Reconciling Science Fiction and Religion (a shared post w Allen Watson)


This is the first time I’ve done this, but this post is a shared one with Allen Watson. Be sure to check his blog HERE for the alternate viewpoint and point-counterpoint to my entry below.

First, I’ll explain my relationship with Allen Watson so you understand why we’re doing this. He’s a really great friend. I could stop there, but I’ll go ahead and explain why we’re such good friends. We worked together for years as partners on an ambulance. In other words, we formed a shared bond in situations with crazy people, drug addicts, car wrecks, trauma, and disease. Even in the emergency medical services it’s sometimes hard to actually say that we saved lives. Truth be told, most of those people would be okay without us. He and I did save lives though. I remember one particularly crazy call where it was just me and him on the ambulance with a woman not breathing. The story ended with her alive and walking out of the hospital.

We also shared a lot of common interests. We both have a love for government service and patriotism whether it’s military or Federal. Teaching and helping others grow intellectually is also a shared passion. And then there’s sci-fi. We’re both admitted junkies of space lore.

I’m also his Pastor.

Unlike Allen, I’m a longtime Christian. I grew up in church and became a born again Christian in high school. All my post-grad work has been in seminary. I have a Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degree in Bible related specialties. Even so, like Allen said, I’ll also admit that “I essentially know nothing”. Being a Christian is like that. It’s a daily practice.

I’m not a traditional conservative Christian though. I probably do and say a lot of things that my professional brethren do not approve of. It’s likely that I do a lot of those things from the pulpit. I’m speaking metaphorically there. I don’t even have a pulpit. Strike one, I guess.

To sum it up in someone else’s words, I’d like to quote my best friend Ryan McRae. We were standing in the sci-fi section of the world-famous Powell’s Bookstore in Portland OR comparing our fave sci-fi and fantasy series. I mentioned True Blood, among others, and he stared at me with a puzzled look. He simply said, “How in the world can you be Baptist?”

The truth is, I like sci-fi and fantasy because it offers an alternate view of the world, and it’s possible some of those worlds could exist before this world ends. Not all of them, mind you, but some could. I hope to be here when they do.

For this post I’ll play second hat and mostly answer some of the questions that Shane posed in his blog. I’ll answer them from my very stern, conservative, religious point-of-view. I’m putting on my Pope hat right now and adopting my “please call me the Very Reverend Dr. Powers” demeanor.

With all that said, here we go. The italicized words are straight quotes from Allen’s blog, or at least one of the early drafts that I saw. Don’t forget to read both blogs for the full picture.

The galaxy is bigger than any of us can begin to comprehend, so how could we possibly be the only planet with life?

I don’t believe that we’re the only planet with life, but that we are the only planet with sentient life. To restate it in religious terms, I believe that we are the only planet with life that has a soul, a spiritual being, in addition to our physical form. Obviously, I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to think that somewhere out there are planets, maybe hundreds that support some kind of life. It also depends on how we define life. My good friend Dr. Bob Boan, a prominent government research consultant posits in his book An Introduction to Planetary Defense that one of our main faults as a species is assuming that all life is carbon-based.

My assertion about sentient life with a soul is how I reconcile what I’d like to believe with what the Bible states. The Bible just doesn’t mention anything about life outside of the Earth. To have life with a soul in need of salvation on other planets would mean that Christ would have to die many times on many planets in just one potentiality.

So, you might ask, why make all of this cosmic creation if Earth is the sole focus of God’s attention? (How’s that statement for a retro-geocentric point-of-view?) I really don’t know. I’m looking at everything with earthly human eyes with no clear idea of God, His purposes and plans, and an unimaginably shaky view of just what ‘eternity’ really means. I can’t wait to find out though. I have a million questions for God when I get up there with Him.

If there is other life out there, which every statistical probability would say there is, who put it there? If God did, is it the same one that you believe in?

As far as statistical probabilities go, check out the Wikipedia entry for the Drake Equation developed by Dr. Frank Drake for use by SETI. Boan has an entire chapter on it in his book. It defines the formula for estimating life and civilizations in other places.

The thing is, you have to remember that it’s based entirely on probability and estimation, not anything provable or completely scientifically evidential. Sounds a lot like my religion, you say? You’re exactly right. My religion is based on faith. I haven’t seen God, but I believe He’s there. You haven’t seen aliens, but you believe they’re there. The main difference is that I admit that my viewpoint is based on faith and belief.

As to the second part of that question, The God that I read about in the Bible and believe in isn’t a god, but The God. That doesn’t leave room for other gods for me.

The way I choose to look at things is this, if it lines up with the Bible, I’m good, or I know it’s not real, but fiction. If it doesn’t line up with the Bible, and I find myself changing what I believe so that the Bible fits the thing (the thing being aliens, vampires, monsters, or whatever) then I’ve changed my belief system. In that case I wouldn’t be showing a faith and belief in God but rather myself and my ideas.

I’m perfectly okay being completely wrong about this too. If I get to Heaven and there are different types of aliens walking all over the place talking to Abraham, and Paul, and Jesus, I’m okay with that. I’ll still be in Heaven. If you’re wrong though, and you choose not to believe in God because the Bible doesn’t mention aliens or sparkly vampires, then the consequences are a little more severe.

So you believe in Genesis, huh? If God created the Earth and everything on it in six days, does that make us gods for writing about terraforming on other planets? (Looking at you Trekkies and Whovians)

I believe God gave us crazy, weird, awesome imaginations so that it would make life more fun. I don’t think it makes us gods, but rather it embodies the nature of life and the spark of creation that God planted in us. Humans are made to create. As to terraforming, I’ll believe that’s possible once I see us becoming better stewards of our own planet. I’d hate to see us ruin another planet by introducing humans to it. We’ve barely gotten off our own planet and there’s already tons and tons of space trash floating around out there that we have no idea how to deal with. Maybe some atmosphere-aforming would be a better first enterprise.

On that note, how many days did it take God to create those other planets? Do you even believe there are other planets out there? (I ask because many people don’t believe the dinosaur fossils are real)

On this one I just go back to the Bible. Genesis 1 has several mentions of a variety of heavenly bodies. On a sidenote I still think Pluto got a raw deal being demoted like that. If there are aliens on Pluto, they’re gonna be pissed when they see our science textbooks.

As to the mention of dinosaur fossils, I’ll save that one for a full blog post on its own. My view of dinosaurs and their place in history is not the norm, but they were definitely here. I really don’t understand how people can claim they aren’t real. That’s probably the same crowd that claims the Holocaust didn’t happen. I’d like to think there are still some dinosaurs out there, maybe in a Loch somewhere. I’m a big fan of cryptozoology. Before you ask, I do believe in Bigfoot, Yeti, and Sasquatch. Believing in that doesn’t go against anything in the Bible.

If God created us in his image, who’s image are Klingons created after? Wookies? Vulcans? The Q Continuum?

I read a Heinlein book one time where a group of people simply believed in a book’s setting and it became real. I forget the name of the book though. They went to Oz and some other places, although they tried their best to not believe in any of Lovecraft’s worlds. No love for Cthulhu. Someone please comment with the name of this book! It wasn’t Stranger in a Strange Land was it?

As for me, I just don’t believe those guys are out there. I always hated the Q anyway. That guy really got on my nerves.

If we leave the planet and expand, as so much of sci-fi portrays, then will Revelation only affect Earth?

Very awesome question. There isn’t really anything that I can see interpreted to mention people in off-world situations in end-time prophecy. A few people here and there wouldn’t really matter, but an entire off-Earth civilization would make a difference. My own interpretation of that is in several facets. One is that the end-times will come before we ever escape the planet in a big way. The second is that all of the end-time events span the universe and even spiritual domains. This kind of puts Earth and humans smack in the middle, no matter where they are.

Who knows what John actually saw when God gave Revelation to him? Did he see cars or spaceships? Typewriters or computers?

Here’s how I reconcile my faith with all the various genres of fiction that I encounter and enjoy.

  • If it offends me I don’t read or watch it. I like the show Supernatural. Those Winchester boys are bada$$. I never liked Touched by an Angel. I thought it was blasphemous.
  • If it challenges or goes against my faith, I have to remember that it’s just fiction. It’s not some fiction writer’s attempt to convert me to the gospel of the Federation or turn me into a Jedi knight, unless of course it’s L Ron’s stuff you’re reading.
  • If you like this stuff and you don’t feel that it harms your testimony or your walk with God, jump wholeheartedly into it. Dress up like your fave character at a sci-fi convention. Put posters on your walls. Pay a fortune for that autographed first edition book.
  • A caution though. If you’re a Christian and you’re reading way more science fiction than Bible, you might need to ask where your true love is. If you have trouble attending church but always make it out to see that next great movie at the theater, you might have to ask yourself where your true love is. I’ll look for you on Sunday, whoever you are.

Here’s me in a nutshell. I am the owner of the largest private collection of comic books in South Carolina. I’m the Pastor of The Pilgrimage, a small church going on two years. I’ve watched every single episode of almost every modern sci-fi series in existence. I’m leading a church service at the XCon comic book, sci-fi, and horror convention this year for the second year in a row. I’m also doing a lecture on zombies at the same conference. I’m an enigma of contradictions, and I’d love to tell you all about them and debate, not argue, but debate our various viewpoints. All you have to do is buy me a coffee.

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4 thoughts on “Reconciling Science Fiction and Religion (a shared post w Allen Watson)

  1. Pingback: Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith | Author Allen Watson

  2. Great stuff, Dave! I really enjoyed this. Since my pharisectomy I’ve found a freedom that brought about the waning of my religious prejudices and has allowed me to live in a much more spacious place…very similar to what you describe you’re living in. The only area we’d have any interesting debate would be your final bullet point. I once felt the same way. I gave up reading Stephen King because I was spending more time in his books than I was in the bible…so I can relate. I’m in a different place now. One day when you’re ready…I’ll buy you that cup of coffee. Okay with you if it’s somewhere deep in the woods beside a campfire?

  3. Pingback: Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith | IWN

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