Born-Again 'Battlestar'

Drawing from Mormonism, Roman polytheism, and even Buddhism, the reimagined sci-fi TV series is steeped in religion.


08/15/2005 03:04:56 PM

Base on my knowedge of the story line to this show and The Book of Mormon are simular in context. If you want to look in to it, just ask a Mormon neighbor and ask them for a copy of The Book of Mormon and read it.


07/25/2005 11:42:46 AM

Well, let's not forget that probably the most defining of the 'ripening' factors there was in fact a heritage of religious intolerance. There may have been some pretty ripe things going on a long time, but the seeds had been planted and cultivated a long time before: Really, all it took was some economic collapse and a sense of thwarted destiny, for a cadre of manipulators to come along and get everyone supporting the later atrocities. Let's not forget they had sympathizers in America and England and elsewhere, too. (and, well, still do.) Ideologically.


07/25/2005 12:22:54 AM

Just two quick clarifications: by "ripe for conquest" I mean that there are other contributors that make us vulnerable for such conflicts to occur (a good example of that vulnerablility is Germany after WWI). Also, I used that language really to illustrate two points at once but I didnt mean to imply that i was equating individuals with entire groups of people under a religion.


07/24/2005 01:32:17 PM

Anyway, like any art, I think this can say a lot about who we are and what we think... Personally, I think it's cool to see the polytheists as the good guys for a change. The way Six makes the leap from the common assetion, "Monotheism is superior to polytheism, therefore, I'll portray the people I'm trying to kill as horrible and depraved, because they lack our purpose, which justifies everything we do." I think that sense of superiority and entitlement is certainly endemic in *our* culture: we're *raised* on the idea that comes from monotheism itself: that polytheism is less evolved than polytheism, which in turn is more evolved than tribal views of the world... Yet, it's not so.


07/24/2005 01:07:33 PM

Anyway, to steer back on topic, we see some of this in the way Number Six indoctrinates Baltar with the idea that because the humans are polytheists, that they're cruel and morally-inferior and warlike, (again, she causes him to have a 'vision' of Adama drowning an illusory baby,) Funny thing is, she just helped destroy twelve worlds' worth of people. And, in fact, in the very first scenes of the series, kills a human baby. Maybe to 'spare them the Apocalypse...' Of her own making.


07/24/2005 01:00:35 PM

Well, there is a difference between a religion as a whole, and especially a religion allied with governmental power, and 'individuals.' What I'm saying to dispute you is, we can historically observe *systemic* problems in monotheism, which not only *caused* wars, but really *changed* war itself: causing a lot of wars to be about *obliterating* other cultures, ...this is a challenge that many monotheists simply ignore, justify, or draw false equivalencies. The Crusades weren't about 'Christendom' being 'ripe to conquer, was actually, in large measure, organized because the warrior class was becoming a threat to centralized power in European kingdoms itself, and pumped up with religious intolerance of the very idea of Muslims holding Jerusalem.


07/24/2005 01:35:50 AM

Lastly, Id like to add that I dont see much of a differnce in people because they adhere to another religion (thats true for most religions anyway.) I could easily be them and they could easily be me if circumstances were different. I dont think religion, in and of itself, really can CAUSE people to do anything severe, although it can certainly influence. Bottom line is that I think people respond to religion differently for many reasons: the culture and times; the circumstances; an individuals personality (like some people are attracted to fire and brimstone, others to love and peace); etc. I think religion is more likely to change and evolve due to the above influences than the reverse, especially now in the present day. For a religion to spur on a conquest, that culture really has to be ripe for conquest. Know what I mean?


07/24/2005 12:55:29 AM

Cusidh, yes, it is true that the belief 'my God is the only God' probably is more likely to inspire wars based solely on religion. My opinion though is that most, if not all, conflicts that seem to be 'solely' about religion arent actually and that almost all idealogies have the potential to inspire conflict. I think very often there are other issues involved (such as displacement-which i touched on before with you) Regardless, in my post I was responding to the belief (in another post)that we would see or have seen less conflict under polytheism and then to the belief that polytheism wasnt 'imposed on their own people.' I dont believe either statements are true, so i said so. I never claimed that polytheists have engaged in conquering others for the sole reason of converting the masses or stopping another religion from growing or because it competes with their religion etc. But everything is so much more complicated than that anyway. Even the reasons for the crusades were more complicated.


07/23/2005 09:25:37 PM

Well, rea, there was certainly war in the ancient world, but the war wasn't *about* religion. Monotheism, by its own structure has a way of trying to obliterate what it sees as 'competition,' it's kind of peculiar to the idea "There is only one God.... Mine." Polytheist Romans suppressed the Druids, for instance, but not to suppress the *religion,* they suppressed them cause they were a potential organizing principle against their territorial 'divide and conquer' tactics in tribal lands. Still an empire, mind you, but not one justifying itself ...or being motivated to repression *based on* the notion having 'the one true God.' (cont below.)


07/23/2005 09:23:44 PM

It's common for Christians to say, "It's OK for us to do this, but others were 'just as bad," The thing is, the interesting contradiction aside... no, not really. Polytheism doesn't have any inherent structure that says 'You believing in other Gods Inherently Contradicts My Belief In One God Of Everything And Everybody, So It Must Be Stopped.' That concept's... kinda nonsense unless a monotheist comes along and introduces it. Not that polytheism necessarily means 'pacifism,' ...there was plenty to fight about in the world, it's just that this concept of aggressive 'holy war' for religion *itself* isn't really a part of the mindset.


07/23/2005 07:44:18 PM

This is in NO way an insult to polytheism -- but nnmns, polytheists were not any less likely to resort to violence and war (think about the Celts, Romans, Egyptians) Very few ancient religions were monotheistic, but the world wasnt any less violent! Also, conquering polytheists did impose their beliefs and try to squash other beliefs at times throughout history. Its just that now the three major religions in your culture are monotheistic it may seem that way to you (because theyre the majority.) There was a time when they were the minority and things might have seemed much different to you. In fact, its possible youd be arguing the reverse.


07/23/2005 12:23:08 PM

It is intriguing that the machines seem to be in touch with the god of this show and the humans not. I'm curious to see where it goes. Actually, what's intriguing is, the humans have *faith,* to varying degrees, whereas the machines have a *network* and illusions they spin. Like how Number Six basically *corrupts a corruptible man,* isolates him from other people, and creates the situations herself which cause Baltar to need to follow her God and act against her own people: in the last episode, for instance, getting Baltar attached to an illusory child, then spinning an illusion of the polytheist Adama drowning that child. (cont below)


07/23/2005 12:22:47 PM

If you compare that to, say, Starbuck with her religious items out of sight in her locker, currently on a sort of sacred quest back on Caprica to in fact, retrieve a sacred object of one of her Gods, and, the discussion she has sitting in her abandoned apartment there, there's an interesting juxtaposition there, ...who's getting religion and who, maybe, is gettng spiritual without really knowing it. :) The Cylons seem to be worshipping their own collective intelligence. The humans, ...have something going on with fate and story. An interesting question is, how much of this story are the Cylons manipulating, for whatever purpose, and how much is just happenning. :)


07/23/2005 12:08:52 PM

I don't think that the world is more peaceful with polytheism. Look at Ancient Greece or Rome? Ancient Egypt? China? Japan? The many tribal warfares in Africa? Okay, let's compare body counts over religion. Polytheistic traditions have come in many forms and under many circumstances throughout history. Considering our level of sophistication these days, one wonders what life would be like if religion had been allowed to evolve along with science. Vikings raiding (as well as trading and farming, let's not forget they weren't caricatures,) for gold is, well, something we use numbers for today, But the conquistadors who want to convert whoever in the world has the stuff they want, at whatever the human cost, well, they're alive and well today.


07/23/2005 10:03:11 AM

I didn't claim the world was without strife under polytheists, but at least they could allow other peoples' gods and presumably didn't go to war over religion or impose it on their own people. I remember being taught in school the strange idea that monotheism is an advance over polytheism. Only in the sense 1 is closer to zero than many are.


07/22/2005 03:09:39 PM

Believe me or disbelieve me, the answer to the problem of the world's corruption lies within each of us. Although many of us behave and desire to behave as good people, there is the temptation to either live for ourselves only or to misbehave. Some people can more easily withstand or overcome such temptations than others but there is some "potential" within all of us to be self-centered or even to turn towards evil. There are cases of relatively stable families in which one son or daughter goes completely "against the grain".


07/22/2005 03:04:58 PM

With regard to the comment that the world is better off with polytheists in charge; as far I know the last time I'm aware polytheists were in charge (or perhaps the term is pantheists?) they too were sailing the world in the name of war and pillage (ie: the Vikings). The problem isn't so much the religion as the people whom are either believers or presenting themselves as believers. For example the first Christian disciples were the persecuted; unfortunately, once the church became part of nations and were led by people more worldly than they should've been, there then came the possibility of high corruption. The Crusades and other tragedies in the church are a result of the corruption of Jesus' message combined with worldly desires and purposes. There are examples of corruption in Buddhism and Islam and probably every religion or belief system. I read of two Buddhist priests fighting each other over offerings or tithes.


07/22/2005 02:32:06 PM

Well, I learned a lot about the background of the show from this article. Didn't know about the Mormon connection. It has been an interesting show; Sci-fi shows to me are better while still mysterious and often lose interest as I learn more about the back story. E.g. Babylon 5. As I understand it, the world tends to be more peaceful where polytheists are in charge; certainly Christianity and Islam haven't done well. It is intriguing that the machines seem to be in touch with the god of this show and the humans not. I'm curious to see where it goes.


07/22/2005 01:03:30 PM

I think you're missing the point, Vasumitra. The author isn't just saying that whoo-boy! there's a sci-fi show with religion in it. She is saying that this is the most religiously relevent show on television right now. Sure, Star Trek and Stargate have their gods and polytheists, but Battlestar Galactica has a real theological thread to it, not just using religion as a set dressing. It really reflects the religous complexity of the lanscape today in a way that other shows aren't.


07/22/2005 10:03:59 AM

I think this is the best show on tv right now and am very relieved to find out that I wasn't just imaging all the religous themes! :) Ron Moore is even more brilliant than I thought.


07/21/2005 10:16:32 PM

Please note that a number of posts can now be found at Moved from Battlestar Galactica where members are welcome to discuss issues that are tangential to this article. Thanks! BeliefnetLion Beliefnet Community Monitor


07/21/2005 08:22:40 PM

And that obnoxious Iggy thing.


07/21/2005 07:50:35 PM

I'll tell you what I beleive. I believe the show spends too much time with deep, dark, angst ridden dialoge and character development and not enough time on blowing stuff up. The old show had tons more fighting in it, and even though the special effects were not nearly as good, it was cool. At least in the new incarnation of the show they have eliminated most of the campy stuff - I don't think I could stand to watch it if they hadn't gotten rid of the doofy little kid and his stupid robotic dog.


07/21/2005 11:00:07 AM

In all due respect "Babylon 5" was the far superior concept for religious content, which the "The Great Maker" acknbowledged in spite of his personal beliefs.


05/26/2005 03:42:13 PM

Ah, but Stref, I do love this show. It really doesn't beat anyone over the head with a religious message, (as a kid I loved the original show, too, despite its more Christian/Mormon content,) but, as a Pagan, it's really cool to see a show that presents a Pagan people in a *complex and human* light. Starbuck as a girl is *great,* and she's someone I can really identify with. Pagans love our stories and our heroes and our symbolism, and it doesn't have to be some Absolute Truth to have *meaning.* I see a lot of the television shows built on Christian symbolism and values, really, in just the same way you see this, though, it's fantasy and art, and you don't have to agree with everything.


05/26/2005 03:41:43 PM

(cont from above) One thing I like, (as an adult,) from the original show, really, is the background atmosphere of an innocent, optimistic sexuality (clearly a product of the 70s, true,) *and* a clear devotion to family, even adoptive family. The new show has the latter, the former, maybe not so much. Anyway, no, it's not *propaganda,* but it's actually pretty nice, as a change of pace. I'm kinda tired of folks like me being protrayed as the bad guys. :)


05/26/2005 04:02:33 AM

I am no longer so superstitious and legalistic as to need to view any work of art (story, movie, etc) as propaganda for a worldview. The man who may have been first to pronound such shallow nonsense (Francis Shaeffer) I now reject as the mediocrity he always was, and I will enjoy whatever fantasy i please without some puritan fundamentalist enjoying his own self righteous rage in fulminating at such enjoyment. .


05/26/2005 03:59:55 AM

yes, I know BattleStar Galactica is relgious, even false-relgious. So what? I enjoy a fantasy as nothing more than a fantasy. I want truth? I pray and go to the Bible. find truth in a fantasy of any kind? whatever for?