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Are we being brainwashed by Battlestar Galactica?

So, as some of you know, I’ve recently given in to the peer pressure, both from my husband and lots of people on Skepchick, and I started watching Battlestar Galactica. Okay…I didn’t “start watching” it. In an unabashed display of geek crack addiction, I went on a two and a half week bender in which I watched the entirety of the first three series, and the first two episodes in the fourth. Once I finish “Razor” and watch last week’s ep, I’ll officially be caught up. Whew!

Now that I am completely and hopelessly obsessed (I may or may not have actually said that this show is better than Doctor Who), imagine my horror when I received an email from writerdd containing a link to a site claiming that Battlestar Galactica is actually MORMON PROPAGANDA and we shouldn’t watch it because it will infect our minds with Mormon ideas! Dun Dun Duuuun…

After a bit more reading, here, it seems that the creator of the original series was an LDS member, and very likely constructed the mythology of the show purposefully to popularize Mormon Beliefs. So, because the new series retains this mythology, does that mean it is also propaganda?

I don’t think it is. Yes, the underlying story contains the same elements of Mormon theology as the original, but taking the show as a whole, I think the argument that the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica exists to push Mormonism is pretty weak.

Look at the show’s content, for one thing. It has violence, swearing, drinking (alcohol and tea), and lots and lots of sex. For the most part, these elements are not generally used to show weakness or moral depravity, but are shown as part of the normal course of life.

Possibly the strongest argument against this idea is the fact that the show’s hero, Admiral Adama, is an atheist. The show seems to take a very comparative approach to the subject of religion. Characters of several different religious persuasions are portrayed as equally moral, or at least true to their own particular moralities. I think part of the reason I enjoy the show so much is that it is a sort of exploration of the sources of and ramifications from different types of religious belief.

So, should skeptics quit watching? No way. The history of the people in the show is interesting, regardless of its original source, and I think if nothing else, we can laugh to ourselves at the fact that if this is indeed Mormon propaganda, most Mormons would find it completely offensive. Why deprive ourselves of a beautifully constructed, well written, sexy and intelligent show because some of the ideas in it might come from a source we don’t agree with? Wanna know a secret? It’s called “science fiction” for a reason. It’s FICTION! It’s not going to turn us all into Mormon zombies.

I have to go now. I have this sudden urge to put on a white dress shirt, tie, and name tag and go ride my bike.

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30 Comments

  1. I’m… very far behind in that show. End of 2nd season is as far as I’ve gotten.

    But yeah. With a little freewheeling interpretation, anything can be made to show support for anything.

    Mighty Mouse taught me that. (And how to do the cocaine.)

  2. It contains elements from the LDS church, but it certainly isn’t propaganda. Unless you’ve studied the church’s teachings it’s doubtful you’d ever know that the Lords of Kobol were part of LDS teachings or the phrase, “As you are, we once were. As we are, you may become.” As an ex-LDS member, I recognized these elements but propaganda? No way.

  3. I love BSG. I was really surprised to read that article about it, because I honestly never picked up on any of that while watching. I was too busy enjoying the show.
    Carrie, which episode is your fav? And which character?

  4. What vbalbert said. The modern show seems to draw much more heavily on original Greek mythology for the description of the gods. In fact, I was fantastically pleased when last week’s episode name-checked the Cult of Mithras as a fringe sect… just like it was during the heyday of Olympian/Roman religion.

  5. Myson and I are working our way through season 3. Very much obsessing on getting the next DVD from Netflix. My only issue with the religion in the series has been that there’s a bit to much. Mormon I suppose in that it reflects alagorically some of their crazy ass notions about the tribes if Isreal yada, yada, yada.

  6. I love BSG and like other have commented never noticed the Mormon links – I thought it was a made up religion.

    Well you know – they are all made up – but one made up by script writers and not actually followed by anyone.

  7. Yeah, I never saw a mormon connection… although I do think this season is trying to mirror the early days of Christianity in a way. You have the major religion being pagan (Greek/Roman Gods) then you have the Cylon God (vs gods), which is being led among the human population by Gaius Baltar, who looks very Jesusy. It’s really very polytheist vs monotheist. I’m very interested to see how the show turns out, especially if they get to Earth and run into our religions.

  8. jill–honestly, i watched it all so quickly that all the eps sort of run together in my mind. one that sticks out is the boxing ep.

    as for characters, i love admiral adama…he sort of reminds me of my dad, except as an atheist.
    i have to say my favorite character is probably gaius baltar. i’ve always had a weak spot for a well-rounded “villain” (swearingen in deadwood, etc.). plus, despite being a complete weasel, he is totally sexy…i can’t resist the long hair and the accent.

    mostly, i just love that there is no black and white moral system on the show. it takes a very anthropological view of humanity (and cylonity?), portraying all characters as real, failings and all. there are no perfect heroes in bsg, and that makes it completely compelling.

  9. In the sense that Battlestar Galactica can be summed up with the sentence, “Stupid people doing stupid things.” Yeah, it sure does seem like its pushing the Mormon Agenda! ;^)

    To quote my favorite Southpark episode:

    “Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.”

    (I watch the show every week hoping to see more Boomer and spaceship battles, so color me pathetic.)

  10. writerdd:“I don’t know. I love it too, but I like shows to end before they start sucking and I get sick of them.”

    *Signed*

    There is little more depressing than a good series (be it books or TV) ruined by hanging on too long.

    I love that they are going to tell the story they set out to tell and then stop.

  11. Not opposing BSG for having some synchronism with Mormonism? What next? Are we to teach evolution in schools even though it’s for all intents and purposes the “atheist creation story”.

  12. I actually think it the mormon angle is about the original series from the 70s/80s. Now of course this one is based on that one so there will be some crossover…

    Having said that, I can’t stand the show anymore. Loved the first 2/3 seasons, but as soon as the Cylons started to look like they didn’t actually have a plan but were making it up as they went along, I got real bored real quick.

  13. see, i think starbuck is too obvious. i think she’s something different entirely.

    adama would be great, but that would mean that lee and zach are cylon/human hybrids, and would nullify the whole importance of hera….though the 7 models don’t know about the final five, so who knows.

    i think it’s laura rosalind. look at the demography of the known cylons. you have seven guys of varying ages and four women on the young side. i think it has to be a woman, and it would make sense for her to be a bit older (there is an older male cylon). i don’t know…maybe ronald moore realizes this and will completely throw us for a loop.

    i thought gaius baltar was a cylon at the beginning of the show, but after they went through the whole storyline of him believing himself to be one, i don’t know. i guess it could still be him, but i really think it’s laura.

  14. Mormon teachings? I don’t see them–but then I’ve never tried to figure out Mormonisms. Magic underwear and other things like that. Let me paint BSG in a “skeptic’s light” and explain why it might be better on a second viewing: If anything, this season’s BSG is sneaking in a lot of atheist memes: the belief in One Less God and what happens after deconversion. If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that in BSG, a few humans are atheists, a small subset of cylons are also atheists, some agnostic and others devout.

    Some humans glare at other humans they say speak of “god” instead of “gods”–they’re the equivalent of today’s mono-theists who hate on atheists who have zero-gods to follow. In BSG, they’re believing in N-Less-Gods instead of One Less God. The extreme hatred of cylons by humans and vice versa is classic in-group/out-group conflict and it gets more extreme for the cylons who have had a schism that has degraded into a shooting war. This is paralleled by the humans who are having similar problems with the “older” Olympian Gods compared to just “one.”

    Back to the other meme with deconversion: The four new cylon models are characters that are struggling to understand their existence after their profound loss of faith in the sense that they’re no longer “human.” That’s not unlike an atheist who’s struggling with their identity after living all of their life as a theist who has had a sudden deconversion: not only are they working on their relationship with the universe and self, they also have the struggle with their relationship with others who view themselves as “the enemy.” They even have arguments with each other with what it means to be cylon, not unlike atheists today who argue about what it means to be atheist.

    Baltar’s speech about being “perfect just the way you are” is a hard question for me because its right on the edge of being new-age mumbo-jumbo and unshackling minds from religious teachings that use guilt or other emotional blinders to deny people their own free will. It was obvious that Baltar was being set up as a near-martyr.

    BSG completely rules because you can’t find any other show that can be as philosophically rich–but I think that many complaints from people who have said “This season sucks” haven’t seen it in the same light I have. This season completely and utterly rocks and I seem to be the only one enjoying it!

  15. Ouch!
    And I was always wondering, why I loved Star Trek DS9 so much … with it’s massive religious content (and co-produced by Ron Moore – so he must be the bad guy here). Now I see that my affection for BSG must be my latent desire to BELIEVE and my complete blindness to propaganda – not any appreciation of good storytelling or acting.
    I am so glad that there are people who watch out for me, as we all know that all that is on TV (and in the newspapers) is the truth.
    The X-Files already proved that.

    So quickly, before I stop watching tv due to elongated praying sessions: Yes, this season rocks!

  16. acrylicist, you are not the only one enjoying season 4…i’m loving it so far.

    jr powell said above that bsg is about “stupid people doing stupid things”, and i think that’s exactly what i like about it. the characters are profoundly flawed. they aren’t idealizations or superheroes. they’re real people, trying to survive in spite of themselves. it’s an exploration of humanity, and as a student of anthropology, i find that compelling.

  17. As a devout ‘Mormon’ (we prefer other longer names…), let me state for the record that there is very close to NO church doctrine in this incarnation of BSG that I have been able to detect. In actuality, I have been rather disturbed by some of the portrayals of religion in the show – like Baltar’s Messianic complex.

    Yes, there is a reference to the ‘lost tribes’ in our scripture – but that refers to the 10 (not 12) tribes of Israel who were carried away captive into Babylon at the end of the OLD TESTAMENT. Hardly ‘Mormon’.

    I suppose the line “all of this has happened before and will happen again” could also be a reference to an obscure bit of scripture, but nothing I recognize, and as I said, I am devout.

    If anything, the biggest favor this show is doing for Mormons is getting people to talk about religion generally, and, of course, giving us something to talk about ourselves. :-)

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