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  • Religion in Babylon 5

    Hi, everyone! I have begun working on a project for my undergraduate thesis, which is going to be an analysis of the incorporation of religion in Babylon 5. I'm doing research now and in the fall (I'll be gone from June to August), and I've sent a letter and an email to JMS about my project (let's hope he answers!).

    Now, I was hoping, if any of you were interested, to throw out on this forum whatever you thought was interesting concerning religion on the show. It could be about the religions in the show itself, or how today's world religions are incorporated into the show. Did you find anything odd? Unique? Did B5 make you convert to foundationism?

    Thanks for your brainstorming. I'm so excited to have found this forum just recently, and I am looking forward to sharing ideas and the B5 excitement with everyone!

  • #2
    Hi sjerose, welcome to the forums!

    One of the greatest resources for you might be the archive of JMS's posts here. Another might be the Lurker's Guide. Lucky you, you 'have' to watch B5 for school!

    Hope you get the info you're looking for.

    Jan
    "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

    Comment


    • #3
      I remember the first time I saw a Vorlon without his encounter suit (in the series, of course *g*) and I went: Oh no, they destroyed it. I even stopped watching the series from that time on, but when it came out on DVD I bought all and enjoyed watching them again and again. But still, the "angel" stuff was very disturbing (to me) at the beginning. Understand me please, I am a deeply spiritual person (or so I tell myself *g*) and I really liked the way religion was treated in B5, for example the one episode where all religions where presented. I liked every approach, even the Centauri had some wisdom beneath the "let's drink till stupid" party *g*. But when there where suddently Angels IN PLAIN SIGHT it was like... to much. Where religion was always present there was suddently like an focus on the topic.

      One very positive twist was the end of the Shadow War. When the Vorlons and Shadows talked with the younger races, there was a lot of Psychology embedded, the process of forming your self, your ego. After you did as your parents told you to do you realise that you are independent. And while the loss of security hurts (your parents are no gods after all) the new found freedom burns within you and gives you strength to build your own future. B5 was the ony show up until now which embraced topics of Philosophy, Psychology and Religion and left you wondering about the world, humanity and the universe. So yes: B5 made me think about religion more often and I ganined some knowledge that I wouldn't have found otherwise. I don't know in which episode the religions where presented, but I am sure somebody here will gladly provide you with the right number. I also enjoyed G'Kar and his take of religion/philosophy at the end of the series. I am sure you will find a lot of similarities with Buddhism and the like.

      Of course there is the whole "died at Za'ha'dum" thing... like a martyr he died and was resurrected. If you want to upset christian fundies you can throw a stick there *g*

      PeAcE
      greetings from austria, best known for its history and fine wine... feels like a wine cellar on a graveyard 8-)

      Comment


      • #4
        A friend and I recently got caught up in the whole "DaVinci Code" thing and went way into researching the theories presented in that book. Then something in B5 caught our eye:

        Sinclair. He was a Jesuit and, arguably, the most religious character on that show. And, of course, he became Valen, "Jesus" for the Minbari, if you will.

        Now in our research (for the record we are both Catholics) we found that the one of the family names of the descendents of Christ is Saint Clair.

        Saint Clair . . . Sinclair . . .

        After that we noticed other little things (for instance the EA symbol is the Star of David) laid throughout the show and it brought our apprechiation and liking of B5 to a whole new level.

        There are so many different ways to approach that thesis, I wish i could write a paper like that!
        http://www.andrewcardinale.com
        @acardi

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        • #5
          There was a decent discussion I had with another poster here (grumbler) on this, way back when I first got on, I think. I'll try and dig it up and link or quote the relevant bits.

          EDIT - OK, here it is, the Two Things You Don't Talk About thread. A blast from the last-year past for some folks here. There's a good bit of chaff in it on other stuff, so you'll have to sift through it a bit.

          I could try and post fresh thoughts, but I'm lazy. Maybe later.
          Last edited by Radhil; 04-28-2005, 09:49 AM.
          Radhil Trebors
          Persona Under Construction

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          • #6
            A friend and I recently got caught up in the whole "DaVinci Code" thing and went way into researching the theories presented in that book. Then something in B5 caught our eye:

            Sinclair. He was a Jesuit and, arguably, the most religious character on that show. And, of course, he became Valen, "Jesus" for the Minbari, if you will.

            Now in our research (for the record we are both Catholics) we found that the one of the family names of the descendents of Christ is Saint Clair.

            Saint Clair . . . Sinclair . . .

            After that we noticed other little things (for instance the EA symbol is the Star of David) laid throughout the show and it brought our appreciation and liking of B5 to a whole new level.

            There are so many different ways to approach that thesis, I almost envy you for being able to write on such a great topic.
            http://www.andrewcardinale.com
            @acardi

            Comment


            • #7
              I wrote a speech about JMS when I was in high school . . . so I used B5 for that I love how, in the world of babylon 5, Religion is incorporated well. much like todays society, but slightly better, you see that people understand that their religion is their prefference and they leave it at that. the only instances where religion was brought up, was if it conflicted with another persons beliefs. a good refference is: Season 1 "Believers". also you see in the episode "The Parliament of Dreams" to show our culture, Sinclair introduced people with different religions. I know there are a few more episodes that can be of help.

              some cultures dont have a religion, but it seems that way to them and it causes a problem "The Geometry of Shadows". anything about how the minbari's religious and warrior cast argue over prophecy and Valen, is similar to Jesus. Heck, you can even mention that in that future the Pope is a woman (season 4 "Racing Mars" Crusade "The Memory of War"). You see people worship Sheridan because he "came back from the dead". its interesting to see religions to come into play in this series, but I dont see anyone fighting because of religion (save - "Rumors, Bargains and Lies" or episodes to tie in with the minbari cast war) most things were fought over race, species, and morality. I dont know if I am COMPLETELY right, but thats how I saw it. hope that helps
              "It is said that the future is always born in pain. The history of war is the history of pain. If we are wise, what is born of that pain matures into the promise of a better world, because we learn that we can no longer afford the mistakes of the past." -- G'Kar in Babylon 5:"In the Beginning"

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              • #8
                As best as I can see, and my research into history has not yet invalidated it, the Minbari are basically Celtic. The Celts had 3 classes, worker, warrior and priestly (the Druids). They believed in triple aspects of nearly everything, including some of their gods/goddesses. And their cosmology is quite similar to the Minbari.

                For a good book on the Celts, which includes a bit about their religion, try "The Celts" by Gerhard Herme. It is available either at Barnes and Noble or ebay.
                "Ivanova is God!"

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                • #9
                  What "fundies" do not realize is that angels and other spiritual beings are aliens. If someone from the 1700's saw a Vorlon in angel form or a Shadow vessel, they'd describe it as being something spiritual. Angels and demons, etc. are simply other forms of life.

                  I don't know if Sheridan's near-death experience could directly be correlated to Jesus' resurrection, as he didn't exactly die, but JMS made the point that Sheridan was not infallible, so the comparison wouldn't hold too much water.
                  Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

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                  • #10
                    Wow! There are some very diverse and well-put observations and opinions about B5's religion out there.

                    That whole Vorlon-angel thing is very intriguing. It seems to suggest that perhaps the Vorlons have been involved on Earth from the beginnings of civilization. They would be who we develop our religions from, but what happens then when we realize their fallability and then they leave the galaxy, like in Season 4?

                    Harrdy, can you think of other places where you thought religion was too obviously planted for your taste?

                    I never thought of the Minbari in relation to the Celts. An interesting idea, SpooRancher...

                    Thanks for all the input. Keep it comin'!

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                    • #11
                      On the subject of the Celts, and Sheridan's death and resurrection at Z'ha'dum, there is also a Celtic shamanic concept that relates. Shamans would entomb themselves for three days, as a ritual form of rebirth. Actually, lots of shamanic cultures have a ritual three-day burial. You might argue that Jesus was a shaman within those parameters.

                      Anyway, yeah, much of the Celts' spirituality resonates around the number three, so there's that whole connection with the Minbari. And, there are PILES of books about Celtic spirituality out there nowadays. Some less well-researched than others. A good author to start with - well researched, and with an academic provenance - is John Matthews (who often writes with his wife, Caitlin Matthews).

                      Also, Celtic spiritual myth is lousy with the iconic character of the warrior-priest, and G'Kar is _classically_ that archetype.

                      Amy

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                      • #12
                        The biggest problem with ancient stories is that they are handed down, word of mouth. And we all know that the human race loves to embellish everything it hears.

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                        • #13
                          What "fundies" do not realize is that angels and other spiritual beings are aliens. If someone from the 1700's saw a Vorlon in angel form or a Shadow vessel, they'd describe it as being something spiritual. Angels and demons, etc. are simply other forms of life.
                          I'd say that it is that way in the B5 universe. But please do not mix up our universe and that one. True, B5 is based on our view of the world, but it would be a far stretch to say that goes the other way, too. But I am with you when you *suggest* that *maybe* the angels *could* be aliens. I don't like the "it is that way", there is not much evidence of the existance of angels altogether and in ways of the belief it is much better to accept other point of views... (THAT is what is between "fundies" and "spiritual people" IMHO)

                          I don't know if Sheridan's near-death experience could directly be correlated to Jesus' resurrection, as he didn't exactly die, but JMS made the point that Sheridan was not infallible, so the comparison wouldn't hold too much water.
                          I once read an interresting analysis about the whole "Jesus-Thing". The writer suggested that Jesus himself thought he would "come back from the dead" and his followers where SHOCKED when he didn't. So they retreated and fantasized that he did, and so it was written and is now the spine of the Christian belief. Again, you can say that when enough people *belief* that something happended than it *happened*, even if reality suggest otherwise. The subjective reality of one is independend of the absolute reality of the environment, most of the time you don't see, hear, smell or feel something happening, but you read about it and you beliefe you know about it. A lot of the problems in our world stem from people not knowing how subjective their realita really is...

                          Anyway, what I wanted to say about Jesus/Sheridan: It is said that Jesus came back from the dead for a limited time. Sheridan "came back" from the dead for a limited time (one could argue if he really was dead, but people *believed* he was dead, and that is all that matters in religion). Both Jesus and Sheridan died for others. Jesus took away the sin of the world (for believers) with his dead, Sheridan did hurt "the enemy" badly, so both had a victory against their enemy.

                          You could also draw some parallels between the Shadows and the Devil. Both have a special view how the universe should be like. Both fell from grace (the shadows from the first one(es?)). Both want people to behave like themself. And of course you can draw the conclusion that the Vorlons where not that much different at the end. Showing that maybe the biggest sin is pride, pride in that way that you believe *YOUR* view of the world is the only acceptable one...

                          By the way, Sheridan and Sinclair where thought as one person at the beginning of B5. You can surely find a text describing that. So The parallels between Jesus and Sheridan/Sinclair are even stronger, him being the one who died an came back *and* the founder of a way of living (for the Minbari).

                          That whole Vorlon-angel thing is very intriguing. It seems to suggest that perhaps the Vorlons have been involved on Earth from the beginnings of civilization.
                          It surely suggest that ALL civilisations have been tempered with, with the exception of the Centauri, who don't see "an angel", or so they say at least. I am not all that sure that Londo doesn't see anything, but that is only my opinion 9-)
                          Anyway, in the B5 universe Minbari had the strongest ties to the Vorlons. Humanity was visited by the Vorlons more than one time, they found "Jack" (the Ripper) and put him to their use (another interresting episode, I like the way leaders *should* be), and they have "programmed" us to see an angel when we see a vorlon. There is something deeply disturbing (maybe the reason I stopped watching the series) in this thought. While it is very moving to stand before an angel I surely don't like the idea that my people have been tempered with. They CHANGED us, who gave them the right to do so? There is another piece of pride, the Vorlons thought that they have the right to do so in their pride.

                          But also the shadows did their amount of meddling. They visited at least the Narn and killed nearly all their Telepaths. They pulled strings to throw the galaxy into war, to strengthen the survivors.

                          There is another interresting comparison between the Evolution (which works two-ways. Strengthening by Competition but also by Socialicing (don't know a better, english word for it). Single Cell organisms work together, Multi Cell organisms form social groups, humans form Cities and Nations... Evolution is twofold. But I am not so sure if you could use that information in your work...

                          They would be who we develop our religions from, but what happens then when we realize their fallability and then they leave the galaxy, like in Season 4?
                          I think (these are only my opinions) that B5 showed us that spirituality is inside of us. We can find Angles but they don't show us our spirituality (only childs and such are impressed by them). G'Kar is a prime example for this. He talkes about finding god is like using a flashlight. We see what we are able and think that what we see is god. But truth (might be) that we are just not able to understand god, so the more we are sure that we know how god "is" the more we see that he is "like us". I think the parting of "the Angels" (Vorlons) would leave a lot of "strong beliefers" (=childs) in fear, but the ones who don't look outward for god would not feel any different. For them the Vorlons where only a way to find another aspect of god...

                          Harrdy, can you think of other places where you thought religion was too obviously planted for your taste?
                          No, otherwise I always liked the way religion was showed. For example I feared the worst when I understood that G'Kar would become a prophet (kind of). But it was done very good, believable.

                          On the subject of the Celts, and Sheridan's death and resurrection at Z'ha'dum, there is also a Celtic shamanic concept that relates. Shamans would entomb themselves for three days, as a ritual form of rebirth. Actually, lots of shamanic cultures have a ritual three-day burial. You might argue that Jesus was a shaman within those parameters.
                          I read "Masks of God" (don't know if that is the right translation of "Masken Gottes") by Joseph Campbell. He outlines that shamans have some distinct ways of finding their spirituality. Hunger is one way. And in our religion up to the present there is always fasting (sp?). One could argue that your body produces endorphine to counter the pain and exhaustion... so pain, loneliness, loss and illness all could work towards a "spirituality". I don't like to confine spirituality to that biological workings, but there is evidence for it.

                          Anyway, yeah, much of the Celts' spirituality resonates around the number three...
                          Three is a "magical" number, also found in Christian belief (and nearly everywhere in the world). There is the three-union of God, Christ and the Holy Ghost. One could draw a similarity to the three-union of "The One", but it is only sketchy. Because the three "Ones" are quite different to the Christian Unity.
                          greetings from austria, best known for its history and fine wine... feels like a wine cellar on a graveyard 8-)

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                          • #14
                            Here are some quicks thoughts in no particular order.

                            ò At a time when TV mostly portrayed religion through fanaticism, B5 mostly avoided religous fanaticsm and portrayed characters of faith in a positive light.

                            ò Vorlons and religion û I donÆt think Vorlons created religions for the younger races, they just used those beliefs when convenient. IIRC, JMS once commented that the Vorlons didnÆt appear as the major religious figures.

                            ò Vorlons/angels û which came first? Did the intervention of Vorlons create the stories of angels, or did Vorlons make use of the existing beliefs with regard to beings of light? We saw them use existing forms in other ways when they took on the shape of GÆKarÆs and SheridanÆs fathers.

                            ò SheridenÆs death û Lorien could only ôbreath on the embers.ö Sheridan was likely dead by the humanÆs definition of death at that time, but then again what we do with CPR, drugs, and cardiac stimulation has extended the definition of death from what it was, say, 500 years ago.

                            ò Sheridan/Jesus and Minbari/Celts û Might be an obvious observation, but donÆt work too hard at making it all fit once you see similarities. JMS seems to like to work with composites, drawing some characteristics from one source, and others from completely different cultures, myths or stories. That said, the Sheridan/Jesus dynamic was always right out there in front of us (and the other B5 characters, too), but I had never thought of the Minbari/Celt relationship. Interesting thought.

                            ò Harrdy û ThereÆs a pretty good body of evidence that burgeoning religions take on aspects of the religions they are replacing, and it is often supposed that the 3Æs in Christianity came from the pagan religions.

                            ò JMS expressed the thought that Science and Religion are both means of explaining the universe around us. I always liked that. I thought it worked particularly well with the ônewö religions like Foundationalsim that grew up in the wake of contact with aliens. All of a sudden the universe becomes a very different place than we knew of, and Science and Religion both have to hustle to incorporate the new realities.

                            Oh well, that's all for now.
                            "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

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                            • #15
                              Harrdy û ThereÆs a pretty good body of evidence that burgeoning religions take on aspects of the religions they are replacing, and it is often supposed that the 3Æs in Christianity came from the pagan religions.
                              I didn't say that "three" is a christian concept. I only said that they *also* have it. I even said that "magic numbers" (magic is considered from the devil by christians *g*) occur everywhere on the planet, they are likely from our unique perspective being human. There are some instincts and then there are some learned concepts. I can't say if "magic numbers" are "instinctive" but I would bet on it. I mean, one is not much of "magic", two is as in two people as in two points of view. Three seems to be the border between we and us. I don't know how I can describe it in a foreign language... two people (can) see themselves as a unity, three people are different. It is "the other", which comes out here, I think...

                              But bottom line it might be that the concept of "three" is a pagan concept converted, they did a lot of others (like e.g. Easter being one of the better known examples) conversions. There where even some Christians who thought they might find new wisdom about God in the beliefs of the Pagan.

                              I tend to split religion into the "political" part (with the pope and all that) and the "spiritual" part. The second one is a purely personal experience and you can find it in a church, but also you could find it standing on a mountain top. Or being together with your friends. Or similar experiences. There is the feeling "it makes sense", it fills you with a certainty that you are no thing of blind luck.

                              PeAcE
                              greetings from austria, best known for its history and fine wine... feels like a wine cellar on a graveyard 8-)

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