RJB V: Science Fiction and the Gospels

My kingdom is not of this world. – Jesus of Nazareth

The Parable of the Weeds is one of the strangest portions of the Gospel, and in fact many believers in UFO phenomena have drawn inspiration from it, arguing that “angels” are extraterrestrial beings (“harvesters”, or sometimes “gardeners”, in the Gospel parable), that Jesus’ supposed transfiguration at Gethsemane was an alien visitation, and making many other spurious claims. It is found just after the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, and is explained later in the same chapter.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

… Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

So according to this parable, at “the end of the age” the good people will be harvested, and the evil people will be burned in the fire. It’s not difficult to speculate about the end of Earth including fire. Ragnarok, the Norse end-of-days myth, also features the demonic hordes of Surt (the “fire giants”) attacking the Earth from the south. Modern science postulates that the sun, like every star, has a life cycle and will grow and eventually consume all the inner terrestrial planets before exploding as a super nova. We won’t live to see it, however: that is scheduled to happen within at least 3 billion years. Our descendants, if they survive, will have already colonized many other worlds.

There is an interesting link between some of the parables in the Gospels and science fiction folklore. In fact, the Urantia Book seems to have been inspired by the Gospels and seems to constitute an attempt at producing a sci-fi version of the Bible. Science fiction authors have often drawn inspiration from the parables of the sower and of the weeds, and in fact in a previous blog I reviewed the book Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, whose heroine created a new religion known as Earthseed which featured a prophecy about humans populating the heavens. Earthseed has inspired a new generation of female and minority science fiction writers (most heroines in Butler’s literature are black women), and some even treat it as a religion.

Clearly, all things in nature have life cycles, and so does Earth. There are two possible attitudes we may adopt with regards to this. The parable of the weeds presumes that humans will never leave this planet and will have to wait to be harvested by aliens, or angels, or whatever we decide to call beings from other worlds. The alternative attitude, the one we see in humanism and in humanism-inspired triumphalism and science fiction folklore (as we see in Earthseed), requires that we humans become the harvesters, the gardeners, that we terraform and colonize multiple worlds rather than await the rapture.

This second attitude is the one assumed by billionaire Elon Musk, who plans to build a city and colony in Mars with one million people in this century. This is in order to make sure that it is a viable habitat for Humanity 2.0, and to make sure that there’s enough manpower for the mines and other entrepreneurial initiatives which will finance the entire project. There are at least six countries contemplating similar projects, and at least one other private Mars colony effort (the Mars One mission). The logic behind this is simple: we will eventually become the next dinosaurs if we do not tackle this moral, scientific, and humanitarian challenge. If at least a percentage of all the people who are attempting this achieve their goal, either the parable of the weeds will be obsolete, or the descendants of the post-human races that evolve elsewhere may choose to become the angels or harvesters mentioned in the Gospels. There’s something about science fiction, which is what makes is so fascinating as a genre, that produces self-fulfilling prophecies.

The key about this parable is that, if there ever IS a humanly planned rapture and if ever the more advanced portion of transplanetary humanity has to choose who on Earth gets to survive and who doesn’t, it will really be a final judgement kind of scenario. One interesting exercise is for us to look at all the human societies on Earth today and to choose whom we would save and whom we would not save, if we had limited resources and an asteroid was about to hit the planet. It’s an interesting ethical question, and one that may one day face the most advanced among us.

As for Jesus, it’s interesting to note that, time and again, he made the point to remind people that he chose harlots over his religious peers.

Further Reading:
Parable of the Sower Book Review

Elon Musk: We Must Leave Earth For One Critical Reason

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About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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