Pulling a Picard, by Ben Jeapes
I’m having great fun writing an article for Focus, a magazine for writers published by the British Science Fiction Association, on getting religion into science fiction and fantasy writing. Not Christianity specifically (though that is my obvious bias, being my background) but in general. The title, ‘Pulling a Picard’, comes from a particularly irritating episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, ‘Journey’s End’, in which the noble Captain Jean-Luc Picard is faced with a tribe of Native American descendants who still cling to their old beliefs and very quickly realise that our heroes don’t really do religion. In all sincerity, Picard insists, “We have the deepest respect for your beliefs!”
In fact it is blindingly obvious – in every nuance, subvocalisation and facial tic – that far from having the deepest respect, Picard and his crew regard their beliefs as superstitious hokum. This is simply because the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, was determined that in the future, everyone would be an atheist. He saw this as the best, most logical and most moral outcome of human development.
I don’t mind being disagreed with; I do mind erroneous arguments that simply are not predicated correctly. The history of science fiction is littered with failed attempts to satirise or debunk religion, sometimes by well-known writers who ought to have known better, and sometimes still very successful, in terms of sales, because they are (ahem) preaching to the choir. Religion today has withstood thousands of years of every doubt thrown at it. Every generation is convinced that theirs will see the last of it, and yet it’s still there for the next. A bit like print, really, and for very similar reasons: the doomsayers can’t see inside the heads of the faithful and overlook or disregard the personal, subjective experiences that perpetuate it – experiences that negate the most perfectly crafted, objectively logical killer argument you can devise against it. They simply don’t get religion.
So that is what I try to convey: just just the obvious fallacies of notions like religion and civilisation being incompatible, or religion inevitably leading to bigotry and persecution, but exactly why people continue to believe; how rituals and prayers might not just be so much hocus pocus; how you can still believe in science as well as God. The religious mindset. And it’s a helpful, two-way exercise. Paul in his letters excelled at finding points on which he and his audience could agree, and then leading off from that point of agreement to show them something they hadn’t considered; but to do that, you still need to understand the audience in the first place. I’ve found it’s too easy to do exactly what I accuse other people of doing: in trying to correct their perceived faults, I am so certain of what they stand for, without bothering to find out, that I end up mis-representing them. And that is something everyone should be aware of.
Pray for me. Sadly you will have to join the BSFA to read the finished item …
a children’s biography of Ada Lovelace. www.benjeapes.com
Interesting post - thank you.ReplyDelete
Encouraging to see someone working out the realities of being 'wise as serpents, innocent as doves'. Thanks, Ben. Grace, wisdom and courage to you in this field/dimension!ReplyDelete
Love this: 'Paul in his letters excelled at finding points on which he and his audience could agree, and then leading off from that point of agreement to show them something they hadn’t considered; but to do that, you still need to understand the audience in the first place'. Totally agree. Great post!ReplyDelete
Boldly go beyond the beliefs of Roddenberry and in the words of JLP, 'Make it so.'ReplyDelete
Yes! Must remember to pray for you - it's a huge challenge to attempt to speak or w rite on this topic to the many out-and-proud atheists we probably all know (and those we don't). I suspect that it's a necessary part of one's identity to be an atheist, in order to fit in, under a certain age. You are brave than me - though I do try to represent how the unbeliever views the believer in some of my books- I kind of think that if I can convey the astonishment of a girlfriend (say) staying in the home of a boyfriend raised in a Christian home, at how religion appears there - a text on the wall, a Bible in the spare room (she's been put in there), grace before meals, but also a level of sharing, generosity, and actual curiosity about her genetics degree - how is she reacting to this? And to the parents' assumption that marriage is of course planned - and, that 'this cannot happen'? I wish you the best putting over 'Real Christianity'. I hope you succeed and return to help the restof us!ReplyDelete
I would say you are braver than me! That is exactly the kind of none-preachy witnessing by example that is needed.Delete
Thank you for sharing, hope it goes well. It's a wonderful open door...ReplyDelete
Ben, I'm having trouble putting comments non-anonymously hence anonymity. I'm John Stevens on www.unlessaseed.com in case you wish to reply. As a retired Science teacher and Star Trek fan I sort of disengage from reality when reading Sci Fi or watching films. I suppose Star Wars played with spirituality with The Force or at least an unseen realm. And therein lies the conundrum - the dark side as well as dark matter. But the peaceful life of the objective scientist is always having its empirical temple tables overturned, so many 'discoveries' and breakthroughs come via dreams and serendipity that the only rational conclusion is that the world is not, in essence, rational. I wish you well. Somehow the Russians manage to bring the gospel into fiction, maybe you'll be able to bring the gospel into Sci Fi?ReplyDelete
That's a kind thought, John! First I would need to start writing science fiction again, but maybe one day ...Delete
What a very scholarly post that stretches one mentally! Just feel free to engage in your art of writing as you are led. Lovely post. Blessings.ReplyDelete