The Rabbi: Michael Z. Cahana

At last, TV science fiction gets religion

The ship is under attack and destruction seems imminent. On the lower decks an unnamed guard turns to his prisoner, gets down on his knees and utters the words that changed TV science fiction: “Will you pray with me?”

 

Now, that’s something you never heard on “Star Trek.”

 

Religion is an integral part of every human society, yet our essential modern mythologies generally ignore it or depict it as fraud. Most of us, in moments of stress or doubt, use a combination of rationalism and belief to arrive at moral decisionmaking. Our science fiction counterparts, however, are either logical or emotional, but rarely religious.

 

To see Kara Thrace gently stroking her family’s idols before facing a dangerous mission reminds me of the biblical Rachel secreting her family idols as she journeys to a new land. We carry our beliefs and traditions with us when venture into the unknown. They are part of what gives us meaning.

 

In “BSG,” humans and Cylons struggle with their beliefs, just as many of us do. The fact that the God-fearing monotheists are the bad guys only makes the experience more stimulating. Does the dogmatic faith in one controlling entity risk a blind certainty that justifies genocide? Does a belief in many gods (or no gods at all) allow a moral relativism that justifies torture? Stay tuned.

 

Science fiction, I pray, will continue to explore these religious values and conflicts as an essential aspect of what it means to be human.

 

So say we all.

 

 

Michael Z. Cahana is senior rabbi at congregation Beth Israel in Portland, Ore.

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