The Church of Human Expansion by Harold Hamblet
Hale Bopp 1997. 39 cult members committed suicide believing the aliens in the comet would take them up and revive them…
People who aren’t firmly grounded in an established religion will believe anything and that’s one proof. A friend and I decided we should design a religion that wouldn’t require you to kill yourself at the cult leaders urging. In fact- suicide would be a grave sin. So if you wanted badly to believe in something we could take your money and worldly goods and do some good with it without harming you. We wanted it to be compatible with atheism. That is, an atheist could believe in Church goals and tenets without believing they were revealed by God. And- we wanted it to be compatible with most other religious beliefs, so you could join the church while not leaving your current church. Impossible! you say. We did it. You haven’t heard much about is because, well- if you’ve read some of my previous stories you’re aware my better half is a really good Catholic. Staying happily married to a good Catholic while being a prophet of a brand new religion isn’t going to happen… Now- my intro to The Church of Human Expansion™.
The Church has 3 prophets whose ideas are responsible for Church tenets and beliefs. Enrico Fermi, Robert Heinlein, and Fred Saberhagen. Robert Heinlein has a number of short sayings he wrote that are incorporated directly into Church beliefs. We’ll start with “If mankind is to survive, then for the majority of its’ existence the word “ship” must mean “spaceship””. A number of others also directly applicable. But that’s the most important one.
Enrico Fermi asked the question “Where are they?” This question was in response to the answer to a question he had asked one of his classes, “How many civilizations in this galaxy are more than a million years older than us?” Why this question? They came up with 50. Our galaxy is about 100,000 lightyears across. Once in space, travelling at 10% light speed is trivial and easily done. Generation ships for such travel are readily designable and simply an exercise in engineering. Suspended animation, well, still in the realm of science fiction. They answered 50. They wouldn’t all be on the other side of the galaxy, but randomly scattered. And some would be much, much closer. His point being, if they existed, they would be here by now and we would be them. To date, there is no evidence of their existence. And while the absence of evidence isn’t evidence- normally- think about the dogs that don’t bark in the night. After decades of searching for evidence, we have none. No radio transmissions, while ours are now more than 100 light years away. No light wakes from Bussard ramjets, which may or may not be actually buildable. Nothing.
If life naturally arises from the primordial soup, then we really should have detected it by now. There are two, and only two, universal explanation for The Fermi Paradox. The first, not even believed by most theologians of most religions, God created us and only us, and the galaxy is ours for the taking. The second universal explanation was provided by Fred Saberhagen in his writings- Berserkers are real.
Berserkers? A long long (LONG) time ago two races fought an interstellar war. Race 1 designed self replicating war machines and programmed them to destroy all life forms other than them. Race 2 designed some sort of weapon, presumably biological, that killed every last member of Race 1. After Berserkers were set loose in the galaxy. While Saberhagen was writing enjoyable and thought provoking science fiction, he was also a prophet warning us that Berserkers are coming and that we need to prepare.
So, what is required to be a member in good standing of The Church of Human Expansion?
- In order for mankind to survive, the human race must expand into space. This is the one essential belief. Whether you come to believe this as God’s plan or because it simply makes sense is immaterial. The belief is not antithetical to any Earth religion I’m aware of, and is compatible with atheism.
- Berserkers are real. When they become aware of our existence, if they aren’t already, they will head in force towards Earth to exterminate us. Not truly essential to believe in order to support the Church goal of expanding mankind into space. But a belief that can be held whether you believe Saberhagen’s stories were inspired by God, or whether he simply stumbled upon the truth while writing entertaining stories. Not antithetical to most religions.
- Life is sacred and must not be taken for no reason or trivial reasons or because of theological or purely political disagreements. Does this mean the Church is against capital punishment? No- because if one person kills another for selfish gain or jealousy or whatever they are a danger to all, and if society determines they should die for it, it’s not a trivial reason. Of course, if Berserkers come and a cabal shares their goal, well…
Religion is much ignored in science fiction, and in most fiction for that matter. Arthur C. Clarke was an exception who incorporated religion in many of his works. Fred Saberhagen had the Templars in his Berserker books, a religious order devoted to defeating Berserkers wherever they appear. So if you want to have religion incorporated into your works, but aren’t satisfied with existing ones, feel free to use this one. Or if you have the necessary temperament to found a Church- this is yours for the taking.