Scifientology

A few weeks ago I was in a Catholic holy shop that sold various things like Bibles, prayer cards, and religious statues and ornaments. I wasn’t buying anything, I was just there with Michael as he was browsing.

A week or two after that I was in a comic book store. I didn’t go in for anything in particular – I’m not a comic book store kind of guy – but I did browse for a bit. It struck me that the comic book store was similar to the holy shop. It sold books and magazines that people revere (in some senses at least) and had statues and ornaments that featured characters and scenes from those revered texts. In both shops, patrons bought these statues to decorate their homes with objects that had meaning to them.

Although I’m not massively into religious iconography, and I’m really not into comic book paraphernalia, I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of this. How people choose to spend their money and decorate their homes is entirely up to them. Indeed, seeing the parallel between religious and secular icons has helped me understand why people would want, say, a statue of Iron Man. The role that an icon of the Virgin Mary plays in the life of a Catholic is somewhat similar to the role a picture of C3PO plays in the life of an avid Star Wars fan.

I am a lightweight sci-fi fan and I do follow some of the relevant forums. Recently I saw another parallel between sci-fi and Christianity. Sometimes the discussions about sci-fi are full of passion. There are theories that hang on precise interpretation of particular words and phrases, put forward by fans who are convinced that they understood every last detail. There are theological ideas that hang on precise interpretation of particular words and phrases, put forward by Christians who are convinced they understand every last detail. Once again, I don’t see anything wrong with this.

Where it does get weird, and where I do have a problem is where fundamentalists (be they Christian or Scifientologist) encounter other fundamentalists with incompatible theories (or, to a lesser extent liberals like me who don’t feel they have to understand every last detail). That never ends well. In those circumstances people just can’t agree to differ, and things get nasty. I have sometimes wondered if people get into heated arguments because they like arguing (as in fighting not discussing) or maybe because the need to ‘win’ arguments for some reason or other. If you are that kind of person and you are Christian you can find your need to fight in religious forums, and if you are an atheist or agnostic you can have heated arguments over sci-fi or comic books or whatever. For some people arguments over Start Trek occupy the same function as arguments over the book of Habbakuk. Once again, the role that Christianity has in the lives of some is somewhat similar to the role that sci-fi plays in the life of its fans.

Neither is right, neither is necessary, neither is terribly much fun for me to be involved in. However, by and large, the religious arguments do have one advantage over the sci-fi ones. The participants in the former usually believe they are dealing with some form of objective truth. Participants in the latter should know it is just fiction.

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