Who Do You Blame in a Science Fiction World?

Blaming someone for something is part of human nature. Domestic Batterers blame their victims. Evangelists blame the devil, or sometimes God for bad things happening. Even Christians often blame God, remarking “How can God let this happen.” In fact, when you look at it, God gets a lot of blame these days.

But what if you lived in a world with no God? Like those of science fiction, where life evolved from the Big Bang and there was no Supreme Deity behind everything. Where there were no ghosts, no devil. Just people and random chance.

Who would you blame?

You could always go the L. Ron Hubbard/Scientology route and claim the ghosts of aliens infiltrated your body and made you behave a certain way. But that seems a very odd argument to argue- there are ghosts, but no God?

I wonder what people in those universes without a God or Devil must do. Do they chalk everything up to bad luck? How do they even accept Karma or Luck as real when in their fictional universe there are no otherworldly beings secretly manipulating mankind’s fate?

I find this to be a fascinating issue. Science Fiction has often portrayed worlds where there are “Gods” and that they manipulate events. Like the Aesir from Norse mythology. But isn’t that really Fantasy? True, hard core Science Fiction would exist without any deification, according to most SF fans. Science and religion can’t seem to get along as another of my articles, and its comments, recently proved.

So where do people in those fictional worlds draw solace from, if they can’t blame a higher power?

On the Planet of the Apes, the lawgiver isn’t a deity. So what did the mental monkeys think about human Taylor coming along, talking and mucking things up? (Classic POTA, that new stuff is crap). Who could they blame?

Even Star Trek likes to eliminate deities from their reality. The Next Generation showed us that man wasn’t created by God, but by some ancient race that left blueprints in our DNA. So if the citizens of the Federation have truly become liberated from religion, who do they blame? When some crazy Romulan destroys the entirety of Vulcan, who the do the logical Vulcans blame for such a terror? Surely none of them question “How can God let this happen?!” Because they surely find the concept of God illogical.

I suppose this points out a serious flaw in science fiction. The omission of religion. While an author can declare their fictional universe to be free of religion, it’s not very realistic to depict peoples who don’t call upon, or blame, a higher power when the going gets tough.

I find it humorous that so many authors use calamitous events to “prove” in their fictional worlds that there is no God, rather than just having characters point out “things could be worse”- an implication that a god might have intervened after all.

Of course, another alternative would be for characters to own up to what they do. Or to properly place blame where it lays- on the hands of the guilty. Instead, enlightened civilizations are often depicted as making excuses for the guilty- that they are products of their environment, that they were abused. Very seldom do we get, even in fiction, villains who just chose to be evil for evil’s sake. Instead, there seems to be a trend to make villains likeable to the audience.

As we eagerly await the release of the next epic Star Trek film, I wonder how the villain will be portrayed. I wonder who will be blamed for the terrible actions he is going to unleash on the Federation.

I also wonder if God likes science fiction, because for once, He’s not getting blamed for everything.

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  1. Leave it to CE to stir up some hot button issues. Another good post. I respect where you’re headed with the post while not fully jumping on board with all of the conclusions.

    I don’t really think most fiction that I read, in general, is looking for someone to point the finger of blame at, rather they are telling a story. Sure a crime novel may look for the guilty party, but rarely in a cosmic sense.

    Most good fiction is tightly written including only those things critical to the story. In most of the stories I read religion is not fundamental to the outcome of the story.

    GRRM in his Game of Thrones series has many religions, but they are critical to the outcome of the story. They help illustrate the differences between people, and they highlight the hinted at greater story of light vs darkness. They also serve as an agent to explain some of the “magical” powers some characters have. They also leave the reader wondering who is the chosen one of the Lord of Light and who are pretenders.

    CS Lewis for instance does not have religions portrayed in his Narnia Series, but you can purchase his books at a Christian bookstore.

    For me looking for someone to blame this whole mess on is a bit pointless. Spinning in circles looking to cast blame is only a conveinence to avoid responsibility. People do what they do for the reasons they do them. Most religions teach freedom of choice. Nature does what it does through the cycles of nature.

    I enjoyed your post and look forward to the next one.

    BTW who can I blame for this May snowstorm?


  2. I tend to think that specific religions may change, but it’s very unlikely that we will ever really be without religion in general.

    Of course, a fair number of science fiction novels include something in the part that directly leads you into questioning the existence of god. For instance, Prometheus is about searching for aliens who created us. However, it was pointed out that even that doesn’t really mean there is no god, because the next question is, who created those aliens? It’s an eternal question. What created the thing which made us? If you answer that question, then you can ask the question again.

    Good post.

  3. This is a very insightful rumination, CE. The absence of religion from science fiction is one of those constants that one almost takes for granted because it’s so universal. I think many sf societies raise humanity itself to the degree of a god, so when things go wrong, one only has to blame the other guy.

    Another possibility is that a lot of sf doesn’t actually ask the big questions that force us to consider God’s existence (e.g. why are we here? Why does evil exist? Why did this very bad thing happen to me?) Science fiction isn’t much for whys. It’s all about hows.

    Incidentally, I find it fascinating that the idea of blaming God for things is your door into this question (as opposed to, say, thanking God). It’s ironically true, and amusing to reflect on: many people’s first genuine encounters with God do start with blaming Him for something! What ungrateful creatures we are.

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