Faculty Sponsor

Joseph Keith


My paper focuses on religion as an ideology that allows for change within science fiction literature, examining religion in Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy and Octavia Butler’s Parable series. In Herbert’s works, religion disrupts various plans for humanity’s future that direct humanity into complacency, dooming it. Religion, through a jihad, jars these plans, pushing humanity in a new direction that will lead to its survival. In Butler’s works, Lauren Olamina, the protagonist, creates a new religion, Earthseed, in a dystopian near-future. Earthseed clashes with the fundamentalist Christianity present in the word, the former deifying change while the latter encourages regression. It also allows humanity to colonize other planets and escape the dying Earth. Both depictions of religion show the ideological system as disruptive, yet when mapped onto Raymond Williams’ classifications of ideology, distinctions appear. Dune’s religion upholds the structures of empire already existing and becomes incorporated into the dominant ideology. As the post-jihad empire functions as before, the religion is a residual ideology that is either benign to or supports the dominant power structures. Earthseed, by contrast, resists the political conservatism and the fundamentalist Christianity of the dystopian Earth, fulfilling Williams’ definition of a resistant ideology.