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Sci-fi Visions of the Future

In addition to technology, another theme in science fiction that can be of interest to people of religious persuasions is futuristic imaginings.

Religions, particularly Abrahamic religions and perhaps most especially Christianity, are concerned with the future. Traditional religious futures (or eschatologies, to use an academic term) often focus on spiritual futures in an eternal heaven or hell or nirvana or pure land after death.

But religions also offer visions of transformation of life on Earth such as the Christian hope for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus. Exactly what this Reign of God or Kingdom of Heaven may be has certainly been open to widespread interpretation.

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Many futuristic visions in science fiction are also quite bleak. While a lot of science fiction takes place in outer space such as “Star Wars” or “Battlestar Galactica,” which actually both occur in the distant past, a lot of science fiction is set on our planet Earth, often in the not too distant future. In “Blade Runner” and the novel it is based upon, most of humanity who could afford to have emigrated from the environmentally destroyed Earth for other planets.

Animated features such as “WALL-E” or the Japanese animé, “Astro Boy,” depict an Earth buried in mountains of garbage. Many works depict futures wherein a large portion of the human race has been annihilated by any of a variety of causes leaving behind remnant bands to fight for survival such as in “Terminator,” “Children of Men,” “The Road,” “The Book of Eli,” “Mad Max,” “The Stand,” or “Canticle for Leibowitz.”

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Such visions of the future serve a variety of purposes including that of warning us how our actions today will influence our world tomorrow. This idea itself offers a way for religion to engage in science fiction since religion also challenges us to consider the future consequences of our present actions.

More than suggesting that fans of science fiction can benefit from religious practice, my intention here has been to suggest that practitioners of religions can benefit from engaging in science fiction on a deeper level than cinematic entertainment. Rather than a means of escaping reality into fantasy worlds, science fiction can bring all people to look more deeply at the issues facing us in our world today. And while religions have tended to focus on the past and on preserving traditions, science fiction can provide a way to look to the future.

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From The Urantia Book:

111:4.8 You cannot completely control the external world—environment. It is the creativity of the inner world that is most subject to your direction because there your personality is so largely liberated from the fetters of the laws of antecedent causation. There is associated with personality a limited sovereignty of will.

Since this inner life of man is truly creative, there rests upon each person the responsibility of choosing as to whether this creativity shall be spontaneous and wholly haphazard or controlled, directed, and constructive.

See also our study on the Kingdom of Heaven

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