Contribution to Book
Religion’s Future and the Future’s Religions Through the Lens of Science FictionThe Changing World Religion Map
AbstractWhile most scholarship in religious studies focuses on the past and present, the study of what the future may hold in store for religion deserves attention. Studying the treatment of religious themes and characters in science fiction provides one way of accomplishing this objective. From the possibility of time travel to key events in the history of religion, to the possibility of acquiring godlike attributes by technological or other futuristic means, science fiction regularly touches on topics such as the nature and universality of truth or the nature of personhood and of divinity in ways that can be deeply theological, even if the authors of the tales are not theologians or even religiously inclined. In stories about contact with extraterrestrial sentient life forms, sci-fi tales can explore questions about diversity in the values and ideas we hold, but on a much larger scale than that provided by our own planet. Yet these stories reflect the convictions and concerns human beings currently have about our ability to understand one another and our sometimes seemingly incommensurable commitments. Such stories provide natural conversation partners for present-day religious communities. The study of such literature and film provides insight into how major conceptual and ethical questions are being explored and wrestled with even today.
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Citation InformationMcgrath, James. "Religion’s Future and the Future’s Religions Through the Lens of Science Fiction." The Changing World Religion Map. Ed. Stanley Brunn and Donna Gilbreath. Dordrecht: Springer, 2015. 2893-2905.