Re: SF and Christians (was extraterrestrial intelligence)

Aaron J. Romanowsky (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 00:46:23 -0400 (EDT)

I heard Orson Scott Card give a lecture last year at MIT ("Media
in Transition" series). During the question-and-anwer period,
he launched into a diatribe about religion whose details I've
unfortunately forgotten, but whose gist was that people who take
their religion seriously are not given their due respect (or
something along those lines). I was quite impressed with what he
said, but noticed that the audience was very quiet in response
(in contrast to their enthusiastic response to other "sermons"
he delivered); this was clearly something that these sci-fi fans
were unused to or unwilling to hear.

In regards to science fiction fans in general, I've noticed some
strong trends toward interest in paganism and the occult. Some of
this is meant to poke fun at traditional religions, but I think there
are deeper reasons for these trends (I've not begun to suss them out).
To what degree do the quirks and obsessions of sci-fi fandom reflect the
general spiritual state of and fundamental questions in our society??

Regarding SETI: see Joseph L. Spradley's "Religion and the Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" in PSCF, Sep 1998. After a
presentation of historical religious thought about ETI, and a
(problematic IMHO) examination of the possibility of ETI, Spradley
suggests that SETI research provides a substitute religion for at
least some of its proponents -- that they hope that extraterrestrial
contact will provide salvation, peace, higher knowledge, and immortality:
"Sometimes, when I look at the stars... I wonder if, among the most common
interstellar missives coming from them, is the grand instruction book that
tells creatures how to live forever." (Drake & Sobel 1992)

My own concern about SETI is that whatever ETIs we contact are highly
likely to be much more technologically advanced than us -- and we've no
guarantee that the cultural fallout from this will be constructive for
humanity, even assuming that the ETIs have amicable intentions. However,
my impression is that such a concern constitutes sacrilege to many SETI