If and when mankind develops the capacity for interstellar voyage, should religion com along for the ride? A group of religious leaders recently tackled the topic at a symposium in Texas, and opinions were more varied than you might think.
Some argued against it, including a California-based Southern Baptist minister (who has apparently never met his Deep South brethren):
“The only way humanity can survive is if they leave behind the Earth-based religions,” charged Rev. Alvin Carpenter, pastor at First Southern Baptist Church West Sacramento. “If there’s any way to make this fail, bring Earth-bound religions.”
Religions, he argued, breed aggression and conflict, citing the violent history of his own faith, Christianity, in episodes such as the Inquisition and the Crusades. Many religions’ negative stance on homosexuality has driven young gay people to commit suicide, he said.
“When you bring a religion on a starship, you bring the toxicity that we have seen on Earth,” Carpenter argued. “This is something that we do not wish to export to the stars.”
“All it takes is one charismatic fundamentalist, with a Bible or a Koran in his or her hand,” to spark conflict aboard a starship, he added.
Others, predictably, saw interstellar travel as an opportunity for expansion:
The church has the resources, funding and reach to garner support for an interstellar mission, said Jason Batt, group life director at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif. Batt said there is “spiritual potential” in space travel and that the church should begin preparing an organization for an off-planet ministry.
To me, the question is how you would leave religion behind? It seems to be part of the human condition, at least here on Earth. Would religious impulses spring anew or flounder in the inky blackness of space? How would one even begin to screen potential travelers for such a thing? Should you?