Religious Discourse in Lost and Battlestar Galactica

Yesterday I received my contributor’s copy of a new volume edited by Oklahoma City University’s Marc DiPaolo, Godly Heretics: Essays on Alternative Christianity in Literature and Popular Culture (published by McFarland). The book examines how storytellers, filmmakers, and philosophers have reinvented Christianity again and again, how they have explored new interpretations of the bible, and how they have struggled with questions such as free will and the existence of evil.

While this might strike some of you as an unexpected project for me to be involved with (I’m not what you might call a religious person), Godly Heretics provided the perfect opportunity to discuss something very much in my ballpark: Lost and Battlestar Galactica, two hugely popular science-fiction television series which both leaned on the interrogation of religious certainties as an integral, arguably essential element of their overall stories. While the theological inquiry proffered by these shows was often received and rejected without consideration for what the writers were trying to articulate, both Lost and BSG had profound messages to communicate about life, belief, community, and the dangerous tendency of organised religions to divide humanity into ideological factions rather than unite people into truly accepting societies.

My chapter tackles the divisive (to put it mildly!) reception of both series head on, exploring the dialogues about religion which they attempted to open with pop cultural audiences. I consider the purpose behind Lost and BSG’s use of heretical notions such as apathetic deities, resurrections that are not, and the deliberate collision of contemporary belief systems with archaic or esoteric forms of worship. While my chapter doesn’t shy away from the fact that a great many people were dissatisfied with the endings of these shows, it is an effort to demonstrate how the theological underpinnings of Lost and BSG are more coherent, and indeed more important, than generally accepted.

A fine volume, I intend sitting down with Godly Heretics over the next few weeks and spending time with the essays from the other contributors. In particular I’m looking forward to Grace Moore’s chapter on A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, and Groundhog Day, and Eric Michael Mazur’s chapter on Peanuts and The Far Side. There’s also work here on Kieslowski’s Decalogue, Kubrick’s The Shining (by another Irish contributor, Trinity’s Dara Downey), as well as chapters on Tolstoy and Nietzsche, Shelly, Whitman, Thomas Jefferson, and the varying representations of Jesus in literature. It’s a book which I think will interest a wide range of people, both academics and those with a more general interest in how Christianity has been portrayed over time, so please do order a copy for your local or university library.

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