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Pandeism and the world of Star Trek

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Does the world of Star Trek operate consistently with the theological model of Pandeism? Well, any longtime watcher of Star Trek will have observed the general lack of religiosity expressed by the main characters of that series, its heroes, the starship sojourning personnel of the United Federation of Planets. This is often observable as well with various of the other spacefaring species whom the Federation types contend with. This flows from the convictions of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who believed that there would in the future be no room in human society for what he perceived as the divisive peculiarities of religious systems. According to one of Roddenberry's closest collaborators, Brannon Braga: In Gene Roddenberry's imagining of the future, religion is completely gone. Not a single human being on Earth believes in any of the nonsense that has plagued our civilization for thousands of years. This was an important part of Roddenberry's mythology. He, himself, was a secular humanist and made it well-known to writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and superstition and mystical thinking were not to be part of his universe. On Roddenberry's future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it.Even after Roddenberry's death, the perpetuators of his work more or less held to that principle. Ronald D. Moore, Another collaborator, wrote, "Gene felt very strongly that all of our contemporary Earth religions would be gone by the 23rd century, and while few of us around here actually share that opinion, we feel that we should leave this part of the Trek universe alone."

Expressions of religious belief in Star Trek:

Commentary on theistic manifestations of religiousness in fact is largely confined to two types of beings shown in the shows and (to a much lesser extent) in the flicks.

First, there are the ignorant, non-spacegoing civilizations. These peoples are religious simply because of their primitive gullibility and impressionability, and this is highlighted by the fact that such planetbound primitives are as likely as not to attribute godhood or a like level of worshipfulness toward any wayward Earth-human astronaut who crashlands in their vicinity. Though not necessarily focused on the fickleness of faith, in "A Piece of the Action" an entire world models its behavior on 1920s gangsters based on a book left behind by Earthers who went missing on that planet a century ago. The book is explicitly considered "holy" by the tommy-gun-toting terrestrials. Another episode, "Patterns of Force," sees a visiting Starfleet professor able to convince an entire planet to emulate the Nazi model (though he meant only to capture the efficiency of that system, its proponents end up recreating the genocidal aspects as well). Indeed, wherever a group of primitives is shown to worship a godlike source of power, or even a powerful being claiming to be a god, it is always shown to be something scientifically explcable and disposable.

This leads into the second, for there are as well various superpowerful beings who often masquerade as deities. In "Who Mourns For Adonais," the Greek God Apollo shows up and, in addition to displaying his various powers of growing to a massive size, grasping an entire starship in his projected grip, and shooting lightning bolts from his fingertips, reveals that the ancient myths were true in a manner of speaking -- for he and his kind visited Earth centuries before and inspired humanity to its belief in gods. Notably, Captain Kirk hints at a continuing monotheism, declaring to Apollo, "Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate." But although a deity from a now extinct religion is used here, the implication is inescapable that the miraculous powers inspiring modern religions may similarly have been simply the mundane abilities of advanced extraterrestrials. And, beyond Apollo Star Trek featured other entities such as the superpowerful Organians, Trelane (aka "The Squire of Gothos"), the Q continuum, and the entity claiming to be 'God' in "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (but who apparently needs a starship to escape the planet he occupies). Trelane and the Q (especially given fan speculation and even an official novel marking Trelane as a wayward Q) certainly seem to have more than sufficient power to pull off every miracle ever reported on Earth -- even the creation of Earth itself -- reinforcing the possibility that the 'old' religious beliefs of man are simply the toyings of superevolved alien beings.

There are exceptions to these patterns of belief, if roughly hewn. The Klingons are shown in the later series to have a complex religious structure, including belief in an afterlife for heroes, something similar to the Norse idea of Valhalla. Much of the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" series involved the intrigues of Bajoran religion, which was driven by the presence of an intergalacticwormhole near Bajoran space, which humans considered an anomaly and Bajorans accredited with prophecy-fulfilling theological significance. There are, as well, nontheistic manifestations of religion and religion-like thinking. Vulcans, who are most strongly characterized by their adherence to logic, are shown to have system of ritual and symbolism which is described by outsiders as 'Vulcan mysticism,' and which entails some portion of their population being engaged in clearly priestlike and monk like rules. And, there appear some symbolic vestiges, at least, of the old Earth beliefs. In the closing scenes of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" Montgomery Scott pounds out "Amazing Grace" -- traditionally a Christian hymn -- on the bagpipes to mourn the death ofSpock. Occasional episodes showed presumptively Hindu female personnel adorned with the bindhi on the forehead, traditionally a symbol of that faith. But both of these examples might simply be secular carryovers from traditions no longer carrying religious import, as with the modern giving of candy on Halloween.

Metaphysical phenomena in Star Trek:

But the question here need not rely upon what is believed by denizens of the world of Star Trek. For as has been noted before, many things are or have been believed in human history which are necessarily untrue, oftimes simply absurd. Star Trek is somewhat extraordinary even relative to other science fiction series (which are often simply about action going on with cool technology and alien races) in that Star Trek is fundamentally about an intense pursuit of knowledge itself. The very reason we've ventured forth to the stars there is to learn scientific truths (which, it has been observed before, are compatible with a pandeistic Universe). But within the Star Trek world there are phenomena at play which do seem to require a metaphysical explanation. Beings of pure energy exist. Amongst several races in this Universe, fairly physics-defying exhibitions of telepathy -- instantaneous, and faster than light across vast distances -- are displayed. Between the second and third films, it is revealed that Spock was able to transfer his entire personality and body of knowledge into McCoy's brain with a few seconds of face-touching mind meld action. And in these instances, the Universe of Star Trek operates consistently with the principles of a pandeistic Universe.

Indeed, Pandeism would go far to explain the characteristics of the world of Star Trek. Earthly monotheisms do not do so well in this regard, for they tend to claim universality, even as the world of Star Trek is one with many civilizations far removed from Earth which have consequently never received the revelations which would be expected from an involved universal deity. But Pandeism especially predicts that there ought to be many intelligent civilizations, and that they would find some way to technologically overcome the distance between the stars so as to be able to interact, and generate the infinite potential of diversity of experiences to be found in such interactions -- the experiences for which our Creator is theorized to have set forth our Universe. Even the most godlike beings of Star Trek's reality -- beings which would have no difficulty convincing population such as the ancient Earth civilizations to worship them as the 'all-powerful' deities of our religious traditions -- are not gods in any divine metaphysical sense, but are simply very advanced products of the same sort of process of evolution and technological advancement as has brought man to his present point. And it is indeed within the expectations of Pandeism that our Universe promises to bring us however much further.

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