So Say We All: Religion Aboard the Battlestar Galactica

“Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer,” a phrase repeated many times over on the television show “Battlestar Galactica,” is the human call for divine help in the polytheistic culture on the Galactica.

There seems to be a problem with that pray however. The Cylons, a species of mechanic beings built by humans, believe in a single God. Thus, begins the clash of monotheism and polytheism that hit home with many viewers of the show. It is a clash of religion seen every day in the melting pot of America and throughout the world.

The Cylons, 40 years after abandoning the humans and evolving into a post human-like species, have come back to destroy humankind. Some Cylons believe themselves to be on a mission to cleanse the world of those who don’t believe in a single God. They believe that God has given them a soul. Now, the humans of the 12 colonies are on the run, aboard ships flying through the universe, looking for the long-lost 13th colony (or tribe)—Earth.

I imagine religion might become an even bigger problem if they find their cousin colony.

The show has been touted as one of the most religious shows on television today and rightly so. However, most discussion has sidestepped the actual point of the religious argument—the absurdity of religious war. The theme of the show often points this out. With the clashing cultures, Dr. Gaius Baltar seems to be the only sane character in the series. He’s the resident atheist. Others might see him as crazy because he talks to an invisible Cylon at all times, one that is constantly trying to convert him, to make him believe he is an instrument of God. Nevertheless, he justifies the world with reason and logic.

He is not in the right because he doesn’t follow either religion, but because he doesn’t see the need for religious fanaticism, a war between monotheistic and polytheistic cultures, a killing of millions whether it is for a God or gods.

There is a clear parallel between the show and the world today, and the show has opened many avenues for discussion on the topic. It points out that humans have advanced far beyond their ancestors, but have held on to the system that those ancestors set up—a belief in the Lords of Kobol.

The ultimate question becomes, “If we have advanced so far, why do we still hold to these ancient institutions, and why do we fight over them?” The innate need for humans to advance beyond what they are is no more powerful than their need to believe in a higher power. The humans aboard the Galactica often look to scripture to find parallels between those ancient words and current events. “Everything that has happened before will happen again” is one of the most commonly used verses.

The show gives us an opening dialogue in which to discuss religion and faith. That’s what the world needs today. We’ve lost sight of brotherly love, and have retorted to blaming the world’s crises on one religion or another, one culture or another. Any viewer of the show can see there is a battle between the religions. It states the obvious need of building trust and relationships among the different cultures of today’s society.

The humans are near extinction, living aboard the few ships left in the fleet, floating from place to place among the stars, constantly battling the Cylons. It is real. It is harsh. And there are only 50,000 humans left. Their only hope left is to not be destroyed in the next big bomb or kamikaze Cylon.

We should avoid this parallel.