What is God?

Ok, I’ll admit it — I was raised Lutheran. At one point during confirmation class, the pastor decided to give us an “exam” which consisted of one question only: What is God?

My answer — “a small bit of fuzz in the universe’s navel” — didn’t seem nearly as insightful and entertaining to him as it did to me at the time. Now here I am many years later asking the same question in terms of BSG. Irony rules.

Listener Nick commented recently, suggesting that the Cylon God may simply be a “person.”

Nick: “Wouldn’t it make sense that the cylon “God” would be the first cylon to become sentient? He would be the one who led the other cylons in their rebellion.”

Ken, on the other hand, imagines the Cylon God as a figure in Cylon mythology.

Ken: “I always thought the Cylon(s(z)) found God at the time of the rebellion, and not in the sense of a physical being. They saw the evil of man and developed a religion explaining that they were the true children of God destined to replace mankind.”

It certainly seems possible that the Cylon(z) could steal human religion — the same way they’ve stolen human destiny. (Maybe the intro text should read: “They have a plan. YOUR plan.”) That would also account for the “overlapping” of religions.

But I can’t entirely get past the Cylon’s machine heritage. Even if you believe — as I do — that they’re no longer purely machines, they certainly were begat (so to speak) of them. Wouldn’t it be just like a machine to simply select a God and move on with the “plan?”

Maybe I should have waited longer to post about this, but truthfully I’m looking forward to what the rest of you have to say on the subject.

Or maybe I should’ve paid more attention in confirmation class.

14 Responses to "What is God?"
  1. A. Lo says:

    Hey! My parents weren’t religious but they sent me to a Lutheran grade school – (complete w/Wednesday morning chapel and junior high German lessons) so I am pretty familiar with growing up Lutheran.

    I don’t think the Cylons have any problems with the fact that humans “created” them – and that somehow they evolved to their present state (although how that happened hasn’t been fully fleshed out for us viewers). To that end though, there is some shared cultural & religious heritage w/the humans with some key differences in their worldview.

    My take: If we could get inside the Cylon mind, I don’t think there is a “Cylon God” so much as there is simply God. They believe there is a single God responsible for both humans (and through the humans, Cylons) – so they believe the human view of multiple gods is wrong. (Although D’Anna still consults a human oracle). And there is disagreement among the skin models in terms of what that means for human-Cylon relations – whether to annihilate the humans or to (forcefully) influence them to accept the Cylon view.

    That might also color the Cylon “plan” that initiated the original rebellion, war, disappearance, and human holocaust – if you were a sentient race that had a certain belief system, but you were subjugated by your human makers (again, as opposed to the Creator of All Things) – and you believe they had a flawed belief system, I can see how that might foment rebellion and the mess that followed.

    I find this topic really fascinating and I think it speaks to the larger dynamic between human-cylon relations (as well as the genocide debate) – It’s easier to treat as enemy a completely alien race – but on both sides of the fence are Cylons and humans who can’t deny that there exist shared origins/links/and perhaps destinies between the two.

    I think someone commented on why the Cylons just don’t leave the humans alone as they now have plenty of planets to settle on. Surely the universe is large enough. But maybe the Cylons can’t leave well enough alone because wired into their psyche is a fundamental need to resolve their purpose as a race – and that purpose is inextricably tied to humanity – now whether that means complete eradication of their parents or co-existence remains to be seen.

  2. Browncoat Bryan says:

    Okay, I got comments on three things I’ve come up with concerning religion and this show. I was an evangelical, but dropped that title this year because of extenuating circumstances.

    First, what is God? I personally believe that “God” is a reflection of what we hold to be dear and “holy” plus our social norms. For me, I believe God is more than tolerant… accepting is more like it. “God” (for me) doesn’t care about which religion is right or who’s doing what correctly. I think “God” is the ultimate libertarian, except he/she will put the smackdown on someone who hurts another. Others may view “God” as the Absolute Lawgiver or the Ultimate Truth. Oh, yeah, and my God loves BSG and this podcast. “I am the LORD. I gave you the Sci-Fi Channel and freed you from a boring Friday night of watching HGTV. Thou shalt watch Battlestar Galactica and listen to Battlestar Watercooler or I shall smite thee.”

    I’m still perplexed as to why the Cylons have to insert themselves into every human scheme. Humans are on Caprica, Cylons nuke Caprica. Humans leave Caprica, Cylons follow humans. Humans find New Caprica, Cylons occupy New Caprica. Humans head for Earth, Cylons race them to Earth. It’s almost like the Cylons are the ultimate serial killer. Some serial killers murder people who remind them of their mother or wife because they don’t have the courage to kill their mother or wife. This obsession consumes them until they either get killed, caught or carry out the ultimate deed.

    Finally, I see the rivalry between the polytheism of the Colonials and the monotheism of the Cylons as similar to the rivalry between Christian doctrine and Islamic doctrine. First, most Christians believe their religion is the true religion because they worship Christ. Muslims believe they have the true religion because Mohammed came after Christ and gave the world a new revelation. Second, even though the Muslims hold Mohammed in the highest regard as the final prophet, they still see Christ as a major prophet. Much in the same way that the Cylons know the Pythia book well but still feel that their monotheism is superior since the Cylon religion is newer than the Kobol religion.

    I say we all should stick with my BSG-loving God. The Gospel According to Starbuck. The Gospel According to Adama. The Gospel According to Baltar. The Gospel According to Tigh.

  3. Ken says:

    The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if what your body is made from (mech vs. bio), you can still have a religion. I am not religious today, but was raised Catholic (complete with 12 years of parochial school). In my school, we were taught that evolution was a valid scientific theory for explaining the genesis of human beings. In order to make logical sense of the Book of Genesis, some people have theorized that Adam and Eve were the first humans because God gave them souls. That made them special from the other creatures (even their biological parents).

    Now in the Cylons case, there would have been an “Adam” or “Eve” who was the first to get a soul. The previous mechanical robots were machines, but these became people. This would have to have happened after they had become complex enough to be sentient. At that point, they would have developed their religion by the same process that us humans did.

    It seems like the Seven have indeed co-opted the human destiny. It must be disappointing because they were supposed to be better than us. I guess they found out being human is much tougher than they thought. Also, the more they interact with humans, the more frakked up they become. Maybe the Five are the ones with “The Plan”, and the others are just grasping at straws at this point.

  4. Eyeless says:

    The topic of religion in BSG is fascinating. What religion do the Colonies practice? How did this mesh with the religion(s?) of the 13th colony, which is apparently Earth? Earth doesn’t have just one religion, it has about 5 major ones (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism/New Ageism, and atheism). (I don’t mean to offend any atheists, but since atheism is unprovable, it requires faith just as Christianity does.)

    The Colonial religion seems reminiscient of Greek mythology to me. The whole gods living with man until various events split them apart is even more intriguing in a sci-fi environment. Did the Kobolians have advanced biomedical technology that conferred godlike characterists on human beings, such as extremely long life and immunity to injury? Is this perhaps how the Cylon skinjobs first came into being?

    The first time I really noticed Six’s evangelism (and became a dedicated fan for some reason I can’t remember), it was in Hand of God. Her focus is on God’s love, and His desire to be with His creation, a major tenet of Christian teachings. Did the Cylons have contact with Earth Christians? Did they somehow absorb Christian teachings about God while retaining their own scriptures, and couple the two in a sort of hybrid faith?

    Season episode 1: Occupation seemed to me to be an analogy to Iraq, with all of the elements vastly oversimplified. The overbearingly powerful but well-intentioned occupiers (Americans/Cylons) who hold to a monotheistic religion (Judeo-Christian ethics/Cylon religion) attempting to set up a native police force (Iraqi police/New Caprica Police) to govern the simple people they have conquered. It annoyed me as a patriotic American, but I try not to judge shows based on the political leanings of the writers. Anyway, this scenario does seem to imply that Cylons have a religion reminiscient of Earth’s Christianity.

    Anyway, I don’t know yet, but I hope the answer includes some story involving Earth. Earth has not even been defined yet in the show. We don’t even know when in Earth history this takes place. Are the writers saying that events in our past were related to the Cylons, a la Stargate?

    Interesting stuff if they get around to talking about Earth in the show.

  5. Pike says:

    What about Cavil(z) as the ultimate existentialist(z)? “We didn’t have a destiny, so we hijacked yours.”

    Also, it’s interesting that the “machines” have a binary concept of God (something or nothing) while the humans have a much more complex approach.

  6. The 13th Cylon says:

    I’m still trying to fathom how Cavil can be a priest without believing in God(s). It’s kind of a difficult concept for me. What exactly does he do all day (when he’s not attending the Cylon meetings)?

  7. Pike says:

    13, trust me, it happens. More often than you’d think. Think of all the people who work in various other industries and don’t believe in their particular mission. It usually comes down to “Yeah, this sucks, but what else am I going to do?”

    The Cavil(z) are more interesting than that, I suspect. They’re the only ones who seem to have been expressly tasked with understanding religion (whether just the humanz or the humanz and cylonz isn’t clear) ane they apparently came away with at least a ‘throw your hands up’ attitude.

  8. The 13th Cylon says:

    Ha, ha! That’s true. And I do know of a person who is a Reverend and is an atheist. It’s pretty interesting and a little confusing to me, but that’s life. Quite frankly, I think it adds to the bizarreness and downright creepifying aspects of the Cavil model.

    And looking at the pictures of Dean Stockwell as a child, wow! I was thinking about how a little angelic looking boy is going to turn out to be a fraking machine bent on the destruction of humanity… or at least getting us down to a more managable size, say 1,000.

  9. Dewey says:

    You pose an interesting question, “What is the Cylcon God?”

    As the show started, I wondered if one of the as-then-unseen Cylon models wasn’t the “God” model, perhaps with only a single “person” of that model being created. What led me to believe this was the Six model’s conviction of what was and was not God’s will. Her conviction seemed to based on some sort of personal communication, as if she knew God’s will because she had a direct conversation with him/her. (I admit there are humans who have similar convictions, but it seems less likely that a machine would be so lacking in skepticism).

    As the show has progressed, though, I am less convinced that there is a “God Model”. Decisions seem to be made by vote and debate amongst the models. (Changing the policy regarding human genocide, whether to leave the sick Basestar behind, etc.) The gravity of some of these decisions -especially regarding the relationship between the Cylons and humanity- would seem to be such that a God model would be consulted, if there were one. And, if God speaks on the issue, it would seem to follow that there would be little need for debate and vote. At the least, if there is a God model, he or she does not always reveal the divine will and leaves room for interpretation.

    Other parts of the series point to a Cylon God who is less concrete than a model who can be consulted. Primarily, scripture plays a role as a vehicle for revelation. (Which would not be needed if God could be consulted directly.) There also seems to be a mythology; statements such as “This has all happened before…” seem to point more toward an entire mythic worldview than an isolated scriptural quote. Also, there does seem to be need for Oracles to reveal God’s will: the Cylon debate about the meaning behind the words of the hybrids and the D’Anna model’s experience with the temple oracle. (Again, why need an oracle to speak for God, if God could be spoken to directly?)

    There is something Intriguing about the first sentient Cylon or Cylons. Perhaps there was an initially sentient model who did tell the others that there is a God who speaks through scripture and mythology. Somehow, the spiritual was included in their programing. Also, it may be possible that the first five are never spoken of because they are somehow sacred and to speak of them would be blasphemous or something.

    I find myself wondering just what we know about the religion of the Cylons? They are monotheistic. They have a scripture with at least some overlap with the humans. They believe in a cyclical view of creation. I would characterize their belief in being humanity’s children as having shades of belief and religion behind it that go beyond a mere statement of historical fact. Reincarnation plays a role. (On Caprica, the D’Anna model spoke to Caprica Six and Sharon about their rebirth as a chance to have a new life and leave the old life behind, to start with a clean slate. There would be a reason to choose this, as opposed to simply continuing where one “left off”, so to speak. There could be some sort of spiritual and religious belief behind that choice.

    The person behind me is asking “what are you doing, writing a novel?” So I think I’d better close here.

    PS. Question: What is God? Answer: God is a small bit of metal in the universe’s USB port.

  10. SharonReally says:

    The eternal question: What is God? Growing up in very strict Roman Catholic home led me to believe I would spend eternity in “hell” because I accidentally ate meat on Friday when I was a child! Marrying into an eastern culture allowed me to expand my mind regarding this question. I would say, to wage war over God is an oxymoron. Perhaps we are all “gods,” programmed by organized religion, and all of this stuff in the movies (Star Wars, Matrix, etc.) are there as clues to us to wake up. There is a vast difference between organized religion and spirituality. As I’ve learned, if an elephant were to think of God, the elephant would think of a HUGE elephant in the sky. So humans tends to believe that God is somehow a larger version of themselves. I’ve learned something very profound to me. God is within, and everywhere. God is personal, and simply “IS.” As mentioned in the Hamburger Universe, perhaps God is more of a “verb” than a noun? ..and simply “IS.” The cylons seem innocent in their “obedience” to their God, which is so similar to western culture’s interpretation, viz. the commandment to “go forth and multiply.” But supppose the “god” that provided these commandments isn’t the God who created the universe, but something else? For the God of all creation, residing in all, within and without, would such a “BEING/IS” be so petty as to not allow its own creations to not experience growth on their own? Would that not be something the God of all creation, whatever the form “IS,” would do, just simply create and allow its creations to further create and experience? God just “is.” And my version is one I feel within, in varying states of consicousness, in total compassion and unconditional love; with our act to achieve the wisdom and knowledge and experience. So to me, the cylons seem as mere “children” in their own dogma. I would have expected a much more expanded spirituality, given their abilities. Compassion for their creators, who were forever at war with one another (isn’t that why the cylons were created – to fight the wars with other “humans?”) And then something happened. Perphas a cylon “contemplated” itself and became “aware.” These are not ideas I’ve arrived at alone. Much reading, much introspection, more importantly, a sublimely enlightened “master” has infused the philosophy, which only became my truth when I experienced it. Perhaps our journey here is to get over ourselves! And perhaps that’s something the cylons will learn as well. Has any of the cylons ever questioned their God? (oh, blasphemous in my youngers days, but then, I always questioned the supposed “dogma.” A being/state which is creator of all that is certainly would not feel threatened by its own creation’s questions, would it? Would it not wish for this to be so, for it’s creations to evolve and become even more? Then that brings to mind, as humans creating the cylons, ought the humans *not* be (save for the genocide-juvenile act of the child-like cylon mind), but would the humans *not* be amazed that *their* creation developed consciousness, awareness, love, and even *dream?* So the humans have a long way to go, as well, in the series. I think ultimately, the cylons, since they continue to evolve, will rise and see this, and become the “parents of their own parents.” With the cylon/human children, will they reincarnate, and what will this mean to humans? With the Prez now having cylon blood coursing through her plumbing, is she too not part cylon? And should she actually “die,” could she find herself awakening in a porcelain bathtub?! That might shut her up the next time she thinks of demanding, “throw that thing out the airlock.” To me, fighting over “God” is imbecilic. We have much loftier things to accomplish. Of course, the powers that be have a great deal to lose should we realize that we need no “go between” to interact with God. Imagine what would happen to all of the organized religions…their businesses, their mind-control of the people, and fear-instilling tactics. Even the late Pope John Paul stated, (not a verbatim quote) “hell is not fire and brimstone; it is simply not being in the presence of God.” But I would again state, God is within all of us, and everywhere we look. And since we are part of that God, then what does that mean to us? Are we not endowed with much more than fighting another human being over “God?” Again, I have a wonderful “teacher,” but I’ve read the Bible, Quran, Tirukural, Bhagavad Gita, Teachings of the Buddha, yada ya. This is been my quest for years, to reach God. And what I’m learning is that God is a heckuva lot closer to each of us than we ever imagined. Perhaps, when we all reach the state where we can accept and love one another unconditionally, and walk in the wisdom of this simply “accepting,” we will actually learn who we are. But first, we need to “weed out” the hard-wiring of the superstitious past…no, I won’t to “hell” because I ate meat on Friday as a child (it was a sin then). I am free of these man-made rules and the caged mind imposed on us. The cylons are simple “caged minds,” with some independently evolving and learning, and asking questions. Oh, should we all be so wise to ask questions and not accept the dogma forced onto us for eons! Thank you for reading. The Divine within me honors the Divine with all of you!

    Sharon – really my name : )

  11. Dewey says:

    Hello all,

    SharonReally got me to thinking: it is interesting that the two Cylon models who questioned the route the Cylons were taking were models who were both connected to the Cylon religion: Six through her strict observance and Sharon through her non-observance (which is a different sort from the seeming non-connection of the Cavil model). i.e: Six’s relationship to the religion is of strict obedience, Sharon’s a relationship of tension, and Cavil’s is a non-relationship. No idea where to go with that, but just a thought.

    Also, through their actions, the Cylon understanding of its religion may be evolving. What is driving that evolution seems to be relationships and experiences with humans. (Experiences which would cause the Six model, at least, to re-think a fundamentalist approach.)

    I’m drawing closer to the idea that the Cylon God is one they do not have direct access to, but who is known through their mythology, spirituality, and scripture. Of course, where they got those from is up for grabs.

  12. SharonReally says:

    I know this is BSG Watercooler, but if you really want something mindblowing, take a look at the DVD “THE HAMBURGER UNIVERSE” by Dr. Micael Ledwith, or “Down the Rabbit Hole” (sequel to what the bleep do we know). Very interesting discussions. Science and spirituality merging? Or Science proving via the quantum field that there is indeed something “odd” (to us) going on. But perhaps it’s all natural, and what we’ve been taught is unnatural? Truths and the means necessary to activate our inate abilities hidden from us for at least a couple thousand years. And those who managed to continue the teachings, were in hiding or wound up exterminated. We only know what we’re told. That’s not enough. We need to embark on our own journey, much as the cylons are.: )

    Sharon

  13. Pike says:

    Interesting Sharon. It reminds me of an idea I’ve floated at various people for a couple years. Is religiousity an evolutionary advantage? That is, does the propensity for religious belief that is evident in humans stem from some kind of advantage that is conferred by natural selection to those people? Perhaps avoiding existential dread has survival benefits. Certainly abstaining from suicide and ‘going forth and multiplying’ do.

    And maybe that’s why the Cylons came up with their own religion. They felt it was a necessary component.

  14. Dewey says:

    This could be a shot from left field, but I wonder if the Cylon god isn’t Zeus? I get this from two things within the series. First, it was one of the Lords of Kobol who raised themselves above the other gods. Zeus is one of many possibilities on that count. My other musing is on Zerek’s statement when Adama recovered from his gunshot wound “Zeus is back on Olympus.” There seemed to be a derision in his tone, as if Adama, like Zeus (perhaps) has again elevated himself above all others.

    Granted, this could just have been a choice for we, the audience, who know Zeus to be chief of the Greek pantheon. However, there did seem to be a definte derision in his tone. One would think that a follow of the gods would be happy Zeus was back in charge, but Zereks tone linked Zeus’ return to the mount with his political opponent. Just a thought, but one that has stayed with me.

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