Maybe Religion’s Not That Bad…? April 15, 2011

Maybe Religion’s Not That Bad…?

In case you missed This American Life this week, there was a really interesting story by David Ellis Dickerson. (It begins around the 8:38 mark.)

David had “rejected the evangelical Christianity of his family” but was now coming home to see them again, ready to fight back against their religious arguments, expecting to win that battle easily.

After a conversation with his father, though, he ended up coming down a notch or two.

There’s one passage worth noting even though it speaks favorably about religion. After David reflects upon his dad’s Christianity (in the face of all its logical problems), he tries to see faith from his dad’s perspective:

The thing about the Bible is it’s huge. I could poke at it because I could pick at anything I wanted. You know, talking snakes, Virgin Birth, but eventually I came around to thinking, “Well, maybe religion doesn’t have to be consistent. Maybe you can just like it enough for it to be good.”

You know, maybe religion can be something more like, like, I’m a big Star Trek fan, and if you ask me, I would say, like, “I love Star Trek.” But if you ask me to defend individual episodes, I would be at a loss, because I can’t go to bat for everything that Star Trek did. I just love the concept…

And maybe religion could be like that.

Glamorized fiction mixed with memorable stories?

Ever wonder what characters on Star Trek thought about God?

Let’s hear the Klingon perspective:

The gods were “more trouble than they were worth” 🙂

Well put!

(Thanks to Danish Atheist for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Rob

    There’s a pretty serious flaw in that argument, though. Nobody presents Star Trek as irrefutable truth.

  • Meyli

    I guess believing in a religion could be like being a huge Star Trek (or other) fan. Why do people enjoy it? Because it brings like-minded people together. A way to make friends.

    But I would not let that one obsession rule all aspects of my life and decisions.
    I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan. But I’m not going to name my first son Harry James. Nor will I eat a copious amount of lemon drops just because Dumbledore rather liked them.

  • Bleatmop

    Key difference: Star Trek doesn’t pretend to be real; thus no reason to have to defend it in any context other than if it was good fiction or not. Religion has to defend itself on many, many angles because it makes no such assertion that it is fiction.

  • Heidi

    ROFL! I never saw that episode. I heart Worf.

    And IMO, this would be a better world if it were run by the Federation, rather than the churches. So I’ll defend Trek, if you like.

    Except that movie by the Lost guy that left me feeling about the same way as the last episode of Lost did. Don’t get me started on either.

  • Duke York

    I think this is an excellent point. We should give the religious fanatic exactly the same amount of respect we give the fans (that is, the fanatics) of any other cultural phenomenon. Learning Hebrew for your bar mitzvah is no more or less a praiseworthy accomplishment than learning Klingon for a convention. The Haj is no more significant than going to an anime convention in Tokyo.

    The thing is, the religious would be deeply offended by this comparison. They demand deference for their geekiness. They think their version of the Comic-Book Guy should be exempted from taxes, consulted for important decisions, and immune to prosecution for child abuse.

  • Jeanette

    Exactly what Duke York said. Also, I agree that from now on we should base law and public policy on the Federation instead of that bible crap.

  • Thorny

    Maybe arsenic doesn’t taste that bad? But like people before said no one is saying star trek is the absolute truth, it is fiction presented as fiction but religion is fiction presented as fact.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @Thorny Says:
    “Maybe arsenic doesn’t taste that bad?”

    Love it Thorny. If compared to star trek lore, I would set religion as the Borg, or perhaps the Feringie or other malignant antagonists the series describes.

  • SeanL

    Difference is this is not suppose to be a fictional story. Christians accept the bible as the word of an infallible all knowing deity.

    The basis for the things your father likes in the bible has the same basis for the things that are patently absurd. If you accept that god is infallible and he decreed all these things, then you necessarily have to accept the silly things if you are going to accept the “good” things.

    So if you are picking and choosing what you believe in the bible, then clearly you have some internal sense of right and wrong (if you can determine that certain things in the bible are wrong), then why do you even need the bible in the first place?

    Furthermore, just because something makes you feel warm and fuzzy doesn’t make it right. Santa Clause makes some people feel warm and fuzzy, but I think most sane individuals will admit he doesn’t exist.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    I do hope we can soon embrace that Klingon wisdom! 😀

  • Shoot. Whenever a Christian tells me that religion doesn’t have to be consistent, or provable, or even logical…I ask them, “Have you seen their buildings? Did you know about the taxes they should pay but don’t? Did you know that our US presidents have mostly been devout Christians, especially as they bring us to war?

    Don’t tell me religion doesn’t have a responsibility to be consistent.

  • Funny, Greta Christina once made this exact same comparison with Star Trek. The conclusion: it would be great if religion were like star trek fandom, but it usually isn’t. Trekkies don’t get defensive if you tell them Star Trek is fiction.

  • Brice Gilbert

    This argument is profoundly stupid. I feel dumb having thought about it. No one should be expected to explain why.

  • Stephanie

    Wait. You mean Star Trek isn’t real?

  • Other Chris


  • I love Star Trek, and that scene is hilarious. Still, I don’t think the comparison holds, because I know it’s fiction and don’t think it’s perfect and/or the word of perfect beings.

    @miller: That blog entry by Greta is awesome!

  • Ibis

    That’s certainly one advantage that Paganism (of the neo variety especially) has over the Abrahamic religions. Pagans know that they make up their gods (generally speaking, of course) –they tend to be Pantheists or Panentheists who view gods as human-created ways of relating to “the Divine”). If you’re looking for wisdom in your life, worship Athena; if you’re into engineering, Bridget or Vulcan might be more your style. The geekiness is built right in and it’s very rare for anyone to judge how anyone else chooses to practise (aside from the usual vegetarian vs. omnivore debates etc.). When I was a teenager looking for a religion, that’s the one I went with, and I still have fond memories.

  • Michelle

    I would like to point out that there are plenty of Christians who don’t let religion dominate their lives so much that they lose their own self direction. Moreover, there are those that live the by a Star Trek code of ethics. I’m not arguing superiority or inferiority, or that people treat it as reality – but they do extrapolate lessons from it as many do from religion while not necessarily buying into the more magical parts.

  • George

    It may be true that some Christians enjoy Christianity without letting it dominate their lives, but these are heretics. Christianity itself demands believers to make it the sole focus of their lives. It is an explicit requirement of the religion.

  • Liz the 1st

    People don’t base their life choices and laws on star trek. They don’t try and force people to watch the series and tell people who don’t like star trek that they will pay a horrible price for it.

    It’s completely different for many more reasons than I named.

    But I don understand where he’s coming from.

  • Demonhype

    As long as we’re talking about comparisons between religion and Star Trek, I’ll bite and post this (since I can’t believe no one else has jumped on it yet!)

    Star Trek becomes religion in the future

    Hope that works. I’m not used to linking.

    But everyone else said it all, about Star Trek not even pretending to be real. Let me just say this–if Star Trek in reality was like the Star Trek in that clip, then I’d have to view Star Trek fans in the same light as religious people. Until the Star Trek fans start enacting legislation to deprive non-Trek believers of rights (or life), micromanaging the private lives of other citizens to please the Will of Counselor Troi, and trying to rewrite textbooks so that James T. Kirk founded America for the Federation and some similar crap, I don’t really think it’s a fair comparison.

    Star Trek fans as they are now are simply an example of harmless fantasy. In that fantasy needs to remain in fantasyland to be harmless, and becomes dangerous the minute it starts spilling into reality and trying to destroy it.

  • Brian

    Faith is the problem. Anti-human, anti-progress, anti-female, anti-science, anti-reason, it is evil.

    And christ-tards aren’t even consistent about faith: they challenge me to PROVE my faith that canned beets make women bowlegged.

  • Arsenic is in some animal feed in the US. What does it taste like?

    The thing about religion is that is isn’t all bad. It just has enough bad bits in it that the whole thing is spoiled, like the Curate’s Egg. Take any of the good parts in isolation and it may seem like the whole is worth supporting. Take a step back though….

  • I think Worf is on to something. If we can’t get people to stop believing in the Abrahamic God(s) then perhaps there is another solution. If we can’t get them to outright believe that their God is dead, perhaps we could get them to believe that it has been trapped in a cage it could not get out of. Some kind of logical trap like whether It could create a rock so big it could not lift… There has bound to be a way. 😉 Although, then the incredulous would pray and hold endless vigils on trying to summon the help of archangels to free God from His prison… And we would have replaced one obnoxious behavior with another.

  • there’s a lot of problems with this argument but this one wins:

    “Maybe you can just like it enough for it to be good.”

    It’s impossible to like the concept of religion if you are fully aware and informed about its rules, tenets, logic contradictions and so forth.

    People who like the concept of religion are people who don’t know much about it, haven’t really analyzed it and cherry pick the bible or whatever holy book they follow.

  • Hugh

    Gene Roddenberry was an agnostic, and tried to slip Humanist messages into Star Trek, but the network execs overruled him. There was an episode where some alien pretended to be an ancient Greek god to terrorize the crew. After Kirk got the better of him, he said: “We no longer need gods.” The network forced a line of dialog to be added: “We have only one.”

  • Colin Fleisher


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