izhilzha (izhilzha) wrote,

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The term "false gods" implies the existence of the real thing...doesn't it?

AKA, my mini-essay about Stargate SG-1's approach to religion, with special attention paid to the example of the season 9 episode "Origin."

Stargate SG-1 is a typical little popcorn-good scifi action show (with awesome actors who lift it above mediocrity). There is much that I enjoy between the technobabble and the gunfights and the alien mysteries and the banter between team members, and one of those things is the show's continual emphasis on overthrowing false gods.

I'm using their terminology here. The major evil, over the course of the first six seasons, are the Goa'uld, parasitic snakes that take over a human host and use their powerful (stolen) technology to assume the poses of gods and godesses, gaining power and wealth and hordes of subjects to abjectly worship them. The stories begin when a few Earth soldiers help a subjugated group of desert tribesmen kill the Goa'uld (and false god) Ra.

Many of the stories from then on are devoted to helping other peoples recognize the falsity of the Goa'uld's claims, and break free, and develop means of defense if the Goa'uld should try to return and wipe out the rebellious. This especially includes the Goa'uld-bred soldiers, the Jaffa.

And inbetween the fighting and the saving of worlds, there is some discussion of this, but because the show is practical (and because we've got mostly agnostic scientists and an *extremely* practical team leader) and action-based, almost all of it is confined to how to bring down the Goa'uld. How to display their actual weakness. ("Blowing them up" being the Jack O'Neill special.)

I don't mind that, because it's interesting enough, and I like watching it for the characters, even while I wonder about any SGC soldiers who actually have faith.

But by the end of season 8, the Goa'uld are mostly dead or dethroned. The Jaffa have risen up and become their own nation. The worlds ruled by the Goa'uld are in turmoil, loosed from oppression but not sure how to handle their freedom.

There's a void left there. And into, from another galaxy, step the Priors (evangelists/propagandists/what have you) of the Ori, who are ascended beings promising a path to enlightenment if people worship them...and promising destruction to those who reject them.

Daniel Jackson makes the first contact, and handles it cautiously, since he personally knows some Ascended beings from our galaxy. But as soon as their mantra of "convert or die" becomes apparent, you can almost see his brain sigh. "Been here, done that, here we go again...."

I'm aware that the presentation of the Ori's religion (hereafter known as "Origin") has bothered some Christians. It sounds too much like traditional Christian-speaking, too much like outright church-bashing (which SG-1 has never actually engaged in before). I'm not so sure. For one thing, with the exception of the Crusades and some smaller inquisitions, Christianity has not been spread by jihad. Holy wars aren't prescribed in the Bible; they're what happens when some branch of Christianity gets out of control, out of touch.

I was very pleased with Daniel's mode of inquiry in this episode. Very intellectual, very incisive, making sure he understands them well before passing judgment on whether the Ori will be friend or foe. And I was glad that the show decided to tackle the religious void left by the Goa'uld, because that's a huge issue.

I am much less pleased with the way this episode, at least, danced around the issue of the Ori not being gods. Daniel observes, more than once, that the Ori's power is real--but that doesn't make them deities, just beings who know more than we do about the univsere. (I'm slightly surprised that no one quoted Clark's Law.) There are some opinions tossed about that acknowledge the possibility of there being something higher than the Ori--an actual supreme Being--and most of this comes from General Landry. But that's not really considered as anything to factor into their equation. It's just a possibility that for the first time EVER, someone on this show seems willing to consider. I wish they'd managed to make it a bigger deal, though.

The closest we come to getting a personal take on this is actually from Daniel, when Jack unexpectedly shows up in his office later. Daniel opens up in a way he hasn't to anyone else and tells Jack that he's scared. Before, he says, he always felt that there was Someone watching out for them. This time, he's not sure they'll be able to win, or even make it through. (I almost didn't include this, because it's very ambiguous--is Daniel referring to the Ancients, our Ascended? or to an actual Supreme Being?)

Anyway--I don't have a real conclusion here, except that for a show that spends so much time on dethroning false gods, they really haven't made much of an effort to talk about what "false gods" implies: that there's a Real God out there, something that can be imitated, something that the human (or sentient) heart seems to need.

If I had time, oh, I would write some fic about this. I already have an early-seasons fic where the SGC chaplain is talking with Teal'c (hey, by "Demons," Teal'c has read the entire Bible, remember?); and after "Origin," I'm really tempted to write season 9 fic with the same original character. Or something. From the pov of someone with faith, anyway.
Tags: godstuff, stargate sg-1

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