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"Religion in Space" Topic


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25 Apr 2015 1:27 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Areas of Interest

Science Fiction

2,643 hits since 22 Dec 2011
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian22 Dec 2011 12:21 p.m. PST

In a review of the Imperium Chronicles RPG, one reviewer states:

The author's phobia on religion – a venerable tradition in the sci-fi field – may originate in the fear of giving offense, or in a personal distaste for the concept. In any case, it lends an air of unreality to the universe…

Do you agree that any realistic future sci-fi background must include religion as a factor?

Personal logo Lentulus Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2011 12:28 p.m. PST

religion as a factor?

Given the common alternative, which is to include it either as a joke or an excuse for terrorism, I'm fine with leaving it out.

Faith has always affected human behavior, and I see no reason to expect it to stop doing so, but to work it needs a light touch and a hard-to-achieve measure of respect in what is, after all, a game.

kyoteblue22 Dec 2011 12:30 p.m. PST

DELETED

Connard Sage22 Dec 2011 12:32 p.m. PST

One would think that as mankind expanded into the universe the need for an imaginary friend would diminish. Bit difficult dealing with the concept of 'heaven' when you're at the edge of the universe I'd have thought.

I fervently hope that future societies will be more enlightened than us, and totally atheistic.

Perhaps that's the author's view too.

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian22 Dec 2011 12:34 p.m. PST

If it's trying to be realistic, sure. But like Lentulus said, it's a game.

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian22 Dec 2011 12:37 p.m. PST

Why is atheism considered the intellectual high ground again?

DyeHard22 Dec 2011 12:38 p.m. PST

Human history would indicate that religion is rather pervasive among social sentient beings.

I just re-watched the 1978 Star Wars Holiday special:
YouTube link

Beyond The Force, it focuses on the Wookies and one of their holidays, presumptively religious in nature.

Hard to say that Dune avoided religion. Leaving such practices out of Sci/Fi, is something like leaving culture out. Can be done, but greatly reduces the color and texture of a story.

That being said. A fully rationalist culture is certainly not beyond reason. Star Trek is an attempt at that, with the Vulcans being the exemplars. That is unless you call Rationalism a religion.

Broadsword22 Dec 2011 12:40 p.m. PST

Do you agree that any realistic future sci-fi background must include religion as a factor?

Must be included? No. If it intentionally has an effect on game-play (unit morale, weapon selection, access to technology, available troop types, etc.), then: fine. Is there anything that prevents the players from adding a religious facet to the game to increase their enjoyment? Because, it is, as others have pointed out, only a game.

Jovian122 Dec 2011 12:47 p.m. PST

So long as there are people, there will always be some who continue to believe in some higher power. There are no athiests in foxholes.

CPBelt22 Dec 2011 12:47 p.m. PST

Though penned by an atheist, Babylon 5 was chock full of religion on purpose. Religion is a part of the human story. I doubt it will suddenly go away. People will either embrace it or rebel against it. There are no other choices.

Farstar22 Dec 2011 12:48 p.m. PST

I have no doubt that religion will follow us into space*, but inclusion of religion, and particularly competing religions, in *any* game should be a matter of choice of the players. Religious warfare in the real world is often close enough and personal enough that "playing" similar conflicts at an RP level is never going to be comfortable.

* the religions that follow Man into space will be the ones that can overcome their own provincialisms. Flat Earthers, Terracentrists, and other sort of deniers of physics are never going to set foot in what they see as a hoax or deathtrap, and so will never get off the planet.

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian22 Dec 2011 12:49 p.m. PST

"That being said. A fully rationalist culture is certainly not beyond reason. Star Trek is an attempt at that, with the Vulcans being the exemplars. That is unless you call Rationalism a religion."

A 'fully rationalist culture' isn't beyond imagining in a fictional setting, certainly, but I think a truly atheistic society would bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the former Soviet Union, which was anything but reasonable.

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2011 12:51 p.m. PST

There's a scene in Cordwainer Smith's _Norstrilia_ -- my personal gold standard for SF -- where customs officials at the space port ask the protag if he is bringing any dangerous religions onto the planet.

I guess it really depends on the milieu. If there're gritty sprawls/mining colonies/what have you, then I'd say religions are likely to spontaneously generate if they don't already exist (BTW there's a very interesting article about religion's revivial in the PRC in this week's New York Review of books.) On the other hand, in an Appollonian Star Trek-type genre, atheism "feels" right to me. YMMV. of course.

Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut22 Dec 2011 1:17 p.m. PST

I prefer to have religion in science-fiction. It just feels right. Of course, I'm Catholic, so I am predisposed to aliens…

Mako1122 Dec 2011 1:25 p.m. PST

I think MUST is a bit much, but it is probably a good idea to at least consider it, and to develop some additional religions that might crop up along the way, just for fun.

skippy000122 Dec 2011 1:39 p.m. PST

Look at Halo-the Covenaht is 'religious. If it's well written, use it.

Space Monkey22 Dec 2011 2:32 p.m. PST

I don't think us humans are wired to be entirely rational… so even if we were to turn our back on organized religion I've no doubt there'd be other commonly held superstitions to take its place. So, most likely I'd figure, there would be religion, but probably transformed a bit by our expanded horizons… hopefully a bit less dogmatic and more tolerant of other outlooks.

Wellspring22 Dec 2011 3:48 p.m. PST

It's weird that "hard" sci fi insists on twelve decimal place accuracy in the physical sciences, but not only ignores the social sciences, but insists that in the future, social scientific concepts won't apply. It's like snidely insisting that Perpetual Motion is real and that anyone who doesn't believe in it is an idiot.

Along with the "we're all to smart to believe in religion" crowd, I'm lumping in the equally daft "we're too enlightened to have economics".

I'd be stunned if religion in some form isn't in every human future society. As with economics, it taps into basic dynamics of human behavior that are inescapable.

pahoota22 Dec 2011 4:14 p.m. PST

There are no athiests in foxholes.

I'm an atheist, have been in foxholes, and will probably soon find myself in one again. I don't see how this grossly stereotypical and demonstrably false statement addresses the original question. If we're going to do quotes, let's do one that's more relevant…

What brought it up was that people were saying that I would have to have a chaplain on the Enterprise. I replied, 'No, we don't.'
– Gene Roddenberry on religion and future societies.

Star Trek, while hardly being realistic, is great sci-fi in which religion doesn't play a factor. That being said, I prefer religion in my sci-fi because it is such an important part of the human experience.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2011 4:29 p.m. PST

Pahoota said…"Star Trek, while hardly being realistic, is great sci-fi in which religion doesn't play a factor. That being said, I prefer religion in my sci-fi because it is such an important part of the human experience."

What nonsense. Yes Roddenberry was an active atheist, but Star Trek dealt with religion from it's earliest days. While there was no chaplain on the Enterprise, many episodes dealt with religions and belief systems in both a positive and negative light. Several characters on TOS refer to religions and several episodes deal with religion.

link

In Next Generation, in which Roddenberry was given arguably a more free hand in shaping the show, he had Klingons with a very developed religions system. Deep Space Nine was about religion from the very first episode, and dealt with the Bajoran belief in the 'worm hole' aliens (and the difference between people who believed in them or just saw them as aliens) as well as the 'Founders' who were worshipped by their subjects as Gods.

Many of these depictions are negative, many are positive, and with all, the show creators (and later inheritors of the show) left the viewer to decide for themselves.

To say that religion didn't play a factor in Star Trek is to put blinders on.

A game should deal with religion, and atheism, in a way that lets the players deal with it how they wish- either positively or negatively.

Spreewaldgurken22 Dec 2011 6:14 p.m. PST

I'm having trouble understanding the question.

In order to be "realistic" in a story about flying around in spaceships…

…you have to have people flying around in spaceships, justifying their actions by a professed belief in fragments of badly-translated ancient writing?

Augustus22 Dec 2011 6:45 p.m. PST

Dunno.

Religion is an outmoded concept of unification, or so I see it. I don't think religion quite fits within a universe where everything can be scientifically explained. Adding alien races merely complicates the factors as they would not be paying heed to the same gods nor likely have any more concept of what a "god" is than a human does.

Put it this way. If we are in space and we're hoping for something to magically save us when our spaceship's fuel runs out and we don't have enough Delta-V to make it home…um..we're screwed. Praying and wishing will not save the crew.

Faith in humans themselves might have a place as a way for humans to help them cope with given situations..a sort of Jedi thing I guess.

Assuming humans ever attain the ability to celebrate their acheivements for their acheivements rather than lauding a small statue as the reason for their success.

J Womack 9422 Dec 2011 7:04 p.m. PST

…in a universe where everything can be scientifically explained.

Since when does a sci-fi story include the premise that everything can be scientifically explained?

Religion will never go away. It is part of the human psyche – we all believe in things we can't prove but take on faith. (e.g., "The world will not be struck by an asteroid tomorrow.") Personally, I think that religion's continuation is a good thing, but then, I am a practicing Catholic, not an atheist, so my viewpoint will obviously differ.

Bit difficult dealing with the concept of 'heaven' when you're at the edge of the universe I'd have thought.

Unless you believe, like many religions do, that Heaven is not necessarily a physical place. Modern Catholic theology holds that Heaven is seperate from our concept of both time and space, being supernatural.

Anyway, my $0.05 worth.

Little Big Wars22 Dec 2011 7:31 p.m. PST

What's with all the weird anti-religious jabs? Emphasis on weird…

Faith and religion don't necessarily go together, many religions do not have "imaginary friends" or "heavens", and the purpose of a religion is not necessary there as a substitute for science. Religion is not Flat-Earth Protestant Christianity… it is many, many things.

Science fiction settings where religion has been replaced by "rational thought" is merely strong atheist fantasy fulfillment, nothing more. Adaptable religions will make it to the stars (Roman Catholicism, I'm looking at you!) and new religious movements will continue to pop up throughout history. I say all this having no religious convictions myself, but as a person who wasted his college education getting a Religious Studies degree I cannot be silent.

Legion 422 Dec 2011 8:05 p.m. PST

Sci-fi and religion can work together … it does make for some interesting storylines … But as we see in Star Trek and other sci-fi, it does not have to be present at all to make a good "story". But on the other hand the addition of religion can add some things to the "fluff" … But IMO it is not absolutely necessary …

earthad22 Dec 2011 8:27 p.m. PST

War and religion are inseparable. So to add conflict to games it works.

Covert Walrus22 Dec 2011 8:47 p.m. PST

If it comes down to realism in space-travelling sociteies, it is as ludicrous in some very learned people's lights to have religious belief in that society as it is for members of that society to be heterosexual. And they have much proof to justify it.

So it really comes down to how much are you wanting a realistic simulation or a good game, I suppose.

XRaysVision22 Dec 2011 8:57 p.m. PST

Why is atheism considered the intellectual high ground again?

Because it is the intellectual high ground. There is a direct relation between what is known and the role of religon. In spite of resistance to change, as knowledge of the natural universe expands, the need for religion or a deity to explain the unknown diminishes. One need only extrapolate this in to the far future as beings (perhaps humans) reach the edge of space and time. As Pierre=Simon Laplace responded to Napoleon when asked why God was not mentioned in his book on celestial mechanics, "That is a hypothesis for which I had no need."

Pehaps there will be vestigial remnants religon will remain in a society able to navigate the stars, I expect such remnants would be viewed the same as carrying a rabbit's foot or not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk is today, i.e. quaint superstitions.

Indeed, religon, because it requires a proiri acceptance of assumptions as fact instead of requiring demonstration and proof, would prevent any society dominated by religion to progress very far.

Religon starfaring scifi has the same effect on suspension of disbeleif as the pew pew sounds of lasers in Star Wars. Firefly had it right.

Deucey22 Dec 2011 9:26 p.m. PST

Open minded intellectuals would not be so arrogant to dismiss a higher power. There is not enough religion in sci fi.

Little Big Wars22 Dec 2011 9:27 p.m. PST

There is a direct relation between what is known and the role of religon. In spite of resistance to change, as knowledge of the natural universe expands, the need for religion or a deity to explain the unknown diminishes.

This is not the only role that religion performs (in fact some religions do not seek to explain this at all). It's a statement born from ignorance.

John the OFM22 Dec 2011 9:35 p.m. PST

Lord of Light.
Creatures of Light and Darkness.
The High Crusade.

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian22 Dec 2011 9:37 p.m. PST

Sounds like you've got it all figured out there, XRaysVision.

You should start a religion.

John the OFM22 Dec 2011 9:37 p.m. PST

Indeed, religon, because it requires a proiri acceptance of assumptions as fact instead of requiring demonstration and proof, would prevent any society dominated by religion to progress very far.

Really? grin

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian22 Dec 2011 9:40 p.m. PST

"In spite of resistance to change, as knowledge of the natural universe expands, the need for religion or a deity to explain the unknown diminishes."

And speaking of a priori statements…

Personal logo FingerandToeGlenn Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Dec 2011 9:48 p.m. PST

"Must"? No. I really don't see a place for it in games, but certainly in sci-fi and modern fantasy fiction it can be introduced and used successfully. There's one urban fantasy fiction series Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock novels) where the main character attends church whenever she can. It's the author's choice.

XRaysVision22 Dec 2011 9:50 p.m. PST

re·li·gion/riˈlijən/

Religon

1.The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

2.Details of belief as taught or discussed

1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.


Definition 4 above refers to the metaphorical use of the word "religon" as it is used to describe devotion. Because of this common usage the term can be difficult to pin down.

LBW,

I addressed only one role, an explanation of the unknown. I didn't say that there was only one role. However, now that you bring it up, the role of religon in areas other than cosmology has been (and continues to be) greatly reduced with advances in human knowledge of medicine, psychology, sociology, antropology, chemistry, physics, etc. etc. etc. etc. That religon (as defined above) pervades many aspects of human existance is unquestioned. That is must be pervasive, is.

Mapleleaf22 Dec 2011 10:28 p.m. PST

Atheism itself is irrational as it is based on the assumption of a negative that there is no god without logically proving that this assumption exists. You cannot search everyplace or everything in which the "possibility" of a god may exist. Until you can conclusively prove that no god exists the "negative" cannot be stated.

On the other hand stating that a god exists as a possibility is much easier to defend on the same grounds that all possibilities have not been examined and then consequently ruled out.

What was the comment about atheism being "the" intellectual high ground ?

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2011 10:44 p.m. PST

No it doesn't but it is ultimately up to the author.

Little Big Wars22 Dec 2011 11:34 p.m. PST

However, now that you bring it up, the role of religon in areas other than cosmology has been (and continues to be) greatly reduced with advances in human knowledge of medicine, psychology, sociology, antropology, chemistry, physics, etc. etc. etc. etc.

And when a religion(s) does this it should be taken to task for doing so, but it is not fair to make a blanket statement of "religion is bad and holds back/damages everything". When beliefs and practices cause people to do bad things it is right to call into question (or condemn) those SPECIFIC beliefs and practices.

Pictors Studio23 Dec 2011 12:00 a.m. PST

"Indeed, religon, because it requires a proiri acceptance of assumptions as fact instead of requiring demonstration and proof, would prevent any society dominated by religion to progress very far."

And yet it was the very religious beliefs of authors in the 17th century, a period where society was very dominated by religion, that founded our ideas of free and equal people.

earthad23 Dec 2011 1:01 a.m. PST

yeah, i thought we were talking about religion in space? Maybe not the right place to preach about religion or atheism- just saying is all. No one is going to convert others to their way of thinking by posting here….

britishlinescarlet223 Dec 2011 1:05 a.m. PST

Indeed, religon, because it requires a proiri acceptance of assumptions as fact instead of requiring demonstration and proof, would prevent any society dominated by religion to progress very far.

I'm the first to argue with the Creationists, but this is one of the biggest pieces of Hokum I have ever read.

Dropship Horizon23 Dec 2011 3:08 a.m. PST

I have to admit, Irish Catholic heathen that I am, that not once in my gaming life have I picked up a set of rules, particularly Sci Fi and gone "Right! Never mind the blasters, let's see how he has handled religion".

I assume it's there. Just as I assume Tectonic plate movement on the various planets of the gaming universe. I use it when it's colour link or when it drives the plotline, but necessary to factor into a set of rules? No.

Cheers
Mark

Lion in the Stars23 Dec 2011 4:19 a.m. PST

I find your lack of faith disturbing. [evil grin]

Sometimes it can be factored into a set of rules. Usually something to do with morale of the troops.

The world seems more 'real' when the writers include religions, though. I predict a high probability of religious tendency in spacefarers as long as there isn't enough mass to stop small ship-piercing fragments with armor or carry the point-defense system to detect and destroy them. Similarly, praying that your thermal-protection system holds out is going to be unlikely to go out of style until thermal protection systems themselves go out of style!

AndrewGPaul23 Dec 2011 4:32 a.m. PST

Not sure why people are fixating on religion being represented in the rules, when the OP specifically mentions background.

Personally, I'd hope we'd be past such things in the future, but having religion, spiritualism and the like in a setting does flesh it out a bit.40K and Dune both play with it a bit – the extent to which the religious beliefs may be true is ambiguous.

Infinity also has religious elements to its background, and in that game, it does affect the rules; models with the Religious Troop special rule don't fall back when the rest of the army begins to retreat.

Babylon 5 and Star Trek flirt with the subject, but fall foul of the trope tha alien races are entirely homogenous – all Klingons believe in St'Vo'Kor, all Bajorans are aither followers of the Prophets or atheists and all Minbari followed the same set of beliefs.

The only fantasy race with multiple religions I can think of, offhand, is Warhammer's elves. High Elves and Dark Elves share a pantheon, with the Dark Elves worshipping the "evil" god exclusively. The Wood Elves seem to have developed their own belief system, under the influence of the forest they live in.

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian23 Dec 2011 5:37 a.m. PST

So, getting back to the original question about religion represented in a realistic sci fi RPGs…

given that RPGs are far more textured than TTGs, I don't have a problem with those dynamics factored into character motivations or fictional worldmaking. In so far as "realism" goes, regardless of personal preferences, their influence is highly plausible, even probable.

Of course we're talking about games, so authors and players can conjure whatever fiction they prefer.

Personal logo Dentatus Sponsoring Member of TMP Fezian23 Dec 2011 5:49 a.m. PST

For further reading:
link

Omemin23 Dec 2011 7:37 a.m. PST

I'm a pastor, and I don't get concerned about whether or not a game or rules set addresses religion. It just isn't a factor in almost every case, and can cause a row that quickly escalates beyond the game.

I live my principles as best I can, and let people decide for themselves whether what I do looks good to them.

Scorpio23 Dec 2011 7:43 a.m. PST

I have to admit, Irish Catholic heathen that I am, that not once in my gaming life have I picked up a set of rules, particularly Sci Fi and gone "Right! Never mind the blasters, let's see how he has handled religion".

Well put.

If the question is "Do you agree that any realistic future sci-fi background must include religion as a factor?" then, no, I disagree. If it's there, fine. If it's not, fine.

Don Manser23 Dec 2011 7:46 a.m. PST

Indeed, religon, because it requires a proiri acceptance of assumptions as fact instead of requiring demonstration and proof, would prevent any society dominated by religion to progress very far.

So how do you explain the Renaissance?

DM

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