Everything I Need to Know About Morality I Learned From Star Trek

Written by Drew Costen

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

The best source of morality generally can’t be found in a church. Likewise, you won’t learn how to be the best person you can be in the Bible.

No, the best way to discover how to be a truly ethical person is in a completely different place. It’s in the science fiction section of your local video and book stores.

If you’re basing your morals on what you’re taught on Sunday morning, odds are high that you’re going to have to wade through a lot of sexism, homophobia and erotophobia, not to mention a lot of conservative greed. If you’re reading the Bible literally and hope to find good advice, you’re going to have to learn to distinguish between helpful ideas such as loving your neighbours and harmful doctrines that tell us women are second class citizens, that it’s okay to invade other nations and kill people with different religions, and that slavery is a perfectly acceptable way to run a household.

If you turn to Star Trek instead, you’ll find that exploring new places is desirable, but that perhaps you should think twice before interfering in local affairs, and that you definitely shouldn’t steal other people’s land. You’ll learn to respect people who look, act and speak differently than you. You’ll discover that working together is more productive than always fighting over riches and resources. And you’ll see that going out of your way to help those in need, even if it increases the time you spend on your voyage, might just be the right thing to do. Also, we probably shouldn’t allow all the whales to go extinct if we want to survive as a species. :)

Growing up, what I learned from church was that people with different beliefs were dangerous and that new concepts would lead us astray. Well, it’s true, new ideas might lead you in a different direction than the way your religious leaders would prefer you go, but those new paths might very well be preferable, and far more ethical, than the ways they want you to live.

There’s nothing wrong with studying Scripture to find positive teachings, but one should first be firmly grounded in a positive form of morality, one that respects varying opinions, and isn’t calling for discrimination against people because they might have different sexual preferences than you do, otherwise you won’t be able to tell the good from the bad and might think harmful dogmas are actually helpful.

Start with the various Star Trek series and films but don’t stop there. Dig deeper by watching Babylon 5, Stargate, Firefly, and even Battlestar Galactica. Once you’ve finished these series you’ll not only have a good grounding in what’s actually in the best interest of both you and those around you, you’ll also know how to appreciate shades of grey and situational ethics. Then, and only then, you might just be ready to start trying to interpret Scripture in positive ways.