End Times

People think the difference between religious and non-religious people is their belief in god. It’s not. It’s accompanying beliefs that have other kind of impacts.

For example: religious people know how the world is going to end. There’s going to be a redemption, a second coming, a reckoning.

That’s why the don’t have to worry about climate change, why they don’t make movies about nuclear or zombie apocalypses or alien invasions, or what happens when all the fuel is used up, or the world floods or the sun dies, or everything goes black.

They don’t have the same fears, they don’t lie awake genuinely worried about what their grandchildren will eat.

“Science fiction”, a comic-reading, TV-watching, video-gaming teenager once told me, “is the philosophy of today.” He should know. It’s how he thinks about what makes us human vs alien vs animal vs machine. It’s how he questions self, purpose, soul, morality, social contracts. Many of the working definitions we use to function break down when you enter space, introduce new species, when you can design aliens to be any combination of feeling, thinking, communicating, acting beings.

(He tried for a long time to teach me the difference between Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Stargate Atlantis and various other shows that all seamed to feature very idealistic humans in uniform, strangely-shaped, pointy-eared, scaly-skinned foes, and voluptuous music scores set to scenes of deep space.)

Religious people know the answers to those questions, and if they don’t, they start from the position that there is an answer, and a body of thought from which to decipher it. To a deep-space explorer, there is only possibility.

A few days ago the mother of teenager, who is no longer a teenager, told me that he told her that he no longer believes in god. A difficult thing to hear. I guess I knew it was coming. Can god compete with science fiction?

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