Mormons, Pagans, and Abrahamics: The Representations of Religion in Battlestar Galactica
by Bruce Makoto Arnold — The Ohio State University
March 16, 2017 – 20:17
The television show Battlestar Galactica originally premiered in September 1978 on ABC. The science fiction series, designed to take advantage of the popularity of Star Wars, centered on a large, space-going capital warship that escorted a fleet of civilian ships carrying the last remnants of humanity on their search for the mythical planet Earth.There they would find a “lost colony” of humans who could help them rebuild their civilization and fight the cybernetic aliens bent on their destruction. In December 2003, a “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica miniseries aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, and it spawned a four-season television series and several movies. Although the basic premise remained, the reimagined series differed notably in tone and intended audience.
One of the most notable differences between the versions was their representations of religion. The creator of the 1978 version was Glen A. Larson, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), who infused his religion’s religious beliefs into the storyline. For instance, the humans claim planet “Kobol” as their ancestral home planet, while Mormon theology holds that “Kolob” is the celestial body closest to the Throne of God and the wellspring from which the Earth sprang. Helping the humans are the Seraphs, formless beings who appear as angelic beings surrounded by a near-blinding white light. Seraphs tell the humans, “as you now are, we once were; as we now are you may yet become,” which closely resembles the Mormon belief that steadfast members of the church will become deities, themselves, after death. The Cylons that nearly destroyed mankind were once organic lifeforms who were led astray by a being who in name and appearance resembles the devil.
In the reimagined Battlestar, some elements of Larson’s religious elements were retained, but many of the plotlines centered on ideas taken directly from paganism and Abrahamic religions, particularly Judeo-Christian theology. The humans worship pagan gods such as Apollo, Athena, and Zeus. The Cylons, instead of cybernetic aliens, are machine/biological hybrids created by mankind who became sapient, rebelled, and developed their own monotheistic religion. Cylons follow a god who commands them to “be fruitful and multiply” and accept that they, like humans, have an ultimate, preordained destiny. Indeed, their war with the humans was a zealously religious one, believing that they were the supreme creations in the universe and were only doing god’s will by eradicating mankind.