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Live Long And Prosper

Mr. Spock intersected my life over two phases, separated by about two decades. The first phase, like many of my generation, was via the Sunday sermons that I spent the whole week waiting for – the 10.30-11.30 AM slot every Sunday morning was religiously devoted to watching him and the other crew members of Starship Enterprise navigate the galaxy on their exciting adventures.

Apart from being deeply fascinated and influenced by his logical and emotion-less approach to everyone and everything, I also had a quirky personal connection. My abnormally large-sized ears (they probably looked even larger on my 12-year-old-self) prompted an uncle to anoint me with the same sobriquet as the Vulcan. Even though it was a source of much mirth for others in the family, I was secretly very thrilled to be called by this nickname.

The second time Spock shaped my thinking, albeit in an indirect sort of way, was in my thirties. That was when I was sorting out where I stood on matters of faith, belief, etc. Among all the literature that I read on the subject at the time, one article has been lasting in its impact – an essay by this gent who calls himself Mr. Lizard.

Mr. Spock features prominently in this piece. In a way, it was fitting that he had a role in leading me to my atheist affirmation.

You Lived Long And Prospered, Mr. Spock. RIP.

spock billboard

<pic credit: @lillie_80 on Twitter>


I have quoted an excerpt from the above mentioned essay in one of my earlier posts, but it’s worth reproducing here in full. Superb read.

More Fictional Than Thou

Presented for your consideration: Two gentlemen, both with what one might term a mild delusion — they are deeply involved with people who don’t exist. Both spend a lot of money on this obsession. Both can recite, at length, the putative words, thoughts, and deeds of their fictional obsessions. Both have allowed the ideals expressed by these non-existent beings to shape their lives, and both proudly proclaim their allegience in a sect of followers. Despite this odd obsession, both men hold down jobs, have families, pay taxes, and commit no more than trivial crimes, such as jaywalking, or speeding, or ripping the tags off of mattresses.

One of these men, though, has a serious problem — he won’t acknowledge the fictious nature of his fantasy friend. The other one has no such difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy.

Yet, in our society, the former is considered normal and healthy — while the latter is, at best, a figure of mockery, at worst, a reviled outcast.

The former man, you see, is a ‘Christian’, and the fictious being he admires is called ‘God’. The latter is a ‘Trekker’ and his fictional focus is called ‘Mr. Spock’.

Neither God nor Mr. Spock exist. Both are creations of the imagination. There is no such thing as being ‘slightly fictitious’ — a thing, or a person, either exists, or it does not. God does not exist, making him as fictional as Spock, Fox Mulder, Tom Sawyer, Hamlet, Bart Simpson, or President Clinton’s ethical standards.

There are many people in our society obsessed with fictions. Any college library will have scholarly journals, many of which have been published for years, which contain endless articles analyzing the psychology and behavior of people who don’t exist, from Huck Finn to Hamlet to, of course, Yahweh. No one would blink at someone with a bumper sticker reading ‘God Is My Co-Pilot’. Many people attempt to solve moral dilemmas by asking themselves, “What would Jesus do?”

A teenager who professes a strong faith in ‘Jesus Christ’ is likely to find societal approval. Even if he comes from a Jewish, Muslim, etc, family, he will easily find a community to support him. And while his parents might disapprove of his beliefs, even disown him, neither they nor society will doubt his sanity — even though Jesus Christ (as the Son of God, not a loudmouthed Jew hippie) doesn’t exist. Not at all. Not one tiny little bit.

But change Jesus to Spock — or Sheridan, or Mulder, or Megatron — and you suddenly have a ‘geek weirdo’ who might well need therapy for his ‘unhealthy obsession’. A teen who spends all his free time studying the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran is usually admired for his peity, at least by adults;a teen who spends all his time studying “The Star Wars Encyclopedia” is considered unhealthy at best.


Given how unhealthy and destructive religious beliefs are, you would think fandom would be lauded and praised. No fan of Star Trek ever went to court to demand that warp drive theory be given ‘equal time’ with the theory of Relativity, as Creationists have done with Evolution. No matter how vicious the Internet flame wars between fans of Star Wars and Star Trek, no one has yet been burnt at the stake for heresy. Not even the most fanatical follower of Mr. Spock would voluntarily limit himself to sex once every seven years (if the opportunity for more frequent matings ever arose), yet thousands of followers of Jesus voluntarily suppress the most fundemental, basic, human urge for their entire lives. Some women even claim to be the BRIDES of this fictional being, living forever in an unconsummated relationship with a man who does not exist. Compared to that, two Trekkers getting married in Klingon garb is postively wholesome. At least the ‘Klingons’ will probably have sex at some point.

Religion is needed to inspire men to do good deeds? If a man chooses pacifism because Yoda said that anger is the path to the dark side, rather than because Jesus told him to turn the other cheek, is he any less of a pacifist? Marcus Welby undoubtedly inspired many to become doctors;Perry Mason, many to become lawyers. The usefulness of incarnate ideals to serve as our guides and inspirations is beyond doubt — but there is grave danger when we forget these incarnations are just the creations of other men.

Is it a waste of time and resources to buy ‘Darth Maul’ style toy lightsabres (Toys R Us was sold out last night…Waaah! I had to settle for the poster) or painstakingly catalog every color variation on ‘Batman’ action figures? Perhaps — but consider how much waste has been done in the name of the gods. Imagine if all the medevial toilers who built the cathedrals of Europe had instead built roads and bridges and mills and forges. If the tens of thousands enslaved to build the pyramids had instead been permitted to build themselves better houses. If all those who spent their lives memorizing vast amounts of religious litany had instead used that incredible brain power to create new things, rather than simply preserve the old?

Is there a difference between a ‘Darth Vader Lives!’ bumper sticker and a plastic Jesus on the dashboard? Both are icons declaring a faith. The buttons and bumper stickers of the geek are akin to yamulkes and crucifixes — they identify your religion to the world.

The only difference, really, is that we know the dates of creation of Mr. Spock and Darth Vader, and the names of their creators. We don’t know the name of the first person to make up the story of Adam and Eve, but that doesn’t make it any less made up. All gods are stories, and all stories have an author, even if his or her name is lost to us forever.

So believe if you must. Call your God Yahweh or Spock, call your Devil Darth or Satan;it’s no skin off my nose either way. But don’t strut too proudly, no matter which you choose, for your lie is no less false than your neighbors, and his god is no more fictional than yours.

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