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5/4/09

Science Fiction and Religion

In his classic The Hero With A Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell wrote about the myths that shape cultures and civilizations. Borrowing from Carl Jung, he located an ur-myth, a foundation pattern for all stories--that of the hero going forth to do battle with a foe, vanquishing the foe, and returning.

As for religion, Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis provide a different kind of foundation pattern. It includes a need to vanquish evil, redeem the soul, and relearn or regain God's mercy. In Christian terms, they fell from God's grace by eating the apple of the Tree of Knowledge.

(In Buddhist terms, they illustrate that life is tanha, or off-center, because of dukkha, or desire. Buddha's Noble Eight-Fold Path points to the direction of return.)

By desiring the fruit of knowledge, Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, out of harmony with life, which is to say into off-centeredness.

So, too, Science Fiction and television use religious patterns.

"Messianic sci-fi movies and TV programs, despite their own interest in parthenogenesis [virgin birth], did not spring forth fully formed from the New Testament. Science fiction of the written kind has long taken advantage of the cultural power of the Christ story. In fact, two of the twentieth century’s most popular sci-fi novels, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, were overtly messianic, a fact noted by the sizable critical literature that exists on the books."

Christian themes aren’t an entirely new development in filmed science fiction, either. More

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