Well That About Wraps It Up For God

Religious Motives in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts


Thesis (M.A.), 2007
101 Pages, Grade: 1,3

Excerpt

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Classification of The HG
2.1. A Short Introduction to Science Fiction as a Literary Genre
2.2. The HG as (Mock-) Science Fiction

3. Religious Themes in Science Fiction
3.1. The (Non-) Existence of God in Science Fiction
3.2. Creation of the World and Mankind in Science Fiction
3.3. Eschatology and Death in Science Fiction
3.4. The Meaning of Life in Science Fiction

4. For Zarquon’s Sake or The HG and Religion

5. Does it Look as if the Universe is in Very Good Hands? or God in the HG
5.1. The (Non-) Existence of God
5.2. Humanoid Supreme Beings
5.3. Machines as Gods
5.4. The Guide as Holy Book and God
5.5. False Gods
5.6. God’s Final Message to His Creation

6. The Great Green Arkleseizure or Creation in the HG
6.1. The Creation of Life
6.2. The Making of Earth
6.3. The Creation of Mankind by Ancient Astronauts
6.4. Artificial Universes

7. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe or Eschatology & Afterlife in the HG
7.1. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
7.2. The End of the Earth(s)
7.3. Afterlife
7.4. Immortality
7.5. Reincarnation
7.6. The Death of Arthur Dent

8. 42 or The Meaning of Life
8.1. The Meaning of Life in the Five major Religions
8.2. Insignificance of Man
8.3. Everybody’s Quest for Answers
8.4. Aliens – Bringers of Knowledge?
8.5. The Quest of Arthur Dent
8.6. Answers
8.7. The Dangers of Knowledge

9. Conclusion

10. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The story of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the story of Life, the Universe and Everything. Initially broadcasted as a radio series on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 it was such a success that its author, Douglas Adams, eventually ended up not only publishing the story with a slightly modified plot in book form but also creating four sequels until 1992.[1] The story was taken up by other media which resulted in the creation of a TV series in 1981, stage shows, a movie in 2005, a computer game, comics, towels and a lot more. Today the ‘H2G2’ has reached a cult status that few other Science Fiction works boast[2].

The plot of the HG is mostly confusing and full of curious ideas wherefore a complete summary is not possible at this point. However, the following paragraph will give the unacquainted readers an idea of the story.

“There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are: Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?” (Hitch: 139; emph. by Adams) The Trilogy in Five Parts is the story of Arthur Dent and his quest for the answers to these problems. After the destruction of Earth the only surviving Englishman Dent hitchhikes through the width of time and space, finds out the answer to the ultimate question, dines at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, saves the world, falls in love with a woman whose feet cannot touch the ground, is worshipped by birds and sandwich-lovers, is enlightened by God’s final message to His Creation and finally meets his fate on STAVROMULABETA. The ape-descendent Dent is accompanied by Ford Prefect, owner of a copy of the most remarkable book ever to come out of the Great Publishing Houses of Ursa Minor Beta: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – an encyclopaedia that sells so well mainly because it has the words DON’T PANIC written in large friendly letters on the cover. Other companions are Marvin, the paranoid android, Trillian, the sole surviving woman from Earth and Zaphod Beeblebrox, the former Galactic President.

The author of this humorous work of Science Fiction was born as Douglas Noel Adams on March 11th 1952 in Cambridge, UK, and died on May 11th 2001 in Santa Barbara, California. Whilst studying English in Cambridge he joined the Footlights Society, a comedy group which is also closely connected to Monty Python. Adams’ initial career aspiration was to become a comedian yet he seemingly never displayed a great talent as an actor so his plans to follow the paths of Monty Python’s members had to be changed. Before the breakthrough with the HG he worked for the BBC where he created, among others, some episodes of Doctor Who. After his first success he worked as freelance writer and published besides the HG series the Dirk Gently -series and non-Science Fiction works like The meaning of Liff; The Deeper Meaning of Liff and Last Chance to See[3].

Since this thesis will analyse spiritual themes in his work, it is useful to point out Adams’ attitude towards religion. Adams was brought up as a Christian. His father was even “[…] studying for a postgraduate degree in theology with a view to taking holy orders […]” (Simpson: 7) but gave up eventually. As an adolescent Adams was Sacristan for some months and received a special Prize for Service in chapel. His interest in religion continued and “[…] on the strength of an essay on the revival of religious poetry, he won an exhibition to study English at Cambridge” (Gaiman: 8). However, after he finished school, Adams turned away from religion and became a radical Atheist: “If it turned out that there was a god, I would feel I’d been the victim of a monumental confidence trick, […] I’d feel that the universe was playing silly buggers. I’ll wait and see but I won’t lose any sleep over it” (Adams quoted in Simpson: 243). In Winter 1998/99 Adams gave an interview to The American Atheist on the subject of religion. An extract will leave no question concerning Adams’ personal ideas about the subject:

I really do not believe that there is a god. […] I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. […] I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view.[…] There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. [However,] I am fascinated by religion. (That’s a completely different thing from believing in it!) It has had such an incalculably huge effect on human affairs. What is it? What does it represent? Why have we invented it? How does it keep going? What will become of it? I love to keep poking and prodding at it. (http://www.americanantheist.org/win98-99/T2/silverman.html)

This suggests that in contrast to other Science Fiction works there will not be any attempts to convert the readers of Adams’ work to Christianity or any other religion but that there will be reflections on religious themes in the HG.[4]

It is the aim of this thesis to analyse appearances of religious motives, ideas or traditions in the five novels that belong to the HG-trilogy and to interpret their function in the works.

In order to provide a base for an evaluation, the volumes have to be classified in terms of belonging to a literary genre. Adams’ works will be included in the literary category of Science Fiction (SF), which will be essential for the functional interpretation in the subsequent analysis as well as for the comparison with other SF novels.

Since religion is a popular subject among SF authors, the presentation of certain themes will be split into four categories which will recur in the analytical part. First of all, the question of the existence of a god will be treated, followed by the representation of creation myths. Thirdly, there are different versions of eschatological ideas to be considered and finally, the quest for the meaning of life will be looked upon.

Subsequent to the theoretical part, religious motives in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be studied according to the mentioned categories. Eventually, the results of this analysis will be summarized in a conclusion.

There may be a remote chance, that the attentive reader of this thesis will “‘[n]ever again […] wake up in the morning and think: Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don’t get up and go to work? For today we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe and Everything!’” (Hitch: 149; emph. by Adams)

“But there is a certain amount of uncertainty about it” (Life: 193-4).

2. Classification of The HG

2.1. A Short Introduction to Science Fiction as a Literary Genre

Definitions of the literary genre generally known as Science Fiction vary from helpless generalizations like this: “[…] a book appears on the SF shelves if the publisher thinks they will maximize their sales by labelling it as such” (Lance Parkin quoted in Roberts 2006: 2) to exclusive oversimplifications like: “Science Fiction befaßt sich mit Wissenschaftlern, die in der Zukunft wissenschaftlich arbeiten” (Asimov 1984: 17).

Concerning the origins of Science Fiction there exists a little more unanimity. Despite a general agreement that the term was first used by Hugo Gernsbach in 1929 in the first issue of the ‘pulp’ magazine Science Wonder Stories[5], a great disagreement prevails in regard to the forerunners of today’s SF. De Camp even included ancient works like Aristophanes’ The Birds or Plato’s Atlantis.[6] At large two names are mainly present in this context, those of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. “Nach Asimov ist Verne der erste professionelle Science Fiction-Schriftsteller – er nahm Leser mit zu Reisen in entfernte Gegenden oder auch bis zum Mond, neu an seinen Reisegeschichten war, daß sie mit Hilfe wissenschaftlicher Errungenschaften zustande kamen, die noch keiner ausprobiert hatte” (Asimov 1984: 19-20).

Scientific knowledge broadened widely during the nineteenth century and with it developed not only the self-confidence in human creation, but also a fear of certain technological devices and the change of paradigms. Especially after World War II science was no longer seen as mainly a blessing for mankind but largely as a threat to the human race. Therefore Science Fiction grew more and more popular, “[sie] spiegelt nämlich die Zwiespältigkeit der Lebenserfahrungen, die Menschen mit den modernen empirischen Wissenschaften und der ihr entspringenden Technologie machen, wider” (Hauser 1998: 19). The ‘Golden Age’ of SF in the 1940s and 1950s was followed by the so-called ‘new wave’ in the 1960s and 1970s when the main focus shifted from science to social sciences and mankind. The science fiction writers “[…] questioned the values of man’s society from non-materialistic, ethical and moral standpoints; examined man’s relationship with his environment and man’s relationship with man; and, in very large measure, they were imbued with psychological and metaphysical overtones” (Farmer: 238) After the end of the ‘new wave’ SF grew less and less palpable. “The genre which differed from the world in order to advocate a better one – or the genre which spanielled at heel the sensationalist virtual reality world we will now arguably inhabit till the planet dies – had become by 2000 [...] an institution for the telling of story” (Clute : 65-6, emph. by Clute).

This can be seen not only as a loss of identity but also as a chance for new approaches. Basically every thought and idea can be put into a SF setting, which is why the genre provides an ideal frame for dealing with the ultimate questions of ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’.

2.2. The HG as (Mock-) Science Fiction

Obviously different approaches have to be made to define of Science Fiction. Adam Roberts (Science Fiction: The New Critical Idiom, 2006) names first of all the formalist approach, which is “the attempt to draw out, from a wide range of specific examples of SF (novels, stories, films and so on), the underlying grammar or essence that they all share“(Roberts 2006: 2) The first of three different formalist definitions analysed by Roberts was made by Darko Suvin in 1979:

[Science Fiction is] a literary genre or verbal construct whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition and whose main device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment. (Suvin quoted by Roberts 2006: 7-8)

To be more precise, “Suvin asserts: ‘SF is distinguished by the narrative dominance or hegemony of a fictional ‘novum’ … validated by cognitive logic’” (Roberts 2006: 9). If this definition of SF would be accepted, then the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could not be incorporated in the genre. Although the work mentions quite a few ‘nova’ it cannot be said that they firstly dominate the works and secondly are seriously validated by cognitive logic:

The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood – and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess’s undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the Theory of Indeterminacy. (Hitch: 74; emph. by Adams)

The second definition by Robert Scholes stresses not so much the science, but “[…] the metaphorical strain of SF: [SF is any] fiction that offers us a world clearly and radically discontinuous from the one we know, yet returns to confront that known world in some cognitive way” (Roberts 2006: 10).

If this definition is applied to the Trilogy, the latter can be clearly identified as SF. Most clearly is this confrontation visible in a study of the characterization of the Vogons, an alien race that Arthur Dent encounters shortly after the destruction of his home planet. On Earth, Arthur’s house was destroyed to make space for a bypass, him being only aware of the plans one day before the demolition:

‘But, Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.’

‘Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.’

‘But the plans were on display’

‘On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.’

‘That’s the display department.’

‘With a torch.’

‘Ah, well the lights had probably gone.’

‘So had the stairs.’

‘But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?’

‘Yes,’ said Arthur, ‘yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard. ’ (Hitch: 7, emph. by Adams)

Shortly after this conversation the Vogon spaceships arrive and announce the demolition of the earth because of the construction of a hyperspatial express route. This is what the G uide has to say about the Vogons:

They are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy – not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters. (Hitch: 46)

Obviously, the Vogons belong to a world utterly different from our own but they exhibit a strong likeness to the bureaucracy here on earth and hence confront the readers with the world they know. The most significant missing point in Scholes’ definition are the scientific devices that are typical for Science Fiction. He avoids this flaw by terming SF not as Science Fiction but as Structural Fabulation.

The third definition by Damien Broderick is the most complex but also the most satisfactory one:

SF is that species of storytelling native to a culture undergoing the epistemic changes implicated in the rise and supercession of technical-industrial modes of production, distribution, consumption and disposal. It is marked by (i) metaphoric strategies and metonymic tactics, (ii) the foregrounding of icons and interpretative schemata from a collectively constituted generic ‘mega-text’ and the concomitant de-emphasis of ‘fine writing’ and characterisation, and (iii) certain priorities more often found in scientific and postmodern texts than in literary models: specifically, attention to the object in preference to the subject. (Roberts 2006: 11)

This is not the place for going into detail of every part of this definition but some of the key themes will require a closer investigation.

What Broderick terms the ‘mega-text’ of SF is basically everything that the SF-fandom recognizes as Science Fiction. Belonging to the accordant novels, movies and other media are certain icons or nova like robots, starships, time-machines, travel over large distances and the like. Certainly there are a lot of these nova to be found in the HG, for instance the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s robots and computers with Genuine People personalities or spaceships like the Heart of Gold with The Infinite Improbability Drive.

“De-emphasis of ‘fine writing’ and characterisation” on the one hand refers to SF as a popular genre. For sure, the HG is not generally seen as ‘high art’: “Some of us grieved when Douglas Adams came along with his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and grew rich doing the Sheckleyan things which appeared to keep Sheckley poor” (Aldiss: 326-7). On the other hand, this does not mean that SF in general represents less ‘serious’ writing but rather that usually the content and concept are foregrounded: ”A typical science fiction novel has little space for deep and studied characterisation, […] not because writers lack the skill but because in the final analysis the characters are not people, they are pieces of equipment […]” (Roberts 2006: 12). This aspect is well applicable to the HG. All the main characters do not undergo a profound development. For example Arthur Dent, who travels the universe for eight years but still has not learned a lot about it and is always longing for Earth.

All the journeys undertaken by the characters have the purpose to convey ideas. This might well be the crucial point of defining SF, since Robert reaches the conclusion that “[…] implicit within these three definitions is a sense of SF as a symbolist genre, one where the novum acts as symbolic manifestation of something that connects it specifically with the world we live in, the attempt to represent the world within reproducing it in its own terms” (Roberts 2006: 14, emph. by Roberts). Roberts stresses the importance of difference in SF, a difference, that enables to draw parallels between the SF-settings and our own world.

There are other approaches towards defining SF, for example structuralist ones. However, they do not stress the difference but the conformity of SF novels and a work like the HG would not be seen as part of SF by the according critics:

The case is similar to a joke from Douglas Adams’ very popular SF radio serial The Hitch-Hiker’s guide to the Galaxy (1978-80) – another text not SF by Westfahl’s definition – in which the fabulous prosperity of a certain planet is described as so comprehensive that ‘nobody was really poor; at least, nobody worth mentioning’. This runs the risk of opening up a sort of critical binary: ‘SF classics that the critics include as respectable, and material that is ignored as not really SF, or not worthy of critical attention. (Roberts 2006: 23, emph. by Roberts)

The discussions about what is to be defined as Science Fiction will probably go on for an undeterminable amount of time. Anyhow, the classification of the HG is based on the mentioned definitions given by Roberts, since they represent the latest and most profound results of the literary approach to the genre.

Moreover, there is common agreement between aficionados, that SF is whatever the fandom recognizes as such. Adams’ work is without question seen as Science Fiction by the majority of its readers. The Anthology at the End of the Universe names it “[…] the greatest comic series in the history of science fiction” […]” (Yeffeth: cover), Adams has an entry in the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers (Currier: 2) and one will find the Hitchhiker trilogy always on the bookshelves labelled ‘Science Fiction’.

However, the HG is not only SF but also “[…] a whimsical, sometimes cutting, satire on science fiction, life, the Universe and indeed everything” (Hanlon: 2). If a reader thinks of the first time he encountered the HG, a major part of the thoughts will focus on the humour displayed in the novels. By focussing on the skitting elements, Carl R. Kropf comes to the conclusion that the HG-novels are ‘Mock Science Fiction’. He builds his argument on the following three points:

First, like the mock epic, Adams’s mock SF novels reverse most of the paradigmatic expectations readers have learned to bring to the genre. Second, by reversing the usual conventions of the genre, Adams also reverses its entire ideological function. Finally […] Adams presents his implied narrator as a bungling author whose works embody disorder and aimlessness as opposed to the genre’s usual embodiment of order and direction. (Kropf: 61)

One of the examples Kropf gives is the one of the unlikely Hero Arthur Dent who is, in contradiction to the majority of SF heroes, not somebody who has supernatural mental or physical strength in order to fulfil the task that is put upon him. He “[...] is a bungling British Everyman whose heroic quest is confined to the search for a drinkable cup of tea” (Kropf: 62). Although one may add that Arthur Dent is given the chance to save the world on a later occasion, he basically stays the unhappy ape-descendent in search of quietude.

According to Kropf, “Adams is consciously reversing the conventions of the genre” (Kropf: 62) with the result of firstly creating humour and secondly becoming “[…] reflexive, commenting on the bankruptcy of the genre’s paradigms and raising questions about the nature and function of the genre as it is understood in terms of the reader’s response” (Kropf: 62). The most striking feature that distinguishes the HG from other SF is the reluctance to provide closure. In general literary analysis closure means “[…] the way endings in fiction reflect the innate pattern-seeking tendency of the human mind. [...] The reader simply wants to know‚ how it all turned out’[…]” (Kropf: 63).

[Specific to SF is the] ideational closure, that is, it will always provide a kind of ideogram of the future towards which the present is moving.[…] Adams’s novels, however, are a chronicle of aborted endings and inconclusive conclusions in the course of which the author does everything possible to outrage verisimilitude. (Kropf: 64-5).

Samples of this style would be the very improbable change of two missiles into a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale through the influence of the Infinite Improbability Drive, the supposedly meaningful answer to ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’[7] which lacks a question or the recreation of the destroyed Earth, aka the ‘Earth Mark Two’. Closure means order and knowledge and this is what gives the reader satisfaction:

[The] very existence [of SF] depends on the usually unarticulated assumption that the universe is knowable according to the kind of probabilistic logic that informs all scientific theory. […] Adams’s [by contrast] invites us to contemplate a universe with no plan at all - a universe as open-ended as his inconclusive works are. (Kropf: 68)

Douglas Adams uses the themes and techniques of Science Fiction as a means to the end of suggesting that nothing in the universe makes sense. The HG novels are Science Fiction and Mock SF at the same time.

In order to enable the analysis of religious themes in the HG, the following chapters are dedicated to an overview of different religious motives in other Science Fiction works.

3. Religious Themes in Science Fiction

A superficial examination of Science Fiction might suggest that this genre would be the least adequate to deal with religious themes. That is partially true for the early works until the middle of the twentieth century when the ‘Science’ was the centre of attention. However, “[t]he 1960s are the period in which the recognition that science had failed to provide value becomes widespread. The themes of science fiction begin more and more to overlap with religious aspirations rather than dismissing them” (Woodman: 110-1). This development is reflected in SF in two different ways. Firstly, there is direct reference to institutionalised religion. These are the works that can be named ‘religious Science Fiction’ and the majority of those refer to the Christian faith. One example is the Perelandra - Trilogy by C.S. Lewis: “[Es wird versucht], die naturwissenschaftlich plausible Annahme von bewohnten planetarischen Welten [...] mit christlicher Dogmatik zu vereinbaren [...]: auf dem Mars hat der Sündenfall nicht stattgefunden, auf der Venus wird er vereitelt, die sündige Menschheit der Erde ist durch Gottes Ratschluß von der übrigen Schöpfung isoliert” (Guthke: 31). Lewis is an exception concerning the positive acknowledgement of religion, other SF works frequently portray institutionalised faith as antiquated and underdeveloped as can be seen in the Star Trek Universe:

Je deutlicher eine Kultur ein religiöses System aufweist, desto rückständiger erscheint das Volk. ‚Wir haben diese Art von Glauben seit Jahrhunderten überwunden’, diese überhebliche Haltung Picards, die er einem Volk mit einer ausgeprägt rituellen Religionsform in ‚Who Watches the Watchers’ entgegenbringt, ist exemplarisch für die Beurteilung von Religion. [Man scheint] seit dem 23. Jh. als verstandesbetonte Lebensform zumindest keine ‚primitive’ Religionsform mehr nötig zu haben. Letztere ist vielmehr ein Hinweis auf die Rückständigkeit der Kultur. (Landgraf:40-1)[8]

Secondly, and much more important, there are frequent references to religion in a broader sense, meaning faith rather than ritual. “Typically a religion traces the value of human life to a ‘Transcendent realm’ beyond nature and human society. Rituals, prayer, and meditation are justified by sacred stories about transactions between the two realms” (Rée: 331). No other genre has similar possibilities to portray transcendence as SF. Moreover, another common ground of both, SF and religion, is “[…] the quest for answers. Science has come to be the area of proof, it seems to provide certain laws to cling to in a world that becomes more and more confusing. A constant universe governed by discernible laws is a predictable universe, and prediction is crucial for survival”(Boon: 7). For many people in the Western World the belief in the existence of God is not an acceptable option for the explanation of the universe any more. Science on the other hand, has provided some answers about ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’, yet it has not been successful so far to solve the ‘big’ questions like: Where are we coming from? Where are we going to? What is our purpose in life? What is outside our known world? for definite.

All these questions centre around man and the meaning of his existence which is exactly the main theme of Science Fiction. This leads some writers even to the conclusion that Science Fiction has the character of a substitute religion[9] or the “[…] contemporary inheritor and analogue of myth” (Bossay: VI)[10].

Wherever people are looking for answers, in religion or SF, the main themes are the same. The following chapters will outline four major religious topics in Science Fiction. First, there is the question of the existence of god which is closely connected to the second subject, the creation of the universe and mankind. However, not only the origin but also the end of everything is a major motive, therefore, the third part will deal with eschatology and death. Finally, the quest for the meaning of life, in certain ways the leitmotiv of the others, will be approached.

3.1. The (Non-) Existence of God in Science Fiction

Most religions are theistic, that is their devotees believe in the existence of one or more supreme being(s). Monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam “[hold] that an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect god created the world and is providential over it” (Yandell: 24). The one supreme being has different names in different religions, Christians refer to him as ‘God’(The Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), Muslims as ‘Allah’, Jews as ‘Yahweh’, ‘Jehovah’ or ‘El’ and Native American religions as ‘The Great Spirit’[11].

For centuries believers and non-believers of different faiths have tried to prove the existence of god[12], although this is seen as a contradiction in terms by some, since theistic religions are based on faith: “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebet, daß er seinen eingebornen Sohn gab, auf daß alle, die an ihn glauben, nicht verloren werden, sondern das ewige Leben haben” (Bibel, NT, Johannes: 3/16; emph. by author). Also the majority of philosophers has accepted “[…] that knowledge of a transcendent reality is unattainable, and religious thinkers such as Karl Barth, have welcomed this conclusion, believing that it leaves room for ‘faith’” (Rée: 332).

Scientific discoveries have put theists under a lot of pressure during the last centuries and the advent of questioning god has been reflected in literature especially since the nineteenth century. According to Manlove, the urge to prove God’s existence is especially distinct in the fantasy literature of the century before last:

[Bulwer Lytton’s A Strange Story (1862)] shows the gradual evolution of a rational-materialist doctor […] towards belief in the existence of the soul and of God. […] Fenwick’s easy empiricism [is destabilized and he becomes a] sort of scientist of nature: ‘What Sage, without cause supernatural, both without and within him, can guess at the wonders he views in the growth of a blade of grass, or the tints on an insect’s wing?’ This is a recurrent Victorian argument for God’s existence, derived from William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802). (Manlove: 66)[13]

Modern Christian fantasies are often targeted on proving Christian ideas, C.S. Lewis for example is “[…] using Sehnsucht more consciously in his fantasies, in the belief that ‘the dialectic of desire, faithfully followed, would [force one] to live through a sort of ontological proof’” (Manlove 65-6).[14] In contrast to fantasy literature, SF often is more critical towards the belief in god and his provability. The latter theme is taken up by Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle (1976): “[…] God is regarded as utterly incomprehensible and therefore unapproachable – ‘She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing’” (Bossay: 128-9).

In The Sirens of Titan (1974): “[…] one finds a more evolved iteration of this view in the slogan on the banner of Winston Niles Rumfoord’s Church of God the Utterly Indifferent – ‘Take Care of the People, and god Almighty Will Take Care of Himself’” (Bossay: 129). Vonnegut leaves the audience with nothing than the responsibility for their own lives, because if the existence of god cannot be proven, then there really is no point in trying it at all. In his conviction of the impossibility of knowledge about god’s existence he agrees with the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) who concludes “[…] at the end of his Natural History of Religion: ‘The whole is a riddle, an aenigma [sic], an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty, suspence of judgement appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject’” (Everitt: 2).

Other SF works do not state the impossibility of proving god’s existence but comprise the contact to a supreme being. In Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937) a man travels through space in a kind of vision and merges with the spirits of beings from other worlds until he becomes part of a cosmic mind which finally meets the Star Maker:

This meeting, when it is attained, is not in any sense a physical one. Such a depiction would go quite against the grain of a work so overtly concerned with the union of mind and spirit. Rather, the cosmic mind, having achieved its own balance, finally perceives the true innerness of the universe; and the last veil parts, revealing the Star Maker to it as a being objective to its vision yet truly itself, though as infinitely more. (Bossay: 23)

Yet, judged by human standards the god is not a loving one. This is reminiscent of the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Job, formerly a pious Jew, changes into a man who is raging at god in want of justification of his misfortunes. “Schreie ich zu dir, so antwortest du mir nicht; trete ich hervor so achtest du nicht auf mich. Du bist mir verwandelt in einen Grausamen, und zeigest deinen Gram an mir mit der Stärke deiner Hand” (Die Bibel, AT, Hiob: 30/20-1). Devine justice is at question and the Book of Job does not give final answers but refers to god’s omniscience and the impossibility for humans to judge divine actions. Star Maker ’s theodicy[15] comes to the conclusion, that “[v]irtue in the creator is not the same as virtue in the creature. For the creator, if he should love his creature, would be loving only a part of himself; but the creature, praising the creator, praises an infinity beyond himself” (Bossay: 24). Stapledon’s work concludes with the worship of the Star Maker and “[d]er ich-Erzähler in Stapledons mystischem Werk kehrt in seine irdische Endlichkeit heim, um dort Liebe zu wirken” (Hauser 1998: 63).

A similar approach is taken up by Niven and Pournelle in Inferno (1976):

Even after he […] admits the existence of God, Carpentier persists in judging Him by human standards. [...] It is wrong to judge God by human standards […]. The point seems to be that although […] even in the darkest realms of truth, there must be a divine dimension to human success, that success must nonetheless be human in its essence. (Bossay: 89-90)

Therefore, man has to struggle on his own although the knowledge of the divine existence is the way of perceiving the truth and meaning of existence.

God is represented very differently from the preceding examples in Philip K. Dick’s VALIS (1981). In 1974 the author experienced a kind of divine message which he used as a main theme in his work.

‘Und dann [...] als ich nur noch unausweichliches Leiden sah, erschien mir eine seligmachende Vision [...]. Eine transzendente göttliche Macht, die [...] gütig ist, griff ein, um meinen Verstand wieder in Ordnung zu bringen, meinen Körper zu heilen und mir einen Begriff von der Schönheit [...] in der Welt zu geben. Daraus habe ich ein Konzept geschmiedet [...]. Die Geschichte des Universums ist eine Bewegung von der Irrationalität – Chaos, Grausamkeit, Blindheit, Sinnlosigkeit – hin zu einer rationalen Struktur, die auf ordentliche und wunderbare Weise harmonisch miteinander verbunden ist. Aus unserem Standpunkt heraus war der ursprüngliche Schöpfer geistig gestört’. (Dick quoted in May: 97)

The novel contains references to several religions and is a product of Dick’s quest for answers[16],. whereas VALIS is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System and represents a message or part of a supreme being. Unlike Star Maker, VALIS does not lead the main characters to a satisfactory experience of enlightenment.

A common way of dealing with the question of god in SF is to deny his existence and define religion as, in the words of Karl Marx, ‘opiate of the people’. “‘God is merely man’s invention to back his own authority!’ [gesteht] der Vertreter einer religiösen Diktatur aus einer anderen Matrix’” (Borgmeier: 124) in Brian W. Aldiss’ short story with the telling name Danger: Religion! (1969). The Aztecan cult in a narrow valley in Captive Universe (1970) by Harry Harrison has a similar function:

Der Held, der aus den Tabus und Zwängen der Religion ausbricht, kommt allmählich zu der Einsicht, daß das Tal zu dem Miniaturkosmos eines Riesenraumschiffes gehört [...]. Der Aztekenkult ist [...] von dem Initiator des Projekts gewählt worden, weil er aufgrund seiner konservativen Primitivität mit geringem Aufwand die für eine fünf Jahrhunderte dauernde Fahrt nötige gesellschaftliche Stabilität der Raumschiffgesellschaft zu gewähren verspricht [...]. (Borgmeier: 125)

The label ‘god’ is not put any longer to a supreme being beyond man’s cognisance but to man himself.

In consideration of the discussions about reproductive cloning, the image of man as creator is today as present as never before. Not only does man try to create natural intelligence by scientific means, but for decades now has managed to built machines with artificial intelligence. Robots and computers are a decisive part of most SF stories. Belief in the power of science has substituted the belief in god for many people. The catholic writer C.S. Lewis criticises in the third part of his Perelandra -trilogy That Hideous Strength (1945) this new ‘religion’:

Mit der wissenschaftlichen Technik [...] haben die Menschen eine Grenze zum Göttlichen überschreiten können. [...] Die Schöpfungsordnung als Ganze kann durch Menschen bedroht werden, die sich durch ihre technischen Möglichkeiten mit dem Bösen verbinden. Deshalb muß Gott sich auch noch vor dem endgültigen Weltgericht direkt in die Menschenwelt einmischen. Denn ‘(...) wenn Menschen durch Technik und Wissenschaft lernen, in die Himmel hinaufzufliegen, wobei sie leibhaftig zwischen die himmlischen Mächte geraten und sie durcheinander bringen, dann hat er den Mächten nicht untersagt, entgegenzuwirken’ (Hauser 1998: 21-2).

Not only scepticism about the crossing of frontiers but also fear of the imaginable overthrowing power of machines is expressed in SF. Fredric Brown’s short story Answer (1954) illustrates this in a very explicit manner:

Dwar Ev […] moved to a position beside the switch […] that would connect […] all of the monster computing machines of all the populated planets in the universe - ninety-six billion planets - into the supercircuit that would connect them all into the one supercalculator […]. Dwar Ev threw the switch.[…] ’The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn.’ […] ’Is there a God?’ The mighty voice answered without hesitation […] ’Yes, now there is a God.’ Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch. A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut. (http://www.alteich.com/oldsite/answer.htm)

Probably the most famous computer in SF is HAL 9000 in Clarke/Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). HAL coordinates everything on the spaceship ‘Discovery’ and starts to make serious mistakes. When he discovers that the astronauts plan to shut him down, he resists with all his might. After HAL has killed four members of the crew, the remaining astronaut Bowman manages to shut the computer down. At the end of the story, the astronaut “[...] wird nach dem Durchgang durch ein Sternentor als Astralfötus wiedergeboren. Er beobachtet die Erde in einer Hülle aus Licht, während gleichzeitig die ersten Akkorde von ‚Also sprach Zarathustra’ erklingen” (Ehrhardt:2-3). This change happens through the contact with a monolith that is the symbol of some kind of divine entity[17]. At the same time the musical theme connects with Nietzsche’s idea of the ‘Übermensch’. Therefore, one of the main themes in 2001 is the question for the necessity of a transcendental god:

Das jüdisch-christliche Gottesbild löst sich auf im Bild des kosmischen Übermenschen, der in einer Person Gott und gottgesandter Messias ist. Das wird noch dadurch unterstrichen, dass der, der hier zum gottgleichen Wesen wird, zuvor seinen ‚Gott’ (oder besser: ‚Abgott’) töten muss (HAL) [u]nd erst als es Bowman gelingt, HAL zu deprogrammieren und ihn damit seiner gottgleichen Potenz zu berauben, ist er reif, sein eigentliches Ziel zu erkennen und schließlich zu erreichen. [...] Der Tod eines bestimmten, verzerrten, falschen Gottes befreit den Menschen dazu, nun selber göttlich zu werden. (Ehrhardt: 7)

When humans become creators, their creatures may start to question their origin as well. In Asimov’s story Reason (1941) the relationship between maker and creation is put to the next level since the robot QT1 philosophises about his origin. He cannot believe that humans have created him:

Es widerspricht aber allem logischen Denken, dass Sie mich geschaffen haben sollen. [D]as Material, aus dem Sie hergestellt sind, ist weich und schlaff. [I]hre Kraft schöpfen Sie aus der unvollständigen Oxydation organischer Materie, [p]eriodisch versinken Sie in ein Koma, und die kleinste Schwankung von Temperatur, Luftdruck, Feuchtigkeit oder Strahlungsintensität vermindert ihre Leistungsfähigkeit. Sie sind ein lächerlicher Notbehelf. Ich aber bin ein vollendetes, ein fertiges Produkt. [...] Dies sind Tatsachen, die zusammen mit der selbstverständlichen Voraussetzung, dass kein Wesen von sich aus ein anderes schaffen kann, das ihm selbst überlegen ist, Ihre dumme Hypothese in tausend Stücke reißen. (Asimov 1982: 67)

The robot turns to the central computer as his ‘master’ because the machine is the most powerful entity on the space station. Since the two astronauts insist on their version of his construction he concludes that the central computer has put this idea in their heads so as to give them a truth they would feel comfortable with. “[I]ch, ein vernunftbegabtes Wesen, [bin imstande], die Wahrheit von ‘a priori’-Ursachen abzuleiten. Sie, der Sie Intelligenz besitzen, aber keine Vernunft, benötigen eine Erklärung Ihrer Existenz, und diese wurde Ihnen vom Meister geliefert” (Asimov 1982: 78). QT’s argumentation is so reasonable, that the men start to doubt their own world view. However, when they leave the station, they convince themselves that they are going back to Earth. ”’Dieser Gedanke bedeutet für Sie bestimmt einen großen Trost’, seufzte Cutie von neuem. ‚Ich begreife jetzt die Weisheit, die in dieser Illusion liegt. Ich würde, selbst wenn ich es könnte, nicht versuchen, Ihren Glauben zu erschüttern’” (Asimov 1982: 83). Asimov illustrates how easily human reasoning can be challenged, how prone to error man’s convictions are and that the believe in a divine creator is nothing reasonable although it might be presented as such. At the same time he hints at religion being an illusion in order to comfort the believers.

3.2. Creation of the World and Mankind in Science Fiction

The question of the origin maybe is the oldest in the story of mankind. Different peoples and cultures have found various answers throughout history. In Judaism and Christianity genesis tells about God’s creation of the world and man. Before the major religions spread, however, naïve myths such as those of the Achilpa-Australiens, who worsphip Numbakula as creator[18], or the Popol Vuh of the Maya, that names Tepeu and Gucumatz as makers of the world from the void and mankind from maize, prevailed:

[…] Vinieron juntos Tepeu y Gucumatz [y] se pusieron de acuerdo […] que cuando amaneciera debía aparecer el hombre. Entonces dispusieron la creación y crecimiento de los árboles y los bejucos y el nacimiento de la vida y la creación del hombre. Se dispuso así en las tinieblas y en la noche por el Corazón del Cielo, que se llama Huracán. […] De maíz amarillo y de maíz blanco se hizo su carne, de masa de maíz se hicieron los brazos y las piernas del hombre.[19]

With its emphasis on the scientific knowledge, one would expect SF to concentrate on the theory of evolution or the Big Bang theory. Yet, although mankind has gained a lot of insight into the origins of the world and mankind during the last two centuries, the final answers are still missing. Religion has not yet lost its function for explaining the world, but adjustments have to be made according to new developments. It was even claimed by various religionists that the genesis was really about the Big Bang: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries” (Jastrow quoted in Fulmer: 35). The institutionalised religions have trouble nowadays to adjust to scientific findings and their proofs as it is visible in the recent discussions about ‘Intelligent Design’ in the USA[20].

One way to deal with creation in SF is to take up known myths like C.S. Lewis does in his Perelandra trilogy. (see chapter 3) Another, and more frequent way is the presentation of own myths:

In extremem Gegensatz zur Bibel steht Jonathan Brands Satire ‚Encounter with a Hick’. Ein galaktischer Playboy brüstet sich damit, daß sein Vater eine Firma zur Erschaffung von Welten betreibe und innerhalb von sechs Tagen aus einer unbrauchbaren Materiesammlung einen belebten Planeten herstelle; der zukünftige Schwiegervater kann mit Hilfe eines neuartigen Verfahrens sogar eine Welt aus dem Nichts schaffen. Verständlicherweise bringt dies einen bejahrten irdischen Kirchenpatriarchen zum Wahnsinn. Die Schöpfung ist hier zu einem mit den Mitteln der Technik beliebig wiederholbaren Prozeß degradiert worden. (Borgmeier: 128)

The most striking conjunction of SF and religion is probably the Ancient Astronaut Theory (Preastronautics) with Erich von Daeniken as most famous advocate: “Extraterrestrische Astronauten entdeckten vor langer Zeit die Erde. Damals gab es noch keine Menschen. Die Präastronauten betrieben Hominidenhochzucht, indem sie irdisches und ihr eigenen Erbgut miteinander verbanden” (Dopatka quoted in Hauser 1998: 56).

Clarke/Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (see chapter 3.1.) is one of the most obvious examples in which the Ancient Astronaut Theory plays an important role: “A giant monolith appeared on Earth one day and began to experiment with many of [the man-apes], probing and developing their minds.[…] At night, a few select man-apes were taught and during the day, they innovated.”[21]

Another work that plays with the ideas of preastronautics is Star Trek – Voyager. In the episode Tattoo the chief officer Chakotay has Indian roots. “Er entdeckt auf einem Mond Zeichen seines indianischen Volkes. Auf der Suche nach weiteren Spuren begegnet er Wesen, die seine Vorfahren ‚Himmelsgeister’ nannten. Diese erklären ihm, dass sie mehrmals die Erde besuchten und so Kontakt zu seinen Vorfahren hatten” (Landgraf: 38).

Apart from mankind being created by ancient aliens there are other myths that are taken up and newly invented by SF. An idea that reoccurs is that of the separation of the creator and the omnipotent, omnipresent god. This is part of the dualism in Gnostic[22] belief: “Der gnostische Schöpfungsmythos berichtet, daß nicht der unbekannt, transzendente, oberste Gott die Welt erschaffen hat, sondern ein Demiurg [Greek: craftsman], ein untergeordneter, unvollkommener, bösartiger Schöpfer [...]” (May: 107) One example of the usage of dualistic belief in SF is Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles (1968):

[Carmody, a New Yorker, is travelling in space where] he meets a bombastic planetary god who has demonstrated his omnipotence in every way he can think of, and is now depressed at having no significant function in the universe. Carmody persuades him that his function at the moment is to assist him, Carmody, safely to the next planet. There he meets a sort of Gnostic demiurge named Maudsley, who manufactures planets. (Lantero: 250)

However, Science Fiction is not only concerned with the origin of humanity. Since technology is frequently used in order to provide a ‘better future’ for mankind, this is also a major concern of the genre which is based on scientific development.

3.3. Eschatology and Death in Science Fiction

‘Where are we going?’ is maybe the most important question Science Fiction asks, given that its concern is predominantly directed towards the future of mankind and the world. All major religions give answers to what will happen to the individual after death and to all life at the end of all times. Christian apocalypticism originates in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament which is the “[…] Vision vom Untergang der irdischen, gegenwärtigen Welt, und vom Hereinbrechen des Reichs Gottes. Der Weltuntergang war nur eine Durchgangsphase zu einer ‚neuen Erde’, einem ‚neuen Jerusalem’: die alte, unvollkommene und verdorbene Welt muss zerstört werden, damit eine neue, vollkommene aufgerichtet werden kann” (Hector: 154).

Like religion, science is also trying to decipher the future of the world. Although scientific progress has not yet provided ultimate answers concerning the future of the cosmos, the latest results show that the theory of an ever-expanding universe is the most probable one. Another famous theory which was talked about a lot during the last century is the one of an expanding and contracting universe. A contracting universe could therefore end in a Big Crunch, a reversed Big Bang, with unknown outcome[23]. The Big Crunch reminds of the apocalyptical presumption of the destruction of an old and the birth of a new world. One theme that appears in SF is the survival after the Big Crunch. In James Blish’s Cities in Flight (1955-70) the energies of the victims of the Big Crunch become the seed of the new universe. Another example is George Zebrowski’s Macrolife (1979):

Als das Wirtschaftsimperium der Familie Bulero im irdischen Sonnensytem 2021 zusammenbricht, fliehen die Buleros aus dem ‚Käfig Erde’ in die kosmischen Weiten hinaus. Ihre Vision ist nun die Schöpfung von ‚Makroleben.[...] Es wird erzählt, wie sich die Menschheit auf einer kosmischen Reise ihrer Endlichkeit dadurch entledigt, daß sie sich gleichsam als Computerinformation abbildet, so zu einem ‚Makroleben’ wird und sich im Laufe ihrer kosmischen Wanderschaft zu immer größeren Verbänden mit anderen Intelligenzen zusammenschließt. So soll es möglich werden, auch das – als zyklisch angenommene – Aufeinanderfolgen von Big Bang und Big Crunch zu überleben. (Hauser 1998: 30)

Another way of connecting science and religion with the end of the world is presented by Arthur C. Clarke. In his short story The Nine Billion Names of God (1967), a Tibetan monastery is provided with an Automatic Sequence Computer whose task is to calculate all possible names of God.

[The monks] believe that when they have listed all His names – and they reckon that there are about nine billion of them – God’s purpose will be achieved. The human race will have finished what it was created to do, and there won’t be any point in carrying on. Indeed, the very idea is something like blasphemy. (http://www.geocities.com/rojodos/docs/9000000000.htm)

Shortly before the calculation is complete the two engineers that supervise the project leave the monastery. On their way back they discuss the monks’ belief, which is very much doubted by them. The story ends with the following words: ‘Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.’ Mankind’s and the world’s end is here connected with the fulfilment of the purpose in life. Once the task – a quite disturbing one as it only consists of a mere mathematical calculation – is accomplished, man’s existence is superfluous and the world ends without an indication of something to come afterwards. According to Mendlesohn, “[r]eligious eschatology becomes a metaphor for the potential end time beckoned by the atom bomb” (Mendlesohn: 269).

Less than two decades after the release of Clarke’s story, the connection between nuclear war and the biblical Armageddon[24] was made by Ronald Reagan “[…] at a time when his trembling index finger still hovered uncomfortably close over the proverbial button”[25] (Vanderbeke: 153-4). This illustrates how a single person could be responsible for the end of all life on earth. A recurrent theme in literature is the metaphor of individual life and death for that of every man that ever lived: “One man only has been born, one man only has died on Earth. To affirm the opposite is mere statistics, an impossible addition. No less impossible than to add up the smell of rain and the dream you have dreamt the night before last.[...] I speak of the one and only, of the one who is always alone” (Borges quoted and translated in Vanderbeke 154). According to Vanderbeke this

[…] interdependence of the whole and each of its parts [is also to be found in] the Talmud, which equates individual death with apocalypse when it states: Man was first created a single individual to teach the lesson that whoever destroys one life, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had destroyed a whole world; and whoever saves one life, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had saved a whole world. (Sanhedrin IV. 5, quoted in Vanderbeke 154)

Since both are connected, it is not surprising that not only the end of the world but also individual death is a main motive in Science Fiction. The (in)significance of single human’s deaths gives a sense of proportion towards the universe: “Der Tod zeigt die Endlichkeit im unendlichen Universum an und die letzte Grenze im grenzenlosen Raum, aber auch, dass, egal wo ich mich im Universum aufhalte, die Reise immer wieder ins Innere meiner Seele geht. (Landgraf: 33) Religious motives closely connected to death and also common in SF are reincarnation, the afterlife, longevity or immortality. Reincarnation in Christianity, the so-called Lazarus-theme, stems from the New Testament, the Gospel of John:

Es lag aber einer krank, mit Namen Lazarus, von Bethanien [...] Jesus aber sagte von seinem Tode [...]. Da kam Jesus, und fand ihn, dass er schon vier Tage im Grabe gelegen war. [...] Jesus spricht [...]: Dein Bruder soll auferstehen. [Er] rief mit lauter Stimme: Lazarus, komm heraus! Und der Verstorbene kam heraus [...]. (Die Bibel, NT, Johannesevangelium: 11)

In Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Time Enough for Love (1973) the name of the main character is even Lazarus Long, a telling name because Long is 2000 years old. The theme of afterlife is taken up, among others, in Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno (1976):

Inferno, like the section of The Divine Comedy from which it takes its name, is the story of a journey through Hell. Indeed, it takes far more than its title from Dante, for the geography of Niven and Pournelle’s Hell is essentially his. […] Like the persona of Dante, Allen Carpentier narrates the story of his own journey through Hell. But unlike Dante, he is no spectator of a dream-vision; he is rather one of the dead himself, a damned soul who is in Hell because he belongs there. (Bossay: 81-2)

Apart from literary references to the afterlife, there have also been attempts to acquire knowledge about it through pseudo-scientific experiments. One way of doing so are the practises of spiritualism, a movement that arose in the mid-nineteenth century in Great Britain. Communication with the dead became fashionable and even writers like Arthur Conan Doyle lived and died as strong believers in life after death.

The contact with ghosts and their guidance is strongly present in George Lucas’ first Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983). After his death, Obi-Wan Kenobi appears as spirit to Luke Skywalker, his apprentice, to help and guide him. At the last sequence of part VI – Return of the Jedi – the movie shows the ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda (the Jedi-Master) and Anakin Skywalker (former Darth Vader who returns to the Light Side of the Force at the end of his life) standing behind Luke Skywalker. This hints at the immortality of those who are on the ‘right’, the ‘good’ side of The Force[26] when they die and bears resemblance to the idea of life after death for the morally good people in many religions.

Another concept of life after death is that of reincarnation which occurs in religions such as Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism and even in the New Age movement. Reincarnation means that “[...] each person is beginninglessly born and dies and is reborn and redies, and that this will occur endlessly short of one’s achieving enlightenment” (Yandell: 26). This circle of life and death in the Asian religions is known by the name samsara and the faiths offer different escapes out of this circular flow. (see chapter 8)

Again Science Fiction takes up this theme and connects it with technology. In Immortality, Inc. (1959) by Robert Sheckley,

[the hero Thomas Blaine] awakes one morning realizing that his most recent memories concern his involvement in an auto accident that caused his death. His mind has been snatched from 1958 and transported to 2110, where it takes up residence in a new body, or ‘receptacle.’ This is all part of an advertising campaign by the Rex Corporation, a huge conglomerate that manufcatures reincarnation machines, hereafter drivers, and the like. (Fletcher: 520)[27]

[...]


[1] This thesis will refer to the whole Trilogy in Five Parts as HG or Trilogy; the individuel books will be referred to as follows: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hitch.; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Rest.; Life, the Universe and Everything: Life; So Long and Thanks for all the Fish: So Long; Mostly Harmless: Mostly; the encyclopedia ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ in the novels will be termed The Guide.

[2] Especially the World Wide Web with its almost infinite space offers countless opportunities for cult followers. A good link list is provided at http://www.informatik.uni-freiburg.de/~diesch/douglas_adams.html

[3] more about Douglas Adams in his biographies: Gaiman, Neil (1993). Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. London: Titan Books Ltd.; Simpson, M.J. (2003). Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams. London: Hodder and Stoughton.; Webb, Nick (2003). Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams. London: Headline.

[4] The contents of this paragraph are taken from the following sources: Currier: “Adams, Douglas”; Gaiman: Don’t Panik; Silverman: “Life, the Universe, and Everything”: An Interview with Douglas Adams; Simpson: Hitchhiker; www.zz9.org/dna

[5] see Asimov (1984), Chambers and Weber

[6] see Barnabeu: 528

[7] The surprise will not be spoilt at this point, the inexperienced reader will find the answer in chapter 8.

[8] on this aspect see also Mendlesohn: 264-5

[9] see Borgmeier: 131; Sturgeon: 100

[10] see Guthke; Hauser 1989; Landsman

[11] For reasons of simplification the term ‘god’ will be used for all supreme beings in contrast to ‘God’ which will refer to the Judaeo/Christian God only.

[12] Examples and history of proofs for the existence of god are to be found in chapter 5.1.

[13] Natural Theology draws the knowledge of God from nature instead of the revelation. see also chapter 5.1.

[14] Ontological Argument: the argument that, since God is conceivable as a necessary existent, God exists. (Rée: 272); see also chapter 5.1.

[15] Theodicy: The term derives from greek theos (god) and dike (justice) and is used in theology and philosophy as the attempt to explain the apparent contradiction between god’s omnipotence and goodness and the evil in the world. In a broader sense the term is used for problems in the discourse of a knowledge of god in philosophy in general. (based on Brockhaus Enzyklopädie. Band 22: 77) see also chapter 5.1.

[16] The fictional character Phil Dick has a divine vision. In order to cope with it, his ego is split. The name of one of the figures is Horselover Fat which is a hidden translation of Dick’s name: Philip can be derived from the Greek ‘phil-hippos’ - lover of horses and ‘dick’ is the German word for ‘fat’.

[17] More about 2001 and the meaning of the monolith in chapter 3.2. For an extensive interpretation of the movie see Seibold.

[18] more about the Achilpas in chapter 6.

[19] http://www.bibliotecasvirtuales.com/biblioteca/Obrasdeautoranonimo/PopolVuh/PopolVuh.asp Together Tepeu and Gucumatz came and agreed that at dawn man should be appear. Thus they arranged the creation and growth of the trees and the lianas and the birth of life and the creation of man. It was done so in the darkness and the night through the Heart of the Sky, whose name is Huracán. […] From yellow and white maize they made his flesh, from maize they made the arms and legs of man. (transl. by author)

[20] For more about the debate see http://www.zeit.de/2005/33/Kreationismus

[21] http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/2001/summary.html

[22] Gnosis: Greek for knowledge/enlightenment. The term is hard to define since it was used throughout the centuries in a lot of different ways. The New Testament terms the Christian knowledge of God ‘Gnosis’ and heresies a ‘wrong gnosis’. Later the term was used to describe different dualistic movements but there never has been some kind of religious entity with a single origin. ‘Heretic’ groups like the Cathars or the followers of Manichaeism were seen as Gnostics mainly because of their dualistic world view. Therefore, Gnosticism remains a somehow vague term that has been used for describing the “[…] heretical other of orthodox Christianity”. (based on King, Karen L. 2003 and Brockhaus Enzyklopädie. Band 8: 621)

[23] A useful first introduction to cosmology for non-physicists is Stephen Hawking (2005). Die kürzeste Geschichte der Zeit.

[24] Armageddon: “In the New Testament, […] the place where the kings of the Earth under demonic leadership will wage war on the forces of God at the end of world history” (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9009500/Armageddon).

[25]When asked during the Presidential debates if he believed in Armageddon, President Reagan said: ‘Yes, Armageddon could come the day after tomorrow.’ During his 1980s Presidential campaign, Reagan told Fundamentalist Christian groups that he believed in the Biblical prophecy of Armageddon and that this could be the generation that sees Armageddon” (http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/nuclear.htm#ask).

[26] more about Star Wars in Ehrhardt.

[27] Another, more popular example are the movies Abre los ojos (Amenábar 1997) and its remake Vanilla Sky (Crowe: 2001). SPOILER WARNING! After an accident the hero is haunted by visions which result seemingly in a schizophrenia. In the end he finds out that after the accident his face was destroyed and he had lost the woman he was just falling in love with. Because of this he had committed suicide but was cryopreserved by the company ‘Life Extension’ and now has the possibility to wake up in a far future from his former life.

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Details

Title
Well That About Wraps It Up For God
Subtitle
Religious Motives in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts
College
University of Leipzig
Grade
1,3
Author
Year
2007
Pages
101
Catalog Number
V75769
ISBN (eBook)
9783638849807
File size
773 KB
Language
English
Tags
Douglas Adams, Science Fiction, Religion, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Religion in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Religion in Douglas Adams, a new tag
Quote paper
Katharina Günther (Author), 2007, Well That About Wraps It Up For God, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/75769

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