Tag Archives: religion

So Much to Know

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Sometimes when writing I find myself having to stop every few words to google something and that really doesn’t help with progress of the story. Also Google can only get you so far – there are some questions that can’t be answered so easily.

Captain, the most elementary and valuable statement in science, the beginning of wisdom, is, “I do not know”.

Mr Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation) Where Silence Has Lease

And not just science. Lack of understanding is also a problem. I wouldn’t say I was stupid but everyone has things they do not understand and since we are getting into some difficult topics you may want to stop reading now.

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I chose a mosque for the picture at the top owing to the direction one of my characters is going in. My character’s name is Tina. Her father is white British and her mother is Pakistani British.

Tina’s ethnicity has no baring on the plot. She could be from anywhere and very little would have to change. I have set the story in Cardiff, because that is where I happen to live, but other than her living in Cardiff anything else is possible.

Nevertheless it can’t be denied that her experience of Cardiff will be different from my own. In order to make her a believable character I need to ask important questions about religion. And the big question is: Does she believe in God?

I do not believe in God. If I decide that she does how do I write that?

I am going to try and discuss this with sensitivity and I apologies ahead of time if I mess up.

I can research Islam and start to build a character but real life is more complicated.


Humans are diverse and that is true of every area. My grandmother was English and she liked tea. Whenever we would go to an adventure park…

(I can’t think of better collective noun. Places like gardens, museums, model railways, and so on. Basically I am talking about any place a family might go on a school holiday. I remember we went to a park in Cornwall, for example, that had sculptures of famous world landmarks.)

…her first priority was to go to the tearooms. In short she was the epitome of what might be expected from an English person. Of course not everyone in England, or the UK, likes tea.

By the same token not everyone of a particular religious faith follows every aspect of that faith. I have know some religious people who are very strict in some areas but in others they are not.

I do not mean this in a critical way and I don’t want to get into a ‘No true Scotsman’ argument here. And since religion is a topic that is difficult I am going to use a Star Trek metaphor.

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Star Trek: The Animated Series presents an interesting case study. Like religion Star Trek has its canon. And The Animated Series has a question mark over its status. Some say it is all canon, some say none of it is, and some…(this is the interesting part – almost worth waiting for)…say it is non-cannon apart from the episode Yesteryear. And Yesteryear has a mistake – it depicts Vulcan with a moon.

If you asked a large group of Star Trek fans about this you would get a variety of answers – of course the most likely response is: ‘Who are you? How did you get in here? And why are you asking irrelevant questions at three o’clock in the morning?’

I may also be zeroing in on why I am single. What is really going to bake your noodle later on is am I single because of my extensive Star Trek knowledge or have I developed this knowledge because of being single.

I don’t want to look under that rock.

The point is there isn’t one type of Star Trek fan and there isn’t one type of follower for a particular religion. On the surface this might sound good because, no matter what I do, I can’t be wrong.

Or can I?

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‘Wrong’ is highly subjective. And I think the only solution to any writing is to write the damn story – part of the problem is not wanting to cause offence.

In writing there is this idea of ‘sensitivity readers’ which is a reader from a particular background who reads a story and offers pointers in making it more believable and, to put it bluntly, tells the writer where they might have fucked up.

Fucking up is so easy.

Back to metaphor.

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The Big Bang Theory uses many references to Star Trek. However I, as a trekkie, sometimes notice things that don’t make sense – such as Howard’s apparent ignorance of a Romulan warbird – one of the most iconic star ships in TNG.

For my closing thoughts I will leave you with this. Religion is a broad church, no pun indented, and writing a character who is religious is not easy. They can come off as a stereotype if they are too strict and if they are too relaxed it might look like they are being made acceptable to a western audience. Chakotay, on Star Trek Voyager, is one of the worst examples of this. Rather than the writers picking a tribe and sticking with it Chakotay ends up being a hodgepodge of stereotypes.

For now I am just going to write the damn story and deal with all this later – although I will think about it quite loudly.

See you next time.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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First Contact

Fourth-eight years from today, in the Star Trek universe, humanity will make contact with an alien race: the Vulcans.

I believe that there is certainly life on other planets. There may be as many as 70 sextillion stars in the universe. That’s 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. It is a number completely beyond human comprehension.

To me it seems impossible that we are the only life in the universe. We might be alone in this galaxy, though that still seems unlikely, but surely not the universe.

Whether we will ever encounter this life is a different question entirely. It might be possible to travel between distant stars, I’m a writer not a physicists so I’m not going to speculate on the technology, but for humans that is way beyond our current capabilities.

In the Star Trek universe encountering alien life brings about a new era of peace for humanity. The knowledge of alien life makes our own problems seem petty and Earth becomes a paradise. I’m more inclined to believe that real first contact is more likely to produce panic.

I do believe that world peace could be achievable. All it takes is for us not to pass on our prejudices to the next generation. This is easier said than done.

I won’t pretend to be all high and mighty. I have had bad thoughts every so often. I wonder where they came from because there is no obvious place. If they remain thoughts, rather than transforming to words or actions, then there is less of an issue. We’ve all heard stories of children of different backgrounds interacting happily – no such thing as a racist baby. Then as adolescents and adults things change. We no longer see Joe Blogs as a friend. He is now: black, gay, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, poor, or any other ‘other’ that we can think of.

I can think of only one example of outside influence of prejudice from my own life: Politics. I remember being in conversation with someone in high school and making a comment about a political party.

‘A bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.’*

Well I wasn’t that witty but that was probably the sense of it. Then I realised that I had no bases for thinking that. I was repeating the ideas of my parents. Later I became aware of politics and found myself agreeing with the assessment. I also met, in my politics class, the local MP for that party. All I remember now was that he was really oily.

Distrusting a political party is one thing but it should never be applied to a whole group of people. The more extreme someone is in their views the louder they are. There are terrorist attacks in the name of God – they make the news. The millions of people who practice their religion, and attend a temple every week, don’t make the news because there is no story.

I’ve found the same basic issue working in retail. If you server a customer quickly and effectively nothing happens. That’s what customers expect. If you go above and beyond the shop might get a thank you letter. If you screw up then you’ll certainly receive a complaint. Bad news also travels faster. If doesn’t make a good story telling your friends about good customer service – bad customer service can be quite the anecdote. Therefore it is more likely that you’ll see bad reviews than good ones. All this gives us a lopsided view of reality.

So when the news talks about terrorism it makes it look like there is tremendous evil in the world. It creates the feeling that a particular group is evil. This generates more hate. It doesn’t mention the millions of people who manage to get through their day without killing anyone.

The fact of the matter is most people are good. I think we will achieve world peace one day. It is simply a matter of respecting others. We may not believe the same as someone else. We may believe that the God Obplexsemkoplop doesn’t exist and is in fact just an old deflated beach ball. However if that belief is helping people to be better, if saying the mantra of the beach ball helps them through tough times, then why is it an issue? It is harming nobody. Of course the followers of Obplexsemkoplop must also respect your right not to worship too.

We will achieve world peace if we accept that diversity is fantastic.

To paraphrase Dave Allen: ‘May your God, or no God, go with you.’

* quote taken from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

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