The grand unified theory of Star Trek which I present to you is this:

    Star Trek represents the History of the Church

    Star Trek's series and films chronologically represent the major events of Church History. The characters, aliens, and technology correspond to historical persons, empires, and intellectual/spiritual traditions that existed within and alongside Christian cultures. The show alludes to Western Christianity especially, thus primarily pointing to Catholicism, but also pays attention to Eastern Christianity and offshoots like Gnosticism, Islam, and Protestantism. Various non-religious movements, either supporting or challenging Christianity or both, appear as well. Let us boldly go where no one (whatsoever) has gone before ...

    Note: When I say "Star Trek," I'm talking about the five complete television series and the first ten movies that canonically comprise it. I'm not going to include the latest three "reboot" films and the currently running Star Trek: Discovery series (though I may deal with them eventually) or the hundreds of novels, fan fiction film projects, and who knows what else. Also, if you haven't seen Star Trek, here is An Episode & Movie Guide.

    First, however, I must deal with a few concerns ...

    After examining the accusations that Star Trek is anti-religious and yet religious, could one also heap the contradictory claim that it is somehow "Catholic" ... or at least "Christian?" A theology professor at Oxford, Larry Kreitzer, argued that Star Trek contains "many important theological declarations from the Judeo-Christian heritage." This should not be inconceivable, considering again that Star Trek emerged from the West, which was shaped by Christianity (and especially Catholicism). It would be tricky for Star Trek entirely to shake off its cultural roots, even if it has been trying to do so the whole time. But has it, in fact, been trying to do that?

    Many insist the show's theme of humanity bettering themselves through "reason" and "science" is irreconciliable with the Christian claim that humanity must rely on God for perfection. While the former is characteristic of secular humanism, it is also just "humanism" in general. Secular humanists are not the only "humanists." There've been plenty of "Christian Humanists," including Leonardo da Vinci and Pope John Paul the Great. While the topic of "Christian Humanism" is a complicated one (making it not unlike "Secular Humanism"), Christian Humanists hold that our reliance on God and faith can somehow work alongside our ability to improve ourselves using reason and science. This has been attacked by fundamentalists, both secular and religious. The question is, however, does Star Trek promote a specifically "Secular Humanist" vision or merely an unspecified "humanism" that does not automatically foresake Christianity? Moreover, could it be at all possible that Star Trek is specifically promoting a "Christian Humanist" vision, even if it is a veiled one?

    If Star Trek was intended to exist as secular humanist propaganda, there are instances where it casts serious doubt on that philosophy, ostensibly to the point of rejecting it altogether, especially when it periodically shows the need for humans to submit themselves to some higher power. We see numerous instances of this, when main characters who are determined to overcome some trial by their own agency (as a good secular humanist would try to do) end up failing to do so and bending to the will of a god-like force which resolves the problem and delivers them from perdition (I shall point these instances out, but meanwhile consult the episode "Q Who" from The Next Generation for one example). This, of course, is not to deny how the franchise shows humanity succeeding in many forms. But it also occasionally shows humanity needing to be rescued by something beyond its limited powers. Other commentators have identified this dual theme in Star Trek, including Jon Wager and Jan Lundeen, who said it was perhaps the most central theme in the whole Star Trek franchise:

    "Of all the philosophical issues addressed in Star Trek none is more deeply pervasive than the question of humanity's potential for moral self-elevation and, by implication, the need for a deity as humankind's mentor and judge. Trek explores this potentially divisive issue in a way that only myth can do, reframing it on a plane where it appears, however illusively, to lend itself to reconciliation -- and what's more, a reconciliation that valorizes humanism while avoiding an overt confrontation with American's religious sensitivities and even, for some fans and commentators, expressing a serendipitous harmony with Judeo-Christian ideals."

    If Wagner and Lundeen are correct, it would suggest that Star Trek is more akin to "Christian Humanism" than "Secular Humanism," as it depicts humanity perfecting themselves while still having a reliance on God (or some analogous "higher power"). Yet still many find it intrinsically repugnant that something like science fiction could find union with religious belief, let alone Christianity. One might, however, consider how they share more features than people give them credit for, as both, for example, contain a great deal of wondrous oddities. Michèle Barrett (a professor of Modern Literary and Cultural Theory at Queen Mary, University of London) and her son Duncan Barrett (a student at City of London School) together wrote a book called Star Trek: The Human Frontier, in which they expressed the opinion that faith and reason are irreconcilable while also admitting to the strange compatibility between Star Trek and the more harder-to-stomach supernatural claims of Christianity: "The basic premise of Christian belief, the incarnation of God in a human form, is just the kind of thing that cyborg science fiction is full of." As we will examine in detail, many of the strange and especially divine-like phenomena depicted in Star Trek regularly defy scientific explanation and do not fit snuggly in a secularist worldview, making them look suspiciously more like supernatural happenings as described by religious traditions, which would include none other than those of the Biblical variety.

    There is a major objection often cited against these claims. Some insist that Star Trek must be incompatible with the Christian religion because it so often depicts corrupt, alien religions throughout its episodes, giving the suggestion that Star Trek is effectively criticizing "religion" as a whole and thus Christianity by implication. However, as Wagner and Lundeen point out, "The denunciation of false gods is not in itself antireligious; on the contrary, it appears in the Bible." Upon minor reflection, one can easily see how lambasting a few particular religions (namely false ones) does not amount to rejecting every religion. I need not point out that the Catholic Church has condemned other religions as well, even to the ironic criticism of secular humanists who simultaneously praise Star Trek for doing the same thing.

    One might respond, however, that Star Trek only denies deities and never affirms a single one. To this, however, we must look to the episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" (of The Original Series) in which Captain Kirk is confronted by a powerful alien life form who has taken the guise of the Greek god Apollo. This "Apollo" demands Kirk worship him, but Kirk responds, "Mankind has no need for gods. We find the 'One' quite adequate." Instead of a profession of atheism (as it first sounds), Kirk's words evidently express a denial of polytheism (belief in many gods) and an affirmation of monotheism (belief in one God). Not only that, Kirk hints that it's not simply himself who considers monotheism suitable but rather all humanity does as well. Some have made the compelling argument that this settles the issue: Star Trek is not atheistic. It's monotheistic ... like Christianity.

    On the other hand, even if you grant that Star Trek isn't atheistic, it still could be anti-religious (for not all theists are pro-religion). Is there a moment where Star Trek attacks "religion" as a whole? From a meticulous examination of every episode, I have never found any conclusive evidence of this (but some come close, as we will see). Most importantly, it is clear Star Trek never condemns "Christianity" in particular. Whenever Christianity comes up (and it does come up), it is mentioned either with ambivalence or even adulation. Indeed, there are a few times where Star Trek promotes Christianity to the point of looking like heavy-handed propaganda (see the "Bread and Circuses" episode from The Original Series for starters). And, again, the fact that protagonists come up against negatively depicted religions is no proof of the show's alleged anti-religious or anti-Christian character. Rather, the fact that it does condemn faulty religions while offering praise to Christianity might suggest that Star Trek is simply ... Christian.

    If indeed Star Trek is somehow, at heart, a manifestation of a Catholic/Christian conciousness, certainly my thesis that it represents Church history becomes all the more conceivable. It would certainly be a most unusual and fantastical rendition of it but possibly not too dissimilar to the magical tales of King Arthur, which are said to symbolize the various preexisting histories of the Bible ...

    But is Star Trek really Christian ... let alone Catholic? Perhaps one last thing should be looked at ...

    With all that said, I now return to the main thesis, namely that Star Trek is a reenactment of Church history, whether it be in homage to the Christian religion or as some kind of "evil twin" or a confounding mish-mash of the two ...

    Obviously some familiarity with the history of western civilization and with Catholicism would aid in the understanding of what I've written here. On the other hand, this work can also serve as an unconventional guide to imparting knowledge of both. The two go hand in hand, for, as the Catholic historian Christopher Dawson said, "It is impossible to understand Christianity without studying the history of Christianity." This, if nothing else, was the thing that motivated me to embark upon this absurd work. And even if one is satisfied with their level of knowledge about these topics, I would still say that there's significant value in seeing them dressed up in "mythical" clothing.

    "Although Euro-Americans often view themselves as a predominantly rational and practical people, we too live in a world held together by narratives. Some of our narratives are consciously recognized as stories and told as such, while others have a more subliminal but no less profound presence."

    The mythical setting here I speak of is Star Trek, of course. Even if you are unfamiliar with it, you might still be able to follow along. On the other hand, maybe not, and instead, you might want to watch it first (in which case, again, here is An Episode & Movie Guide). For what it's worth, Star Trek is a highly influential and enduring cultural phenomenon. As I will argue, it's an interesting example of how Christianity has deeply fixed itself upon the western imagination, even among those who have tried to disregard it. The franchise, of course, definitely has an interesting view of the future and has inspired many people throughout the world to shape our future accordingly. With that said, however, I maintain that there is enlightenment to be had through the interpretation that Star Trek's vision of the future ... is really a vision of the past.

    Roddenberry represents "God" in the Star Trek universe. His perceived importance is inextricably bound up with the mythos of the show. He is, as it were, an unseen being within the story itself but all the more its creator. Many fans consider his vision of the future a kind of salvation history for the human race. In this, Roddenberry plays the role as a guider of history, albeit a fictional history, but one that many fans hope to concretize. Oftentimes, the success and failure of each character and each series is often judged by its conformity to Roddenberry's stated will. Even after his death in 1991, many believe the show continued to follow his great plan. Others, on the other hand, believe the writers wrongly deviated from it in various ways. As Michael Jindra said, "Some fans take Gene Roddeberry's word as absolute, and his vision of Star Trek and the world as the 'correct' one, a view often expressed in debates over the Star Trek 'canon'." He continues and pertinently notes, "Among these fans, the folk philosophy of Star Trek begins to show the attributes of an institutionalized religion." Nevertheless, even with such alleged deviations (or "sins"), whether they be committed by characters or writers, several fans seem to hold the understanding that Roddenberry's overall will in the show is still being achieved, a concept bearing some resemblence to an aspect of the Catholic belief in divine providence, that is, God still manages to bring about His goals in history amidst the human failures that have refused to submit to it. While there have been past devotees of Star Trek and of the Church who have admittedly despaired in the face of such tribulations, many have still kept the faith.

    As blasphemous as it may sound to both Trekkers and Catholics that Gene Roddenberry is a symbol of "divinity," I would note that the Catholic writer J.R.R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings) argued that, while God is obviously the ultimate Creator, each of us can nonetheless become "sub-creators" when we make art. Man is the "image of God," as the Bible tells us, and so we actually learn something about God through looking at man, as limited as man is ... and this is especially the case when man creates something, for then we also get a glimpse, however faint, of the divine creative power. And when it comes to artists who create stories, and even entire worlds, the connection to God becomes all the more apparent. This still holds true even for Gene Roddenberry, as irreligious as he was. Taken in this light, a Catholic might acknowledge how Roddenberry, a creator of a fictional universe, would bear at least a faint but meaningful mark of the Creator of the real universe ... as much as he might have objected.

    With that said, it must also be acknowledged that Gene Roddenberry was scandalously imperfect, and this actually bears some ramifications for my thesis. Perhaps it was in part because Roddenberry so imbibed the role of creator that he started seeing himself too much like a god and consequently began acting like he was above human morality, as can sometimes be the case for such succesful men. As Joel Engel laid out in detail in his book Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man behind Star Trek, Roddenberry was a serial adulterer, a prolific drug user, and may have even gotten away with manslaughter. He was also infamous for going to great lengths to steal all the credit he could when it came to Star Trek, perhaps to a criminal degree. Many fans have helped reinforce the image of Roddenberry being a kind of "sole creator" of his universe, apparently finding the idea more integral to the franchise than acknowledging a pantheon of creators ... almost as if to insist that the mythos of Star Trek must indeed possess a monotheistic quality about it. In that respect, Roddenberry symbolically has more in common with the Christian God than a typical polytheistic pagan deity, and many seem to want to preserve that feeling often by ignoring Roddenberry's libertine lifestyle which would suggest the complete opposite (the Greek god Zeus, for example). Incidentally, this behavior also reinforces the stereotype of Star Trek being a cult, as cultists often overlook the transgressions of their leader, especially when he sets himself up as a god.

    But did Roddenberry set himself up as "God?" Again, he is often said to have been an atheist, but he seems to have waffled on this a bit. One time, when asked about God, Roddenberry answered how he used to hold "ordinary" views about the subject, but then said, "As nearly as I can concentrate on the question today, I believe I am God." Roddenberry elaborated in quasi-mystical fashion and said that everyone is God in a way (or at least "becoming God"), and that he was sure about that as any fact. So yes, not only did Roddenberry indeed see himself as divine, he attributed a divinity to all humanity. Secular Humanism, of course, is accused of doing this very thing, that is, trying to replace God with man, effectively viewing all of mankind as what was considered "divine." Again, the irony is that secular humanism becomes just another religion, failing to escape what it rejected in the first place. Such self-imposed confusion can go quite deep and unexpectedly manifest in quite intricate forms of religious expression from a supposedly rejected heritage. Again, I bring up this point to show that when one turns away from the Christian tradition, as Roddenberry did (to at least varying degrees), one's work can ironically still echo that very tradition.

    But even in my somewhat harsh criticism of Gene Roddenberry, I do not mean to pour equal criticism upon Star Trek. I still maintain that Roddenberry's influence into the overall corpus of Star Trek has been greatly exaggerated, and so while we do not need to slavishly interpret the show in terms of his professed (and mixed) worldview, it is still nonetheless part of the larger Star Trek epic that a man named Gene Roddenberry is mythologically an omnipresent force throughout its cosmos. Why is that? Because that's how the story has incidentally come to be told, both by its fans and many of its producers, and it has subtly impacted the show's writing, as we will see. Hence, Gene Roddenberry is "The Great Bird of the Galaxy," as his curious epithet goes (a somewhat divine-sounding name, somewhat reminiscent of the symbol of the Holy Spirit ... a heavenly dove). It's not that it's ... true. It's just part of the legend at this point. And the legend is what I'm talking about, a story which, as I will show, despite its multitudinous shortcomings, still shows itself constructed from the building blocks ... of a Christian past.

    The name "Zefram Cochrane" might not ring a bell for the casual Trekker. The mention of his name and his on-screen appearences are but few. Nevertheless, he is the most important character in Star Trek. In the show's fictional history, he is the man who invents earth's first "Warp Drive," the technology that allows mankind to travel faster than the speed of light, allowing access to the stars. He provides the basis for what Star Trek is about, that is, interstellar space travel. More than that, Cochrane's work is said to have sparked a kind of salvation to a broken earth by launching humanity toward the final frontier. It gave humans a renewed sense of purpose, seeking out "new life" and "new civilizations," resulting in radical social improvements throughout their future society. The character of William Riker, when asked to identify the most important example of progress in the recent centuries, unhesitatingly answers, "I suppose the warp coil. Before there was warp drive, humans were confined to a single sector of the galaxy." Spock even tells us, "The name of Zefram Cochrane is revered throughout the known galaxy. Planets were named after him. Great universities, cities." Zefram Cochrane, therefore, not only plays a role of savior for the human race but becomes a defining role model for humanity itself.

    One can easily see a connection between Zefram Cochrane and Jesus Christ. Both are said to have given humanity access to "the heavens," brought about an unparalleled, cultural transformation throughout the world, and became supreme examples to which mankind would henceforth honor. Both are rather unlikely heroes, judging by their lowly backgrounds. Jesus was born into obscure poverty in a backwater village of Bethlehem. Cochrane is presented as an uncultured, struggling engineer in the backcountry of Bozeman, Montana. But whether Bethlehem or Bozeman, the stars ended up shining upon both these men.

    In the B.C. era (that is, "Before Cochrane"), the earth is nearly always portrayed as very "fallen." Almost without fail, whenever Star Trek characters time-travel back to this era, they are always shocked at the sorry state of humanity and condemn its savagery, ignorance, and backwardness. It is very much viewed like Old Testament times, when mankind was universally lost in sin and knew little or nothing of the "true way." Shortly before Cochrane's saving act, the earth had been devastated by World War III, which can be specially analogous to the widespread chaos of the Hellenistic period that led up to Christ's coming. Both worlds were in desperate need of some kind of redemption.

    The warp-capable vessel that Cochrane ends up building is called the Phoenix, named after a mythological bird that bursts into flames at the end of its life, only to be reborn again in its ashes. The image is obviously meant to correlate to how the dying earth scorched by nuclear warfare is brought to new life following upon the vessel's successful flight, as Wagner and Lundeen also see it: "At that moment, Cochrane's ship, the Phoenix, is rising from the ashes of its ruined world." Because the Phoenix has this connection to death and resurrection, it's naturally been a symbol for Christ early on, whose death and resurrection is seen as the means by which the world was spiritually saved from eternal death. It is also significant that Cochrane's vessel is made from a modified nuclear missile, a device originally used for unprecedented destruction but repurposed for a more noble and uplifting end. This parallels to how Christ's instrument of salvation was likewise a notorious deathly instrument, namely a cross (crucifixion being one of the most brutal and dreaded forms of execution in its time). Perhaps one might even consider a possible theological connection here to the first nuclear bomb test (of the Manhattan Project), which was curiously dubbed "The Trinity Test" (though I'll leave others to ponder that one). Furthermore, while Cochrane's warp flight happened in 2063, he was born in 2030 (despite looking much older, theoretically due to radiation poisoning), making Cochrane 33 years old at the time ... the same age Christ was said to be when he accomplished his own salvific work. And furthermore, one might unexpectedly relate the scientific nature of one achievement to the religious nature of the other, as Gabriel McKee (author of The Gospel according to Science Fiction) has observed: "Science, and especially the exploration of space, is typified by a fascination with the unknown, in whatever unexpected forms it may take. Faith and transcendent experience provide a similar approach, diving into that which is beyond the normal reach of human understanding." Both thus stand for a great expansion of the human experience, albeit one more on physical level and the other on a spiritual, but both rising up to their respective heavens.

    Another striking similarity between Zefram Cochrane and Jesus Christ is how both ultimately ascended and vanished from the face of the earth. Scripture tells how, after his resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for a short while to teach his disciples a few last things before his "Ascension into Heaven," after which he was never seen again (except, of course, in the visions of a privileged few). Likewise, we are told that Zefram Cochrane, within a year or so of accomplishing his work and imparting wisdom to the new generation he inspired, took flight into space once more ... and mysteriously disappeared. Like Christ, it was reported that Cochrane's body was never found. Cochrane's story gets even stranger, for several decades later, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy happen to stumble upon a Zefram Cochrane who is alive and well (and now much younger looking). They learn that Cochrane in his last journey was nearly dead but was rejuvenated by a spiritual-like entity called "The Companion" which is capable of bestowing everlasting life. It develops a special relationship with Cochrane and periodically envelops him, preserving his health and undoing the mortal effects of age. Spock describes it as "almost a symbiosis of some kind, a sort of joining," whereas Kirk concludes it's more than that, saying it's "like love." Even though the three starfleet officers (along with Cochrane himself at one point) become suspicious and get the impression that the Companion should be done away with, they ultimately realize that it is truly beneficient being. The episode concludes with the Companion integrating itself into a willing human woman and becoming not only a spiritual but physical lover of Cochrane. It is quite an odd episode, but the Christ-like imagery is inescapable. Not only did Cochrane gain a "glorified" and immortal body like Christ, he is accompanied by a supernatural-like force that bears a curious resemblence to the Holy Spirit, a union which Cochrane says is "hard to explain" (like the ineffable relations between the persons of the Trinity, one might even say). Both the Companion and the Holy Spirit have a connection to love itself and give life to those it possesses (again, one physical and the other spiritual). Betsy Caprio (author of Star Trek: Good News in Modern Images) notes, "Pure consciousness -- here in the form of the mysterious female Companion -- is a good symbol of God." Furthermore, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit become "lovers" of Christ, which is what we see reflected when the Companion joins with the willing female who consequently becomes the lover of Cochrane. All this, though definitely out of the ordinary, is a defining set of events for the character of Cochrane, as the episode in question was technically the first appearance of the character on screen (taking place in the episode "Metamorphosis" in The Original Series). It seems even Gene Roddenberry originally designed this character to have both a worldly and almost otherworldly significance, reflecting, as it were, both of Christ's dual natures, that is, human and divine.

    On the other hand, a serious objection could be raised against this interpretation. As we see in Star Trek: First Contact (which was made after Roddenberry's death), Zefram Cochrane is extremely worldly, very much in contrast to the example of Christ. In this setting, Cochrane is shown as a money-loving, sex-obsessed drunkard. He doesn't undertake his Phoenix flight out of some selfless, idealistic desire to better humanity but rather out of a desire to get rich. Interestingly, this also seems to pose a problem for the message of Star Trek itself. Brannon Braga, one of the major Star Trek producers, commented on this, saying, "We thought it would be cool if the man who basically ushered in a new era of humanity was motivated by things that were antithetical to Star Trek." Ronald D. Moore, another major producer, likewise had said, "Let's get simple. Bring Cochrane into the story. Let's make him an interesting fellow, and it could say something about the birth of the Federation. The future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned is born out of this very flawed man, who is not larger than life but an ordinary flawed human being." But why do this? What was their conscious (or unconcious) motive? It turns out, that both Braga and Moore admitted that when they finished flushing out this soiled dimension of Cochrane's character, they realized that they had made him "a Roddenberry person." Anthony Pascale, a news editor who contributed to the DVD audio commentary of First Contact, also got this impression, explaining, "I always felt that the way they treated Cochrane is kind of like Roddenberry. Roddenberry's revered as this god-like visionary, but Gene Roddenberry was a human being with flaws, you know, but that doesn't mean he isn't also a great man and a great visionary." This is extremely important because the flaws portrayed in Zefram Cochrane, while admittedly differentiating him from Christ, nonetheless serve to unite him with Gene Roddenberry, thus giving the impression that he is, as it were, the creator entering into his own creation, thus mirroring Christ in that way (who is "God made flesh"). It might be mentioned, too, that Cochrane off-handly uses the term "Star Trek" on screen, becoming the only character throughout the whole franchise to speak the title of the show as if he transcends the confines of the show's universe and possesses some special connection to the real world, the dimension where Roddenberry dwelt. In these ways, Zefram Cochrane is (quite intentionally) the "incarnation" of Gene Roddenberry.

    The indisputable centrality of "humanism" in Star Trek gives the human race a special and rather religious significance. "Humanism" after all is about "humanity" (hence the name), and the supreme importance it is given is analogous to something like a religion, since religions are attempts to grapple with what is supremely important. But whether one views Star Trek's humanism as an enimical replacement or ambivalent analogy of religion, humans necessarily become the embodiment of what the franchise is extolling. Moreover, the religion in particular that it is meant to symbolize (or replace) can be expected to be the one most familiar to the culture from which this western phenomenon was formed. For this reason and many others (as will be explained in detail), humanity as a whole in Star Trek ends up being a sort of reflection of Christianity.

    Prior to Zefram Cochrane, humanity was almost portrayed as "inhuman" (or at least "very imperfectly human") and could analogously be paralled to the Hebrew religion, that is, the precursor to Christianity, full of proto-Christian concepts and practices, but only in an unfulfilled state. With Cochrane, humanity enters into a fuller reality, as with Christ to Christianity, the fulfillment of the Hebrew faith, in which God had promised Abraham that his descendents would spread throughout the nations and be as numerous as the stars. Nonetheless, we see in the post-Cochrane era a respect humanity gives to the various classic works produced in the pre-Cochrane era, namely works that are seen to shed a strong light on human nature ... works like Charles Dickens, Moby Dick, and William Shakespeare. The emphasis that humans in Star Trek place on "The Great Books" mimics the emphasis Christians place on "The Good Book" (i.e. the Bible). One could link them to the Old Testament, that is, the part of the Bible written before Christ, but prepared the way for Christianity and continued to be studied by Christians afterwards, as the humans in Star Trek continue to study their "ancient" literature in the future. Star Trek almost has something like a New Testament as well, that is, the accounts that tell about Christ, or, in this case, Cochrane. We see occasions where the characters in Star Trek look back on Cochrane, both in his words and deeds, as a guiding light for their lives. Cochrane's quote, "Don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgments," almost has a humble, Christ-like ring to it. There is a kind of "Holy Scripture" of Humanity treasured in the futuristic world of Star Trek.

    In addition to the human accomplishments of the Shakespearean variety, Star Trek also honors those of the Newtonian/Einsteinian variety. Humanists, both secular and otherwise, do not solely pay homage to literature but to science as well. Both aid humanity in achieving perfection. If humanist literature can be compared to Sacred Scripture, humanist science can be compared to Theology (a thing historically known as "The Divine Science"). In Star Trek, humanity places a strong emphasis on scientific knowledge, whose horizons vastly expanded thanks to the achievement of Zefram Cochrane, similar to how Christianity unsuprisingly places an enormous emphasis on the knowledge of God (i.e. theology), whose scope similarly exploded thanks to the supernatural revelations accompanying Christ's incarnation. We see the characters in Star Trek pour over the complexities of various scientific systems almost like a monk would over the minutiae of the most obscure theological treatises. Each utilizes their science to solve pressing problems, whether it be a crisis in engineering or a crisis in Catholic teaching. Both have a ponderous history of intense vocabulary (of "technobabble") but are nevertheless treated as important. Many other shows would cut such dialogue out, considering such technicalities not only unentertaining but pointless, yet Star Trek consistenly treats it as essential. Christianity has endured and yet been criticized because of such systematic but often misunderstood strictures, and Star Trek similarly has enjoyed longevity despite (or rather because of?) its technical jargon, as if it provides a sense of stability. Much of it is a mystery to the layman, and to some extent even to the characters trying to explain it, yet it effectively comes off as a meaningful extension of the show, worthy at least a passing consideration by the commoner, even if they fail to scratch the surface.

    Despite these similarities, we are nevertheless faced with the obvious fact that "physical science" and "divine science" have two different subject matters. The typical science of humanists (and of Star Trek) studies the material universe, while theology studies the supreme being who exists immaterially and independently of the universe. Vast amounts of ink, of course, have been spilt over maintaining the distinction between these two fields, oftentimes with the goal of isolating and annihilating one of them. From a traditional Catholic perspective, however, the two are not so divorced. Not only is man the image of God, but all creation to some extent is the image of the Creator. When you study a masterpiece, you learn something of the Master. Nature itself may not be divine, but it resembles the divine, however faintly, and that's why it ultimately is worthy of contemplation for the Catholic. It is the reason why medieval monks of western Europe studied it as an extension of their religious faith, and why their devoted attention to it led to discoveries which slowly evolved into what became modern science. This general attitude often survives in some form among unbelieving scientists, though often to such a degree that they go further, effectively treating the universe not as a mere divine reflection but as a divine reality itself ... as God Himself. This is often referred to as "pantheism," the belief that God and the universe are the same thing, and it's curiously something that various atheists freely admit to, viewing it as a poetic way to think about the world and regard it higher than anything else (a sort of "sexed-up atheism" as the atheist Richard Dawkins put it). The result is that, despite any anti-religious motives, secular scientists retain an admittedly quasi-religious mindset in their work, approaching nature somewhat like how a Catholic would approach the divine nature. In this, even among such scientists who go out of their way to scowl at religion, the science to which they devote their lives ends up looking like theology, albeit rationalizing it as mythological playfulness.

    The hallowed portrayal of science throughout Star Trek can variously be interpreted to reflect either the "theistic theology" of Christianity or the poetic "pantheistic theology" associated with secular scientists (one famously being Einstein, as many argue). Star Trek doesn't definitively fall on one side or the other, again probably to avoid displeasing either side of their dedicated fanbase, yet Star Trek's science bears symbolic theological significance descended in one way or another from the Catholic tradition. It should soften the suspicion regarding the supposedly mutually exclusive differences between science and religion and thus open the mind up to consider avenues of mutual respect. The book The Gospel According to Science Fiction, Gabriel McKee makes the interesting case:

    "... religion is as much a quest for knowledge as is science, and science cares as much about the unseen and the unproven as does religious faith. Far from being merely 'non overlapping magisterial' with nothing to do with one another, science and religious experience can in fact strengthen one another. In faith, the scientist can find a driving factor for exploration, a divine reason to inquire into the world's mysteries. In science, the believer can uncover the secrets of God's majesty, perhaps finding in subatomic particles or distant stars something mystical. SF [science fiction] explores futuristic approaches to belief and transcendence, and in that realm it finds the rich common ground between these two often-opposed methods of understanding."

    There is a strong focus on the importance of human emotion in Star Trek, in spite of its celebration of human reasoning. Yet this should not be a surprise considering the show's adulation of humanity, a group of beings not only capable of logic but of feelings as well. In fact, the show consistently criticizes the view that logic is ultimately the only important ingredient to human well-being, even if there is a reoccuring tendency both among some of its characters (and even among its fans) to do just that. As Thomas Richards (author of The Meaning of Star Trek) puts it, "The series constantly reminds us that technical rationality has its limits." Believing that precise science can fix all the problems in the universe definitely has its parallels to how some Christians think that precise theology and doctrine can fix all the problems in the Church. Despite the clearly defined statements about truths (either of physical reality or that of faith), knowledge is not enough. In fact theology and science can screw things up royally in the hands of the wrong people. Yes, doctrine is an essential component to being a Christian, but there is also a more fluid (and oftentimes troublesome) component one could broadly call the spiritual or mystical side of existence. This is what human emotion, in part, symbolizes in Star Trek. Both are unpredictable but valued dimensions which famously contrast the more established and articulated dimensions of life. Because of this twofold importance, therefore, not only does Star Trek portray reason as having an analogously divine-like quality to it, it treats human emotion in a similar fashion.

    Importantly, one reoccuring phenomenon attributed to the spiritual life is known as "the dark night of the soul," and it correlates to dark emotional moments that the characters in Star Trek are periodically forced to endure (not unlike other stories, of course). Such trials are said to strengthen one's character by being temporarily deprived of emotional comforts, often accompanied by intense psychological or even physical pain. We see the show's various flawed characters gaining personal growth through such experiences, yet we also see its many characters who are without any noticeable flaws having to endure such experiences as well. The various so-called "perfect" (or "nearly perfect") characters could be called "secular saints," and therefore a reflection of actual saints. In both cases, such paragons are confronted with spiritual darkness, where their near-perfect selves are ripped apart and put back together, sometimes not so much for the benefit of themselves but for others, reflecting the very Catholic notion that saints (and ultimately Christ, of course) are given forms of suffering which ultimately aid others. Such emotional and spiritual tribulation can even take the form of apparent conflicts pertaining to established science (or, likewise, established theology). Certainly Christians struggle when their spiritual trials seem irreconciliable with their known theology, just as Star Trek's characters struggle when their emotional trials seem irreconciliable with their known science. Yet in both cases, these struggles are considered victorious when such apparent conflicts are worked through and resolved, ultimately advancing in both the known and the unknown aspects of existence.

    Humanism could describe as "Anthropocentric" (or "human-centered"). In other words, humans are of some supreme significance (that is, not just really important but the most important). Despite the plethora of non-human life forms in Star Trek, it is easy to get the impression that the show bears this characteristic, as it portrays humans as "exceptional" and "special" in some ways ... perhaps not so much in physical abilities but often in terms of morality. At the very least, Star Trek, in terms of its story, "centers" around humanity, which is etymologically what "Anthropocentric" means. In contrast to this, we have the term "Christocentric," which denotes the theological view that "Christ" or "Christianity" is of the greatest importance. Historically speaking, Renaissance and Modern Philosophy are said to have shifted from the traditional "Christocentric" view of the Middle Ages to an "Anthropocentric" one, a movement interpretated as replacing "God" (Christ, in particular) with "Man." This, of course, is what Secular Humanism is typically understood to do, consequently creating a perceived hostility between the two.

    Ironically, some have accused Christocentrism of being anthropocentric, since it seems to imply that humans necessarily have the most privileged position in the cosmos, being above all other life forms and having the distinction of God being incarnate into one of its members. It was this sort of so-called "anthropocentrism" among most medieval Christians that supposedly helped hammer in the belief that the earth, the home of humanity, was the center of the universe. But even if earth is just a "spiritual center" and not a "physical center" as Christians generally hold now, we have an instance where "Christocentrism" and "Anthropocentrism" apparently go hand in hand. If so, Star Trek's recognizable anthropocentrism would not necessarily be at odds with a Christocentric understanding of the universe. In fact, postmodern anti-humanist commentators have criticized the series for many of the same sorts of things they have criticized the Church for, often calling it "racist" in its depiction of humanity's superior righteousness over other races, similar to how Christianity has considered itself superior to all other religions.

    Now, even if Star Trek is anthropocentric, is there really an argument that is "Christocentric?" Obviously, Star Trek is not "Christocentric" in any explicit sense. But this should not disqualify it from possible interpretations of it in the implicit sense. Certainly there are Christ figures in many stories that do not mention "Christ," "Christianity," "religion," or even "God," but this does not prohibit one from viewing such stories as spiritually useful aids to thinking about those very things. "Humanity" is, in some sense, the "main character" and even the "hero" of Star Trek and so can be considered a sort of Christ figure as a whole ... or, because it is a collection and not an individual, a sort of "Christianity figure." Again, this even works if one interprets the show as anti-religious and atheistic, as Michèle Barrett and Duncan Barrett did, who wrote, "In some way the ethos of Star Trek is comparable to the beliefs of Ludwig Feuerbach, who argued that humans should take their place at the moral centre, rather than projecting all that was good on to an outside being (that is, God) and internalizing all that was bad as 'sin'." Feuerbach's philosophy, you see, was that our concept of God was merely a psychological way to express what was really true about us and that Christianity was actually a step in our evolution toward realizing this, that supposedly the idea of the Incarnation was not really God becoming man but us subtly realizing that man is God. If Christianity is really just a psychological projection of an atheistic reality about our own human greatness, the supposedly atheistic vision of Star Trek could find all the more suprisingly common ground with what Feuerbach claimed to see unfolding in the history of Christianity, and thus the thesis of this work gains all the more support.

    And yet I stress again that despite the show's moments of apparently anti-religious sentiment, there are too many exceptions where the show, sometimes begrudingly, gives way to the acknowledgement of a higher power and consequently admits that humanity itself, despite all its resemblences, is ultimately not God. But whether one views Star Trek's intention to get Humanity to act like Christianity, Humanism to act like Catholicism, Anthropocentrism to act like Christocentrism for the purpose of supplanting or honoring the Church, Star Trek being a reflection of Church history strangely works either way.


    If humans in general represent Christians in Star Trek, the aliens in general that we see represent pagans. The word "pagan" has been used in various ways, most often standing for those who do not follow an Abrahamic religion like Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Similarly, it can also refer to that which did not originally have an Abrahamic origin but has now been adopted into an Abrahamic tradition in some way or another. Christians have sometimes used it more narrowly to include all non-Christians or even certain Christians whom they doctrinally disagree with (in other words, those deemed to be "heretics"). There is also the more inclusive use of the term that refers to anything that can be known through our natural reason without the aid of divine revelation (such as basic truths about justice). Any given alien race in Star Trek may embody some or all of these meanings of the word "pagan." As you will see, it depends on the alien race.

    As we said before, humanity's ascent to the stars represents humanity becoming more divine and, specifically in a Christian way, entering into the new life of divine grace. Admittedly, many alien races in Star Trek have also attained space travel as well, and so in some sense, they too have symbolically attained something like that. But while this journey to the stars was profoundly transformative in the case of humanity, we get the sense that it was not always so with other races in the galaxy. Even when humanity finds an alien civilization far superior to that of Earth in some respect (like in technology), they usually are revealed to have some damnable flaw, and even if no flaws are explicitly shown, there is still an overriding sense, gleamed from the show overall, that those aliens still have something lacking, something crucial that is only found among humans. This is not to say that each alien race does not have their own unique strengths, and the same can be said of pagans, even pagan religions, as the Church would admit. In fact, the Catholic Church sees religion in general, even non-Christian ones, as a natural expression of man's desire to be united with the divine, however misguided it can sometimes be. All religions have some truth in them, some more than others, and especially good pagan religions have helped foster natural virtues that make them more recipient to the Gospel. There is even the sense in parts of Catholic tradition that pagans have been prepared by God in a way similar to how God prepared the Hebrew people. St. Clement of Alexandria of the early Church held this view, having said it about the pagan Greeks with regard to their philosophical accomplishments:

    "Philosophy has been given to the Greeks as their own kind of Covenant, their foundation for the philosophy of Christ ... the philosophy of the Greeks ... contains the basic elements of that genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human ... even upon those spiritual objects."

    Even though the Church acknowledges that God can speak to pagans, analagous to how Star Trek's aliens can achieve a divine-like ascent to the stars, things are, once again, not perfect in either case. Not only are aliens consistently portrayed as deficient compared to humanity (especially in the moral sphere), they can often be portrayed as outright demonic. It is consistently suggested that such aliens, if there is any hope for them, can only be saved by humanity. This does not always mean that humans (or Christians) always deal with such cultures in a tolerant manner, but I don't think this is necessarily a criticism. As said before, we see both the humans in Star Trek and the Christians in history practice the art of idol-smashing when such idols have enslaved heathens to an intolerable degree. We also often see many wars spark from such differences, ones that Star Trek almost always depicts as justifiable. Appreciation and tolerance of other cultures is an absolute neither in Star Trek nor certainly in the history of the Church. There is a limit to recognizing the goodness of an alien religion, and no matter how pluralistic Star Trek tries to be, it too inevitably recognizes that. It is, again, why Star Trek has come under criticism for promoting a perceived racism in its elevation of human culture over alien ones, something comparable to how the Church is criticized for naturally elevating Christian religion over those of others.

    Of all these things said about paganism, similar things can be said about Islam, Judaism, and heretical branches of Christianity, which again can all fall under "paganism" in the broader sense. The Catholic Church has acknowledged that they all possess degrees of truth in them and thus are not totally lacking a connection with the divine, but it would also say that they lack a fullness in revealed truth.

    As hinted at earlier, even though the aliens in Star Trek represent "pagans," this does not imply they are condemend to remain "merely pagans." Some of them are the equivalent of "Christianized pagans." This symbolically happens when an alien (and perhaps an entire alien race) adopts "human values," or, in other words, becomes a "humanized alien." To be "humanized" is to be "Christianized" in Star Trek. In fact, many examples take the form of humans (or humanized aliens) convincing aliens to be "more merciful" to others and to give up some harsh practice in their culture that they cherish but is spreading misery to everyone. This emphasis on "mercy" strongly reflects the majority of Christ's teachings, famously contrasting the typically unforgiving fixation on mere justice that pagan cultures typically boast of. The aliens who continue to resist adopting human values in Star Trek are invariably depicted as "enemies" and basically "heathens," while those that have given into human values are invariably depicted as "friends" and basically "enlightened." In this way, Star Trek "universalizes" the importance of humanity, making it important not just for itself but for everyone. In fact, you could say that the show makes humanity "catholic," which is the Greek word for "universal." Of course, before Warp drive, humanity did not share their "message" with others, but thanks to Cochrane, and accordingly thanks to Christ, this "message" henceforth spread out to the rest of the world, providing all races with what could even be considered a kind of salvation.

    As Michèle and Duncan Barrett say:

    "Star Trek is about the human, and endorses a lot of what we might call 'humanist' rhetoric. It frankly favours the human, albeit in an inclusive rather than an exclusive way. It also uses a number of devices to ask questions about how the nature of humanity is to be understood."

    Now, even when an individual or entire people have been baptized, their pagan past inevitably survives to some degree ... sometimes in a problematic way and other times in a harmless or even beneficial way (but most often somewhere in between). Examples where a Christian people's pagan backgrounds led to problems in the Church would include the adoption of torture by medieval European governments thanks to their reverence of ancient pagan Roman law which recommended it, or of the inequalities of the feudal system in Catholic Europe which descended heavily from pagan Viking influence. Examples where a Christian people's pagan backgrounds generally brought relatively harmless or even beneficial qualities could include the Irish Catholic retention of fairy folklore, Scandinavian monks recording the tales of Norse mythology, and certainly Christian Europe's preservation of pagan Greek and Roman philosophy. The Catholic Church has "baptized" many cultures, and more often than not, the baptized culture does not altogether forget their pre-baptized past. This results in a diverse array of cultures that nevertheless profess the same creed (whether it be Christianized Native Americans, Africans, Vietnamese, Arabs, Europeans, etc.). A similar phenomenon is seen in Star Trek, where diverse alien races have come together in communion thanks to humanity, and while they still have their own alien cultures (not to mention their own DNA), they have also become "human," insofar as they have been mentally, spiritually, and morally transformed in their contact with humans. To give one important example, we see Captain Picard (a human) speaking to Lieutenant Worf (a Klingon):

    "Being the only Klingon ever to serve in Starfleet gave you a singular distinction .... But I always felt that the most unique thing about you was your humanity. Compassion, generosity, fairness. You took some of the best qualities of humanity and made them part of you. The result was a man I was proud to call one of my officers."

    Amidst all the differences between Christians of varying and unique cultures, the Church emphasizes that what is ultimately important is what they have in common, particularly their connection with God, which, in the end, puts aside all differences. As the Bible says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In fact, Kirk's provocative line "Everyone is human" seems to reflect a similar kind of unifying vision. At the very least, Star Trek's acknowledgement of the differences between humans and aliens does not stop there. It ultimately seeks to unite. And yes, it is ultimately through humanity that it accomplishes this. Likewise, the Church in its diversity, largely thanks to its incorporation of pre-Christian cultures, is not ultimately about such diversity but about communion.

    Every episode and movie in Star Trek features Starfleet, an organization dedicated to space exploration, interstellar peacekeeping, and defense. While the majority of its members are human, it also includes a wide diversity of aliens, though ones who are "humanized." Starfleet is one of the main constants throughout the Star Trek franchise and bears an importance that feels "sacred." It can easily be compared to the Church, an institution also dedicated to "the heavens" as well as to keeping peace in the world, while also ready to engage in warfare if necessary (be it spiritually or, in some historical circumstances, even physically). The Church is composed both of "cradle Catholics" ("humans") as well as converts from pagan backgrounds ("humanized aliens"). Importantly, too, both Starfleet and the Church work to bring more members into its ranks.

    Now, the term "Church" can admit to a variety of meanings. It can include anyone who is "Christian" but can also refer to the "Church Hierarchy" specifically. In Catholicism, the latter sense includes the Pope, Bishops, and Priests, that is, those who comprise the Church's spiritual leadership on earth. When I use the term "Church" when comparing it to Starfleet, I do not necessarily mean one or the other. In some contexts, Starfleet aptly symbolizes the Church in the broader sense, and other times in this more specific sense. With regard to the narrower sense, it should noted that Starfleet, like the Church, is very much a "hierarchy" with its military structure. In fact, the word "hierarchy" itself, despite its secular usage now, etymologically means "holy order," having originally been used to describe the rule of priests.

    Starfleet is often portrayed in "microcosm," namely within the particular starship (or space station) that the protagonists inhabit. In fact, you might even call each starship a sort of small "c" church. This is rather fitting, considering the Church has often been symbolized as a "ship," a vessel that protects its passengers from the chaos outside it ... or in this case, the void. At the very least, the starship symbolizes something of incredible importance in each series. As Wagner and Lundeen say:

    "Star Trek's project, in the face of this chaos, is one of establishing a 'fixed point' of orientation for the cosmos, and that point is the starship or station that carries its center with it in the otherwise decentered universe."

    Despite the ultimate grandeur that both Starfleet and the Church attain in their respective histories, both also had humble origins. Whether it be the work of Zefram Cochrane (a lowly engineer from Bozeman) or Jesus (a lowly carpenter from Bethlehem), there would be an unassuming establishment amidst a sprawl of pre-existing civilizations and awe-inspiring cultural achievements. But both Starfleet and the Church nevertheless had a destiny to bring about something unprecedented which would unite these apparently disparate peoples. They would make a mark on the world like nothing ever before it.

    The main purpose of Starfleet is to explore the vast reaches of space. By doing this, a higher knowledge is achieved more than would be possible if they just remained on Earth. As Starfleet discovers time and time again, there are mind-boggling wonders to be uncovered in the infinite expanse, some bordering on what appears to be supernatural. The physical heavens have long been associated with the supernatural, the divine, and even the afterlife (hence the name ... heavens). Various early Christian thinkers speculated that the spiritual heavens (the afterlife) might in some way physically reside beyond the stars (beyond the "Empyrean" heaven, as it was known). You could say that the afterlife has very much been viewed as "the final frontier" or, as Shakespeare put it, "The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns" (a line significantly referenced in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). This classic idea of the supreme goal (the final frontier) being out beyond the confines of earth is very universal. It provided tremendous inspiration for men to study the heavens in the first place, generating a momentum that would eventually lead to modern astronomy. The sacredness of this celestial goal can be felt throughout Star Trek. The show gives the impression that Starfleet's space exploration is not merely for curiosity's sake, but for some higher end, one connected in some way to man's salvation.

    As other commentators have argued, one might view the exploration of "outer space" in Star Trek as a symbolic exploration of "inner space" (that is, the "inner life" of man). The Barretts have argued this:

    "The prologue of Star Trek tells us that the mission is 'to explore strange new worlds'. While this might be taken to refer to exploring space, we have suggested that it can be taken to refer to the exploration of human identity."

    McKee makes the same conclusion, as well as connecting the traditional, spiritual perception of the celestial realm to the modern-day scientific investigation of the stars:

    "The ascetic practices of mystics and the rigorous training of astronauts are ultimately for the same goal, and the drive to explore the universe beyond our planet is the same as the desire to explore the inner life of the human spirit."

    Despite the obvious differences between space exploration and spirituality, a surprising connection has nevertheless existed between the two. Starfleet, of course, strives for the former, while the Church strives for the latter, but they are not wholly disconnected. It hearkens back to the idea of "creation" being a reflection of the "Creator," and so through looking at the majesty of the universe, we can experience a faint but profound glimpse of the majesty of the divine. Being of this mindset, Johannes Kepler, one of the greatest and most renowned astronomers in history (and a devout Christian), said, "Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God." Here, Kepler explains that scientists (especially those who study the stars) are "priests," not in the literal ecclesiastical sense but as devoted celebrants of "nature," that is, of what God has made. Far from implying such roles are in opposition to the Church, he said they too ultimately must serve God too, just like real priests since all things have their origin in God. Therefore, in Kepler's mind, something like Starfleet, an organization composed of such "priests," would not only be analogous to the Church but might even be called a "Church" itself in regard, as he put it, "to the book of nature."

    With all that said, some still object to there being a connection between modern science and Christianity. The Barretts apparently are two such persons ... but yet at the same time they simultaneously are forced to admit otherwise:

    "The rationalism of modern western culture is of course oddly restricted by the fact that this is a culture throughout which religion, particularly Christianity, has flourished. It seems that people have learnt to live with this glaring contradiction. Indeed, modern astro-physicists, in their claims to see into 'the mind of God', are carrying on a long tradition of scientists adopting a 'priestly' role."

    Even with the pro-religious Keplerian view of science, many scientists have not always been content to remain so-called "priests of nature" but rather have sought to abolish the "priests of God" and then to fill their shoes in addition to their own. Many times have we seen scientists arguing that Churches are outdated because ... "science!" far from complementing what they stand for, has allegedly disproved them. Such scientists step out of the traditionally defined limits of science into the traditionally defined role of religion, proposing not merely new theories about matter but also about morality and the meaning of life ... about what spiritual directions humanity should take. This is how Star Trek has often been interpreted ... that science has replaced theology in the spiritual and moral sphere. That argument can certainly be made. And again, strictly speaking, this does not weaken but rather perhaps strengthens my point, namely, that Starfleet is playing the role of the Church.

    In addition to their contemplation of the heavens, Starfleet officers often act like missionaries. They are not content merely to observe "strange new worlds," "new life," and "new civilizations" but also to affect them. Starfleet's interstellar peacekeeping interests inevitably require this. As Thomas Richards notes, "The Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission, and the aim of diplomacy is not observation but intervention." What changes do they seek to establish this peace in the galaxy? As the Barretts claim, "in Star Trek the issue is to 'humanize' as many people as possible." The peaceful and fulfilling unity in the galaxy that Starfleet seeks is the same sort that unifies Starfleet itself ... its humanity. Starfleet is human at its core, and the aliens that join it do so because they have adopted human values (at least, to some extent). Those that refuse are almost invariably depicted as villainous and destroyers of peace in the universe. This can even include people who are technically human but failing to act like it (that is, when they act "inhumanely"). All this parallels the Church, which seeks accordingly to "Christianize" the world, both those who are pagan as well as those who are already Christian but imperfectly so. Those who reject this gift are tragically lost.

    As mentioned before, however, this unity in Starfleet and the Church does not altogether abolish diversity. In fact, Starfleet, despite its human-centered consciousness, appears to be the most diverse organization in the galaxy. The Catholic Church too, despite its one faith, is expressed through a staggeringly large number of cultural variations. Admittedly, this can often be due to the particularities of the converted people's pagan past. This is not to say that the diversity seen both in Starfleet and the Church is not without its tension. We see this in Star Trek perhaps especially with its humanized aliens, including its alien-human hybrids. Christianizing a people is often facilitated when already baptized Christians marry into their culture, similar to how humans and aliens having children together can facilitate humanizing alien races. Admittedly, such offspring often struggle to integrate their two respective backgrounds, sometimes being forced to choose between the two in certain circumstances, that is, they must choose between "human morality" and honoring their alien heritage, not unlike converts who can find conflict between their newfound faith and their ancestral but oftentimes problematic traditions. Without fail, it seems the show expresses that the human way (and thus, analogously, the Christian way) is always better. The Barretts, perhaps rather cynically, note this as well:

    "The tradition of what we might call a form of human expansionism-within Star Trek's own value system-tends to take it for granted that it is better to be human. One strategy is for the alien beings to become steadily incorporated within a human value system."

    Oftentimes, when a humanized alien chooses that path, he is often met with disdain from his fellow aliens, similar to how Christian converts can become outcasts from their native un-Christianized homelands, and while the Church's history honors lots of things pagan, it ultimately (obviously) favors Christian ethics above any particular pagan custom.

    As many are well aware, many modern (and, moreover, postmodern) individuals have criticized the Church for believing it holds the truth and that others ought to submit to it. The same criticism has been levelled against Star Trek for portraying Starfleet as believing the same thing about itself. Wagner and Lundeen are two such critics:

    "There is, however, a more subtle narrative of privilege and domination at work, one that places the Terran/American/Starfleet culture implicitly at the normative center of 'humanness' while marginalizing and condescending to the cultural 'Other'."

    Many accuse the Church of helping cause the West (especially America) to possess a condescending view of everyone else and a need to take control of other cultures in order to make the world a better place, and that such an attitude has been the cause of oppression by the West throughout the world. Many see Starfleet as having a similar problem:

    "In keeping with the American fantasy of non exploitive conquest, the Enterprise asks little from, and gives much to, the worlds it encounters. Star Trek's 'final frontier' is a realm characterized by peoples in need of instruction, protection, or taming."

    But there are those who would defend Starfleet's mission in the face of this criticism, just as there are those who would the Church's mission. As many fans would readily point out, the "Prime Directive" is an important factor in this (but that will be examined later since Starfleet did not formally adopt it until some time after its foundation, that is, not until after Star Trek: Enterprise). Nevertheless, there was a general understanding from the very beginning that Starfleet, at least in theory, despite its impulse to humanize other races, also strives to respect their freedom. The same basic idea has been expressed by the Church, which, as Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI put it, should not impose but rather propose. Most would acknowledge this distinction, even if it's not always put into practice. In both cases, however, the goal is to present a better way of life through both word and action in the hope that others will realize what is being offered. And yet while people's free will is to be respected, we see in Star Trek that rejecting what Starfleet has to offer is not without consequences of a rather disasterous sort, the same being true about the rejection of the Church.

    One of the admirable ways in which Starfleet "proposes" rather than "imposes" their humanity is by their selfless (and sometimes sacrificial) acts of kindness, mercy, and compassion. Throughout Star Trek, we see Starfleet officers willing to sacrifice themselves to save their friends with little or no hesitation. This even extends oftentimes to risking their lives for alien strangers. It is a trait seldom shared by those outside Starfleet. "Less enlightened" races often fixate on self-preservation and unbending pagan-like views of justice, but even when wronged or backstabbed, Starfleet is frequently seen to inexplicably forgive them and perseveres in forging friendship with them. It hardly needs to be said that such a thing is a defining characteristic of Christianity ... arguably the central theme of it. Such behavior impresses aliens and pagans alike, who, even if they are often suspicious about it at first, often become transformed (if only gradually) to love and even imitate this.

    All this is not to say that the Church has always gone about Christianizing other cultures in necessarily admirable ways, nor is this to imply that Starfleet always tries to humanize alien cultures in the ideal manner either. The Church has always acknowledged that even Christians are sinful and capable of evil ... even great evil. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that such failings have usually been more rampant in purely pagan societies, though people have complained about them more when they crop up within the Church, as there is an understanding (even if it's subconscious) that Christians "know better" than pagans. We see a similar mentality with regard to Starfleet, that is, the evils done by aliens are considered less scandalous than when those same evils are done by humans, for the humans are also expected to "know better." They are the ones who hold the "message" of a sort destined to spread to the rest of the world, and when its chief representatives fail to live up to it, this saving message is obscured and potential souls are deprived of it ... possibly lost forever.

    While Starfleet's primary mission is space exploration, its vessels are equipped with military-grade weaponry. Some have said these two things are irreconcilable. Richards, on the other hand, suggests otherwise, "Historically there is no such thing as exploration for exploration's sake. Exploration usually leads to empire, and empire leads to war." An organization that expands its influence for one reason or another tends to butt heads with others along the way, and so if exploration is to be celebrated, perhaps such conflicts must be accepted. This sort of paradox is felt more strongly with regard to peacekeeping, as sometimes war is necessary to achieve peace, a concept that Starfleet clearly embraces. In a broader way, however, the reason why Starfleet acknowledges the need to be prepared for a fight seems to tie in with their general understanding of "progress" as a struggle. Almost never is there a sense that Starfleet officers think their missions will be an easy and uneventful one. Rather, they are prepared like soldiers even when conducting scientific research. Moreover, they all seem to realize that the trials inevitably along the way will not be mere inconveniences but opportunities for growth on behalf of all humanity. To overcome such trials, some systems of self-defense are in place rather than an intention merely to surrender at the first sign of danger ... hence Starfleet's arsenal.

    In comparison, the Church, in addition to its contemplative and peacemaking aims, also is said to bear a military character. The "Church Militant" refers to those Christians who are alive on earth and thus still struggling to work out their salvation (in contrast to those in Purgatory or Heaven, who are called the "Church Suffering" and "Church Triumphant," respectively). Not only is it understood that a Christian soul is faced with temptations from the devil but with all sorts of temptations from the world itself. As much as a Christian should admire the world as the handiwork of God, it is also corrupted by sin, its different parts fallen into a destructive disharmony, which means Christians should guard against it. Certainly, Christians have met all sorts of opposition when spreading the Gospel, sometimes to the point of martyrdom. But Christians grow stronger when they overcome the challenges and suffering that the world throws at them. At the same time, the true Christian recognizes the world as inherently good, despite its tragically fallen state. This paradoxical attitude of both delighting in and fighting against the world is also present in Starfleet.

    The "militant" nature of Starfleet will be looked at in more detail, as the one in the Church as well. But, for now, it is important to keep in mind that Starfleet's mission is not simply "to go" but "to boldly go." Boldness implies difficulties to overcome, which implies struggle ... and that things are not yet perfect.

    A conspicuous theme that many commentators bring up when discussing Star Trek is "utopia." The idea of utopia might be at the heart of what I've been talking about, since it's arguably based on a mixture of both secularism and Christianity (again, much like Star Trek). There are various opinions about the concept of "utopia," especially when it comes to science fiction. In an essay titled "Deeds of Power: Respect for Religion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Peter Linford (a News Editor for Church Net) draws attention to an important fact:

    "For Darko Suvin, prolific writer on science fiction, the genre of science fiction and the genre of utopia are closely linked. Suvin regards utopia as being inherently non-religious, even though the father of the genre, Thomas More, died for his faith and became a saint of the Roman Catholic Church."

    It is interesting that the word "utopia" was invented by a Catholic martyr, St. Thomas More, who apparently designed it to be a hybrid of two Greek words, "eu-topos" (good place) and "ou-topos" (no place). In other words, "utopia" was a good place that does not exist ... at least, not in this life ... the afterlife, of course, being a different story. Later, various secular philosophers, would try to make it exist anyway ... that is, to make "heaven" a place on earth, having eschewed any hope of any other. Such secular utopian thinking has been accused of taking traditionally Christian ideas and trying to secularize them; hence, making "heaven" not a place in the hereafter but a place in the here and now. It is often argued that Star Trek depicts something like this, for it periodically shows earth as a "good place" ... a "paradise" ... one might even say, "heaven on earth."

    But why exactly does earth become a "utopia" in Star Trek? It obviously has something to do with Zefram Cochrane and his invention of "Warp Drive" (as pointed out earlier). Ronald D. Moore comments about the movie Star Trek: First Contact, "In that man [Zefram Cochrane], by the end of the picture you see the transition of humanity from petty and small-minded to reaching out to the stars and actually bridging the gap between us and 24th-century man." And yet, this does not explain much. As Wagner and Lundeen comment, "For reasons that are scarcely explained, this technological breakthrough [of Warp Drive] is the harbinger of an unprecedented era of human progress." The success of the "Cochrane Era" is achieved by a never fully explained "act of grace," mirroring the outpouring of grace said to be achieved by Christ's work that gave rise to the saints. Yet why would looking beyond the earth really benefit the earth? How does staring into the distant aether help those down on the ground? St. Thomas Aquinas said, "It is necessary for the perfection of human society that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation." The heavens are not so distant as to be irrelevant to the earth, but rather they are its paradoxical means of perfection. It gives humanity a clear purpose ... an ultimate purpose (a final frontier). It still doesn't explain everything, of course, and remains a mystery, but it's rather interesting that a rather "unearthly" behavior practiced by humanity in Star Trek apparently brings about a supposedly "earthly" paradise. If Star Trek is trying to adhere to a secular utopian vision, it poetically cannot help but still invoke the heavens to rationalize it.

    Following Cochrane's saving act and apparently reinforced by the work of Starfleet, the earth gradually enters a purported "world peace." Morever, we see the character of Deanna Troi in The Next Generation claim, "Poverty was eliminated on Earth a long time ago, and a lot of other things disappeared with it. Hopelessness, despair, cruelty." Captain Picard also adds, "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives," indicating that mankind has not only gained a material but a kind of spiritual change ... a change not only to their external circumstances but their internal thinking and desires. Here is where Star Trek has famously been accused of being Communist, and the objection is not exactly easy to deny. It sounds like Earth has indeed effectively become a "Heaven on Earth," a phenomenon that people like Karl Marx promised would magically happen one day with the letting go of religion (among other things). Yet even if you simply interpret the show as Marxist propaganda, the image of this "earthly paradise" still remains an image of "paradise," and thus a symbolic connection ... for better or for worse.

    Could the concept of bringing heaven to earth, while proven notoriously disastrous for atheistic regimes, not be wholly repugnant to the Church, at least if understood in a certain way? Christians are called to build the Kingdom of God in this world in their own finite capacities, though admittedly, unlike what Karl Marx insists, this process will never be brought to completion in this life. But could the limited efforts of Christian fellowship demonstrate something faintly similar to what paradise will be like? Could they make a society that gives a glimpse of heaven while still on earth? Most Christians would say yes. Some say the very early Church managed to capture this (if only for a brief time). When talking about Star Trek's utopian vision, Wagner and Lundeen mention this very thing:

    "The forebears of nineteenth-century utopias also included radical Christian movements devoted to reclaiming the ideal of a simple, selfless, and loving community based on the lives of the early Christian Apostles."

    Even some Christians who are adamant at condemning "communism" in every possible form are confronted with the uncomfortable fact that the Apostles and other early Christians shared everything in common (as reported in the Book of Acts in the Bible). But is that necessarily "communism?" And, moreover, is this the kind of thing we see in Star Trek? Is there really no private property? Some say yes, some say no. It's not clear, at the very least. Related to this is the frequent mention in Star Trek that money has been abolished in human society. But this too is never quite spelled out either, and there seems to be plenty of exceptions to it. We can say that this might (vaugely) relate not only to the early Church community but also to how many Catholic monks and nuns have lived throughout the history of the Church, for they (somewhat depending on the order) take an oath of "poverty" and hold property in common, not privately. Such living conditions are considered "perfect" in the Catholic tradition, albeit not morally demanded of all Catholics in this life, but nonetheless understood as something closely connected to how the Blessed will exist in heaven. In this way, could one say that the Church is aiming to bring heaven to earth in a way, and could it then even more closely be likened to Starfleet which, in some way, is trying to do the same thing?

    Even if the Church's theology and various secular political/sociological philosophies share certain ideas in common, is this just a coincidence? Or is it possible, as suggested earlier, that the latter comes from the former? We have this passage from Carl Schmitt, a significant modern political philosopher:

    "All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development - in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for example, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver - but also because of their systematic structure, the recognition of which is necessary for a sociological consideration of these concepts."

    This influential idea of Carl Schmitt that modern political theory is based off "secularized theological concepts" from past Christian generations has surprisingly been echoed by atheist thinkers. The Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek concurs with Schmitt on this, going so far as to say that the modern secular atheist thinking in general descends from Christianity itself. Zizek said that the image of Christ's crucifixion is symbolic of humanity's realization that there is no God, and that Christianity is rather unique among religions for this reason. The Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton, whom Zizek likes to quote here, even says something similar when he claimed Christianity is the only religion "in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist," when Christ on the cross cried out to heaven in desperation, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Zizek takes it a step further and insists, "The only way to be an atheist is through Christianity." God's death in the Christian religion possesses a likeness to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's famous remark, "God is dead .... and we have killed him." Though Nietzsche's statement refers to the eschewing of the divine in the modern world, many see it as a kind of culmination of something that started in the ancient world by Christianity. Even the anti-theist scientist Richard Dawkins from Great Britain, while believing religion should be destroyed for the betterment of society, admitted:

    "This is historically a Christian country. I'm a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims. So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I'm not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history."

    Many atheists, therefore, aim to create a secularized world but still see Christianity as valuable and even crucial to their "history." So, once again, even if one insists that Star Trek professes a secular utopianism, this does not preclude the show from echoing the history the Church. To some secularists, they would even say that for Star Trek to indeed be secular and utopian, it must be Christian.

    Yet, among other things, does Star Trek really depict a utopian society? Many have argued no. We see on occasion the show portraying attempted utopias/paradises that are really quite awful (as seen in the episode "The Way to Eden" from The Original Series and "Justice" in The Next Generation). Moreover, Starfleet officers sometimes go so far as to fight and dismantle them (like in "This Side of Paradise" and "The Apple" in The Original Series). From this, it seems safe to conclude that Star Trek at least does not embrace "utopia" or "paradise" indiscriminately. But could it be more? Could it also suggest that Starfleet's mentality is one that insists that humans must rightly struggle and endure suffering in this life, contrary to apparent utopias and paradises? Incidentally, this view of life is very much what the Catholic Church has preached ... that Christians must bear their cross for the betterment of souls, both theirs and others, rather than try to resign oneself to earthly comfort. This importance placed on struggle seems to be shared by Starfleet, which may then suggest Star Trek is actually anti-utopian. In addressing this, Wagner and Lundeen offer this distinction:

    "If utopia is a banal paradise from which all struggle has been banished, then Trek's predominant voice is anti-Utopian. If, on the other hand, utopia is a vision of an ideal human fellowship, then Trek's myth world is utopian beyond a doubt."

    So, if "utopia" means "ideal human fellowship," then, of course, the Church strives for "utopia" as does Starfleet. With that, one might say that Starfleet aims to attack false utopias that altogether try to avoid trials and tribulations... but real utopias that preserve them in the right way are healthy. The "utopias" back on Star Trek's earth (and, to some extent, on its ships) are perhaps examples of such true utopias, that is, a society where its members living harmoniously but still facing a healthy degree of challenges.

    If this is the case, earth's quasi-ideal state would largely be a human phenomenon within the Star Trek universe. No alien civilization ever really seems to exist as a "true utopia" (with some possible but nebulous exceptions). While many other alien species have achieved Warp flight and other similarly advanced technology (including replicators, which would supposedly lead to a "post-scarcity" economy), they are seldom portrayed as having achieved such a happy and stable society as that of earth. Again, it shows how Star Trek very much indicates that humanity is special among the stars. By extension, human goals, especially as expressed in Starfleet, are ultimatey superior to all others. It is very much the same attitude that many have accused Christianity of having about itself with respect to all other religions, that is, the idea that true peace and happiness can only be reached in this life (and the next, for that matter) by means of nothing else other than the Church.

    Not surprisingly, both Catholicism and Star Trek have garnered criticism for promoting their respective "exclusionist" messages. The perceived behavior of Starfleet seeking to dismantle alien utopias while working hard to preserve the "true" utopia back on earth can come across as suspicious. Likewise, the perceived behavior of the Church seeking to rid the world of false pagan religion while building up their own faith has stirred much protest as well. On the other hand, one might try to argue that the Church's non-earthly but rather heavenly aim is truly universal and thus not a matter of particular, tribalistic, worldly competition. Star Trek, on the other hand, may be accused of doing the opposite, for while it physically "aims at the heavens," it might truly aim more towards the earth as its ideal, for it is the earth that is supposedly the perfect place, whereas the heavens are found lacking. Could Star Trek be the complete opposite of the Christian message in this way? Yet why does the earth only become a utopia only after it reaches for the heavens? It is a question critics have asked time after time. What really makes the earth a utopia in Star Trek?

    There is this possible interpretation: the earth and its vessels that we see in Star Trek are not utopias. Earth still has government (and hierarchy), which at least some utopians (and Marxists) insist should not exist. And, as mentioned before, there are references of humans "buying" things and having "credits," despite earth's supposedly moneyless economy. But the fact that there are conflicts, struggles, and suffering of any sort would automatically indicate that things are not perfect. So how can that be a utopia? And even if you take the aforementioned and somewhat non-standard definition of utopia being "ideal human fellowship," what we see in Star Trek still technically doesn't work. Yes, the fellowship among its characters are noticeably quite good ... but is it always perfect? Is it always ideal? The occasional (and even sometimes frequent) emotionally charged argument among its protagonists would indicate that things are, in fact, not technically ideal yet. This is true not only with what happens on earth's ships but also on earth itself. The relatively few times we even see earth society in Star Trek, we actually don't see people always getting along either, and, yes, sometimes we see them even breaking the law .... so how could this possibly fulfill the requirements for utopia?

    The only way Starfleet may be utopian is that it's just aiming toward utopia ... but it hasn't achieved it yet. Perhaps the claims by Starfleet characters about the abolition of money and crime is, at best, hyperbole. Maybe certain sections of human society have managed to do it (at least at certain points) but evidently not all. The same can be said about the Church's flock, particularly its monasteries. Therefore, in both Star Trek and the history of the Church, people have "gotten the message," but there is still work to be done to bring that message to complete fulfillment.

    But is this even right? Is Star Trek actually aiming for utopia? That is, is it really hoping to achieve an "earthly paradise?" Wagner and Lundeen don't think so:

    "Trek is anti-Paradise. Trek's utopian narratives posit that the utopian pursuit of happiness, community, harmony, and peace, while not necessarily wrong in itself, cannot be followed very far without incurring substantial human costs."

    Starfleet espouses the need to struggle to perfect both oneself and society, and while perfection should indeed be the goal, things will paradoxically go wrong with this life if one tries to force things into some supposedly final stage of perfection. The Church has preached this ... aim for perfection even if it will not be achieved in this life. It seems to be an "asymptotic" reality of the fallen world. The "utopias" that Starfleet opposes have tried to break this rule and the result is always a facade of perfection beneath which was something horrifyingly imperfect. Even Star Trek admits that humans have fallen into this trap, one example being the scandalous revelation of "Section 31" (in Deep Space Nine) which suggests earth is most definitely not a utopia but a society maintained by an element of deep-seated corruption, a fact that some utopian fans of Star Trek wish to ignore ... or are simply unaware of (more on that later, of course). Needless to say, secular communist regimes are famously guilty of such things. Admittedly, even Christian societies have befallen an analogously similar error (albeit never quite to the dramatic and genocidal extent of their anti-religious renditions), as when they, for example, too strictly demand a level of moral behavior for those yet sorely unequipped for it, the result often being a frantic and, at best, superficial adherence to Church precepts, often with a fair bit of chaos raging benealth, often leading to disaster.

    In the end, however, despite such overzealous moments, both Starfleet and the Church recognize the lack of perfection inherent in the reality of our universe (and even themselves) and thus acknowledge, as it were, the true etymology of "utopia" ... namely, "good place" and "no place." Despite that, however, in the midst of all the battles and attempts to bring peace into the world, both Starfleet and the Church have somehow kept focus on their heavenly destinations.

    Note: As some of you may be wondering, I've chosen not to mention the United Federation of Planets yet, as I've found the topic fits more elegantly in a later section.

    In this introduction, I primarily aimed to show the plausibility that Star Trek reflects the history of the Church. Once again, this is not to conclude that the franchise necessarily promotes Christianity. As Michael Jindra succinctly put it:

    "For some fans, Star Trek replaces older religions like Christianity, and for others it supplements them with new ways of expressing the same messages."

    If Star Trek is to be viewed as replacing Christianity, it is likely very much a secularized version of it, which would undoubtably still result in several similarities between the two. The evidence that Star Trek seeks to take Christianity's place is far from conclusive, however, and it seems one can comparably interpret it as an artistic tribute to the West's Christian past rather than a devious reconstruction of it. Most likely, however, it has been designed, albeit with imperfect consistency, to be both, in such a way as to be amenable to either interpretation. Whichever way you see it, Star Trek will be shown to represent the history of the Church.

    This concludes the introduction to my thesis. From here, each individual Star Trek series and movie will be given their own detailed analysis, showing their connection to the various major facets of Church history. Importantly, if you find any of this to be highly illogical and want to express your disagreement ... make it so.

    Note: At present, all the subsequent sections to this project are unavailable, as they are still in rough draft form. I hope to finish the next part within the next year, which will be an analysis of Star Trek: Enterprise, the first series in Star Trek's fictional timeline.


By Julian Ahlquist © Copyright, 2018.