Religion in Science Fiction

I’d like some opinions. I’m currently writing Journey to Ariadne part 6, and it includes a big monologue about secularism. One character is deeply religious, while the others are more moderate, follow another religion, or follow no religion at all. It’s not shocking, though some may think it’s a bit controversial.

So, my question is, if you see something controversial about religion in a science fiction novel, how do you feel about it? I have read many that take religion on a very wild ride, altering the religions and making their followers more fanatical. Others marginalise religion, saying it serves no purpose. What do you think about this? I look forward to your answers.

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17 thoughts on “Religion in Science Fiction”

  1. You should watch Caprica. I thought it had an interesting take on religion. As for me, it’s sci fi, and one writer’s opinion and thoughts on it. I think sci fi is made for showing the faults and merits in what we do. So go for it. The one thing I will not abide, is “There is no religion in the future, because it serves no purpose!” Science will always fall short. There will always be new discoveries, miracles we do not comprehend, etc. Even if technology becomes the religion (Numenera), there will always be religion.

    1. New discoveries are made by and part of science, so they’re hardly an example of science falling short.

      Personally, I suspect that the particular reason for religion you mention (basically the “god of the gaps”) is more likely to fade away than the more emotional ones.

      1. Not new discoveries. Anomalies. “Discovering” theories are wrong, the miracles of stage four cancer patients being cancer free. These “gaps” allow the emotional religions. To think those gaps will fade away through science is hubris.

        1. To think “science hasn’t explained it yet, therefore the one unscientific explanation I personally believe must be true” is hubris.

          Particularly since there is a consistent pattern of supernatural explanations being discredited and replaced by natural ones.

          1. And constantly proving that what they knew they didn’t know. I did not say anything about knowing the truth to it. You assumed I believed in one truth. I can see why you’re on the edge of enlightenment.

            1. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean you necessarily use the lack of a justified explanation for something as a basis for being certain about an unjustified one; I was talking about people who do assume “I don’t know, therefore God”, whom you are suggesting will always be around.

    2. I agree. There will always be religion, because there will always be people who need something beyond their own senses and knowledge to explain things. Or those who need moral guidance that they feel they can’t provide for themselves. Or many other reasons.

  2. I think if it’s important to the characters, then it’s important to the story. Will the character be making decisions based on a religious belief? When I, personally, find something controversial in a book, then I start trying to predict its role in the story. Sort of like that conflict has become personified and I want to know when it will reappear and why.

    1. The character in my book will be forced to question her religion sometime in the future. But she is also a cause of friction. Funny thing is, I know people like this.

      1. Well, if you want to step right into it, VALIS is his major theological work, although it’s not my favorite book of his. There are others. There’s a VALIS trilogy. And of course religion finds its way into earlier books too. Good luck! I’ll have to find some Hamilton and Simmons.

        1. Thanks. I’ll be looking into many of his books, I think. If only I could eat through my backlog quickly. I have too much to read.

          I have some reviews of Hamilton’s and Simmons’ books on here. Just go to the reviews section and go through the author listing.

  3. Hi, I’m new here. I just popped over here from the SFF Chronicles Forum that you recently joined. I’ve been reading science fiction & fantasy (mostly sf) for nearly 50 years now, and one of the things I most like about it is that it is an open forum to allow exploration and speculation about any subject matter, even if it’s controversial. I believe that is one of its strengths. So I enjoy reading about religion, politics and any other controversial topics in sf, even if I don’t necessarily agree with a premise. However, if an author turns the topic into a podium for lecturing or indoctrinating a reader on his beliefs, then I’m turned off by it. Philip K. Dick is my all-time favorite author as well, and he was very good at incorporating religion into his stories without jarring the reader out of the story.

    1. Welcome! I agree. I’m not fond of reading books that lecture to people. I’m not interested in the author’s views on how things should be. I prefer it if religion is just a part of society in the books.

  4. I think you want to make sure you’re not setting up any straw-man arguments — one side patently ridiculous while the other has all the answers. That tactic (more than anything actually said in such ‘debates’) is grating and frankly patronizing, and I’ve seen it in a few SF works. People believe in things for a variety of reasons, including emotional ones, that I think should be treated with a proper weight. If I can understand why a character would believe what they believe, I don’t have a problem with the fact that they believe, even if their point-of-view is horrifying.

    1. My character has a bit of a motivation, though quite selfish. And stubborn. She’s one of those fundamentalists who think they know better, but will come to see another point of view eventually. However, she is not a main character, but one of many.

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