If you're going to base a religion on the writings of a science fiction writer

Orac has mostly finished its diagnostic scan of its circuitry and is effecting repairs to prevent such silliness as this from recurring. This is a test post:

Given my recent post about what lunacy Scientology has led Tom Cruise into, I kept wondering why a religion based on the writings of a bad science fiction writer has become so popular. (And make no mistake about it, L. Ron Hubbard was an awful science fiction writer. I actually read Battlefield Earth--Lord knows why--and it barely reached the level of acceptable SF pulp. In a way, Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream seems almost to have been written as a parody of this very novel.)

Now, via Yet Another Weird SF Fan, I discover that I'm not the only one who's pondered this. But, better than that, someone has decided to do something about it. Yes, Hog On Ice has proposed a different SF writer upon whose writings to base a religion: Philip K. Dick.

Quoth Steve:
Tom worships L. Ron Hubbard, a bad science fiction writer. Whether he realizes it or not. Why not have a religion that worships a GOOD science fiction writer? I'm thinking of Philip K. Dick. We'll kick their ass.

Although I like YAWSFF's other proposed prophets, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein (although I've always been partial to Asimov over Heinlein myself), I had a couple of ideas myself. How about Alfred Bester? (OK, he probably wasn't prolific enough to provide an adequate quantity of writings upon which to base a religion, but he did write two of the best short novels in SF.) Another possibility: Arthur C. Clarke. His novel Childhood's End seems custom made to base a religion upon. Perhaps an even better possibility: Greg Bear. His Blood Music (very similar in theme to Childhood's End, just with a lot of modern molecular biology thrown in) and Darwin's Radio (plus its sequel Darwin's Children) seem sufficiently apocalyptic and the latter two propose the next stage of human evolution. Better yet, Bear isn't in his 80's, like Clarke. Perfect.

Any of these are orders of magnitude better SF writers than L. Ron Hubbard.

Of course, if we want a really obnoxious and cantankerous prophet who'll totally kick L. Ron's ass left, right, up and down, there's still always Harlan Ellison, isn't there?


  1. Ugh, no, not Greg Bear. He's an evolution crank.

  2. Hey, I'm with you on Harlan. In fact, most of the heavy lifting has already been done. He specifically characterized his Deathbird Stories cycle as "A New Testement of dieties for the computerized age of confontation and relevance. A grimoire and a guide. A pantheon of the holiest of holies for modern man...Worship in the temple of your soul, but know the names of those who control your destiny." It's ready to go. To quote the end of his Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes, "Some of these old games go way back."

  3. I'd like to see humanity move in the direction of the Culture being a lazy hedonist myself.

    I accept Iain M Banks as my personal Jesus.

  4. All of you heathens and heretics should be on your knees worshipping Stanlisaw Lem.

  5. Well Kev, I totally agree with you on the Culture and Iain M Banks.

    Another possibility would be Neal Stephenson, or rather maybe Hiro Protagonist.

    Philip K. Dick ? That would be a religion about therapy, certainly. To me, his works seem to be revolving around mental confusion, which, if I think about it, might in fact be very appropriate relating to religion...

  6. Kristjan Wager7/04/2005 7:54 AM

    I personally would be happy to worthship Zelazny or LeGuin. Delany could also be cool, if nothing else, then because it would send the far-right into fits.

    The late Damon Knight was also magnificiently cantankerous - he used to post in Readerville, where I hang out, and his post were always worth reading.

  7. I like the idea of either PKD or Banks, but what about the post-Singularitarian future of Charles Stross? He's even got his own AI god in place! Granted, it's kind of violent and scary, but so's Scientology.

  8. I'm not familiar with Charles Stross. I'd have to check him out. However, Stanislaw Lem has possibilities...

  9. I can only imagine Heinlein's reaction if someone started a religion based on his writings - LOL! You could power a small city if you hooked a generator up to his grave!

  10. I love Heinlein, but please, no religion based on him!

    Vonnegut? Cat's Cradle?

    David Brin - another evilutionist, and almost as good as Greg Bear.

    If we chose Clifford Simak, we'd all have to move to Wisconsin!

  11. I just remembered Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, the sf novel most closely resmbling a religious text.

  12. I was particularly taken with Kurt Vonnegut's Bokononism.

  13. I thought libertarianism was the religion of Heinleinites, though he's only a minor prophet compared to the Great and Glorious Rand.

    Harlan Ellison actually thought Hubbard's writing was pretty good, at least his early stuff. Deathbird Stories, though, as a religious text would produce the most nihilistic faith since the hashasheen.

    How about Madeleine L'Engle? She's got a body of autobiographical and philosophical writing to add to her allegorical fiction, and she's a decent human being.

  14. There is, of course, the obvious answer that you all seem to be missing: Frank Herbert. His books have pretty much everything a religion could want.

  15. I whole-heartedly support the Bester option. Not only for The Demolished Man and Tyger, Tyger (the original and superior title of The Stars My Destination), but for his brilliant short stories as well. If you haven't, pick up a copy of Virtual Unrealities, a collection of his shorts. Nearly every one left me astounded; in particular, everyone should read the seminal Fondly Fahrenheit. Plus, he wrote comics!

    However, I'm willing to accept Ellison. I like the idea of crankiness and bitter criticism as a sacrament.

  16. Aussie skeptic7/05/2005 12:59 AM

    I nominate William Gibson. If you disagree with me I'm sorry but you will all burn in CyberHell...

  17. Kristjan Wager7/05/2005 1:17 AM

    I second Aaron on the issue that everyone should read Fondly Fahrenheit - it's a brilliant short story.

  18. Re: William Gibson

    I thought I said a religion based on a good science fiction writer, not a way overrated science fiction writer. ;-)

    (Ducks and runs....)

  19. Guthrie says:
    I cant believe nobody has said Frank Herbert. WEll, ok, maybe you just end up without a religion, but it woudl be fun getting there. He certainly ahs a fairly coherent theme running through his works, and I have read all except one novel and most short stories.

    Charles Stross is pretty good, I havnt read "Singularity Sky" yet, maybe I'll buy a copy at the weekend. I even drink in the same pub as him, now, if only my friend could get his sword and sorcery epic published that would be 2 famous writers I would know.

  20. decrepitoldfool: Has no on here heard of The Church Of All Worlds? Done. It's sometimes said that that's what inspired Hubbard, he's supposed to have bet Heinlien that he could start a religion too, and HIS would turn a profit.

  21. Can I, as a Jr. skeptic, throw in J.K. Rowling?


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