Riley Silverman has a great piece on SyfyWire about atheism and faith in science fiction. She points out something that as a consumer of science fiction in all of its forms, I have noticed lately: that the worlds of science fiction are usually atheistic, but the authors cannot seem to avoid either god-like characters, or the situations which arise from faith.
While not acknowledging it, she seems to be implying (and I’d agree) that the authors of these works are atheist. I’ve been noticing lately that when characters of faith are introduced in science fiction, it is clear that the authors have no idea what they are writing about. They’re trying to paint a picture of a world that they can only imagine and when they imagine it, it is so foreign to someone such as myself (an insider on faith) that I don’t recognize it.
Take the Punisher season 2 for example The Punisher’s villain in Season 2 is a man who is portrayed as being deeply religious, but also deeply troubled and extremely violent. I actually have no problem with that–there is nothing new about that plot. You can easily find people in church history who were deeply devout but also did things that were very wrong out of either a mistaken sense of loyalty or a poor understanding of how such an action actually isn’t part of God’s will. The Crusades and Inquisition are the easy targets but there are ones on a smaller scale too.
The problem with the Punisher is the church scene. Clearly, the writers and directors (and anyone else who has any clout on the set) has never attended a church service. Pastor’s don’t preach homilies on each song before and after they are sung. And they definitely, definitely, do not recognize someone in the congregation as being a major financial contributor to the congregation and then for that reason, let them come up and preach an off the cuff sermon. That never happens. There are other details about the church service that are so wrong it is mind boggling but you get the point: they can’t imagine what an actual church service would be like.
While they may struggle with understanding and depicting formal religion they can’t escape the simple beauty of morality. That is, that there is some sort of deeply held absolute value system inherent in the structure of the universe and when we depart from it, things go wrong.
Watching The Tick season 2 really brought this to light. In a scene towards the end of the season, the Tick is lamenting how they have all strayed from the values they held at the start. Tick says, “It seems that we’re all wandering in the woods. You’re living a lie. Dot is secretly turning vigilante. I thought Arthur had been bending the truth to get us into the Five. And now that we have babies I’ve even started to lie myself. To be honest I don’t know what Destiny is trying to teach us in all of this.”
Agent John replies, “Maybe that the truth is precious?”
The truth is precious. And it would be really cool if scyfy could start exploring faith more seriously and intentionally than they currently do. Or maybe there are books out there like that which I’m not aware of? If so, please let me know!