Star Trek and Sacred Ground
Edited by Dr. Jennifer Porter
|Dr. Jennifer Porter
Dr. Jennifer Porter, Religious Studies, went where no (wo)man had gone before and co-edited a book on the representation of religion in the many volumes of the Star Trek epic.
For many, trekking to the TV for their daily dose of Captain Kirk and the crew is something of a religious experience. In Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion, and American Culture, Dr. Porter and the other contributors looked at religion itself in Star Trek.
Dr. Porter has had a long, but somewhat mixed, relationship with Star Trek. "I'm a fan of the show, but I'm not a fan generally of the way Star Trek portrayed religion. I would often get annoyed at the way religion was treated in the show," she said. "The combination of those two things really inspired the desire to look at just what the show says about religion and whether that has changed."
And changes there have been.
"God got thoroughly trounced repeatedly in the original series," she remarked; "there is a very clear sense that religion is bad for humanity." The situation with Star Trek: The Next Generation was not much improved, but Deep Space Nine "was the first to present religion in a somewhat positive light."
Nonetheless, the improvement was slight: "it's a positive change, but at the same time it's a bit problematic because religion is apparently only OK for aliens –— humans aren't religious ... there's always a scientific explanation for the same set of data. (The creators) always juxtapose the religious interpretation to the scientific."
"Voyager is the first Star Trek series where a human being is shown to be religious. That is again one step up from Deep Space Nine," Dr. Porter noted about the most recent addition to the Star Trek family.
Even here, broader cultural dynamics are at play, as the creators of the show seemed to still exclude non-aboriginal peoples from the right to be religious. One of Porter's articles in the book – (Re)Covering Sacred Ground: New Age Spirituality in Star Trek: Voyager – examines these issues in greater detail.
The book itself consists of three main parts. In the first part, the contributors examine how religion has been presented in Star Trek. The second is dedicated to an examination of themes derived from religion that have permeated the various series. Finally, the articles in the third section take a look at religious attitudes and characteristics amongst "Star Trek fandom."
[Image of Book Cover]