Atheism, and "Bread and Circuses"

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Zameaze, Jun 7, 2013.

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  1. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    Both marriage and the christening sound like GR engaging in a bit of theater to me. I don't think he's above that, even if it involves his wife or son.
     
  2. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It hardly matters, since all of that was many years before he met Braga and before he said the numerous documented anti-religious things that he said.
     
  3. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    True, its not like GR's opinions didn't evolve between 1964 and 1987.
     
  4. Zameaze

    Zameaze Commodore Commodore

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    I'm an atheist and I had a church wedding. That's where people in our culture get married (especially if the wife wants a 'big wedding'). I like the ritual, which we have too little of in modern society. I also had one of my children baptised--our friends wanted to be godparents, and it was another nice little bonding ritual. I don't have to believe in mermaids to enjoy a good mermaid movie.
     
  5. Seska

    Seska Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    This thread is a good read so far. My favorite type of story (and music) is fantasy, and it's what makes Bread and Circuses such a great episode. Parallel worlds are fantastic, indeed.

    The only blatant Biblical or Christian references were at both the beginning and the end of the episode. At the opening, Bones mentions the Archangel Gabriel specifically (a Biblical concept), and the carrying of a pitchfork (a mythological reference and a suggestion of the fallen archangel, but really more a jab against Spock's diabolical appearance, something he's heard before). At the end, like the OP mentions, Uhura posits that Septimus, Flavius and Co. worship the Son of God, and (insert Captain's theme here) Kirk has his epiphany that what he just went through on planet 892-IV with its own Ceasar and Christ echoes the religious persecution our own human ancestors experienced. I think that is the big take-away from Bread and Circuses, with Capt. Merik's folly and the slave love of Kirk/Drusilla added in for good measure.

    If planet 892-IV is supposed to be a world paralleling our own, except that the Roman Empire never fell, why should the episode be written in such a way that Christianity is not the inextricable part of Roman history it has been since at least Nero (hint: the emperor, not the Trek villain) and Constantine? Throwing Christians into the arena with wild beasts or gladiators happened on our planet. It should also happen on a parallel world. It is difficult to see how the Bread and Circuses fantasy could be any more discriminatory or offensive to an atheist than TNG's version of Genesis or say The Chase (with its idea of panspermia) would be to a theist. But, it's all still the Trek, it's all still entertainment, and it's all no real reason to grumble.

    I think I would also take issue with the post-er upthread claiming that Christianity has been a negative influence throughout history. There were religious motivations to the Crusades, to be certain, but no real tenet or article of Christian faith commanded the invasions of the Holy Land. I believe one of the historical underpinnings of the Crusades was the European baronry ultimately preferring to fight a foreign enemy rather than fighting each other, as per the usual. The Inquisition did not come about from any genuine Biblical imperative, but rather as I understand it, was largely attributable to a brand of anti-Semitism with occult origins. I also do not perceive modern-day Christianity as genuinely resistant to science. Scientific models are changing all the time, so it's not like it would be "anti-science" to refrain from putting all of your faith into any of those models. Noting that science has no application to the unobservable or the incalculable is not resistance, it's actually like Chapter 1 in our grade-school science texts, called "The Scientific Method". My point is that everybody, regardless of religion, has an equal opportunity to do evil in this world. Atheist regimes under Stalin and Mao murdered tens of millions in cold blood. That is certainly a negative influence, but it can't be exclusively blamed on atheism. As a matter of history, warmongering and psychopathy have never been confined to any particular world view.

    I agree with the post-ers who have noted that Dr. King did not promote colorblindness during his ministry. I think, though, that with Star Trek being the most colorblind show of the 60s, it is no mystery why the program would appeal to him. What Dr. King did as a peacemaker, he did as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I submit that being hateful toward or biased against Dr. King because he was a Christian is just as wrong as hating him for being a Trekker, or for the color of his skin. Tolerance for only those groups you agree with is definitional prejudice. And we know, as Trekkers, that Kirk was no fan of bigotry.

    That everybody doesn't have to agree with Roddenberry is also a good point. I know I do not agree with what I consider to be his misogyny. I think the Roddenberry quote in the OP about all religions should not necessarily equate with the conclusion that Gene denied the existence of his own soul or believed, in his heart of hearts, in atheism. Who really knows?

    It is an increasingly accepted misconception that atheism is the lack of religion. Lack of religion is irreligion. A • the • ism is not only an ism, but distilled to its purely dissected form, literally means a belief in no god (i.e., a = no • the = god • ism = belief in). It is still a system of beliefs, faith-based, just like any other religion. I think that anybody who wants or expects their ism to be respected needs to accord respect for all those other isms out there in the world. One thing we shouldn't disagree on is the Trek philosophy that beauty is in diversity. I view the Trek as a world of inclusion, to include all religions and beliefs (including the belief that God does not exist), all species, and all the divers assortment of mankind and womankind, even if imperfectly expressed by Roddenberry and his successors.

    The Trek pendulum has hardly swayed too far one way or the other in terms of promoting any particular religion or irreligion, imo. T'Bonz, as always, makes the best point of the thread: hate really has no place on this bbs or among Trekkers. (Thanks for all the mostly thankless work you do, Bonzy, but a personal request... I could def. use more fun T'Bonz posts and Romulan commander in my life... I keep coming back here after almost a decade mostly b/c you make messageboarding, or whatever it is we do here, such a high art. More please.)

    Lastly, it should not go without mentioning that the intolerance of Christianity at least impliedly promoted by some in this thread, can eventually be perverted and lead to the most grim of results. Remember that the Arab Spring came not too long after the Orthodox Christmas Day massacre of the Copts in Egypt. If you've seen photos of the aftermath at that Coptic Christian church, you saw a gory bloodbath. The fruits of intolerance grow ever increasingly poisonous. Our efforts, as Trekkers and as human beings, are better focused I think at loving and accepting one another for the beauty we each bring to the table. I doubt Gene would be too troubled by that.

    From the Delta Quadrant with Love,
    Seska

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    Last edited: Jun 8, 2013
  6. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    The episode itself answered the question.

    The word of the Son didn't spread on 892-IV until its 20th century. Planet 892-IV and Earth were not entirely parallel.

    Basically, the episode said that that difference was why their Roman Empire lasted so long.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The sun is the son might have come from original story.

    There's a great site somewhere that contain many of the original Star Trek story concepts, but I've forgotten where it is.

    Kirk obviously wasn't impressed with beings who simply had a small number of unusual abilities. Parman (in Plato's Stepchildren) had a nice little "god-lite" power, but he certainly wasn't Kirk's God.

    At the end of Generations as Kirk was dying under the bridge, when he looks outward and says "oh my," I think he was seeing God.

    Kirk: "But on this Earth, Rome never fell."

    I don't see the culture of the Empire depicted in the episode as representing the culture of the American viewing audience, despite the inclusion of automobiles and "smog." The dissidents opposing the Empire, people seeking their freedom and the growth of the "Son of God" Religion, would more likely be the culture that was to have been representing America.

    And this differs from atheists how?

    Star Trek scripts did come from a variety of writers, and there were different directors too.

    There's a scene at the end of Balance of Terror with Kirk in the ship's chapel after Angela leaves, for a few moments Kirk faces the alter (a brief prayer for Tomlinson perhaps), that could have come from the script, or from the director's instructions to Shatner during the shoot.

    Kirk does indicate that he is a monotheist, and we subsequently find out that Vulcans have shrines, monasteries, priests and temples.

    Very rational people I would agree.

    Much of that suggest that Kirk is in fact a Christian, who embraces that growth comes no other way but through "The Struggle."

    Hardship is normal for the Christian life, it's how we improve ourselves.

    I would agree.



    :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2013
  8. T'Bonz

    T'Bonz Romulan Curmudgeon Administrator

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    *snortle!* I'm SO using this quote against the throngs that wish I'd shut up and go away. :D
     
  9. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Like you, I had a church wedding, because my wife is Christian. I wasn't opposed to it, though.

    And, everybody seems to assume that Gene and Majel's wedding and their son's christening were entirely his idea. How much input did Majel have in the decision to make them religious ceremonies?
     
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    I've always figured that the wedding abroad (away from family), under the auspices of an Asian religion (rejecting American culture), was all Gene's idea. And Majel must have been privately very pained, but she put up with it to marry what she considered to be an important man. I don't have a source to back up this interpretation, but that's what I think and I've often felt very sorry for her.
     
  11. 1001001

    1001001 I Like the Beats and the Shouting Moderator

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    Just to muck it up further, there are those who would argue that Buddhism is not a religion. Including some Buddhists. You can be an atheist and a Buddhist at the same time.

    There are certain beliefs in Buddhism that I think would make it very attractive to a secular humanist/science-minded person.

    So I don't know that you can read much into Roddenberry's choice of wedding ceremony.
     
  12. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I took the opposite view and always suspected Majel had the same socio-religious outlook that Gene had. Instead of being pained, I always assumed she was happy with those choices.


    Ah, but their wedding was Buddhist-Shinto, or Shinto-Buddhist. It wasn't just pure Buddhist and Shinto is a recognized religion.

    Whatever that's worth.
     
  13. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Lulz.

    No.
     
  14. Ovation

    Ovation Vice Admiral Admiral

    Or it could simply be that Braga was accepting Roddenberry at face value--is it really so hard to imagine Roddenberry (or anyone to anyone else, for that matter) presenting his views to Braga in such a way as to make the latter think it was a consistent view? Unless there was some specific reason to do otherwise, why wouldn't Braga take him at his word?

    As for the definition of atheism offered above--no. A- in front of a word means "non" (ex: ahistorical means non-historical). Atheism is an absence of belief in a god or gods--not a belief system. Attempts to equate atheism with religion don't fly (religions make an affirmative claim for the existence of the unprovable--atheism indicates the absence of such a claim). "I believe there is no god." and "I do not believe there is a god." are NOT equivalent statements. The first resembles a religious affirmation and is unprovable. The second indicates a lack of compelling evidence or reason to believe there is a god. It makes no unprovable affirmation. And it is the grammatically and logically correct expression of atheism--an absence of belief.
     
  15. Timelord Victorious

    Timelord Victorious Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, from an Atheist's point of view to say that a-theism is a belief system is just as ridiculous sounding as saying a-easter-bunnyism is a bleief system.

    You wouldn't say that your non belief in the easter bunny or santa or the tooth fairy consitutes a belief system, would you?
     
  16. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In this interpretation, "us" being the persecuted Christians, our visiting heroes not only do nothing to help "us," but don't even recognize who "we" are till the denouement? What a dull story that was. Even with the jokes about television.

    No, there is a reason there is aMericus on the platform watching the games. (Yes, that is a typographical assist, not a typo.) Formally, the climax is when aMericus sees the light and denies the temptations of empire, even at the cost of his own life. And the jokes about television are a humorous way of identifying their world and the contemporary US. I'm pretty sure everyone making Star Trek identified the guy threatening a special (live torture) if the ratings went down with someone they dealt with in mundane life!;)

    I do not accept that an anonymous internet poster has the divine authority to assure us as to the nonChristianity of the Crusades and the Inquisition. It is to be sure part of atheism to deny that religion has any magisterium, a task reserved to reason. The positive content of atheism is philosophical materialism. However, since the facts uncovered by science do not change, philosophical materialism is an evidence-based belief system, not a faith. It should not be surprising that textbooks present these matters in such fashion as to foster confusion to the benefit of religion. This is sort of off topic.

    Christianity in Bread and Circuses is presented almost purely as pacifist, with one stray comment about freedom and brotherhood. None of this is historically accurate. Gibbon popularized the thesis that Christian pacifism undermined the imperial will of the Romans but it doesn't really hold up. A secondary theme, the burdens on the state of Christian episcopacy and privileges (free mail service sticks in my mind for some odd reason?) is a little stronger. In the Sixties everyone was well aware that true Christianity was not pacifist and only cultists like the Quakers or Mennonites held to it.

    See the epistle to Philemon. See the church names of the time, such as Southern Baptist Convention or Southern Methodist Church and reflect on their origins. The historical claim that Christianity is about freedom comes from a time when "Christianity" was defined in opposition to Roman Catholicism, the Antichrist. Star Trek wasn't interested enough in religion to tackle the issue of Roman Christianity.
    If that seems atheistical, so be it.

    And we have another anonymous internet poster speaking ex cathedra. I'll kiss your ring when Your Holiness pokes it through my monitor.:)
     
  17. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That statement does seem to indicate not that people aren't religious, but that people are free to believe or not believe what they like without fear of persecution. My reading is that in Kirk's time there are religions, both Earth based and those of other planets, and that people do believe in deitys etc... but just that the people who believe and the people who don't believe aren't in conflict with each other anymore. Everybody just respects everybody else's P-O-V.

    Also in "The Final Frontier" it seems clear that Bones believes in God. Or at the very least he wants to believe: "Jim, you don't ask the Almighty for his ID!" ;)

    Certainly by TNG, Roddenberry's ideals against religion (no doubt informed by the height of the televangelist craze of the 1980s) had become much stronger and definitely influenced the production. So 24th century humanity professes to not believe in religion at all, although I do imagine they would always be tolerant and accept it in purely scientific/historical terms (cf. "Haven" or even "Who Watches The Watchers", where the 1701-D crew have an appreciation for these cultures openly believing in Gods while still having no direct religious belief themselves). This is further enhanced in Deep Space Nine, where the Starfleet crew often appreciate Bajor having such strong faith while not actually worshipping at the altar of the Prophets themselves.
     
  18. Seska

    Seska Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    It may be dull to some, but it was not my mere imagining that Spock, the sciency-est one of them all, got it wrong about Septimus and Flavius based on the facts he just observed on the planet below, until Uhura finally set him straight about the Son at the episode's conclusion.

    Seeing as we both agree that atheism is a belief system, would you also agree that those who share your beliefs should accord respect to those with differing beliefs?

    Would you agree that the Trek fosters notions of diversity and inclusion?

    That was not the surprising aspect to me. I was more astonished that you seem to be making the claim that the scientific method has application to the unobservable and the incalculable. As Dr. Lester might say, "are you prepared with an example? One will do."

    I doubt the thread would be too hijacked, as its topic is broad enough to encompass touching on the intellectual pursuit of comparative religion, a subject of advanced academic study. Besides, stj, our posts are prolix to most, so kindly allow me to leave you with a set of not-so-dull facts to subject to your own analysis and reason.

    You know, a few of the arguments I've read upthread, I've also heard before, on Donahue. Nobody, and I mean nobody, could preach atheism as eloquently and succinctly as Madalyn Murray O'Hair. In fact, old Madalyn is probably still the most famous atheist in America today. So once upon a time, one of Madalyn's sons (the one who sued to get prayer out of schools) converts to Christianity, and Madalyn, the loving atheist mom she claimed to be, disowned him for it. The way he tells the story, I think now a pastor, mom was pretty selfish and a little too into the materialism. One of her fellow atheists became disaffected, kidnapped Madalyn, and her atheist other son and granddaughter, and slowly murdered them all with a pair of pliers. They were all buried in a shallow grave, in tiny pieces. The end. Like Job's wife is reported to have said, "curse God and die". Maybe she knew what she was talking about. Maybe you can chalk it up to a fairy tale. The Vulcan proverb might be that "the beginning of wisdom is logic", but the Solomonic proverb is "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God."

    If history has shown us anything, it is that mankind has never been master of the universe. If all preceding generations never fully realized the big picture (so far as we know), what makes you think this generation has somehow acquired the knowledge of everything? Until we have that Grand Unified Theory licked as a simplicity, I doubt any of us is in a position to state what the full immutable facts of the universe are or aren't, and even then...

    We all come here to read what anonymous internet post-ers write. Pretty much everybody here, including yourself, is an anonymous internet post-er. Being the subject of frocks and genuflection does not better qualify a person to speak the truth, imho.

    Anyway, stj, thanks for the good discussion so far. Please take my little diatribe with the love, acceptance, and sincerity with which it is offered. So, howz about a little love back? Like Madalyn once said, "An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god." And like Shakespeare said, "Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee; Corruption wins not more than honesty."

    Thongs are no match against Romulan Commander. :D
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    As already stated in this thread, not believing in a deity is not a belief system.

    If you wish to accord those who do not share your beliefs some respect, how about starting by not misrepresenting their position?
     
  20. Seska

    Seska Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I would amend my question, by instead asking:

    Seeing as we both agree that the positive content of atheism is a belief system, would you also agree that those who share your beliefs should accord respect to those with differing beliefs?
     
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