Sunday, 28 December 2014

Aliens And God

Would it be advisable to introduce Terrestrial religious ideas to extraterrestrials who did not already entertain similar ideas? In science fiction, the answer to this question depends on the religious beliefs of the author.

CS Lewis' Elwin Ransom, stranded on another planet, wonders whether he should begin the "religious instruction" of the natives. When they say that Oyarsa must decide his case, he hypothesizes that Oyarsa is either a ruler in a palace or a god represented by a priest in a temple. To test the latter idea, he asks whether Oyarsa made the world and receives a shocked response. Do the people of Thulcandra (Earth) not know that Maleldil made and still rules the world? Where is Maledil? He is with the Old One. Where is the Old One? It is not his nature to be in any place... They are telling Ransom what he had been going to tell them.

In a short story by Harry Harrison, literal-minded extrasolar beings are puzzled because a newly arrived missionary preaches the omnipresence of God whereas the established trader, when asked, denies the existence of God. How to resolve this contradiction? Crucify the missionary to see whether he is raised up... And thus learn guilt.

In Poul Anderson's "The Master Key," the Cainites treat another intelligent species as domesticated animals. In their world-view, every intelligent being is either a master or a slave and escaped slave would be dangerous. One of van Rijn's men explains the idea of God but, when asked, denies that God or anyone else ordered the traders to come to Cain. The traders had a master but no longer obey him. They are escaped slaves and must be attacked without warning. (Addendum: I have expressed that slightly wrongly and will return to it in a later post.)

In Anderson's Technic History, two Wodenites convert to Terrestrial religions. See also here.

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