Is Sci-Fi Anti-Religion? Not Unless a Religion is Portrayed as ‘True’

It’s a bit telling when a publisher wants its science immutable, and its religion squishy.

By Mike Duran Published on March 19, 2017

Is there an anti-religious bias in publishing and the art and film industries? The answer often depends upon what side of the question you fall on. According to this breakdown of Democrat vs. Republican Occupations, under the category of Book Publisher, Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats 100 to 0. For those of us who happen to be politically and religiously conservative, this is not a huge surprise. Thankfully, there is beginning to be a bit of pushback against publishers foisting a blatantly progressive agenda.

While I mostly believe that there IS an anti-religious bias in “secular” media — make that an anti-CONSERVATIVE religious bias — it’s not nearly as vast as many claim. In fact, many artists of faith use this as an excuse to retreat from, rather than professionally engage, culture. Which is a big factor in the maintenance of the “Christian art” industry.

Queer Main Characters, MC’s of Color

That said, I recently stumbled upon a semi-pro sci-fi mag that is very up front about its bias. Crossed Genre Press is candid about its “progressive bent.” For example, in their Submission Guidelines they solicit stories containing:

  • Queer Main Characters
  • MC’s of Color
  • Women MC’s
  • Disabled MC’s
  • Science saves the day!
  • Far future
  • Stories set outside North America

Equally telling is what CGP is NOT looking for:

  • Stories based off the assumption that any particular religion’s beliefs are real
  • Weak women being rescued by macho guys
  • “Science-as-villain”
  • Vampires, zombies, werewolves, Arthurian retellings, Eurocentric faeries, or ghost stories
  • Time travel

It’s hard to maintain that publishers are indiscriminate and unbiased when their submissions page flat-out says “keep your religion to yourself.” Sure, publishers are free to want what they want. Seeking to expand representation of a multicultural universe and dash stereotypes can be admirable. Besides, religious publishers do the same thing! They are blatant in vetting their stories FOR religious content.

Inviting the Smart Kids’ Ridicule and Disdain

Still, I’d expect a bit of frothing if I announced that I was publishing an anti-Science anthology. The guidelines would read:

What we’re NOT seeking:

  • Stories based off the assumption that (Science’s) beliefs are real

In an age where Science has replaced Religion as our creed of choice, I’d be inviting ridicule and disdain from the smart kids. “Another anti-science conservative!” they’d bemoan. Nevertheless, here we have a publisher doing just the opposite. They don’t want stories where Science is portrayed as a “villain.” In other words, Science as Savior is a winning narrative.

Of course, you could argue that science and religion are two different things. Even though both require faith. And pitting science against religion is a narrative that conveniently services the secular POV. By requesting tales where Science is Savior and religion isn’t true, one can safely construct a god of our own design. While denying any religion theirs.

Shouldn’t our religious characters act like what they believe is real?

But from a writer’s perspective, seeking stories that are NOT “based off the assumption that any particular religion’s beliefs are real” is problematic. For one thing, shouldn’t our religious characters act like what they believe is real? I have met very few religious folk who believe something while not believing it is true or real. I’m just not sure what kind of religion asks its devotees to believe what is fake.

Is Sci-Fi Anti-Religion?

Furthermore, if someone believes that all religions are true, they’re essentially saying that there is no truth. Religions make truth claims. If a person believes that “no religions are real/true,” then they believe that THAT belief is true. So it’s a bit telling when a publisher wants its Science immutable, and its Religion squishy.

So is Sci-Fi “anti-religion”? Basing the conclusion on one indie mag is unfair. Fact is, there are plenty of religious themes in the genre and religious writers who are writing great stories. But if Crossed Genre Press is any example, the only religion worth portraying is the one that no one believes is really worth believing.

 

Originally published at MikeDuran.com. Used by permission.

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  • Gary

    The religion the world is against most is Christianity. Probably because it is the one they most hope is not true. Its certainly the one that, for their sakes, had better not be true.

  • Ken Abbott

    Those guidelines would exclude at least one sci-fi classic: “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” by Walter Miller. Certain works by Roger Zelazny would fare poorly as well. And just forget Lewis’s Space Trilogy!

  • Tom Rath

    Religion requires its adherents to believe it for it to maintain relevance.

    Science doesn’t care if you believe it or not. It works anyway.

    • Ken Abbott

      Christ rose from the dead whether you believe it or not. And he reigns anyway even if the nations (or Tom Rath) rage.

    • DCM7

      Truth in general doesn’t care if you believe it or not.

      Christianity is not just an invented “belief” like so many man-made religions and philosophies. It is based in reality, particularly in real history; if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t exist in the first place.

      At the same time, much of what gets called “science” in our day isn’t true at all, but merely reflects what otherwise intelligent people prefer to be true and/or want others to think is true.

  • Charles Burge

    I’ve been a science fiction fan for a long time. I think it does have the potential for great storytelling, and it does a really good job of exploring things like the intersection between humanity and technology. Sci-fi also frequently addresses the question “what does it mean to be human?” And in my view, that it where it shows the futility of life without an explicitly Christian worldview.

    Think of the movie Terminator 2, in which a young John Connor tries to explain to his terminator guardian why it’s wrong to kill people. One could chalk his lack or articulation up to his teenage youth, but what would an adult say? More recently, in an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an adult character built a life-like android, and after she started forming opinions of her own, he also had to explain why you can’t kill people indiscriminately. His half-hearted attempt had barely any meaning. The point I’m making is that science fiction (generally) intentionally ignores the one true reason that human beings have inherent value and dignity, which is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. When you don’t have that foundation, all that’s left is nihilism.

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