Is Star Trek Friendly to Christianity?

Came across this article last night in my news reader: Catholic propaganda on the Enterprise. The author argues that there is a surprising pro-Christian (and in particular pro-Catholic) bent to Star Trek.

The argument is surprising, sickness especially since the author seems to ignore Gene Roddenberry’s zealous humanism, purchase which comes through in particular in the “sermons” of the captains, clinic particularly Picard (see “Who Watches the Watchers” and his speech in “Justice” for two prime examples). I would argue that the Star Trek universe doesn’t become comfortable with religion until DS9 (perhaps symptomatic of DS9’s post-Roddenberry status, as it tends to be the series that deals most directly with ideas that Roddenberry loathed, such as money and warriorhood), and even then, when it does explore religion, it does it through fictional religions (e.g., the Bajoran religion). Voyager has some flirtations with religion (think Chakotay and B’Elanna), but it seems to seems to see religion in light of customs and culture, rather than propositional truth.

The closest parallels to Christianity I would see in Star Trek would be in the TNG episode where Worf meets Kahless, the messianic figure of the Klingon religion having supposedly returned as he promised.

In terms of the author’s discussion of the original series (TOS), the reference to Captain Pike’s telepathic trip to hell on Talos IV is a stretch, seeing as how the Talosian Keeper referred to the vision of hell as being “From a fable you once heard in childhood.” Roddenberry seemed to go out of his way to (as the author correctly noted) set up “false gods,” but with the overarching message that all gods are (in his eyes) false. Anything that seems divine is a supercomputer (“The Apple”, “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”, “The Return of the Archons”), or an alien (“Who Mourns for Adonais?”, “Squire of Gothos”) that Kirk must reveal as a fraud with his mighty phaser.

The closest we get to a genuinely divine being in the Star Trek universe is Q, who clearly bears no resemblance to a Christian notion of God. Q is more like a Greek god: petty, capricious, egocentric, and driven by whim… even taking on the Zeusly role of attempting to impregnate a mortal woman (“The Q and the Grey”).

So, are there religious themes in Star Trek? Yes. Are they sufficiently Christian-friendly to support the author’s argument? Not so much.

  • Indeed! You are spot on. Joel is way too positive. This calls for a re-post.

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  • doug

    I was surprised to, as Star Trek did more to undermine my faith underpinnings from a philosophical perspective than any strident atheist.

  • Adam

    I disagree. Roddenberry didn’t write everything. In star trek, the first one with the shat, they all state there belief in god. Perhaps the 60’s weren’t ready for TNG, as it was truly secular.

    • Welcome Adam,
      Could you clarify which episode you are referring to specifically? In “Who Mourns for Adonais” there is a throw away comment from Kirk about not needing gods because the one god is sufficient, but what does that mean? There is no explanation.
      My post was whether Star Trek was friendly to Christianity. A mere belief in a god does not equal Christianity. As I have written above, in Roddenberry’s universe gods are false, nothing more than supercomputers, frauds or aliens. Religious themes does not necessarily mean that it is friendly to Christianity.

  • Euro

    Amanda

    The Roman Empire episode was very pro Christian.

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  • Poetsawyer

    I love Star Trek in all its’ forms, but as a Christian I am always left wanting by each episode. It is so sad to me that each ends in such an amazing place, but could go so much further and do so much more if God were allowed in or alluded to. Rodenberrry’s Humanism only limits him and his successors.

    • TheTrekSage

      You are aware though that Christianity (the Dark Ages) is the primary reason why humanity does not have starships and an intersteller federation as of 2013? There is a very good reason why christianity is dead in the 24th century, it’s abandonment is the only way that starships are even conceivable in less than 1000 years.

      • Poetsawyer

        Ah, yes, the dark ages….. well if you are interested in that subject, give me permission to call you and I can enlighten you with why the dark ages happened and why Christianity, in it’s true form, fully supports space exploration, starships, and exploration of all kinds. Yes, I agree, if Christianity had remained intact, we probably would have all we dream about in Star Trek. Sorry it isn’t happening now!!

      • skwills

        The Dark Ages never happened. They are a pernacous myth that Historians have logn agi debunked and even Wikipedia will confirm this.

        By the way, the whole idea that Christanity desoryed Technology and helpd us back 1000 yars is just ludecrous when you conside the supposed Dark Ages wre confined to Western Europe, and didnt even impact the Christian East, much less the Non-Christian CHina. Why ddnt the CHinese develop Warp Drive?

  • Brandon A. Cowles

    Unless I missed it. You forgot TOS’s episode Bread and Circuses.
    Part of the end dialogue.
    Back on the ship, Kirk records a commendation for Scott. Spock again
    expresses to Kirk and McCoy his failure to comprehend why
    Sun-worshipping Romans seemed to adhere to a concept of peace; Spock
    says it is illogical. In most societies sun worship is a primitive
    religion of superstition, with no philosophy of peace behind it.
    Communications Officer Lt. Uhura
    has the answer. She has been monitoring radio transmissions from the
    planet and informs them that the Empire’s spokesman has tried to
    ridicule the belief of these worshippers the entire time, but has
    utterly failed. When Kirk, Spock and McCoy remain uncomprehending she
    continues, “Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s
    the Son of God.” Kirk replies with a note of jubilant humility: “Caesar … and Christ; they had them both. And the word is spreading only now.”

    McCoy notes that the philosophy is one of total love and total
    brotherhood. Spock says, “It will replace their Imperial Rome, but it
    will happen in their 20th century.” Thinking of the continued parallels
    of this planet’s history to that of Earth, Kirk remarks, “Wouldn’t it be
    something to watch, to be a part of? To see it happen – all over
    again.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_Circuses_%28Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series%29