Any Gods Out There?
Perceptions of Religion from Star Wars and Star Trek

By John S. Schultes

NOTES

1. "Though the original Star Trek series is now seen as the classic, The Next Generation is in fact truer to Roddenberry's original vision of the series. He wanted to use many of the features of the second series in the first but was simply not allowed to. In 1987 Roddenberry was given free rein for the first time in his career, and the result is a far fuller vision of the Federation than seen in the first series." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 5)

2. "I am simply trying to struggle through life; trying to do God's bidding. - George Lucas" (Pollock, Skywalking. p.141)

3. "The Force embraces passive Oriental philosophies and the Judeo-Christian ethic of responsibility and self-sacrifice. Yoda's philosophy is Buddhist - he tells Luke that the Force requires him to be calm, at peace, and passive; it should be used for knowledge and defense, not greed and aggression ... To Lucas, the Force means looking into yourself, recognizing your potential, and the obstacles that stand in your way. He had undergone just this kind of introspection following his car accident - it was his religious conversion, and he wanted to share it with everyone." (Pollock, Skywalking. p.140)

4. "I guess from that time it was clear to me that religion was largely nonsense, was largely magical, superstitious things. In my own teen life I just couldn't see any point in adopting something based on magic, which was obviously phony and superstitious ... I stopped going to church as soon as it became possible to do things on my own as a teenager. I made up my mind that church, and probably largely the Bible, was not for me. I did not go back to even thinking much about it. If people need to do that, ignore them and maybe they will ignore you and you can go on with your own life." (Alexander, Star Trek Creator, p. 37)

5. "It seems to me more and more with each passing year and each new massacre (as many perpetrated by Christians as anyone else) that the real villain is religion - at least religion as generally practiced by people who somehow become sure that they and only they know the "real" answer. How few humans there are that seem to realize that killing, much less hating, their fellow humans in the name of their "god" is the ultimate kind of perversion.

At any rate, I've elected to believe in a God which is so far beyond our conception and real understanding that it would be nonsense to do anything in its name other than perhaps to revere all life as being part of that unfathomable greatness." (Alexander, Star Trek Creator, p. 480)

6. "My second wife Majel Lee (Hudec) and I were both raised Protestant but well before ever meeting had both left the Protestant Church in favor of non-sectarian beliefs which included respect for all other religions, but emphasizing the concept of God as too great and too encompassing to be explained and appreciated by any single system of belief. Some aspects of Buddhism express some of our beliefs but also do some aspects of the New and Old Testaments as well as other books and philosophies." (Alexander, Star Trek Creator, p. 422).

7. "A lot of stuff there is very personal," he said several years after Star Wars was first released. "There's more of me in Star Wars than I care to admit. Knowing that the film was made for a young audience, I was trying to say, in a simple way, that there is a God and that there is a good side and a bad side. You have a choice between them, but the world works better if you're on the good side." (Pollock, Skywalking. pp. 288-289)

8. "It was at Denver that someone wrote a question "What is your religion?" My answer was: "I do not belong to any church but I do consider myself to be a religious man. I believe that I am a part of you and you are a part of me and we are a part of all life ... also a part of the creative force and intelligence behind life. Therefore, if we are a part of God then our lives are not brief meaningless things, but rather have a great importance and significance. All of us and each of us." (Alexander, Star Trek Creator, p. 423)

9. "The Enterprise of Captain Kirk has a run-in with an omnipotent being in nearly  half of its seventy-eight episodes, while the Enterprise of Captain Picard confronts omnipotent beings in only a few, mostly those episodes dealing with Q or with the Traveler. There may be gods in the Star Trek universe, but they seem to be dying out. (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 161)."

10. "These are not gods in the accepted sense of a supreme being who originally created the universe. Most of the time Star Trek posits a polytheistic universe in which a variety of powerful beings inhabit a realm above and beyond humanity. These gods are omnipotent, but not omniscient, and the distinction is important ...  Gods may exist, but in Star Trek it seems that all we want them to do is leave us alone. "Leave us," Captain Picard tells Q at the end of "Encounter at Farpoint." "We have passed your test." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, pp.171-172).

11. "Even Q is clearly hemmed in by a series of constraints placed on his powers by the Continuum. Human beings may not be gods, but they are freer than gods, and it is precisely their freedom that gives them great power. Gods in the series are often prisoners of their own divinity ... "(Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 181).

12. "The Borg are a culture of self-improvement taken to its logical conclusion. To improve themselves, they are willing to consume anything and everything in their way. But each time the Borg improve themselves, it is at the direct expense of another culture whose life and technology they have consumed in their continuing quest for betterment." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 49).

13. "The Romulans and the Klingons both have clear analogues in our own ancient history. Instead of ancient Romans we get aliens from a planet called Romulus. Instead of barbarians we get Klingons (the original Greek word for "barbarian" can be best translated into English as something like "kling" or "klang," referring to the strange sounds foreigners make when they speak)." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 25).

14. "In a great many ways, The Star Trek Universe owes a lot more to early science fiction writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells than to later writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. These Victorian writers believed in progress. They believed the world was going to get better, not worse ...In Star Trek there is no poverty, hunger, discrimination, or disease ...Gene Roddenberry was a rarity, a creator of modern science fiction who continued to believe that science would ultimately right all the wrongs in the world." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 8).

15. "Wired: At one time you said, "Technology won't save us." Do you think technology is making the world better or worse?

Lucas: If you watch the curve of science and everything we know, it shoots up like a rocket. We're on this rocket and we're going perfectly vertical into the stars. But the emotional intelligence of humankind is equally if not more important than our intellectual intelligence. We're just as emotionally illiterate as we were 5,000 years ago; so emotionally our line is completely horizontal. The problem is the horizontal and the vertical are getting farther and farther apart. And as these things grow apart, there's going to be some kind of consequence of that." (Wired interview, Feb. 1997).

16. "Inevitably, as indicated in The Empire Strikes Back, Anakin himself becomes consumed by pride and ego, and ends up choosing the Dark Side that Ben had rejected, and his new identity as Darth Vader, the Dark Father. "It's bleak," Lucas confirmed to the Los Angeles Times. "But if you know the other three movies, you know everything turns out all right in the end - that his son comes back and redeems him. That's the real story. It's always about the redemption of Anakin Skywalker." (Pollock, Skywalking. p. 284)

17. "Even when employed for good, the Force is addictive. If used to excess, it will turn on the user and bring out his bad, aggressive side. Darth Vader may be the legendary monster, but Lucas makes it clear that he thinks the dark side is in all of us. He offers redemption for our original sin, however. Vader does not triumph; Luke does." (Pollock, Skywalking. p.141)

18. "Children are not the only ones influenced by Star Wars. Audiences share a subconscious emotional reaction to a movie - when it's as popular as Star Wars, the shared emotion becomes a cultural force. People also saw what they wanted to see in the film. At various times it's been described as a metaphor for the tenets of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. Lucas wanted to instill in children a belief in a supreme being - not a religious god, but a universal deity that he named the Force, a cosmic energy source that incorporates and consumes all living things.

The message of Star Wars is religious: God isn't dead; he's there if you want him to be. "The laws are really in yourself," Lucas is fond of saying; the Force dwells within. The major theme in Star Wars, as in every Lucas film, is the acceptance of personal responsibility, "the fact that you can't run away from your fate." (Pollock, Skywalking. pp. 139-140)

19. "Unlike say, the Star Wars movies, Star Trek normally eschews extremes of good and evil, choosing instead to posit a more morally ambiguous universe ...Death is the only true evil in the Star Trek universe, where enemies never remain enemies for long ...

On the death of a fellow Klingon in "Reunion" Worf turns to the sky and screams. Death is horrible, and unlike almost everything else in the Star Trek universe, it cannot be explained away. The only true monster in the series is death itself." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, pp. 168-169).

20. "In most science fiction the gods look after human beings, as they do in the Star Wars films, where the Force guides the actions of the human beings fighting the Evil Empire. Star Trek may be the only science fiction in which an individual human being actually saves the life of a god (when Picard saves the life of "Q" in "Déjà Q"). The universe of Star Trek is a universe in which individual action matters far more than divine or collective action." (Richards, Meaning of Star Trek, p. 64).


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