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Is God Out There?

I suspect that if a project like this was launched, its managers would make a concerted effort to screen out anyone with religious beliefs, for the purposes of conflict avoidance but more importantly for the simple fact that the human heart naturally shuns God.
| Jan 25, 2017 | 1 comment |

Copyright SyFy

I recently watched a six-part miniseries called Ascension on Netflix. It was originally broadcast on the SyFy Channel in 2014 but like most SyFy shows, I watched it go by (can’t wait for season two of The Expanse, though). Ascension tells the story of a massive rocket ship that presumably took off from Earth in the 1960s as part of a secret NASA program that would send a group of incredibly attractive Americans on a one-hundred-year voyage to a nearby star system to colonize a new planet. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that things are not what they seem and we uncover many nefarious plots and deceptions.

There are only about six hundred people on board the ship, all selected for their skills and intelligence as well as their breeding potential (homosexuals were intentionally left out). Everything is very calculated and precise, because there is no help if something goes wrong. The ship is humanity’s best hope for survival, a chance for a brighter future on another world. Everything that is on and off the ship is quite deliberate.

It is for this reason that I was struck by one conspicuous absence: the total lack of religion on board the ship. No mention is made of religion of any kind, and there are no clerics or chapels or shrines or holy texts. The passengers on board the ship are not very diverse in the global sense of the word: they are all English-speaking Americans and largely white, which would make sense given the social attitudes of the 1960s. It would have been a bit odd (though politically correct) if the writers included a token Muslim or Buddhist among the expected ranks of Christians, but the writers avoided the issue altogether and abolished religion from this giant leap for mankind.

This got me wondering…What if such an endeavor actually took place? How would religion, specifically Christianity, fit in? Of course, God does not “fit in” with our lives; we fit in with Him, but the unbelieving world doesn’t know that, and I doubt it would make any special effort to include Him in its grand plans. I suspect that if a project like this was launched, its managers would make a concerted effort to screen out anyone with religious beliefs, for the purposes of conflict avoidance but more importantly for the simple fact that the human heart naturally shuns God.

But what if religion is included, either deliberately or by accident, since in any gathering of hundreds of people, you are certain to find several believers of numerous faiths? What would Christianity look like, a mere speck among the stars, only a few devoted believers keeping the flame burning? Would the unbelieving passengers be drawn to it or be driven from it? Spending your entire life encased in a metal tube, hurtling through the void of space at incomprehensible speeds must surely make one tremble at their own frailty and mortality. It is in times of despair and hopelessness that we are drawn closest to God, and while it may be a temptation to marvel at mankind’s achievement in sending a spore of itself to another world to sprout and grow, the infinite possibilities of disaster and instant death must weigh heavily on every mind and heart. I suspect that God’s grace would find fertile soil in those hearts and a starship chapel would be packed every Sunday.

I highly doubt that humanity will ever escape this rock but since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we carry God’s love with us wherever we go, even if it’s to the stars. And I would trust that no matter how hard men work to exclude Him and filter Him out, His light would still shine.

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Travis Perry
Editor

Mark, I think the secular world of science fiction without really thinking it through is trying to do the equivalent of a Jedi mind trick on the world when it comes to seeing the future as devoid of religion (as Star Trek pioneered doing.

“Human beings have no need of religion,” it says with a wave of the hand).

Of course, such strongly laid suggestion is not true. Humans DO seek God and I would predict that a 1960s project going into space would have to deliberately pick atheists to not have any believers on board…and if they carried with them in their libraries any copies of the Bible, there would be a chance that future generations would start to believe again. (And I doubt any US project from the 1960s would only pick atheists.)

In fact, I think a space journey like that would be a great place to portray a religious revival. I have imagined a story that contained a revival on a generational ship prior to reading your post, actually. Just haven’t written it yet…