Religion, World Order and Science Fiction

Religion, World Order and Science Fiction

Bahram Nadimi

Much has been written on the treatment of religion in science fiction. However, I personally find the idea of World Order in SF even more fascinating. I am by no means an expert, in fact Maya Bohnhoff—a friend who is one of the major contributors on this website—is, in real life a professional science fiction writer.  In this blog I will do an analysis of the similarities between the highly acclaimed Babylon 5 SF TV series and world order processes here on earth.

Also as a Bahá’í, I cannot but digress and touch upon the prediction of space travel by Abdul’-Bahá, son of the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.

The Bahá’í Faith and Space Travel

First, I’d like to talk about space travel in relation to my faith, the Bahá’í Faith.  I did a quick search and found some interesting quotations.  Here are some:

“O servant of Baha! Be self-sacrificing in the path of God, and wing thy flight unto the heavens of the love of the Abha Beauty, for any movement animated by love moveth from the periphery to the centre, from space to the  Day-Star of the universe. Perchance thou deemest this to be difficult, but I tell thee that such cannot be the case, for when the motivating and guiding power is the divine force of magnetism it is possible, by its aid, to traverse time and space easily and swiftly[1]”.


It is fascinating that the quote seems to talk about how to power spacecraft using the force of magnetism.

Babylon 5, the TV series

Even if one is not into the fiction genre, the TV series Star Trek is well known.  I watched Star Trek since I was 12 years old and probably have seen each TV episode many times over.  However ‘Babylon 5’ is not known outside the Sci-Fi universe.  I started to watch Babylon 5 by accident, but it did not take too long to realize that I had stumbled upon something special.   I won’t delve into the details of the overall plot too much but suffice it to say that the TV novel-Babylon 5- with an extraordinary story line, quality writing, character development, special effects and cultural sensitivity, made me conclude that it is not only one of the best Sci-Fi series, but one of the best TV shows ever (spoilers to come).

Babylon 5, United Nations in Space

Babylon 5 is a space station, a focal point for diplomacy, politics and commerce.  The first 4 stations were either destroyed or just disappeared.  Here on Earth, we similarly had the failed League of Nations, which did not prevent a second world war.  We now have the United Nations that is a stable international venue for the achieving political unity.

Religion in Babylon 5

The Creator of Babylon 5 J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), who is an atheist, had the foresight that religion is an integral part of life and cannot be ignored.  His sensitive and insightful portrayal of the role of religion in this series, adds to the already many layers of tapestry which is Babylon 5.  My hat’s off to JMS.

Martyrs of Peace

In B5 we have the strong willed commander John Sheridan and charismatic ambassador Delenn.  By the end of the series they both become legends and heroes.  Throughout the series they struggle with their motives, whether they are the Chosen, the One, and the Messiah.  In one of my favorite episodes, “Here comes the Inquisitor” an inquisitor is brought to the station in order to determine if they are ready for the war to come.  The inquisitor asks the same question over and over again “Who are you?”  When the answers are unacceptable, he administers shock and pain.  Only after Delenn offers her life to save Sheridan, does the inquisitor conclude that they are “the right people, in the right place at the right time”.

In another episode, “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”, it takes place in the future when the interstellar alliance is a done deal.  This powerful episode endeavors to show the impact of Sheridan and Delenn by historians 100,500, 1000 and one million years after the founding of the alliance.

Here on earth we have a different situation, we have Woodrow Wilson who gave every ounce of his energy to create the League of Nations, but unlike Sheridan of B5, he ultimately failed in his endeavor.  Wilson like Sheridan believed that he was chosen by providence. This “tragically unappreciated president” who, in the eyes of many historians, is not even in the list of top ten presidents, is considered to be a failed president and associated with the still born League of Nations.  Yet in the eyes of others, such as the former heads of the Bahá’i Faith, he is considered to be immortal, the originator of the process of global organizational development that will eventually lead not only to a lasting political peace but also the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. While Franklin D. Roosevelt and presidents after him will always be remembered for their contribution to the founding and enhancing of the United Nations, Wilson will, in my opinion will be considered to be one of the greatest presidents, standing on a higher pedestal than any other president in the twentieth century (see my blog on Woodrow Wilson and world peace)

The Founding of a lasting Peace

A lasting peace still eludes us, but we have the United Nations, an organization from which future structures of peace will be founded.  Similarly, B5 is considered to be an international interstellar venue for diplomacy. Study of history reveals a bold yet failed peace program, the 14 points of Woodrow Wilson that included the creation of the league. B5 goes a step further; in the episode “Rising Star” an interstellar alliance is formed to create and implement peace and prosperity after a war that nearly destroyed the galaxy. The powerful speech given by Delenn to convince earth to join the alliance, is eerily similar to the writing of the Bahá’i faith on this subject.

In science fiction such as Star Trek and the B5 TV series, we have a detailed account of processes needed to achieve peace.  Yet ironically the vast majority of people in the world including SF enthusiasts consider having a global alliance here on earth an impossibility.

To me peace is inevitable, and it is interesting that science fiction has tackled this concept on many occasions.  In B5 we had the unbearable pain of war paving the way for political unity and peace.  Here on earth we still have time for a peaceful transition; I pray that we will have the foresight to do the right thing.

============= References =============================
[1] Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 197

[2] Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 32

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11 thoughts on “Religion, World Order and Science Fiction

  1. I very much agree B5 is a high water mark in the process of thinking things through about life as we know it through scifi genre. Very nice indeed. It takes religion far more seriously than most scifi genre entries. Of course it lacks the unity in the religious sphere that the series explores in cultural unities, harmonies of civilization and individuality (and not just conflict.)

    Neat!

  2. I completely agree that SF has a lot to teach us, guide us, about problems in the here and now. Thanks for your thoughts and reflections on this topic.

    I have not watched the complete Babylon series yet. I remember early on though, that it stood out from other SF series given that the entire story line was written out ahead of time – at least the main threads. As such, the show can make more coherent and genuine statements, base on more realistic flows of plot, character development, etc. Compare this to Star Trek, which is constantly stretched to keep the show going, and where no one can die in a given episode.

    I am very interested in how the B5 series ends – but don’t tell me! I plan to watch the whole series. I find that much of SF has spiritual themes in it – because basically everyone craves spirituality at some level – but the majority of series fail to really make a powerful statement along these lines, because they are afraid to do so, and or don’t know what to say. A great example of this was the TV series LOST. I loved this show, because of its powerful spiritual themes (among other things), but ultimately it fell very short of making a powerful statement about the purpose of life or the nature of the Universe.

    Another show similar to B5 is Battlestar Galactica. It had a very high production value and excellent writing too. It too was largely written ahead of time. But ultimately it failed also to make a strong statement re: spirituality in its conclusion – like LOST. I was very disappointed in the ending too. I will have to let you know what I think of the B5 ending when I see it. But I’ll bet I’ll be disappointed again… :-(.

    Here’s to manifesting divinely inspired culture on this earth – in the now!

    -shh

  3. Bahram dear…
    Interesting topic as all your articles, it is also interesting that you mentioned that United Nation is trying to have foundation of world peace, but as long as it doesn’t stand on a religious point of view and so the spiritual part is missed through its decisions, then the world peace that all religions called for won’t be achieved, as peace should stand on both materialistic and scriptural balance.
    All the best,
    Randa

    1. Hi Randa

      Interesting you say that, Gordon Brown who is one of the great visionaries of our time, said that world order needs to have a moral foundation. It is heartening that leaders are recognizing this

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