The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Psalms from Saturn

'What can SF teach us about God?' This burning question is the Guardian's question of the week, and yesterday Roz Kaveney kicked off with a nice brief introductory survey of how SF has dealt with religion, touching not just the familiar bases (Blish, Miller) but some lesser-known (and intriguing) examples.

In the series pitch, my own work is described as 'powerfully atheistic'. I'm not sure I see it that way myself, but I'm delighted with the description. I'd wear it on a T-shirt, at least at a con. My own contribution to the series - in answer to the less loaded question, 'So how does [SF] help us think about our place and purpose in the universe?' - has been accepted and will appear later this week. It'll probably be described by some as 'feebly faitheist', but I can live with that. For background reading, look here for a time when Church of Scotland (and Free Church!) ministers got a great sugar rush about the possibility of pious aliens.

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I read a story once (whose author and title I unfortunately do not remember) that went roughly as follows:

A team of time travelers is going back to the first century to observe the life of Jesus and find out what's true and what's false in the Biblical account of his career. A Catholic priest is invited to join the team but is reluctant. Everyone assumes that his reluctance stems from fear of finding out that the Church's teachings about Jesus are mistaken. But in fact it turns out that the priest's belief in the historicity of the Gospels is perfectly firm, and the real reason for his reluctance is his fear that he couldn't honestly look Jesus in the eye and claim to have been a "good and faithful servant."

I don't recall reading that one. My favourite Jesus time-travel story is Gary Kilworth's 'Let's Got to Golgotha!' - partly because it makes a very Christian point. The story would make a suitable text for a sermon. (At this point I'm hearing the words 'In a very real sense ...')

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