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6. Science Fiction and Religion

Stephen R.L. Clark

Subject Literature, Religion

Key-Topics science fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405112185.2005.00008.x


Science fiction that either makes explicit use of the Christian mythos, or advances a theological argument, is rare. Examples of the first include the following: “The Man,” in The Illustrated Man (1951) by Ray Bradbury, in which a space-traveler pursues the risen Christ from one planet to another; James Blish's Black Easter (1968), in which a black magician, hired by an arms-dealer to release devils from Hell for sport, thereby initiates Armageddon; C.S. Lewis' interplanetary trilogy, comprising Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1944) and That Hideous Strength (1945); and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959), recounting the survival of a Christian monastery from one world-destroying war to the next. Examples of the second class include Lewis' trio, James Blish's A Case of Conscience (1958), and Doria Mary Russell's The Sparrow (1996). Christians and other believers make casual appearances elsewhere: the Catholic Church has survived in strength into the “Second Empire” of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye (1974), and – very unexpectedly – there is a secret Jewish tradition tens of millennia hence in Frank Herbert's Chapter House Dune (1985). But science fiction is often “religious” in a wider sense, even at its most atheistic. Sometimes this is no more than euhemerism, the theory that God and the gods are memories ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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