Religion class searches for meaning, aliens help

Religion 296 combines science fiction and religion into one course ... it was the only logical thing to do! – Courtesy of Desilu Productions

Religion 296 combines science fiction and religion into one course … it was the only logical thing to do! – Courtesy of Desilu Productions

Passionate fans of series like Star Wars and Dr. Who have been known to answer simple questions with in-depth, long-winded explanations. It’s a famous can of worms.

But in REL 296 – Science Fiction and Religion, fans have an opportunity to pontificate for college credit.

“Geek culture” is more popular today than ever before, and sci-fi and fantasy stories are enjoyed worldwide, as shown by the success of films like Avatar, The Avengers, and recently, The Force Awakens. You might actually be more of a sci-fi fan than you realize.

Religion assistant professor Sarah Hadmack has been teaching religion at WCC for ten years and, since 2010, has been leading students through critical analyses of religious motifs in “contemporary myths” like The Matrix, Marvel’s Avengers franchise and many others.

Major motifs and issues analyzed in the course are those related to free will vs. determinism, immortality and the hero’s journey in stories like Superman and Star Trek. Assignments for the course include a group presentation that analyzes and informs other students about a piece of sci-fi related media.

“Many science fiction films and TV shows address ethical issues we face today,” Hadmack says. “In the course, we look at similarities in the lives and teachings of religious founders/leaders and heroes of science fiction and what makes their journey of good vs. evil so timeless and captivating.”

Hadmack assures that the course is not just for die-hard fans who would be doing independent research anyway. “All students are welcome in the course! No background in religious studies or former knowledge of science fiction is necessary.”

In fact, Hadmack herself wasn’t much of a fan of science fiction until adulthood. “I didn’t really start watching science fiction religiously until my freshman year of college. Once I started, I was hooked!”

Regardless of major or familiarity with sci-fi and religion, this writing intensive course can broaden horizons.

“I’m attracted to humanity’s desire to understand how our world works and what our purpose is here, whether that be through physics, astronomy, biology, philosophy or religion … ” Hadmack says.

“I started off as a physics and astronomy major. I really enjoyed learning about how the universe works. Then I enrolled in a world religions course and from the first day of that class I knew that I had found my deepest interest … I find each discipline’s path toward knowledge, understanding and truth very interesting.”

To find out more about the course, talk to your counselor or contact Hadmack—she’s the friendly blonde with the big smile who you’ve seen around campus—at her office in Hale Pālanakila 140 or at minnis@hawaii.edu.

The class is extremely popular and fills up quickly, and with the class currently running beyond capacity, chances are you might know someone enrolled.

 

by Mike Andrews, Special to Ka ‘Ohana