Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Religion in Battlestar Galactica

At the beginning of December, I discussed my problems with religion in Star Trek. I said that Gene Roddenberry’s view that religion would be unimportant in the 24th century was a tad near-sighted on his part.

Star Trek alumni and creator of Battlestar Galactica, Ronald D. Moore, took his reimagining of Battlestar Galactica in a completely different way. Instead of having religion deemed unimportant, he made religion a key point of the series, adding an additional element to an already-complex story.

The humans of Battlestar Galactica base their religion on an almost Greek/Roman concept. The Twelve Colonies of humanity believe in Gods based on the Zodiac, and follow the path laid down in their sacred scrolls to find Earth.

Because humanity is almost extinct, faith plays a huge part in the story. Humans believe that their Gods have a path for them, if for no other reason than faith must exist for sanity to stay. And that makes sense. I mean, if your race is one wrong move away from total annihilation you have to believe in something. The concept of an empty universe could tax and drive a person’s mind into insanity. Religion is one of the few things humans have left. Without it, what is the point? Why fight an inevitable losing war with the Cylons unless you believe in the Gods’ plans for humanity?

The Cylons, despite being machines, also believe in God, but they choose a monotheistic approach to religion. Cylons argue that they are doing “God’s work” in destroying the humans. In the process, the Cylons begin to evolve, questioning their own ideals because they go against what God preaches.

The audience is left with a choice. By default, most viewers believe in a monotheistic religion. Yet they see their idea of God being used by the Cylons to wipe out humanity.

This mirrors a lot of our history’s wars. The powerful monotheistic-driven army attempts to destroy the polytheistic humans, in accordance with “God’s plan.” This concept plays on the audience’s psyche. If the Cylons’ religion is right, how can they use it to do such wrong things?

The religion argument is one of the reasons I find Battlestar Galactica such an interesting watch. Because it’s telling a story from point A to point B, it keeps me engaged. Every episode feels weighted, versus Star Trek’s weekly concept. Backstory is in the forefront of Battlestar Galactica, while some pieces of Star Trek can come and go whenever necessary.

I love Star Trek, but when it comes to the concept of religion being used for good or evil, Moore’s Battlestar Galactica is a much juicer piece of science fiction.