26 PM EST

if I'm not mistaken, were fairly religious. Still, that may not show in their writing, so the hypothesis may stand unfazed by such trivia. I do think it's a bit of a broad generalization. Solaris, Contact, and 2001, the films at least, are fine examples of stories that are steeped with both classical and modern religious motifs. That God takes on new shapes through the evolution of our perspective does nothing to dissuade writers and philosophers from the notion that some outside force shapes the course of our species.

Actually, as best I remember, (none / 2) (#22)
by mister slim on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 10:02:42 PM EST

Dick was basically insane and Herbert was less religious and more spiritual.

"Fucking sheep, the lot of you. Yeah, and your little dogs too." -Rogerborg
[ Parent ]

Fair points, both. (nt) (none / 1) (#31)
by cachilders on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:20:11 PM EST

[ Parent ]
According to my sources... (none / 2) (#95)
by Canar on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 09:55:49 AM EST

Dick was a user of many, many drugs. Including meth. The meth really shows in some of the fractalish descriptions of things in his stories; all of a sudden all the action stops and he describes some minute detail that has little to no relevance to the story over a page or two.

Anyhow, this explains a lot of his writing style.

[ Parent ]

No such thing as religion. (2.00 / 3) (#5)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 06:55:30 PM EST

You people that separate knowledge into distinct categories, mind is wasted on you.

Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

There's theology (none / 1) (#15)
by Emissary on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:25:55 PM EST

and there's religion. The two aren't the same thing, and there's not necessarily a correlation. Theology is a form of knowledge, religion is a set of beliefs.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
Whatever. (1.50 / 3) (#30)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:17:02 PM EST

Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
[ Parent ]

Religion is not merely beliefs! (none / 2) (#63)
by gzt on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:17:15 PM EST

Read Durkheim, it will be the best thing you've done all year! You don't even have to read all of it, just read the Introduction and Conclusion of "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life". Trust me on this one! It's a page-turner. Do it now! Do it!

[ Parent ]
Do you understand faith? (none / 2) (#6)
by fae on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 06:58:16 PM EST

I said faith, not blind faith.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
faith... (2.00 / 5) (#9)
by xutopia on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:15:49 PM EST

it's the off switch for logic. This doesn't make sense but use faith and it will all make sense.

[ Parent ]
Logic and faith are complementary (3.00 / 7) (#19)
by qpt on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:50:36 PM EST

If used correctly.

I have to wonder just what you think logic is, or faith.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

logic is deducing things by facts (none / 3) (#41)
by xutopia on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 02:03:55 AM EST

faith is accepting things with the absence of fact, sometimes against the facts.

[ Parent ]
well said, but let me add the word (none / 1) (#44)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:12:38 AM EST


You see, the fact of God's love, power, grace, might, etc. overshadow all the worldy facts you can present.

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

It wasn't at all well said. (none / 2) (#48)
by qpt on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 05:22:45 AM EST

What follows is an impeccable piece of logic:
  1. George Bush is a dragon.
  2. If George Bush is a dragon, then George Bush is made of glass.
  3. Therefore, George Bush is entirely made entirely of glass. (1, 2 MP)
My logic is beyond reproach, yet not a fact is involved. Logic is content-neutral.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

wow, worldview conflict (none / 1) (#49)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 05:46:08 AM EST

xutopia nearly quoted Scripture[1], and that was what I was commending.  Sorry if I bothered you.

Logic is good. Facts are good. HAND.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
  -- Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

I'm familiar with the passage. (none / 3) (#50)
by qpt on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:16:14 AM EST

However, by admitting that the subject of faith is not fact, you're handing yourself a substantial defeat, and for no reason.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

ok (none / 1) (#51)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:25:46 AM EST

I'll shut-up now.



Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

'the evidence of things not seen' (none / 0) (#102)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 05:22:46 PM EST

But not, one hopes, accepted irrationaly and in contradiction to experience.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
your present facts which are fallacious (none / 3) (#58)
by xutopia on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 11:42:24 AM EST

your logic is deeply flawed.

What I like about these "facts" is that they are for the most part testable hypothesis.

Could you for example make a test to see if George Bush is made of glass? If he fails the test then he isn't made out of glass and the rest of your argumentation is shameful.

If you present a theory it has to be built upon sound grounds. And if you want to present something extraordinary it needs extrodinary evidence to be believable.

Say you present the theory that you have a dragon in your garage. I've always liked dragons and ask you if I can see it. I go to your garage and you tell me that your dragon is right there pointing in the center of the empty room. I tell you I can't see it. You tell me that is because only his owner can see it. Fair enough, dragons are pretty rare I guess. Surely there must be a reason for it. Then I move around in the room trying to touch the dragon but I can't seem to touch him. When you see me waving my arms around you tell me that I cannot touch him. That he is untouchable by people. Then I take infrared googles to see his heat because dragons produce fire. I see nothing. You tell me it is because this is a heatless dragon who doesn't burn. You explain to me that it is because the dragon is a loving dragon. One that only fires up when humans need protection. That this dragon only appears to protect us from evil dragons that could hurt us. You also tell me that this dragons sometimes allows bad stuff to happen to us but that is because the dragon knows that it is best for us. So anyways you ask me if I want to give a dollar or something to support his dragon cause it's a good thing to have dragons around. Should I give you even a penny? Or should I consider you a crook?

The point I'm making is that if you want to promise me a dragon at least show me a dragon, or point me to some evidence that is real. A good indication that this dragon isn't real is that he promises wondreful things which I'd love to believe and can never make the dragon or you accountable for ie : life after death.

Nevertheless it happens all the times. People believe something just because it pleases them and because they have been brainwashed into mental submission. Think about the following example :

someone comes around and promises you that there is a loving dragon who is going to give you life after death if you are nice to him, that you are very different and special compared to other animals and countries, that you are at the center of the universe he created just for you, that he'll protect you from evil entities which want you to be harmed for no apparent reason. Along with the story comes hell and commandements to scare the living shit out of you.

Now the story doesn't stop there. If you accept that the son of this dragon is real you are saved from burning and hell and will have eternal life! This thing is still very hard to believe though so you someone decides to make the evil dragons really evil and the evil fires of hell really warm and very unpleasant to scare people into believing. Also you must start at a young age to inculcate such stories. Posing as the savior of humanity by bringing hospitals wherever you preach and using the education system to promote your dragon agenda is probably the smart thing to do. Once people revolt from being told to have as many kids as they can (happened in lots of areas in the world) brainwashed by an education system that abused and beated on kids and pompously "cared for" by people not really interested in health, dragonry attempts to promote itself not as education, not as hope for the diseased but as culture itself(sorry French link). Dragonry is a disease just like religion and right now it attempts to mimic the measles of mankind. Patriotism.

[ Parent ]

Actually, his logic is unimpeachable (2.75 / 4) (#60)
by big fat idiot on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 02:11:48 PM EST

Logic is completely, totally and entirely unconcerned with facts. Logic cares about the truth value of your premises no more than algebra cares about what type of items your variables stand for.

In other words, logic only cares about the form and not the content. This is why people draw a distinction between an argument being logically valid and the same argument being sound.

[ Parent ]

Bah! (none / 2) (#89)
by Ward57 on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:02:28 AM EST

The word Logic has two similar meanings (like lead and lead), one of which is the academic discipline (which is content free), and the other of which is concerned primarily with content. Whether you wish to use the word logic in only the restricted sense is, I suppose, up to you, but the other meaning exists, and is the kind of logic that we use to solve problems (say work problems).

[ Parent ]
Aye (none / 0) (#99)
by big fat idiot on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 02:28:58 PM EST

But informal logic is also unconcerned with content.

[ Parent ]
As that, er, big fat idiot before me pointed out (2.80 / 5) (#69)
by qpt on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 04:38:43 PM EST

Logic is content-neutral, and it's thus not concerned with the plausibility of dragons or anything else. Instead, by using the rules of logic, one can construct relationships between propositions such that if the truth of a certain set of propositions in the relationship is known, the truth of all of them is known.

Consider the following argument: A, A->B .: B. Now, if "A" and "A->B" are known to be true, then "B" is also known to be true. Now, how would we know "A" and "A->B" are true? It couldn't ultimately be by logical deduction, since logic as a means of discovery can only move from what one knows to what one doesn't; it can't inform a person who knows nothing.

It's inevitable then that we have at least some pre-logical knowledge. As it turns out, of course, most of what we know isn't based on rigorously valid logic, so bringing logic into a discussion about human knowledge is a bit of a red herring.

So let's stop talking about logic. It's not important in the context of this discussion. Now, you seem to be advancing a theory that claims only what can be observed with the five senses can be known. That's fine, but it isn't particularly logical, and it only seems fair that you support that view.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

fine... (none / 1) (#78)
by xutopia on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 08:16:51 PM EST

people use logic to explain things. But if the rationality of their primary arguments is flawed then their whole argument doesn't stand a chance. See if I logically deduce that water is gazeous because it isn't solid I fail to take into account other states at wich elements can exist. I also fail to realize that water can be at different temperature. My assumption though logically deduced is irrational.

So ok you get a 3 for pointing out that the use of the word logic here is mitigated. Rational would perhaps be more appropriate.

[ Parent ]

I don't think using 'rationality' buys anything (none / 2) (#84)
by big fat idiot on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 10:37:38 PM EST

What do you mean by 'rational'? Most people use the word 'rational' to mean something that is justified by some sort of reason and nothing more. That is to say, it is possible to reach a rational conclusion that is incorrect.

Are you seriously arguing that if one is rational, one cannot be incorrect?

[ Parent ]

You present two very incomplete definitions (3.00 / 5) (#61)
by big fat idiot on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 02:27:29 PM EST

First, there is more than one type of logic. Deductive (formal) logic is entirely concerned with form and has no application to the factual content of the assertions being examined. Deductive logic serves as a method to draw out the implications of a person's premises. It says absolutely nothing as to whether the premises are true or not.

Inductive (informal) logic is the process of extrapolationg from the specific to the general. This type of logic is also largely unconcerned with the factual content of one's premises. It is only concerned with what may be the general case if a given specific case is true. It says absolutely nothing about whether the premises are true or not.

Faith is orthogonal to both of these. Faith is a complex beast built on top of all sorts of foundations, some rational and some irrational. Consider a husband who has faith in his wife. His faith is built on many rational grounds: her past behavior, her expressed thoughts. The husband can exrapolate from these specific actions to the general case that his wife loves him. His faith is also built on many irrational grounds. If he loves her, then she must also love him. He made a huge commitment in marrying her, therefore, marrying her must be something very valuable.

The Greek theologian Christos Yannaras pointed out in his book Elements of Faith that the way faith is used in the business world is much closer to the meaning of the Greek meaning of the words used in the New Testament than the modern Western dichotomy that holds faith in opposition to reason. A merchant deals with another party over a period of time and learns to trust, to have faith in that other party because of that party's actions.

Consider people raised in a Church, some leave the Church because they've lost faith. The Church did not act in a fashion that allowed these people to trust, to have faith in, the Church. Other people remain within the Church because the Church has acted in such a fashion that these people have trust in it. In both cases faith (or lack thereof) may have been built for reasons that were rational, irrational, or both.

[ Parent ]

Do you even know what "faith" means? (3.00 / 4) (#45)
by Pseudonym on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:20:41 AM EST

"Faith" means "trust" or "loyalty". There is nothing illogical about trust.

Take science, for example. Science is a process by which we discover facts about the physical world. The process has been shown to produce useful facts. Therefore, it makes perfect logical sense to trust science, and hence rely on its findings.

"Faith" in a deity is no different, in principle. All religion is based in activity. This activity might be community based (e.g. religious gatherings) or it might be personal (e.g. prayer, meditation or whatever), but whatever it is, it's action. These actions have effects which have been proven to be useful, otherwise we wouldn't still do them. There is nothing the slightest bit illogical about this.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
SF as a flimsy excuse to convey an idea (2.80 / 5) (#7)
by mcc on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 07:21:24 PM EST

I do think SF is a successor of religion in a lot of ways, but I think the main one comes from the tendency for SF authors to only be writing their stories as a vehicle to express some idea. Mostly due to this, religion has kind of become our culture's default context for expressing things that don't really have any real inherent context. This is a function that historically has generally been filled by religion.

For example, let's say someone believes, or just likes the idea, that filial love is the basic universal constant that holds everything in the universe together. But since there isn't much of a basis for arguing this, there really isn't much to say about the idea beyond that. So how to express it to people? Someone in europe 500 years ago might have tried to present the idea framed as an analysis of biblical scripture which just happened to end with the conclusion all of God's acts are performed through filial love. Someone in China a thousand or two years ago would have done a treatise taking the classic confuscian texts and trying to demonstrate filial love as being behind each of the principles in those texts. someone in America today would probably just write an SF story in which the idea "filial love is the basis of the universe" is true, and demonstrating within the context of the story the consequences of living in such a universe.

A pretty good example of this in action would be the way the Polyamory community has more or less adopted the novels of Heinlein. If you look through Re/Search Publications' "Modern Pagans" book (they interviewed a bunch of neopagans and asked them to describe their religious lives and practice), you'll find the one book that the interviewees refer you to more than any other isn't any kind of actually explicitly religious text. The one book is "Stranger in a Strange Land", because the interviews frequently veer off topic from paganism into polyamory, and when this happens the interviewees invariably wind up suggesting "Stranger in a Strange Land" to those readers who aren't familiar with the term. This is not because SISL is any kind of good manual for how to effectively practice polyamory-- as far as I'm aware it isn't at all, though I haven't read it-- but just because they believe the story provides some sort of good vehicle for expressing polyamory's ideas.

On the far other hand of things, though, I would like to remind you that it's possible to write a science fiction story and tell other people it's a religion, and people will fall for it.

Aside from that, the absurd meta-wankery of k5er-quoting sigs probably takes the cake. Especially when the quote itself is about k5. -- tsubame

It's funny you mention Modern Pagans (none / 0) (#13)
by Emissary on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:23:29 PM EST

My mother is interviewed in it! The SISL thing is the sole province of Oberon and The Church of All Worlds, which he founded. Because all IIRC five members of his polyamory were interviewed for it, it comes off a little slanted. Most pagans I know (my mother's friends) would recommend you to something by Starhawk, probably The Fifth Sacred Thing, which is also science fiction.

It wasn't my intention in the article to suggest sf as a successor to religion, but I'm interested by what you say about sf being the main written form used to convey idea. I'm reminded of a Mr. Badger diary from a while ago, when he was talking about Anatole France and the death of the novels of idea a la Candíde, and how sf was practically the only genre in which they were still written.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
Religion not justifying itself (2.50 / 4) (#8)
by kesuari on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:13:36 PM EST

what he is saying is that the only difference between science fiction and a genre like fantasy or pure horror is that science fiction tries to justify itself, something which in my experience religion always fails to do.

I'm not religious, but in my experience, religion is meant as justification. For instance, it tries to justify our existence. It justifies itself by being a set of rules or guidelines that if we follow, and some higher power is consenting, will help us obtain  or return to paradise on earth.

I think a lot of atheists confuse religion with the powerholders of organised religion, who are often no different from the powerholders of non-religious organisations (such as governments). This, however, speaks of the powerholders, not of the religion, and certainly not of religion.

A request (1.50 / 4) (#10)
by fae on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:47:40 PM EST

Let's make a distinction between science fiction and utter shit (AKA science fantasy AKA soft sci-fi).

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
The purpose of Amis' definition (none / 1) (#11)
by Emissary on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:09:10 PM EST

He didn't want to exclude people like Edgar Rice Burroughs or Leigh Brackett, whose novels begin with the hero blasting off in a spaceship, crash landing on an unknown planet and breaking all their technology, and then fighting alien monsters with swords to win the daughter of the space-king. If you come in two chapters late it reads exactly like a sword-and-sorcery novel, but the first two chapters, where a supposedly rational explanation is given for the succeeding events, are enough to make it sf.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#150)
by davros4269 on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 11:53:34 AM EST

How would you classify the Pern books?

Myself, I'd classify them as sci-fi. Although it (the back story) also starts off with a loss of technology, etc., there is no magic or even the implication or magic, nor "monsters". There are dragons, but they are genetically engineered beasts of burden.

She fails to describe in detail how the dragons function, for example, but Card also fails to explain, at least in Ender's Game, how the, what is it called, the Crucible? Forgive me I'm not sure I remember what it was called - the faster than light communication system - works. What a shitty sentence, sorry!

Many sci-fi authors simply don't try to invest BS science and so therefore, put technology out there "like" magic. Anne does, but so does Asimov and many others.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

"utter shit"? (none / 0) (#138)
by davros4269 on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 04:12:42 PM EST

If I recall, you are an agnostic, good to see you taking a stand on something! Just kidding, of course! ;)

I prefer "real sci-fi" too, classic stuff from Clarke, for example. The Ramma series was fantastic, and really fits right into this link with religion.

But I wouldn't dismiss the "softer" stuff either. If the story is true to itself and the world it paints, than it has a kind of honesty that I like, even if it's ridiculous in a "real sci-fi" type interpretation.

Example, the Mars series by Robinson is good stuff - hard sci-fi, but so is Farscape - sci-fantasy tv show. Laughable science (who the hell were their consultants??), but great characters that responded to their environment, however non-real, as I think real "people" would, if you know what I mean.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

circletimessquare's rant (1.57 / 7) (#12)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:23:17 PM EST

my whole take is: science can not disprove sprituality, which goes beyond the whole god thing, and just says that there is a side of human existence which is beyond science, and always will be, case closed.

who cares about whether or not there is a god, it doesn't matter if there is a god or not.

faith is faith is faith. science fiction and science is full of faith: faith in the central tenets of science: theory, proof, consensus, etc. science fiction follows the span of science history and extends the trajectory into the realm of what might be possible along the lines of current scientific progress:

there is no greater statement of faith in science than science fiction itself.

but there IS spirituality, period, end of story- science can say nothing about that, ever. science and science fiction will never ever touch human spirituality.

however, i believe in PERSONAL spirituality, and to me, organized religion: temples, churches, mosques- to me they are like whorehouses of the soul.

you don't find love in a whorehouse, you find sex. real love is deeply personal and goes way beyond sex, just like real spirituality is deeply personal and goes way beyond what you find in organized religion.

you won't find real spirituality in lowest common denominator whorehouses of the soul.

organized religion at its best is nothing more than sheep herding, and has nothing to do with real personal spirituality you find in yourself, by yourself.

so go ahead to your temple, your church, your mosque if you want cheap sex.

look for real love, real spirituality in yourself if you ever really want it.

so therefore, there is no conflict between faith and science fiction: science fiction is essentially nothing more than a statement of great faith in science's progress and it's future.

also, there is no conflict between science and spirituality. spirituality cxan essentially be defined as that mode of hnuman existence which is and forever will be beyond the boundaries of science: the transtemporal, the transreality, the transcendent modes of human thought beyond space and time.

however, there really is extreme conflict between organized religion and science fiction. in that regard, the observations in this article is dead on.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

What about the machines? (none / 0) (#28)
by fae on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:08:08 PM EST

We will make machines We are machines that are more spiritual or less spiritual than the average person. Or exactly as so.

I conjecture that any extant spirituality is not at all supernatural. It's all in the head.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]

Cheap sex? (2.50 / 3) (#35)
by Edward Carter on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:31:48 PM EST

so go ahead to your temple, your church, your mosque if you want cheap sex.

Woah.  What church do YOU go to?

[ Parent ]

.sig (none / 1) (#36)
by orthogono on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:36:30 PM EST

Thanks for the new .sig idea.

-- temples, churches, mosques- to me they are like whorehouses of the soul.
[ Parent ]
flattered ;-) (nt) (none / 0) (#54)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 09:38:14 AM EST

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
real love (none / 1) (#46)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:49:12 AM EST

I submit to you that you cannot find this within yourself.  Real love is meaningless without action.


Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

romantic love is not spiritual love (none / 1) (#55)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 09:43:28 AM EST

what part of my statement excludes action anyways?

you don't need a bunch of lowest common denominators in your midst for meaningful action to take place in your soul

believe me, i don't think we are going to get rid of churches, mosques, temples: just like the world's oldest profession and the whorehouses that serve prostitutes and johns will never go away either

but just because something will never go away: drug use, pedophilia, terrorisim, etc... does not imply we should accept these phenomena. i look at whorehouses and churches/ temples/ mosques with the same sort of disgust and disdain: places of shallowness, cheapness, pandering to our lowest impulses

real love is found with another, alone

real spirituality is found within yourself, alone

real love is deeply personal

real spirituality is deeply personal

organized religions are just whorehouses of the soul

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

kinda gets into the old (none / 1) (#85)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 11:10:52 PM EST

faith v works debate (well at least for me).

Faith without works is dead faith.

Love without action is just fondness.

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

why do you think... (none / 1) (#91)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:42:18 AM EST

that personal spirituality is spirituality without action or works?

how did that notion develop?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I was just referring to (none / 0) (#134)
by SaintPort on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 01:16:25 PM EST

real spirituality is found within yourself, alone

This is your notion.

I have experienced powerful spirituality in individual Bible study, but nothing is as powerful as putting God's word to work in relations with other people.

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

read more than the bible (none / 0) (#151)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 01:03:09 PM EST

i view things like the bible as nothing more than cultural records... full of useful wisdom, but also full of too much violence and contradictions

to me the bible is about as useful for personal spiritual development as aesop's fables

if your spiritual development does not go beyond the bible, you ar edoomed to self-imposed spiritual retardation

spiritual development shoul encompass other spiritual traditions and the cultural records of other religions, and of course include your own personal experiences

at some point, if you don't limit yourself to one violent, contradictory book, then you will reach a state of spiritual transcedency like no other, and know real spiritual bliss, wisdom, and good works


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Real Spirituality (none / 1) (#121)
by mberteig on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 03:09:12 PM EST

I agree that real spirituality is intensly personal:

Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful, and self-subsisting.
I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover.
However, I also believe that part of this essence of spirituality is that we must go beyond ourselves and include others:
Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face...
Bestow My wealth upon My poor...

All "organized" religion deals with both an internal spiritual aspect and a social spiritual aspect. Both are real and necessary for the progress of humanity. Unfortunately we bungle up the social spiritual part so much that we don't even notice anymore. A really good example: backbiting:

Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.
Backbiting inhibits everyone's spiritual development. Just think about how: concentrating on the negative, emotionally hurting people, causing alienation. Yet backbiting is endemic to our work and personal social circles. Most people feel that it's perfectly fine to complain about someone else's failings.

It's not hard to see that if we only focus on our personal spiritual developement, important though that is, we miss out on a vast realm of spirituality shared with others and the opportunity to make real improvements in the lives of others.

Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
i disagree (none / 0) (#140)
by circletimessquare on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 06:52:09 PM EST

as soon as spirituality is made a public spectacle, such as in a house of worship, it descends to the lowest common denominator

i view things like the bible as nothing more than cultural records... full of useful wisdom, but also full of too much violence and contradictions

to me the bible is about as useful for personal spiritual development as aesop's fables

if your spiritual development does not go beyond the bible, you ar edoomed to self-imposed spiritual retardation

spiritual development shoul encompass other spiritual traditions and the cultural records of other religions, and of course include your own personal experiences

at some point, if you don't limit yourself to one violent, contradictory book, then you will reach a state of spiritual transcedency like no other, and know real spiritual bliss, wisdom, and good works

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

and I agree :-) (none / 1) (#142)
by mberteig on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 12:36:51 AM EST

Spirituality should never be a spectacle public or otherwise. Spirituality should be protected from the lowest common denominator... and in fact I think that spirituality is the opposite: it is the highest common denominator. Spirituality is accessible to everyone, but obviously only a very few people reach anywhere near its full glory. Nevertheless, I don't think one can discount communal spiritual experiences, nor the need to include care for every human on this planet as an integral part of true spirituality. It is not simply doing good works, but rather a deep awareness of the fundamental unity of humanity, and having that understanding motivate and effect every action, that constitutes the highest spiritual attainment rather than the lowest common denominator.

if your spiritual development does not go beyond the bible, you ar edoomed to self-imposed spiritual retardation

Although I wouldn't have used those words exactly, I agree quite firmly with the spirit of your statement. I think if we limit ourselves to the Bible or any other holy book, or literature, or fiction, or philosophical work, or scientific work, we are by definition self-imposing spiritual retardation. Instead:

One must judge of search by the standard of the Majnun of Love. It is related that one day they came upon Majnun sifting the dust, and his tears flowing down. They said, "What doest thou?" He said, "I seek for Layli." They cried, "Alas for thee! Layli is of pure spirit, and thou seekest her in the dust!" He said, "I seek her everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her."

I think the key point you make, which I agree with, is not to limit oneself to a single book (and I would add) of any sort.

Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
Ironically (none / 1) (#17)
by kobayashi on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:36:54 PM EST

Some of my favorite of his short stories have been set in a biblical universe (eg Tower of Babylon). And mythology in general provides a rich field of ideas for science fiction. But I dont think this says anything about religion itself. It is science fiction after all.

Homecoming series (none / 1) (#20)
by Stephen Turner on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:54:34 PM EST

Interesting subject, but I don't think you can generalise that easily. Just as many scientists are religious, so can science fiction books be. One notable example is the Homecoming series by Orson Scott Card (The Memory of Earth etc.). These are science fiction books with an underlying religious theme.

Good Work! (none / 2) (#23)
by bsavoie on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 10:24:16 PM EST

I like what you are pointing to. I would just like to point out a little fine point.

You post "All science fiction is fundamentally post-religious literature."

I think you might more correctly state that as post Christian religious literature. Most of Science Fiction fits well with Buddhism.

The West has just blocked out the truth because it is such a rush to make money and rule the world.

Bill Savoie www.dyad.org

May Peace and Love be your path
ah (none / 1) (#25)
by fae on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:00:28 PM EST

I see you have not been enlightened yet.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
grunts and gasps (none / 1) (#57)
by bsavoie on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 10:20:01 AM EST

Tell me master, was it the money or the power?

Bill Savoie
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
hehe just bugging ya. :) (none / 1) (#64)
by fae on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:18:53 PM EST

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
I like your note about the ladder and the barn (none / 1) (#65)
by bsavoie on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:30:52 PM EST

I like physics and I like Buddhism and I have never heard of the parable on your link. I think the problem is when we have 'one' universe with 'two viewpoints' rather then 'two universes' and a communication delay. I have a many universe model of the world at http://www.dyad.org/d06twy1.htm and yes I know it is a bit long in getting to the point.

If we all have a 'valid universe' then we are at least as important as the world around us. I just see no reason that one person is any 'more' than any other of us. your 'bugging ya' is not just 'but an atom' but the whole thing itself!

Bill Savoie
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
Buddhist SF? (none / 0) (#152)
by WoodenRobot on Fri Jan 23, 2004 at 05:20:36 AM EST

Such as the Matrix and a lot of Philip K Dick's stuff (which is more Gnostic, really).

[ Parent ]
I prefer Asimov's definition: (3.00 / 10) (#33)
by Kasreyn on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:24:45 PM EST

(from the Inside Star Trek interview)

Gene Roddenberry: "What is science fiction?"

Isaac Asimov: "...I've always said that science fiction is that branch of literature which deals with the response of human beings to changes in science and technology. ... A lot of people ask me how I differentiate science fiction from fantasy ... To my way of thinking, that although science fiction and fantasy both deal with a background which is completely different from the normal background that exists today, in fantasy, there is no way in which we can travel from our background to the fantastic background ... but, we can at least conceivably travel from our background to the science fictional background by appropriate changes in the level of science and technology."

As to the question of religion, I agree that science fiction is a post-religious art form. The mind must be ready, in science fiction, to discard old notions and accept new ones at a moment's notice, to think critically about things, and to question beliefs. These are not irreconcilable with moral rightness or a sense of wonder and joy at the infinite, but they do seem irreconcilable with religious fervor, at least in its most dogmatic form. In fact, the feeling good science fiction arouses in me is akin to the religious wonder I once experienced as a child; the mysteries of the infinite are the same, whether you are kneeling before a crucifix, or trying to find a mental frame of reference from which you can grasp the "billions and billions" of the universe. Also the same is the feeling of reverent humility, an awareness of the smallness of the self, which is the feeling of a maturing mind.

I've only read Canticle, of the books listed (I know, I know - Stranger whenever I find the time, it's on The List). I'd say Canticle is a story of man's futility and of his perseverance, and the same of his religion, that their rise and fall are linked. At least, that was the sense I got from it - which was the same feeling I got from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, actually. I'm still not 100% certain of classifying Canticle as SF - while it takes place in the future, there are no new or advanced technologies (there are rocket ships capably of travelling between stars, but that's merely an innovation on technology we already have - nothing radically new is present). I'd rather call it a future historical novel. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy it a great deal. Hmm - maybe that will be my next reread. :-)


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Definition (none / 3) (#53)
by ffrinch on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 08:12:16 AM EST

What about Clarke's statement that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? Suitably framed, most fantasy stories can be turned into "science fiction". Look at something like the X-Men, full of characters with magicalmutant powers. Somewhat better respected, you have Anne McCaffrey's dragon books. They're nominally SF because of the one-page introduction. The dragons' origin in genetic engineering was elaborated later in the series, but all of the early books were essentially fantasy.

What about the problems differentiating between science fiction and speculative fiction? Is a story science fiction if it's set in the future, even if it has nothing much to do with a scientific development? There are a lot of stories based more on social, rather than technological, extrapolation.

Is it science fiction if they provided a "scientific" explanation with zero grounding in reality? Wells' gravity-repelling element, say, or telekinetic powers being granted based on a high concentration of "midichlorians".

The only workable definition I ever encountered was that it's science fiction if the author intended it as such. (But then what do you do if the author is Margaret Atwood?)

"I learned the hard way that rock music ... is a powerful demonic force controlled by Satan." — Jack Chick
[ Parent ]

An even simpler definition (of mine) (none / 2) (#56)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 10:08:54 AM EST

for "speculative fiction", which includes Sci Fi and other works:

Putting human beings in a situation that does not currently exist, and then extrapolating what will happen to them and how they will behave.

Simply that. Sci Fi is that, plus lasers, swish-bang, rockets, and Danger Will Robinson!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
The difference between fantasy and SF (3.00 / 4) (#96)
by gidds on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 11:16:17 AM EST

is, IMO, that although both deal with changes (in one direction or another) in science, technology, or the rules of the world or universe, SF is usually concerned with the changes themselves -- their effects on society, the changes they cause -- and in many cases the plot itself is directly concerned with the cause or reversal of those changes; but fantasy often uses them simply as a background on which to tell a story. SF is about the changes; fantasy isn't.

Hand in hand with that is justification; SF often provides a rational explanation for the changes, whereas fantasy often doesn't. But IMO this is a red herring; some SF 'explanations' are just gobbledegook, or flatly impossible, and some fantasy stories do have reasonable justification.

That's why I'd class Star Wars, say, as fantasy: despite the space ships, laser guns, and other paraphernalia, the story isn't about all that - it could be transplanted to medieval Japan, say, without affecting the major plot elements. Whereas The Truman Show is pure SF to me: the story is directly concerned with the Big Idea background (to the point of its destruction), and couldn't exist apart from it. I haven't read any future history or alternate history, but I think I'd apply the same criteria: if the story was directly concerned with how that history came to be different from ours, and its effects on people, then I'd probably call it SF; if it simply used it as an interesting backdrop, then I'd call it fantasy. Of course, there are grey areas in the middle, but it seems a useful distinction to me.

As to religion and science fiction, well, as a committed Christian and an avid SF reader, I clearly can't see a major contradiction :) Science Fiction is, after all, fiction; and of course I believe that my faith is a matter of fact and reality. I can read and appreciate fiction that contradicts my world view without feeling threatened by it. After all, willing suspension of disbelief is part of all fiction, isn't it?

[ Parent ]

Heinlein (none / 3) (#34)
by JayGarner on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:28:32 PM EST

I don't know, I remember reading Time Enough For Love as a 12-year-old, getting to the section chock full of the proverbs and words of wizdom of Lazarus Long, and thinking, OK, sure, having been deeply immersed in the religious thing, it's not my bag either, but this is the alternative? I wouldn't have been shocked to find advice from Heinlein in those pages about how often to brush your teeth or change the oil in your car. Very annoying, it was.

Heinlein (2.50 / 4) (#42)
by Emissary on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 02:22:20 AM EST

Heinlein's work is composed of two very, very distinct periods, the changeover point being directly after the beginning of the Cold War. I didn't know this until a few years ago; Alexei Panshin has a lot to say about it. Time Enough For Love was written before WW2, but Heinlein edited it sometime in the seventies to bring it more in line with his then-current thoughts. I tried to read it, but I couldn't finish it; I hear the original version was better.

When I talk about Heinlein, I'm talking about The Tunnel in the Sky, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, Star Beast, and Stranger in a Strange Land, as well as a few the names of which I don't remember. They're mostly stories of ingenious teenagers whose practical attitudes and open minds get them through being stranded on alien planets. Not overtly moralizing, as far as I remember.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
stories of ingenious teenagers (none / 3) (#93)
by wiredog on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 08:36:32 AM EST

Those were his 'juveniles'. Written to be read by Boy Scouts and other adolescent boys. Very different market, especially in the 50's and 60's, from the more adult sf such as 'Stranger' or 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'. Maybe not overtly moralizing, but take a close look at 'Space Cadet','Farmer in the Sky' and his other juveniles.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
speculative fiction and spirituality and science (2.75 / 4) (#37)
by just8 on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 12:25:48 AM EST

There is a difference between religion and experiential spirituality.  

Religion is ritual and myth and organization -- the outer vehicle of spiritual traditions.

Spirituality is exploring consciousness and subtle energies and feelings.  

Many speculative fiction or scifi writers incorporate spiritual and/or psychic and/or religious themes in some way.

Spirituality and science don't have to conflict.

One can be spiritual and have a scientific worldview, even a secular worldview.  

Spiritual inquiry and scientific inquiry are both based on observing the nature of reality. One can be systematic and compare experiences with previous statements or theories about reality. Or one can be pragmatic or playful or wild in exploring higher states.

Another category of scifi is the exploration of psychic phenomena and mental evolution, which overlaps with both religion and spirituality. This type of scifi bridges to spiritual scifi and can bride direclty to ones own spiritual inquiry.

See this website:
Science Fiction Featuring Various Specific Religions
To quote: "This document lists mainstream science fiction novels and stories in which specific real-world religious groups are prominently featured, usually through characters who are adherents and/or stories which take place in a setting with a dominant religion."

Some scifi writers transcend the genre, arguably creating enduring works of literature. Some of the best science fiction is "soft" scifi which tackles sociological issues, such as the Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin. Gibson's and others accounts of advanced artificial intelligence point to the development of higher and expanded states of consciousness.

Around age 15, reading both soft scifi and scifi with spiritual themes opened my mind to many possibilities for humanity.

Scifi inspirations were a big factor in my passion in my late teens and onward for exploring taoist, hindu and buddhist spiritual practices.  

I have found these writers very inspiring at times: Le Guin, Heilein, Henderson, Silverbert, Zelazny, Bradley, Robinson, Card, etc.

Here is a reading list of some of my favorite scifi and fantasy reads that I made for a friend. A number of these contain spiritual themes:

* = a must read

*Left Hand of Darkness; Dispossessed; Earthsea Quartet, Ursula K. Leguin
*Diaspora, Greg Egan
*Stranger in a Strange Land; The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; etc., Robert Heinlein
*Mars Series: Red Mars; Green Mars; and Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
*The Diamond Age; Snow Crash; Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
*Neuromancer series, William Gibson
*Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm  (to read: The Infinity Box and The Clewiston Test.)
*Pilgrimage: The Book of the People; Holding Wonder; etc., Zenna Henderson
*Son of Man; the Stochastic Man, by Robert Silverberg
*Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny
*Forever Peace; Forever War, Joe Haldeman
*Flowers For Algernon, Daniel Keyes
*Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand; Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
*1984, George Orwell
*Farenheit 451; The Martian Chronicles; etc., Ray Bradbury
*A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
*Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
*Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik by Philip K. Dick
*Ender's Game series; Alvin the Maker series, by Orson Scott Card
*A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr.
*Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
*Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien
*Last and First Men, Stapledon, Olaf
*Smile on the Void, Stuart Gordon
*Childhood's End; 2001 series; etc., Arthur C. Clarke
Starseed trilogy, Spider Robinson
Watership Down; Shardik, Richard Adams
Darkover Series; The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Startide/Uplift series, David Brin
Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner
Illuminatus triology, Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
The Andromeda Strain; The Terminal Man, Michael Crichton
The Saga of Pliocene Exile series; Diamond Mask; Hyperion Series, Dan Simmons
Contact, Carl Sagan
Foundation triology, Asimov
Gateway series, Frederik Pohl
Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey
Ringworld series, Larry Niven
Perelandra series, C.S. Lewis
Dune series, Frank Herbert
Starchild triology, Jack Williamson

Another for your list (none / 1) (#39)
by dn on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 01:28:56 AM EST

The Instrumentality stories, by Cordwainer Smith. A great example of religion/mysticism in science fiction.

    I ♥

[ Parent ]

I've read most of those (none / 3) (#66)
by Emissary on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:49:35 PM EST

A Wizard of Earthsea and Illuminatus! both changed my life. I read the first when I was eight years old and the second when I was ten. I can't even imagine now, who I would be without having read those books. At the same time, I'm very skeptical of explorations of "higher states" of "consciousness"; it seems to me that most people recommending that sort of spiritual journey get there through LSD. I think LSD makes you very, very gullible, susceptible to any kind of idea, and in fact the state of open suggestion induced by LSD is key to several scenes in Illuminatus!, and also to Timothy Leary's suggestion of using LSD to change the "switches" in your mind.

I try to keep an open mind; For example, I'm currently withholding judgement about the effectiveness of Voudoun, based on an experience. But, as Timecube tells us, "an open mind can be filled with garbage." So I'd rather not goatse my perceptions in the search for higher truth.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
re: I've read most of those (none / 2) (#100)
by just8 on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 02:41:38 PM EST

I wasn't as fortunate as you in my early reading choices:  My first sci fi books in early adolescence were the sci fi and fantasy juvenile adventures of Burroughs and EE Doc Smith. Those heroic tales distorted my sense of what a boy could hope to achieve.  Saving the planet or galaxy -- that's not a job for one person. But, enlightening the self -- that is possible.

I agree that it is very good to be skeptical of far out experiences.  It is also very worthwhile to explore how to develop your consciousness.

There are many relatively safe spiritual traditions. For thousands of years, 10,000s of seekers have attained profound realizations through various methods.

The journey of self-realization is most probably the most rewarding journey that sentient beings can undertake. I've been on the spiritual path long enough to verify some of the claims about the nature of consciousness in various mystical texts -- and still have a long ways to go in the journey.  

I've practiced a number of types of spiritual practice including 25 years of meditation practice and also prolonged fasting, hypnotism, past life regression, energywork, breathwork, taichi, prayer, and more methods, including, yes, a few doses psychedelic drugs in my 20s. The drugs weren't necessary. Prolonged meditation practice is much more effective and yields more profound trips.

I've found the most dependable access to higher consciousness to be meditation and breathwork practices.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, a traditional text on yoga practice, states that higher consciousness can be achieved through various means, including drugs.  
A translation of the yoga sutras is here:

I believe the most effective spiritual practices are found in the ancient spiritual practice traditions: buddhism, hinduism, sufism, taoism.

Most of the traditional (and new) magic systems like vodoun and wicca and native american shaminism and bon (indigenous tibetan tantra) have magical systems that tap into psychic energies that can work to change ones experience of the world.  Some of these systems have deep spiritual teachings. I would recommend bon and incan shamanism as among the deepest and most vital living traditions, if you are into shamanism.

Hope you get to check those out some time. It is well worth the effort to learn and undertake an extended practice of some form of meditation.

[ Parent ]

Hyperion? (none / 0) (#107)
by ArtfulDodger on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 12:47:45 AM EST

Have you not read the Hyperion books by Dan Simmons, or didn't like them or just forgot them on the list?

[ Parent ]
correction & scifi award listing (none / 0) (#112)
by just8 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 08:18:37 AM EST

Ooops, thanks.

Hyperion Series by Simmons is in there. In an editing error, I combined books by Julian May with those by Dan Simmons.

The Saga of Pliocene Exile series; Galactic Milieu series: Jack the Bodiless; Diamond Mask,
Julian May
Hyperion Series, Dan Simmons

I haven't finished the Simmons series. I enjoyed what I read of it. Richly wrought beings.

There are plenty more good scifi books to read. Just in case I should have included this in the original note:
AwardWeb: Collections of Literary Award Information and Photos
For anyone new to the field, here is a list of award wining science fiction works:


These are more authors (and must be still more) that I should have included as favorite reads in list above:
Gateway series, Frederik Pohl
Slan; etc., A.E. Van Vogt
A Fire upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge

Farmer, Asimov, Elison, Buljod and some other major writers were omitted from the list above (originally made for a friend) if didn't particularly care for their work.

I've read a lot more genre fiction that I didn't include above either, and some of which is speculative about the nature of worlds: fantasy and some horror.

I did most of my scifi reading in the 70s and 80s. These days, I mostly spend my time reading social and political theory and eastern philosophy and speculative crazy stuff and both straight up hard science and popular science writing. Reality and philosophy can be deeper (and stranger) than fiction. But fiction is fun and inspiring.

When I have time, I read to award winning scifi now and short stuff. Not enough time. Need more time. (However, if I had more time, I'd spend it writing rather than reading!)

[ Parent ]

Dude! The Dispossessed! (none / 0) (#113)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 11:34:15 AM EST

Goddamn philistine...

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

re: Dude (none / 0) (#114)
by just8 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 11:58:49 AM EST

ah, memory, thanks.
Read The Dispossessed 25 years ago.

Some questions:
Did you enjoyed that? Do you know that being polite is generally considered a virtue in anarchist societies?

Are you on the look out for philistine moments? Your sig is the epitome of that.

When you write this, to quote - "If god spake unto me and said, don't kill people, help the poor, love though neighbour, oh and yeah, don't eat crayfish, I'd be like, 'God, I'm sorry, but what the fuck are you talking about?'" - it shows that you have philistine moments as well (being unable to write a proper short conjunction and use old enligsh as in properly: "do not kill people, do love thy neighbor"). Or, perhaps you have a poor sense of humor or a nasty cynical streak.

Are you not aware that versions of the golden rule are common to most religions and various secular ethical systems as well? What these principles represent are the basic ways that we transcend our more brutish animal instincts and live together as reasonble and compassionate beings.

[ Parent ]

Sorry, ammar... (none / 0) (#115)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 12:14:36 PM EST

I didn't mean it. I tend to treat everyone as a friend. This sounds good, until you consider what most people get away with when talking to their friends.

So, to you, I'll be polite. Until you're a friend. Then it's open season, you wife-stealing homosexual!

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

re: sorry (none / 0) (#118)
by just8 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 01:16:30 PM EST

Apology accepted.

On friends: some are true.  
In my experience, most want to be, but have failings like being greedy, selfish, vengeful, etc.  So, if you forgive and forget (or overlook the bad parts of people) I've found you keep more friends.

That sig you quoted is something...

While I do remember in my 20s and still in my 30s some railing and ranting against whatever divinity wanted to pretend to give guidance in the horribly fucked up world we inhabit...

The only thing that will allow a workable anarchy is if most folks live by the golden rule of mutual aid.   And that comes a lot easier if we explore our common being and explore ethical traditions, religions and secular.  Yup, I'm a spiritual social anarchist.

On another level, I wondered if you were offended by my commission of omission of Asimov and later statement that I don't care for his work. I saw on your website you ideolize him and you also dismiss the need for religion. So, given that, I wondered if your remark was an ad hominem attack pretending to be a nit pik.

Still deeper: we are opposite on some things but the same on others.

You an anglo-celtic materialist anarchistic writer young male who thinks he is hot shit and writes short, pithy remarks.
Me an anglo-celtic secular spiritual anarchistic writer middle aged male who still thinks he is hot shit and writes long winded rambles.

There is a natural antagonism there.
Also, there is an opportunity for debate and dialog... and the most very helpful advice. Like:

Please Ken Wilber.  (Again, if you already have.)
Much better, please read Hameed Ali.  
Or I invite you to read this overview of new wisdom paths: What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America by Tony Schwartz.
Ya won't regret the time spent.

As for stealing wives: Would that I had the guts to do that. Sex dries up after you've been married awhile.  But alas, the sad truth: masturbation is the fate of old married men who want to be safe in the age of AIDS. Very sad. (Now that was morbid humor).

[ Parent ]

That's an OLD website. (none / 0) (#119)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 01:46:19 PM EST

I'm now a Buddhist. Everything else is the same.

Oh, except they caught Saddam Hussein, apparently.

And I'm a writer now.

Of course Asimov is a dead god, but that's like mentioning air. Like Douglas Adams. They're both dead now, and I think that's why the world is such a fucked-up place. Which is good, because now we know that we can blame them.

There's also a recent author that you may have overlooked. Peter Hamilton wrote the Night's Dawn trilogy, which is a great investigation of human fascination with the afterlife. Not to mention the best space opera I've seen in years.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

re: buddhism... (none / 1) (#120)
by just8 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 02:41:44 PM EST

Good choice.

Another thing in common:
A type of buddhist-vedic path is my root and ongoing practice base.

To ramble some more:

Some types of buddhist practice are a very good choice for atheists and agnostics who become interested in experientially exploring expanded awareness and subjective reality.

In buddhist methods in western forms, you can very effectively explore subtle reality, if motivated by sincerely wishing to help others or escape suffering or even just by curiosity, and you still can be an atheist (or not) or agnostic and get enlightened (or not) and get drunk regularly (or not) and help humanity (or not).

Lot's of room in the various types of buddhism: vajrayana, mahayana (especially variants of chan/zen/son), pure land, theravada, and the new western secular dharmas.  By the way, not all buddhisms are atheistic.  Pure land is rather theistic.  Vajrayana tantra works by placing theistic practice on an emptiness/atheism base -- in a wonderfully creative dialectic of form and emptiness.  Some of zen does too if you get into it. Translating this dialectic of form and emptiness into western culture could be key in healing the science vs. religion rift.

I bet that one of the most vital strains of western dharma, and perhaps the cultural matrix for western dharma in general, will be eventually a synthesis of secularized awareness, zen and vajrayana tantra practices and new wisdom (open minded use of scientific models plus some eastern philosophy and gnostic western philosophy). A secularized mysticism is social space where atheists, agnostics and various theists can have a common experiential meeting ground. It's happening.  

By the way, the reason Wilber and Almass stand above most other new wisdom thinkers is that they have both attained realization through serious practice of tibetan buddhism and other spiritual methods.

Almaas has made the very crucial move of grounding the entry to spiritual practice on the psychodynamic work of a reichian energetic variant of jungian psycho-analaysis.  After that, Almass introduces working with sufi models of the psyche. This is essential for people raised in judeo-christian cultures.  

You learn how to identify pain and then embrace and let go of pain and then how to love and work.  Sort of all at once. Then, with a de-fucked ego structure and open personality, you much more effectively engage in a sustained investigation of higher consciousness... which can rip you apart if you don't have a good path or guide.

I haven't read Peter Hamilton. Thanks for the recommendation.

Asimov was an important writer.  Perhaps the laws of robotics will save humanity if AIs take over. As for our current mess, I blame Christ for dying too early. Christ didn't stay around long enough to establish a meditation tradition for his followers. And I blame Buddha for being too ascetic and other worldly. Christ plus Buddha plus Mother Theresa plus Martin Luther King plus Harriet Tubman (of underground railroad) plus John Lennon plus Cleopatra plus Asimov. These people exemplify aspects that we need to actualize for us all to become able to live in an equal and free society.

[ Parent ]

Cleopatra? (none / 0) (#153)
by Russell Dovey on Fri Jan 23, 2004 at 07:01:37 AM EST

Why her?

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

re: Cleopatra? (none / 0) (#155)
by just8 on Fri Jan 23, 2004 at 12:15:35 PM EST

Well, several reasons.  Perhaps I was having a tantric moment. Mainly, her name popped into my mind as an at times powerful female of non-Western origin (which it turns out I was wrong about, as she was of Macedonian heritage). She was both a powerful queen and a powerful woman in a fading empire. And, she kept tryin and tryin to save her empire...

And, yah, I hold to grassroots organizing and all that... But leaders probably will always emerge somehow... Those who shout loudest and are most connected and scheme best seem to end up in thick of things calling shots...  That probably won't change in any sort of participatory anarchy. A good fictional study of leadership dynamics in an anarchic society is *The* Dispossessed by Le Guin :)

Cleopatra, the Last Pharaoh (B.C. 69-30)
"With the death of Cleopatra, a whole era in Egyptian history was closed. Alexandria remained capital of Egypt, but Egypt was now a Roman province. The age of Egyptian Monarchs gave way to the age of Roman Emperors, and Cleopatra's death gave way to the rise of Rome. The Ptolemies were of Macedonian descent, yet they ruled Egypt as Egyptians - as Pharaohs. And, indeed, Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh."

[ Parent ]

Not in all sci-fi (none / 2) (#38)
by godix on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 01:22:18 AM EST

For those whose minds are shaped by science and technology, the universe is fundamentally knowable.

Bullshit, quite a bit of SciFi puts things beyond knowing. Recently because of the popularity of quantam physics there are many scifi books that don't deal with religion at all yet still explicitly say the universe is not fundamentally knowable.

It's fairly common to read scifi that specifically supports an unknowable religious idea. Some of the greatest scifi books around do it, Clarks 2001 series has religious overtones and his Rama series ends up supporting a very Christian like god. The central idea behind Dune is a unknowable religious expanding of the concious. Almost anything by Phillip K Dick has religious tones, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep for example deals largely with do robots have a soul (he never phrases it that way but it is the central question of the book). Even the very overrated Stranger in a Strange Land supports religious ideas, just not Christian religious ideas.

I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.
- General Qaddafi

What I think of this (none / 2) (#43)
by SaintPort on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 03:09:32 AM EST

All science fiction is fundamentally post-religious literature.

Tell that to C. S. Lewis.

For those whose minds are shaped by science and technology, the universe is fundamentally knowable. Faith dissolves, replaced by a sense of wonder at the complexity of creation.

The complexity of creation guides one to see the intelligence of design inherent in creation, leading the wise to seek the Designer.

science fiction tries to justify itself, something which in my experience religion always fails to do.

My brain just rolled over and screamed, "What on Earth is this supposed to mean!"

Religion IS the practice of justifying human existence.

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

Your last point (2.25 / 4) (#67)
by Emissary on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 04:06:30 PM EST

Religion can try to justify itself by seeking to justify human existence, but you don't need religion to justify human existence. If you're me, you don't need to justify human existence at all. To use religion's justification of human existence as a justification for religion itself not only smacks of tautology but is silly. You can justify anything that way. Meanwhile, Science Fiction tries to justify itself by explaining its way from where we are now to where it is.

Also your second-to-last point: Those two lines are the ones which resonate most strongly with me. I believe that the universe is fundamentally knowable, and its beauty awes me. But that doesn't mean it has been designed. Complexity can arise spontaneously in a random system. Also, I see some problems with creation; irrational numbers, for example. What the fuck is up with those? Even if the universe is discrete, I don't see any reason for them to exist in mathematics either. If I were God, I would make all irrational numbers equal to 1.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
Kurt Vonnegut (none / 2) (#59)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 01:33:03 PM EST

My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut.  I suppose he is a "soft" science fiction author.  He is very fixated on religion.

He was raised atheist and still is one, so I don't quite understand his interest in religion.  His book Cat's Cradle is basically about religion and he considers that to be his best book.  Religion also plays a big role in "The Sirens of Titan" and really every book he writes.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour

A possible explanation... (none / 1) (#123)
by pla on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 05:03:40 PM EST

He was raised atheist and still is one, so I don't quite understand his interest in religion.

Simple - Imagine you live in a place where the vast majority of the population wears at least one article of purple cloting with every outfit, without exception. Some subgroups go further, and specify that they must use a particular shade of purple, or wear a particular type of purple clothing (ie, always a sock), or that nothing other than clothing should use purple; but without exception, you will never see people with this belief not wearing something purple. Even in a dire emergency, these people will stop to pick out the right purple cloting rather than, for example, run out of a burning building with no purple on.

Now, you live in this purple-wearing society, but come from our own culture (I will presume you live somewhere in the "Western" world, though even if not, I don't know of any cultures that would consider the above conditions as anything but absurd). You see these people, who will literally die in a fire rather than flee without wearing purple, and although at first you just consider it stupid, eventually it would begin to fascinate you. "Wow", you might think, "look at these people... Any moron can see that wearing purple has absolutely no effects of any kind, and yet so many people always do it. I wonder why, and more interestingly, what happens if we force these people to really think about why they wear purple?".

And that, I think, sums up Vonnegut's ideas on religion - An absurdity, but with it just SO popular, something a fellow can't safely ignore, and with some study, possibly something a more rational person can use to their own benefit.

Personally, I can understand that, although don't consider myself an atheist. More an agnostic (though also a gnostic, which oddly enough doesn't mean the opposite of agnostic), in that I don't think we can ever really understand "god", something so far beyond us that to compare it to how ants view humans most likely insults god. Yet, I also think that, as little as we can really know about god, we should still try to understand as much as possible, and the more we do manage to understand, the better it makes us. Thus I study religion like a fanatict, while claiming no particular one as my own.

[ Parent ]
Here's a scientist whose faith didn't dissolve (2.75 / 4) (#62)
by MichaelCrawford on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 02:42:36 PM EST

I don't think it's quite right to say that those who are shaped by science have their faith dissolve. The Caltech Christian Fellowship was quite a large and active organization when I was a student there.

Donald Knuth is one of the most respected and influential computer scientists around. Have a look at the list of his books. I used to read his Art of Computer Programming on the bus on the way to work when I was just starting out.

But here's one that doesn't fit with the rest: Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About.

After an introductory first session, the second lecture focusses on the interaction of randomization and religion, since randomization has become a key area of scientific interest during the past few decades. The third lecture considers questions of language translation, with many examples drawn from the author's experiments in which random verses of the Bible were analyzed in depth. The fourth one deals with art and aesthetics; it illustrates several ways in which beautiful presentations can greatly deepen our perception of difficult concepts. The fifth lecture discusses what the author learned from the "3:16 project," a personal exploration of Biblical literature which he regards as a turning point in his own life.

The sixth and final lecture, "God and Computer Science," is largely independent of the other five. It deals with several new perspectives by which concepts of computer science help to shed light on many ancient and difficult questions previously addressed by scientists in other fields.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

Terry Brooks wrote about faith (1.00 / 4) (#68)
by debacle on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 04:34:18 PM EST

And he sucks. God damn I burnt my eyes out with hot coals after I read that trawl of shit the Sword of Shanarra.

Talk about trying to rip off Tolkien. He's worse than that blubbery fuck Robert Jordan.

It tastes sweet.

Science Fiction? (is this off-topic/) (none / 3) (#70)
by bodrius on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 04:59:00 PM EST

Literary criticism aside, would you mind telling us what this has to do with the article in question?

I've never read a TB book, but I did a quick search and the only relation I could find between him and a science fiction work is a novelization of Star Wars Ep1, which is bound to suck by definition.

Fantasy is not science fiction. There is that cumbersome "science" over there. And faith has a big place in fantasy for precisely the reasons it is difficult to use in science fiction.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

Fantasy IS Science Fiction (1.14 / 7) (#73)
by debacle on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:21:04 PM EST

Now pull that dick out of your ass, scotty.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
Then why (none / 2) (#77)
by sholden on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 07:42:00 PM EST

Does my local bookshop have signs labelling sections as "Fantasy and Science Fiction"? Why not just "Science Fiction"?

The world's dullest web page

[ Parent ]
Yours does? (none / 0) (#135)
by djp928 on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 01:54:29 PM EST

Because mine doesn't. I've found most of the big chain bookstores such as Barnes and Nobles and Borders don't know the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy. They lump it all together under the heading Science Fiction. Sometimes they have a seperate section for media tie-in books such as Trek and Star Wars, but not always.

-- Dave

[ Parent ]

you don't see the difference? (none / 0) (#149)
by davros4269 on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 11:45:13 AM EST

Then tell me why you see them as the same?
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]
Terry Brooks isn't sci-fi (none / 1) (#83)
by Emissary on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 10:34:54 PM EST

But he's certainly a big hunk of shit. Same deal with Terry Goodkind. Who the fuck names their child Terry?

But you're no better, you fucker asshole. Anyway, I probably shouldn't talk shit or flame in my own story.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
wait a millenium (2.75 / 4) (#72)
by cronian on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:02:16 PM EST

Today's science fiction could easily become religious texts in the future. People just need to take them literally. In a couple hundred years time, what is going to stop someone ignorant of scientific principles to think certain science fiction is the literal and absolute truth?

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
You mean like the works of L. Ron Hubbard? (2.60 / 5) (#74)
by big fat idiot on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:32:44 PM EST

Battlefield Earth and the Mission: Earth decology are both already religious texts for the CoS.

For that matter, some people consider Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land to be a religiois text.

[ Parent ]

Mainstream Acceptance (none / 1) (#75)
by cronian on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:40:18 PM EST

Some have already passed that barrier, but it'll take time before something like that becomes the mainstream religious text. Although I guess Hubbard does have potential in that regard.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
Depends on what you mean by mainstream (none / 1) (#76)
by big fat idiot on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:50:05 PM EST

The CoS is at least as mainstream as the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I would consider all three to be "mainstream" for all practical purposes.

I'll gladly grant that Stranger in a Strange Land does not have mainstream acceptance as a religious text.

[ Parent ]

Be cynical of membership numbers (none / 3) (#80)
by roystgnr on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 09:42:34 PM EST

The Jehovah's Witnesses seem to report a roughly accurate count of active members, but there's a big difference (30-300%, depending on country) between the self-identifying membership and the church-reported membership of the Latter-day Saints, and there's a huge difference (4000%+) between the self-identifying and church-reported membership numbers for Scientology.  The LDS church counts anyone as a member who's been baptised (or who is a "child of record" of member parents) and who hasn't officially resigned, but the Scientologists are either counting everyone who's touched one of their "E-meters" or they're outright lying.

In other words, assuming you consider the 6 million+ Witnesses to be "mainstream", then you're right about the Mormons but may not be right about the Scientologists.

[ Parent ]

I don't base my concept of mainstream on #s (none / 2) (#81)
by big fat idiot on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 09:55:21 PM EST

I base it on the fact that most people accept CoS, JWs and LDS as valid religions. Obviously, there is more than a little bit of controversy in each of these cases and some people believe that one or more of these are actually cults.

But at the end of the day, I doubt that the FBI is keeping tabs on any of these as they tend to do for organizations that aren't very mainstream. (Although CoS may be an exception to that but only because they tend to blur the line between corporation and organized religion.)

[ Parent ]

This is an American thing. (none / 3) (#88)
by tkatchev on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 03:09:09 AM EST

All three are typically banned in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

LDS banned in Europe? (none / 2) (#92)
by wiredog on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 08:27:12 AM EST

Not that I've heard of. And it's certainly all through South America.

You're correct about it being an American thing. Based primarily on the whole 'Freedom of Religion' concept (whereas most countries have official state religions), and the difficulty of defining just what exactly a 'religion' is.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

Really? (none / 2) (#97)
by Gully Foyle on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 11:52:27 AM EST

I've only heard of the CoS being banned anywhere in Europe (Germany). JW is a doomsday cult, so it's possible that they've been banned, but it's hardly 'typical for Europe'. FWIW They're all legal in the UK.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Are you sure? (none / 0) (#103)
by roystgnr on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:27:49 PM EST

I base it on the fact that most people accept CoS, JWs and LDS as valid religions.

I'm not so sure of that in the case of Scientology.  The first I'd ever heard of them was in the 1980s from "Scientology - Anatomy of a Frightening Cult", an article in Reader's Digest, a normally uncontroversial magazine with a circulation of 10-15 million (declining, but still largest in the world AFAIK).  Time Magazine (4-5 million circulation) made "Scientology: The Cult of Greed" a cover story in the 1990s.  I'd always been under the impression that most people either didn't pay attention to Scientology and/or felt the same way.

Obviously, there is more than a little bit of controversy in each of these cases and some people believe that one or more of these are actually cults.

Many people don't seem to have definitions of cults beyond "a religion which contradicts my own beliefs".  The only useful definitions I've seen don't call any particular group a cult, they just call particular behaviors "cult behaviors"; of course some religious groups exhibit more of those behaviors than others, but trying to draw a line like "a group fitting 7 of these characteristics is a cult, but 6 or fewer is okay" seems very arbitrary.

[ Parent ]

No, I'm not sure (none / 0) (#105)
by big fat idiot on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 09:46:22 PM EST

But I will say that Reader's Digest is hardly an uncontroversial magazine. They are notorious for getting important facts wrong and entirely misrepresenting issues, especially ones that deal with politics or religion.

But I will note that there is very little outcry in the US over CoS. When John Travolta went around talking about what a spiritual experience for him to make Battlefield Earth, it went mostly unnoticed. Now granted, there are some groups that do think CoS is a cult. Most (not all) of these groups have questionable definitions of what a cult is.

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#106)
by ShadowNode on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 11:37:30 PM EST

In my experience, most people consider all three to be Grade A Nutballs.

[ Parent ]
CoS needs to die (none / 0) (#108)
by ph317 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 02:04:23 AM EST

The problem with CoS is there isn't enough activism to keep the horrors of that ugly cult out in the limelight, and so therefore many people are ignorant of how stupid an excuse for a religion it is.  Like my parents.  They had no clue, they just figured it was some variant of Christian Science or something when they heard of actors or actressess belonging to this church.  After I explained it to them, they'll never watch a Travolta movie again.

If the general public wasn't so ignorant of the obvious fallacies of CoS, they would burn at the stake (figuratively) anyone who claimed a belief in CoS, including all those idiot hollywood types, and the religion would probably die off.

My big question has always been - why the hell are all these rich actors falling for CoS?  Surely if they were really that stupid, their agents would have robbed them penniless years ago, yet they survived and made it big.  Is it part of some pyramid scheme where they know it's wrong but CoS is giving them a big financial kickback to play along?  Or... are they really just that dumb?

[ Parent ]

People join in order to network. (none / 0) (#117)
by waxmop on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 01:04:47 PM EST

People join because they hear it's a good way to meet people in the industry. Then, since the group has your life story stored away, people don't really un-join.
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]
Un-joining can be hazardous (none / 0) (#158)
by ebonkyre on Tue Jan 27, 2004 at 04:15:24 PM EST

People who try to leave CoS are known to suffer fatal accidents, like being inadvertently electrocuted in a locked and heavily-warning-labeled underground transformer vault while "trying to rescue a squirrel", or dying from dehydration/starvation while strapped to a bed in a reeducation center located in an abandoned hotel on church-owned property.

So, no, people don't really un-join much.

The truth hurts sometimes... Nothing beats a nice fat cock. ShiftyStoner
[ Parent ]

What?! (none / 0) (#124)
by astatine on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 06:06:40 PM EST

I fail to see how Mission Earth is anything other than 10,000 pages of (bleep)-aching satire taking the time to highlight, in painstaking detail, each and every individual bee in American society's collective bonnet.

That said, one almost feels sorry for the antagonist, given his tendency toward mishaps, pratfalls and plans gone awry. The resulting pain and embarrassment shouldn't have to happen to anyone.

Society, they say, exists to safeguard the rights of the individual. If this is so, the primary right of a human being is evidently to live unrealistically.Celia Green
[ Parent ]

From what I understand about CoS (none / 0) (#128)
by big fat idiot on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 08:25:29 PM EST

All the secrets of Dianetics are also hidden within Battlefield Earth and the Mission Earth decology.

And for an author that gets paid by the word, why not do something like that?

[ Parent ]

Science fact too. (none / 1) (#79)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 08:48:17 PM EST

Proof: VYGER

Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
[ Parent ]

Why a millenium? (1.50 / 4) (#87)
by tkatchev on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 03:07:27 AM EST

Most people on Slashdot, et al., already take sci-fi as literal and absolute truth.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Philip K. Dick (none / 3) (#90)
by Cameleon on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:22:51 AM EST

Philip K. Dick wrote a short story about something like that. Try to get your hands on 'Waterspider', which is in volume 4 of a series of his short stories, called 'The Days of Perky Pat' (also known as 'The Minority Report'). The story is about a future where science fiction writers from Dick's time are regarded as 'pre-cogs' and their stories are studied as the basis for scientific breakthroughs.

[ Parent ]
Green Room Comments (2.75 / 4) (#94)
by johnny on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 09:31:41 AM EST

Yesterday morning I was in the "green room" at the Arisia SF Convention. (The "green room" is a suite where people who are on the program can go for free food & a place to relax, etc.)

There were five or six people there who were about to go on a panel about religion and Science Fiction. For some reason the organizer of the panel had asked the panelists to meet there before going to the actual conference room.

One of the panelists was Tim Powers, who was the Guest of Honor at Arisia this year. Everybody else was an SF author (of lesser stature than Tim or Ted Chiang, but still . . .).

Tim said, "Well, so what is everybody? I'm a practising Roman Catholic. Does anybody else care to declare an affiliation?" It turned out that there were, I think, a churchgoing Christian, an observant Jew, and a "nothing-in-particlar." The organizer of the panel was a retired teacher from a yeshiva, if that's the word. She wore a Hebrew character on a necklace.

Right about then I had to leave the green room to go off to another panel that I was on at the same time, so I don't know how the discussion went. But I wasn't especially surprised at the high percentage of religious observers. I think I would have been a few years ago, but over the last few years I've gotten to meet many SF writers, and quite a few of them are observant in one or another religion. I myself am a lapsed Unitarian.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che

Hmm (none / 0) (#125)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 06:42:29 PM EST

I used to work in this place that had a green room. To my disappointment it wasn't actually green. Was yours?

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#133)
by johnny on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 06:50:26 AM EST

It was drab hotel suite with nondescript kinda beige walpaper.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che
[ Parent ]
Unsatisfactory Explaination (none / 3) (#98)
by bolson on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 12:46:32 PM EST

Maybe Science can explain everything, but maybe that won't be a very satisfying explanation. I was raised by scientists (dad got a PhD and mom two Masters) and yes, science will deconstruct and explain just about everything. But that doesn't satisfy the feelings of Mystery and Spirit that I have. I can even deconstruct my own brain and explain those feelings and still not be satisfied. Am I imperfectly rational? Yes. But in the human experience as I am understanding it, perfect rationality is not the holy grail.
Making Democracy Safe for the World (change the voting system)
Unsatisfactory use of 'deconstruct' (none / 2) (#101)
by JayGarner on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 04:35:25 PM EST

'Deconstruct' dates to about 1973, and refers to a method of analyzing text popular among Postmodernists. But we know what you meant.

[ Parent ]
Ok, thesaurus time (none / 1) (#104)
by bolson on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 08:21:48 PM EST

Perhaps I should have said 'dissect, analyze, discover the working of its component parts and the interactions that make up the system' instead of 'deconstruct'. Another word I've heard given to this scientific approach is 'reductionism'.
Making Democracy Safe for the World (change the voting system)
[ Parent ]
mind serves desire (none / 1) (#109)
by limivore on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 05:27:46 AM EST

How does one theory about the 'nature of reality' differ from another? Claims of accuracy aside, both offer what? Utility? Personal satisfaction? A nice story? Both are instilled how? Indoctrination by the culture you're born into, right? Let's not start making any claims of objectivity. I'll bet that people are just as cluelessly robotic as they were 1000 years ago. Today's science is tomorrow's superstition. I'd say that, if anything, our modern set of theories' main claim to fame is consistancy. Seamlessness. Makes for a powerful indoctrination machine if you have a powerful explanation backed by a million voices in chorus to render a description for every facet of experience. A propoganda machine that pervasive, grinding away 24-7, has got to hinder clear perception. Who's objective? The map is not the territory.

Repeatability Falsifiability (none / 0) (#130)
by Eight Star on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 09:51:44 PM EST

Many religious claims are untestable, Some are not.
Many religious experiences or events are unrepeatable, some are not.

To be considered as scientific, evidence or theory must generally be both testable and repeatable, even before accuracy is judged.

I don't think that consistency is a major selling point in terms of winning people over. People do not naturally expect a consistent universe. (because we evolved in an environment filled with [semi-]intelligent agents who manipulated our environment, and whos actions may be critical to our survival.) That is why when we see a face on a rock our first instinct is that someone put it there. It is a survival advantage to be on the lookout for other entities (predators, prey, mates, competitors), so we tend to see intelligence at work even in natural (consistent)things.

[ Parent ]

Termites and mounds (none / 1) (#154)
by limivore on Fri Jan 23, 2004 at 09:27:32 AM EST

Consistancy may not sell for it's utility but fashion is always socially dictated, for better or worse. People have died for want of a bath.

Consistant propoganda is powerful propoganda. Don't discount it's effect. A person born into a culture where everybody asserts story X will also tend to assert story X and will poopoo story Y as foolish. Scientific culture may aspire to a pristine body of theory via the rigor of testablility and repeatability but the foundation upon which that body of theory rests is not itself scientifically derived. Story X is the foundation of science. (or more specifically, persective X. Perspectives are even more contagious than opinions.)

Human perception is privy to INFINITELY more than that which is conveniently quantified. Scientific culture, that is, our culture, defines reality in terms of that which is conveniently quantified. Religious culture (well, ideal religious culture. People are people after all.) defines reality in terms of that which is conveniently quantified as well as that which is not. It has a healthy respect for the mystery that lies beyond the narrow light of our closely held conceits. It realises the limits of concept. No map is complete without a vast black area surrounding our tiny island of the known labelled "here be dragons". That black sea is closer than your skin.

[ Parent ]

There is no doubt (none / 2) (#110)
by Roamerick on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 06:20:34 AM EST

That CoS is a cult. It was designed from the ground up by a failed science-finction writer and liar (L. Ron Hubbard),  for the sole purpose of making money.  He was famously quoted as saying something along the lines of

"if you really want to make money, you have to start your own religion."

Anyone who has read the upper echelon texts which some people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for, and which are taught under a shroud of secrecy on large ocean liners in international waters, will realise how bogus the whole "church" is.

These "secret" texts are available on Freenet (www.freenetproject.org), probably the only place out of the reach of the powerful CoS censorship machine. I'd recommend researching the subject, it makes for weeks of thrilling reading.

And if you're a member, why not skip a few steps on the "Bridge to Enlightenment" and go read now what you'd probably never be able to afford through your CoS courses. You'll see that what you are working towards is nothing but fallacy.

Sure, I'm an "oppressive," so why should you listen to me? But still, isn't it wise to know your enemy?

Religion & Science - Healing the divide (none / 3) (#111)
by Rademir on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 07:19:13 AM EST

When i was younger, science fiction certainly helped me to be less dogmatic. In theory. Which has helped as i continue to learn how to carry it out in practice. Later i realized i was getting spiritual/religious stuff too (countless references in above posts).

science fiction tries to justify itself, something which in my experience religion always fails to do.

Hm. New theory: in the renaissance, an acceleration of scholarship of all kinds apparently resulted in two separate spheres, religion & science. Both are justifying and explaining the same universe, but their assumptions diverged so rapidly that this split occurred - many on either side saw the "others" as basing their ideas on empty nothings, or dangerous falsehoods. I believe they're both right & wrong, and that those authentically engaged in either (or even both :) are still doing work of value. (Countless similar splits have doubtless happened throughout human history.)

I see the healing of this particular split as already well underway (it was never a complete split in the first place). And science fiction is probably helping the healing, both with stories that explicitly address religion, and with the "other" - aliens, uplift, AI, time travellers, upload, group beings made of humans, Frankenstein's creation, etc. SF frequently explores relationships among beings who have very different assumptions from one another.

Now if only more authors would escape that pesky Myth of Redemptive Violence...

Consciousness is our Oxygen Challenge

I am currently reading Hyperion series (none / 0) (#116)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 12:56:19 PM EST

I find your quote from Ted Chiang interesting but confusing. Can you please elaborate on it?

God is knowable (none / 1) (#126)
by Persistence of Penguins on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 07:08:03 PM EST

I prefer to take the stance similar to that of Karl Barth that Jesus is the complete revelation of God. There are no more mysteries, no more things to know about God other than that which was evident in Jesus.

Therefore, I don't think that scientific enquiry and reglion are mutually exclusive. Rather, scientific method is nicely suited to faith in God.

Of course, scientific method will also show that the assertion "Jesus is God" has many consequences. My particular interest is in exploring the ensuing syllogisms.

"Serve hot... with lashings of butter."

Several problems with you hypothesis (none / 0) (#161)
by tassach on Wed Feb 04, 2004 at 10:20:13 AM EST

Your hypothesis, "that Jesus is the complete revelation of God" rests on several specious and unproven assumptions, even if you postulate the existence of the God of Abraham. You assume without proof or evidence:
  1. That the character in the Bible known as Jesus was in fact an actual living individual, and not a composite of several real people nor a fictional or allegorical construct.
  2. That the origin, words, and deeds attributed to said individual are literally recorded in the New Testement of the Bible without error, embellishment, or metaphor.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants" -- Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

positively and metaphysically engrained... (none / 0) (#127)
by Legalphilomania on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 07:41:13 PM EST

My experience with the sci-fi genre has led me to the conclusion that, for the most part, religion is a large part of what is written. If not religion on its face, then the metaphysical structure of the world as a whole. Some aim to combine the two. The Ender Saga by Orson Scott Card is an interesting example of the former, though Card's background of mormonism is present throughouth the entirity of the scientific development of reality. The Dune Saga is a poignant example of the latter, where Hurburt effectually creates a religion and its god.

...faith and religion, are they the same thing? (none / 2) (#129)
by wakim1618 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 08:28:59 PM EST

the universe is fundamentally knowable

I think it takes some faith to believe that this is a true statement. Anyhow, believing that knowable is a well-defined word is an act of faith.

If I wanted dumb people to love me, I'd start a cult.

Knowability (none / 0) (#141)
by rpresser on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 09:37:10 PM EST

This is simultaneously the funniest and also the most true thing I have read in weeks. Thank you, wakim.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Correct! (none / 0) (#162)
by morewhine on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 11:02:34 PM EST

Beautiful statement.

[ Parent ]
I see that K5 is not in decline afterall (none / 0) (#132)
by Lord of Caustic Soda on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 03:04:09 AM EST

Nothing to see here, move alone.

simpleton (none / 0) (#136)
by davros4269 on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 03:46:18 PM EST

Put down your Bible and read some sci-fi.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
oops (none / 0) (#148)
by davros4269 on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 11:40:56 AM EST

This comment wasn't meant in response to the main piece which I thought was quite interesting but in response to another comment.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]
regious based censorship (none / 1) (#137)
by davros4269 on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 04:03:53 PM EST

One thing that always amused me while reading sci-fi growing up was how it seemed to be ignored by the vocal religionists and the general media in general.

I learned things about science, and sex and society that many religionists might find downright offensive.

Take the huff put out there over the first Harry Potter movie. The whole, "graven image+witchcraft" is a no-no deal. This is laughable to me, and I'm glad that this is a very small minority of religious folk.

However, when I was 11 I read the Robot Detective series by Asimov, which features a planet with a society where kids learn sex by having it with their parents.

I suppose of course that if those books reached the popularity of Harry Potter they might be exposed a bit, but I've always considered sci-fi a good way to get diverse, free-thinker type ideas out there under the radar of the "censors". Not that we really have censors like in non-free countries, I realize...

BTW, in that particular example, the society that Asimov paints verbally makes it quite sensible to have that kind of teaching. Of course, this wouldn't work in our society as it is now, but it does make you think about "absolute morality", doesn't it?
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.

scifi and sex (none / 0) (#139)
by just8 on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 04:44:45 PM EST

A good topic: scifi and sex

There are many sexually mind expanding science fiction works. Reading those works put me through mental flip-flops as an adolescent.  

Some of the most memorable works that spring to mind are:

Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness: People become one of two sexes based on hormones floating in the air. If I remember correctly, this yields a society where power relationships are not based primarily on gender.

Silverberg's Son of Man:  Some humans in far future change gender at orgasm: man becomes woman and woman becomes man.

Kate Wilhelm's Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang: In a post-holocaust earth, cohorts of clones are grown expand human population. The cohorts first explore sex play with their same sex siblings.

Joe Haldeman's Forever War:  Spaceships with all gay crews. Heterosexuality as deviant.

Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil:  An old man has or seems to have his brain transplanted into a beautiful young woman's body.

One of Varley's books I think:  Overnight sex changes; a man with a 100 vagina's surgically implanted.

Various works have multisex processes. Can't think of title just now.

Don't know how I ended up heterosexual after reading all that.

It is interesting that writers who explore sex creatively often also explore religion and spirituality in creative ways.

My concepts about spirituality were even more exploded than my sexuality by reading scifi.

It is interesting that scifi has 7 or 8 of all time top-grossing films, based on simplified themes. Yes, the radical transformative power of the genre mostly escapes censorship.  It also escapes most cultural critics and social scientists.  Yah, probably a good thing.

By the way, Asimov's story has actual precedents:

I read about a type of hidden tantra in ancient india, where you a male made love to your sister and mother... this was a spiritual practice used to break down inhibitions.

When surfing links a few years ago (looking at erotic magazines), I ran across a link to a website run by someone in scandanavia that espoused recruiting a friend to sleep with your children while you witnessed the process as the best way to teach them about sex. There were links to other such sites. Didn't keep the link. Thought about the idea awhile. My conclusion: Wish my dad had arranged for me in early adolescence a lovely woman as sexual initiator! Would have saved a lot of anguish and frustration and clumsy stuff the first few times.


[ Parent ]

Duality (none / 1) (#143)
by tokyoDawnedCharon on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 02:41:22 AM EST

I ran across a link to a website run by someone in scandanavia that espoused recruiting a friend to sleep with your children while you witnessed the process...

Ain't it funny, how I knew that you were male before I even reached the end of that statement. Because anything like this where the gender positions were reversed is complete taboo in our society (Older man intiating young girl = big no-no). Rightly so, yet we remain open minded about the sexuality of young men.

[ Parent ]

gender, sex and scifi - references (none / 0) (#147)
by just8 on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 10:09:33 AM EST

Actually, the website had pictures of teenage girls with their parents with older initiator males.

Yes, there is a lot of duality in our patriarchal societies.  

A main point I was making is that not only science fiction but also some groups and movements actively transform repressive sexual mores.

In a more general way, feminist, gender and sexual identity movements have continued to grow in sophistication since the 60s.

Some of the best gender revolutionary science fiction that I have read is by women. There was a collection of short stories I read once organized around the theme of gender transformations.  In the volume, the stories by women were mostly empowering and a number of the stories by men were often about dystopias.  A telling contrast.

I believe the sexual revolution movements of the 60s will probably see a broad resurgence if and when treatments for AIDS and hepatitis become more effective.  Given what's come before, such a resurgence will probably include more female centric viewpoints.

Last night I remembered some more scifi works that include other sex transforming and gender bending moments: a number of Bradley's Darkover novels, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange land, Russ's Female Man, Stephenson's Diamond Age, etc.  Thinking there must be more and taking a short cut...

I searched with "gender" and "sex" and "science fiction" on google.  

These two websites seem like good starting places:

Feminist SF/F & Utopian Literature
This overview of work in the subgenre is chock full of pages on and links to various topics, research notes, conference notices, and references.

Sex in Science Fiction
Here is a quote from this site with a summary statement and a number of references to fiction works:

"The New Wave science fiction of the 1960s and 1970s reflected its times by attempting to break earlier taboos about what could and could not be the subject of science fiction. [snip]...
Two different themes emerged: one trying to explore the boundaries of what "sex" could mean in a world of altered humanity and reality, and another of exploring the position of women in science fiction and feminist issues in what had been traditionally a form of fiction written primarily by and for men.
Significant uses of sexual themes in serious science fiction include:
·    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
·    Several stories in Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
·    A number of works by Philip Jose Farmer: The Lovers, Flesh, his collection of stories on this theme, Strange Relations, plus two science fiction pornographic novels, Image of the Beast and Blown.
·    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
·    Dhalgren and several other works by Samuel Delany
·    Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg
·    Titan and other novels by John Varley, set in a future where sex changes and other body modifications are commonplace
·    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
·    The Female Man by Joanna Russ
·    The Culture novels of Iain M. Banks, where humans can change sex at will
·    The Jerry Cornelius stories of Michael Moorcock and others
·    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (various forms of group marriage, professional host-mothers)
·    Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
·    The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
·    Strangers by Gardner Dozois
·    The Dune series of novels by Frank Herbert
·    A number of works by Theodore Sturgeon, including The World Well Lost (alien homosexuality) and Godbody (religious sexuality).
·    The Primal Urge by Brian Aldiss
·    VESTA - Painworld by Jennifer Jane Pope
·    The Tales of the Velvet Comet trilogy by Mike Resnick
·    Several books by Spider Robinson, including Callahan's Lady
·    Jurgen by James Branch Cabell
·    The Bachelor Machine by M. Christian

Some of the themes explored include:
·    Sex with aliens, machines and robots
·    Reproductive technology including cloning, artificial wombs and genetic engineering
·    Sexual equality of men and women
·    Male- and female-dominated societies, including single-sex societies
·    Polyamory
·    Changing sex roles
·    Homosexuality and lesbianism
·    Androgyny and sex changes
·    Sex in virtual reality
·    Asexuality
·    Sexual bonding and politics
·    Sex in zero gravity

A number of works of mainstream erotica, including the Gor novels by John Norman, have also used the science fiction format. There is now a separate sub-genre of science fiction erotica that aims to integrate the two genres: writers in this genre include Cecilia Tan, whose small press Circlet Press caters especially to adult science fiction fans. ..."

End quote.

See links at above webpages for various gender and sex issues.

[ Parent ]

heh (none / 0) (#156)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 26, 2004 at 03:28:31 PM EST

I knew a guy once who learned everything about sex from reading Heinlein. His name was "ESR."
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
SciFi explaining religion? (none / 0) (#157)
by marcmengel on Mon Jan 26, 2004 at 04:54:40 PM EST

One of the aspects of Science Fiction that I find most powerful, and overlooked in this discussion so far, is when Science Fiction stories examine the creation of religion (with one of the greatest meta-examples being L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology...)

Many authors, (Vonnegut, Vinge, and Herbert spring to mind, but there are plenty of others) have described the inception and rise of new religions as side-effects of technological and/or social change.

Reading such writings as a youth has led me to consider how current religions may have been started, and to examine them as sociological entities providing public health law (keeping kosher, washing hands at prayer, etc.), property law (Thou shalt not steal!), and social security analogues, justified by the easy to understand Because God Said So rule.

Science Fiction vs Religion huh? (none / 0) (#159)
by Sesquipundalian on Wed Jan 28, 2004 at 08:21:37 PM EST

If you want to find God, take just about any leaking source of information processing and trace the flow of processed information back to it's source.

Say hi to old el-bastardo for me when you get there.

Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
SF doesnt have to be anti-Religion or Atheist (none / 0) (#160)
by turtleshadow on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 10:45:15 PM EST

I totally disagree with Kingsley Amis' definition of Science Fiction and put it toward Science Fantasy.

The best and most disruptive Science Fiction (SF) is that in which a radical idea for today is projected into the sandbox of "future" or the authors constructed reality, to frame the idea(s) for the reader (participant).

The fact the idea(s) is/are out of syncronization with the participants reality, allows the reader (participant) to go across the rational perception horizon and allows them to truely ingest the "what if's and what could be's" in safety.

To be honest Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech was science fiction to many living in America in the 1960's. Pure fiction the closer you got to Georgia. However the principals of his dream are beginning to be realized. I have not seen a Scientist, nor SF novelist, that promoted human rights with the passion and dedication of Dr. King, Ghandi or Mother Theresa.

The idea of racism in a technologically advanced era was very effectively projected in "Let that be your last battlefield" of StarTrek Season 3: 2272 .
A quick refesher is that the last two inhabitents of a planet fight to the death for the fact each one has the opposite coloring on their face (white/black versus black/white). This showed the culture at the time, in the safe sandbox of SF, the self-destruction which racism brings in which neither side was innocent and both were pathetic in their pursuits.

As for the post-religious argument you'd have to frame your timeline. Its been happening since WWI where athesim began to become widespread due to the brutallity of that war bringing Europe to the brink of civilization in many countries.

Religion makes excellent SF topics as in the "9 Billion Names of God" by Authur C. Clark which has been out of print for a while. The best synopsis of this short story I could link is Q21 on this FAQ.

Donald Knuth, AKA uber Prof and author of "Art of Computer Programming Vols 1-3", also touched how the human mind achieves brushes with the Godhead through arbitrarily bounding problem sets in #4 of his very interesting MIT lecture "God and Computers" series. His book "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About." Is an excellent read.

Knuth isn't typical of SF but brings Science and Religiousity very close in the present tense.
In Lecture #6 Knuth discusses just how large Super K is. Super K in terms of size is for all human ability infinitely large yet is truly knowable by computation. Most wonderfully Super K existed far before, man even threw the jaw bone at the monolith. Basically I've never gotten a good answer from an atheist or scientist on why for every level we (humanity) dig into the fundimental universe there is something to be discovered. I also ask them what would they do if they dug and found the "vaccuum" of nothingness -- the no answer, answer. For Computer Scientists we study NP, NP complete etc. and this exploration always stumps those who I've asked to seek such an answer.

The unanswerable question brings us to Faith. As for the questions of Faith, it must be said Faith to the 3 major religions is not reasoned by the human mind, it is infact first given by the Godhead to mankind; man then understands the Godhead via facilties not acknowledged, let alone well quantified by Science -- the mystery of "heart and soul and love".

For the official catholic definition Faith.
There is not a Scientific method to measure the Faith response to the love of the Godhead in all its stratums.
Yes, indeed you can wire up the body and brain and take some telemetry but the value is completely subjective to the person's life experience.

I can't remember the title but I think there goes a SF title in which Scientists find _THE_ formula that proves the existance of a Godhead. However they then go mad as they can't find an error in the formula of their Science. Despite the ability to comprehend all their Science has proven they can't handle the truth their own belief systems yield -- that a Godhead exists.

Which I think goes to show that Man would dispute anything if it suited him.

Science Fiction and Religion | 157 comments (150 topical, 7 editorial, 2 hidden)
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