We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Star Trek: the Post-Christian Generation!

Natalie is quite right that there is a noticeable lack of real religions in Star Trek. The only two sets of religious beliefs seem to feature prominently:

First there are the Bajoran in Deep Space 9, who follow an (invented) organised national religion that, it must be said, is presented extremely plausibly and without either sentimental support or anti-religious bias: some of their religious leaders are shown to be wise and honourable, yet others (Kai Winn) are portrayed as venal and corrupt. Significantly, the Bajorans are not, however, part of the Federation.

Then there is Chakotay (Robert Beltran), whose ultra-PC North American Indian spiritualism must appeal to the California ‘liberal’ (meaning socialist) sensibilities of the script writers. It is useful to note, however, that Chakotey is not in fact a member of Star Fleet even though he has been co-opted by it. Quite the contrary: he is an anti-Star Fleet Maquis rebel! There is an interesting subtext there for sure.

I would not include the Zen-like Vulcan philosophy shown in the shows as ‘religion’ as it is little more than a sophisticated and somewhat ritualised form of self-control with a set of attendant logic based ethics.

Yet I must disagree with Natalie that Star Trek’s lack of religion in the Federation will cause “less sympathy with the Samizdata crowd”. Libertarian views are in no way antithetical to religious ones and I find the complete absence of overt Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu influences (let alone obvious adherents) indicative of a society that must surely be suppressing them. Even an atheist such as myself must accept that the religious impulse will not completely disappear quietly into the night unless forced there at the point of a loaded phaser…hardly something calculated to bring the smile of reason to libertarian lips. As evidence of it is completely absent in what is posited as mankind’s sole military service, the implications are clear.

Even if Star Fleet is aggressively secular ‘at work’, in many episodes we are shown the private quarters of crew members…can anyone recall an episode in which a crucifix is seen on someone’s table or a mezuzah by the door? You do not have to be religious yourself to find seeing religion completely edited out of the human experience more than a little sinister. As Natalie points out, Babylon 5 had a great deal of fun with real world religion, even to the extent of showing peevish squabbling between the leader of the resident Catholic monks and a prominent Jewish scholar. Likewise, Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) on several occasions referred to her Jewish identity in various episodes. Although religion was not central to the show, it did not deny its very existence.

Next time I see a Star Trek show, I will scrutinize the credits for any references to Leon Trotsky.

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