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.