Recently amongst science fiction academia and aficionados, animosity towards religion has been mitigated. In the genre, the relationship between religion and science has been cyclical, with each coming out on top at different times throughout the decades. Recently however, the two ideologies have seem to have come to a stalemate, they have acquiesced that each has their merits in the world of the future. However, the clash of ideologies has fueled science fiction (SF) for over a century, many of the genre’s roots are in challenging theology. SF does not need to generate vitriol, only continue the sport, the great debate.
In literature, religion is one of the greatest antagonists of all time in SF, in not all the genres. SF has often presented religion as a necessary antagonist, as a force that prevents science from acting with impunity and careless abandonment for its actions. Without the great adversary that is religion, science becomes unchallenged. Moreover, were sciences to partake in conversation with itself, no new ideas would arise. Religion must continue acting as science’s greatest opponent within SF so that we may speculate and prepare for a universe with other forms of intelligent life, a world where we create life, and a world in which we play god. Before we revel in that future, we should ask ourselves questions that fall into the purview of religion. Neither field may provide absolute answers, but the debate between science and religion can offer catharsis and fuel imagination.
Discussed in this essay are the roles religion has played in James Blish’s A Case of Conscience, Isaac Asimov’s Reason, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Lester Del Rey’s Into Thy Hands and the poetry of Tracy K. Smith are observed through second hand sources. Retrospective looks into these SF works are provided by Robert Adam’s The History of Science Fiction , Rudy Busto’s Religion/ Science/Fiction: Beyond the Final Frontier, Kimberly Rae Connor’s The Speed of Belief: Religion and Science Fiction, Steven Hrotic’s Religion in Science Fiction: The Evolution of an Idea and the Extinction of a Genre, James McGrath’s Religion and Science Fiction, and Paul Nahin’s Holy Sci-fi!: Where Science Fiction and Religion Intersect.