Thursday, February 25, 2010

Star Trek & Religion vs. Spirituality

I found this handy dandy article published by a writer for Smithsonian magazine about Star Trek as a religion. It quotes several of the articles we've read in class about Star Trek, actually.

The comparison of Star Trek to a religion doesn't seem as convincing to me as the comparison of Star Trek with a worldview or even a spirituality. It seems a number of people in the U.S., at least, describe themselves as being more spiritual than religious, which is understandable, since spirituality tends to be more open-ended than religion, which often has a defined structure. While Star Trek does have a structure within its own world (and indeed, various religions), no one tries to force a worldview on another. At least, no protagonist does. These are the ideals touted by Gene Roddenberry, imbued in his baby.

The community of Star Trek fandom often centers around these ideals, as illustrated by the Trekkies excerpts and various articles we've read in class. The way a person keeps these ideals, however, is up to him or her; people are not penalized for failing to keep Star Trek ideals or shunned across the board for it (perhaps certain individuals might behave that way, but not the entire body of fandom). Also, Star Trek fandom lends itself to a symbiotic relationship w/ a variety of other, terrestrial religious beliefs. Unless Star Trek directly conflicts w/ a set of religious beliefs (and even then, I can only think of a few...perhaps some Menonites might object to the reliance upon technology?), it seems that Star Trek is capable of enhancing a person's understanding of his or her faith. It's like reading the Church Fathers to better understand the Bible, or the Talmud to better understand the Torah.

As a humanist, Gene Roddenberry had a deep belief in the goodness of humanity and all of which it might be capable. I see no reason why reinforcement of the goodness of man should not be a supplementary message to a religious path. I am not saying that Gene Roddenberry is a prophet. If he is, I don't think he represents the "Church of Trek." But every now and then, I have met people in my life who make me want to be a better person. I think Gene Roddenberry was trying to inspire people to be the best they could be w/o giving them a dogmatic code. What could be more spiritual than that?

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