Is Science Fiction a Modern Substitute for Religion?

Most people will think I’m nuts for suggesting that science fiction is a modern substitute for religion, but look at this comparison chart.


Religion Science Fiction
God Super advanced alien, AI
Greek gods, Hindu gods Superheroes, aliens
God knows what you are thinking Mind reading
God can be everywhere Teleportation
God’s touch Telekinesis
All knowing Super AI
God creates world L5 space colony
God destroys world Death Star, space opera spaceships, atomic war, etc.
God creates land, sea, animals Terraforming
Prayer ESP
Heaven Other planets, cyber worlds
Hell Other planets
Devine realms Multiverse, other dimensions
Immortal Soul Life extension, immortality
Flying Airplanes, rockets, anti-gravity, jetpacks, superheroes
Angels Aliens
Devils Aliens
God creates man Man creates robots, AI, artificial life
Noah’s ark Generation ship, space colonies
Virgin birth Cloning, genetic engineering
Healing powers ESP, Super science medicine
Prophets Precognition
Wine to water Atomic alchemy
Walking on water Levitation, anti-gravity
Resurrecting the dead, rebirth Brain downloading, cloning, Homo sapiens 2.0

Hubris knows know bounds.  If you study the history of religions and myths you will see people have always wanted God-like powers.  Science fiction appears to say:  If God won’t give us these powers we’ll get them ourselves, or from aliens.

How long have people wanted to be more than what they are?  How long have people wanted reality to be different?

On the other hand, how often do people find acceptance in what is?

JWH – 10/24/11

9 thoughts on “Is Science Fiction a Modern Substitute for Religion?”

  1. I don’t know if it is a “modern” substitute for religion, but I can certainly see it being “a” substitute. Of course I think that could be said about a lot of things.

    I would have to think people wanted to be more than what they are for as long as advanced thought has been around, wouldn’t you? I mean who wouldn’t look at a bird soaring through the air and think, “I wondered what it would be like to do that?” Part of what makes us more than just mere animals is that desire to be something more, to do something more. I think it is one of the driving forces behind our creativity, we do things to give life to imagination.

    Of course a by product of that creativity, especially in this modern age, is that we’ve created a number of things that eventually become a means of distraction. I don’t think books or games or the internet or television are evil in and of themselves, but like anything else they can be abused. I often think it is so much easier to abuse these things though because we don’t always realize we are being lulled into complacency by them. It is “easy” to pick up a book or flip on the television, much easier than say taking a walk or playing a game with your family or working in the garden. I think it is easy for us to become content with a level of relative inactivity and escapism that isn’t healthy.

    I’ve always said and firmly believe escapism and the use of the imagination is important, but the older I get the more I believe it is equally important to first learn to be content with who you are and what you have and then be willing to make an honest assessment and change those things that would make your life better if you did so.

    I sometimes wish that was as “easy” as flipping on the television, Ha!

  2. When they started research into AI (the phrase was coined in 1956), they were aiming to imitate what humans could do. It is now generally accepted that the AI we are now producing is something very different from humans, but useful… When you start to think about this, you realise science will produce something that no human thought of in any religion or wish list (not that the two domains should be considered equivalent).

      1. A very good question to which I do not know the answer. It is but one of a series of questions I’m grappling with, which come under the heading of what is intelligence and where do we find it in the universe(s)? This is the kind of question that can only really start to be answered in a trilogy… happy cogitations.

  3. >On the other hand, how often do people find acceptance is [sic] what is?

    All of human history is the story of people who didn’t accept things as they were, and created progress.

    1. That’s an excellent point. Maybe the desire for all these things have driven us forward. Scientists tell us Neanderthals lived the same way for hundreds of thousands of years. Our species has progress, but on the other hand, are our desires any different from what they were 10,000 years ago?

  4. Looking at the list I’m reminded of Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible. Pretty much all the stuff on that list is doable / within the laws of physics except for precognition / omniscience.

    And cyber worlds could fit Hell as much as Heaven, especially considering the VR book Glimpses of Heaven, Visions of Hell 😉

    Finally, there’s always Clarke’s Third Law: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

  5. will all the episodes of Star Trek’s series where the Federation people stopped other aliens from interfering with pre-warp civilizations

    I think SciFi may be providing the real answer to how religions got started anyway – con artist aliens looking to make an easy living

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