Fictional Religions

November 23, 2009 - anthropology / cyberculture / film / internet / neopagan / speculative fiction

Markus Davidsen at Aarhus University is writing a fascinating dissertation on “Fictional Religions: The Morphology and Reception of Invented Religions embedded in Works of Fiction.”

He describes his project as:

“about two types of religions, fictional religions and fiction based religions. By ‘fictional religions’ I understand religions, spiritualities and magic systems which are embedded in works of fiction, be that literature, films or TV series. Such fictional religions are transformed into ‘fiction based religions’ when certain fans form religious groups based on the concepts and rituals of the fictional religions. Examples of fiction based religions include Jediism which is based on the Jedi religion in George Lucas’ Star Wars movies, Church of All Worlds which is based on the church of the same name in Robert Heinlein’s science fiction classic Stranger in a Strange Land and the Church of Satan and Chaos Magickians inventing rituals invoking the monstrous gods from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Fiction based religions range from divinity directed religion to self-spirituality and from stern belief over playful experimenting to sarcastic anti-religiousity. Some religious groups base themselves almost solely on a fictional model, others blend impulses from fiction with influences from more conventional forms of religion and spirituality.”

I wonder if the worldviews in Dune are influencing any practices today?  I would expect to find references to Dune in neopaganism, just as we find frequent references to much of the science fiction/fantasy canon.  Also it’s hard to ignore Scientology which was founded by a science fiction writer.  I have yet to read James Lewis’s volume on Scientology, and wonder if he addresses this.  It would also be interesting to look at the effect of William Gibson’s writing on belief in cyberculture.