Religion, the Federation and Cygnus Alpha

By Jackie Speel

For convenience I am not going to distinguish between the various faiths (as they exist at present or may emerge) but include them all under 'religious belief.' It appears from Blake's description in Pressure Point that 'all' religious buildings were destroyed.

To what extent, if any, did religion exist within the Federation (ie within planets operating within the Federation network: the Mecroneans, Cephalon and Goth may exist spatially within it, but effectively do not interact with it), apart from that of which Vargas was head?

There is no evidence of a clerical or religious uniform - excluding the 'fancy dress nun' in 'Gambit.' There is also an occasional use of religious terms in what could be called 'emphasis words,' not dissimilar to some present-day usage.

One could assume that the Federation is an effectively secular society.

There are three main references to awareness of religious concepts:

In 'Horizon' when the Liberator encounters the magnetic barrier Vila (semi-rhetorically) describes it as Judgment Day. Given his probable educational background (especially as he was sent to at least one penal colony), it is difficult to determine where or when he would have encountered the term and concept, unless religion was generally available. (In 'Rumours of Death' he thinks hell might be full of Avons.)

In 'Countdown' Provine tells Blake to 'Go to Hell!': and Blake a few moments later says he will see Provine in Hell. Both appear to mean something in the exchange, rather than a stronger version of 'go away!'

In 'Rumours of Death' Servalan tells Avon to 'Go to Hell' to which the reply is 'Probably.' Avon comes across as a 'committed unbeliever' - again, both appear to understand the concept and its implications.

So how prevalent was religion in the Federation, and in what manner did it manifest itself?

The Federation administration would be opposed to religious leaderships as such. This would not be on the grounds of 'official atheism' but because these leaderships were potential oppositions to the administration, and were organised independently of the civil administration. The change of calendar and the suppression of religious buildings probably accompanied other major changes within the Federation and a movement towards repression in general

In most of the prison planets the Liberator crew visit there is no evidence of religious. Only Cygnus Alpha shows evidence of an organised religion - and it is possible to make a guess why this is so. Collating the information from 'Pressure Point' and Vargas' statements in 'Cygnus Alpha' it appears that the new calendar was established about a lifetime before the latter was settled.

Assuming religion was banished from the public to the purely personal or private domain there might well have been groups who were unable to accept this process. They might have fled to habitable planets outside the Federation (Cygnus Alpha is some considerable distance from Earth, and we have no indication as to the rate of expansion). There would also have been those who remained within the Federation's domains. Going by the prisoners on the 'London' those who could be seen as 'disturbers of the peace' (persistent thieving, disrupting the financial system, political disturbances etc) were deported. This could have been applied to 'religious activists'/strong believers as well. Religion could have been present on Cygnus Alpha for either reason - there was a religious colony present when the Federation expanded to include it, or a group of 'religious activists' were sent there in the early days of the prison colony. When the first groups of secular disturbers of the peace were deported to Cygnus Alpha, Vargas' ancestor (and others) saw the benefits of making use of the forms of religion and constructed their own. The rest, as they say, is history - but the religion established by Vargas' ancestor may have had little or no ethical connection with that which it borrowed from.

Nothing is said in the series of what happens on Cygnus Alpha after the Liberator has left. Presumably at least some of the priesthood survived - from what Vargas said that there were several hundred people on the planet. Given the nature of the people sent to Cygnus Alpha there were probably mechanisms for 'emergency elections of new leaderships.' Not everybody would have submitted gracefully - the unbeliever the newly arrived group from the Liberator encountered cannot have been the only one. The main difference from the effects of an 'ordinary riot' which left several priests dead was that Vargas had 'disappeared' - even if Blake returned and said Vargas was dead there was no proof - which could well have created some interesting theological developments.

Given the diverse range of people who show understanding of (a limited range of) religious concepts it appears that there was a persistence of religion on a purely personal level. It should be noted that Gan is unfamiliar with the 'concept' of a church, not with religious worship as such (he does not immediately recall the equivalent building on Cygnus Alpha). The Clonemasters appear to have the nearest to a formal and holistic belief system (if not necessarily a religious structure). But - if present day series (20th-21st century) series are analysed, it is not clear what if any religious systems the viewers have - or, in many cases, where they buy their food.

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Last changed on 21st of March 2003