Isaac Asimov On Religion

"To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today." -- Isaac Asimov "Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition." -- Isaac Asimov "Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly..." -- Isaac Asimov, Canadian Atheists Newsletter, 1994 "To rebel against a powerful political, economic, religious, or social establishment is very dangerous and very few people do it, except, perhaps, as part of a mob. To rebel against the "scientific" establishment, however, is the easiest thing in the world, and anyone can do it and feel enormously brave, without risking as much as a hangnail. Thus, the vast majority, who believe in astrology and think that the planets have nothing better to do than form a code that will tell them whether tomorrow is a good day to close a business deal or not, become all the more excited and enthusiastic about the bilge when a group of astronomers denounces it." -- Isaac Asimov "...if I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul." -- Isaac Asimov, "I. Asimov: A Memoir"

" -. "I. There is. who mentions John the Baptist.Isaac Asimov . as thinking human beings. to be sure."The Bible contains legendary." -. but it interrupts the flow of the discourse and seems suspiciously like an afterthought. Josephus.Isaac Asimov. for removing me from all possible fears of death. because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. I am thankful to atheism. and one doesn't have to accept the legends in order to get the ethics. out and out. that they are best capable of developing values that succeed in satisfying human needs and serving human interests. Free Inquiry "We owe it to ourselves as respectable human beings. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist. I expect death to be nothingness and. historical and ethical contents.Isaac Asimov." -. felt the insertion to be a pious act. It is quite possible to consider them separately.Isaac Asimov "I am an atheist. Asimov: A Memoir" "As it happens. "On Religiosity"." -.Isaac Asimov. I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I've been an atheist for years and years. It took me a long time to say it. to do what we can to make humanity more rational. Scholars generally believe this to have been an insertion by some early Christian editor who. does not mention Jesus. but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say that one is an atheist. because they drive away many who can't swallow the Adam-and-Eve bit" -. a paragraph in his history of the Jews which is devoted to Jesus. Fundamentalists make a grave mistake to insist on the letter of the writings. scandalized that Josephus should talk of the period without mentioning the Messiah. using reason as their guide. but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or agnostic. "Asimov's Guide To The Bible" "Although the time of death is approaching me...Humanists recognize that it is only when people feel free to think for themselves.

Isaac Asimov Return to CSS 1997 Newsletter Archive ." -. "Yours. Isaac Asimov" "Creationists make it sound as though a theory is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night."I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it.Isaac Asimov. just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I considered detrimental to mind or body." -.

1975. and an autobiography to clearly show a parallelism between Isaac Asimov's personal views and beliefs. 89-90). Asimov served a short time in the military during World War II. and divorced November 16. and also for being a professed and proud atheist.A. and physics (Riley. In 1958 Asimov became a full time writer (Wakeman. geography. physiology. it answers the questions "How are the aspects of religion and religious beliefs used in the fictional works of a professed atheistic writer. chemistry. while his parents were Orthodox Jews. He graduated Boy's High School in Brooklyn at the age of 15 and went on to study chemistry at Columbia University where he earned his B. he remained without religion simply because no one made an effort to teach him . USSR to parents Judah and Anna Asimov. and had two children. 1973. pp. When Isaac Asimov was 3 years old. for his work in science fiction. this paper demonstrates that Asimov's works are opposed to religion and common religious beliefs such as the existence of God. The two separated in 1970. in 1939 and his M. and later earned his PhD in 1948. Asimov has covered almost every major division of the library Dewey decimal system with topics including anatomy. numerous short stories. then becoming a faculty member of Boston University as an assistant professor of biochemistry. biology. It is also shown that these references are often subtle attacks that the unaware reader may never notice. quotes. Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov is one of the most prolific writers in American history. astronomy. etymology. to Janet Opal Jeppson. and what is the predominant attitude toward religion in those works?" This paper uses such resources as the novel Foundation. 1920 in Petrovichi. mathematics. 1942. and what is the predominant attitude toward religion in those works? Asimov was born January 2nd. on November 30th. history. both Orthodox Jews. Asimov is most well known. 1975. Greek mythology. and life after death. How. then. in 1941. Moreover. humor. According to Asimov's own autobiography (1994). More specifically. the Bible. however. and his fictional works. Asimov later remarried. 1999). pp. Asimov married Gertrude Blugerman July 26. with over 500 titles.Religion in Asimov's Writings Michael Brummond Abstract This paper discusses how the life and beliefs of an American writer are reflected in his fictional works. 1973.S. Asimov had no children from this marriage (Seiler & Jenkins. his family came to the United States and settled in New York City where his father opened a candy shop. 16-17). are the aspects of religion and religious beliefs used in the fictional works of a professed atheistic writer.

An unsympathetic reader might think that I am "burlesquing" Christianity. Humanists would believe that neither good nor evil is produced by supernatural beings. I am. to harbor science and art during the fall of the Galactic Empire. Asimov gives his views of science fiction and religion: I tend to ignore religion in my own stories altogether. in short. on the Bible. he was "sometimes suspected of being nonreligious as an act of rebellion against Orthodox parents.. I have rebelled against nothing. but I am not. In the novel. the commandments are similar to those . How then does Asimov treat this in his fictional works? In his book Gold (1995). 301).but it was not true of me." Foundation.. it is impossible to write science fiction and really ignore religion (pp. p. 13)." This view of the bible is somewhat paralleled in Asimov's short story "The Last Trump" (1990) in which the angel Etheriel is speaking to the archangel Gabriel about the writings of the book of Daniel and the Bible in general and questions their authenticity after being copied by scribes: "I wonder if two words in a row are left unchanged (p. Humanists belive that humans alone are responsible for the problems and achievements of society. the Foundation is organized religion. . 1997). 12). 103) The parallelism to Christianity is apparent: the Prophet Hari Seldon represents Jesus Christ." Although his parents were Jewish. Asimov says "My experience with Greek myths (and later. and that the problems of humankind can be solved without such beings (Seiler & Jenkins.all this talk of about the Prophet Hari Seldon and how he appointed the Foundation to carry on his commandments that there might some day be a return of the Earthly paradise: and how anyone who disobeys his commandments will be destroyed for eternity. (1974) one of Asimov's most famous and popular novels.. For instance..and. and strikingly resembles Christianity. that religion is bound to be seem vaguely Christian because that is the only religion I know anything about. a group known as the Foundation is assembled by Hari Seldon. 1999). 1995. According to Asimov. except when I absolutely have to have it. The religion is described as follows: . whenever I bring in a religious motif. the Bible. even to the point of publishing a two volume set entitled Asimov's Guide to the Bible. (p. but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time (as cited in Corvallis Secular Society. 13). a rationalist and believe only that which reason tells me is so (p." Asimov perfectly summed up his religious views by saying "I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist.. 297-302) It is true that Asimov does not use religion in an abundance in his fictional work.any religion (p. ".. even though it is not mine." It has also been suggested that Asimov was a Humanist. and yet it can be found. Asimov took great interest in Christianity and moreover. 1994. The too. p. the grimmer Norse myths) made it quite obvious to me that I was reading Hebrew myths (Asimov. using trade and religion to control neighboring planets and systems.. The foundation grows in power over the years. 106).I am incapable of accepting that existence on faith alone (Asimov. deals with religion in a rather negative light. They believe it.. As Asimov put it.

These examples of Asimov's work reveal some interesting views on religion.. Asimov said "I would say. and it remains premature today. p. 1994. and to be destroyed for eternity is the Christian idea of Hell. The priesthood has sole control of the instruments of science we have given Anacreon. 1997). p. these examples suggest that religion is created by man as a tool to control and manipulate the ignorant and uneducated. for scientific investigation? I never heard of one (Asimov. 333). 86).which the Foundation has fostered and encouraged.in the last three decades (p. 106-107)." Asimov has also stated that the common conceptions of Hell. 89)." and that religion is a "delusion. When asked what he would do if he were wrong and were faced with his creator...333). . and it was easiest to get them to accept it on that basis. and so remove us from the otherwise dreadful thought of death. mind you-. Another aspect of religion in Foundation is how that religion is portrayed and used.is built on strictly authoritarian lines. for very long? Where is there a Heaven with an opportunity for reading. They believe in this religion entirely and in the . you should have given us more evidence (Asimov..The Foundation has fostered this delusion assiduously (pp. 1994. One of the most apparent similarities between Asimov's own beliefs and his fictional work comes in the area of life after death. just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I consider detrimental to mind or body (as cited in Corvallis Secular Society. for interesting conversation. Asimov says: It is entirely because such thoughts are so comforting and so exhilarating.. for writing. for exploring. or the other that people have invented. To the people of Anacreon he was high priest. that the afterlife is accepted by the vast majority. do no appeal to him: What human being with a modicum of intelligence could stand any of such Heavens.given to Moses in the old testament.oh. Lord. I started that way at first because the barbarians looked upon our science as a sort of magical sorcery.spiritual value of the power they handle. The following quotes sum up the religion in the novel: The religion-. representative of that foundation which. even in the absolute absence of any evidence for its existence (Asimov. the Earthly paradise is Heaven.. as well as Heaven. but they've learned to handle these tools only empirically. p. it is said that those that believe are "barbarians. It is one of Asimov's beliefs that "To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature. 1994. First. to those 'barbarians' was the acme of mystery and the physical center of this religion they had created-.with Hardin's help-.332). The priesthood built itself and if we help it along we are only following the line of least resistance (p." Also." Asimov also said: I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it.

In the final stage. Asimov's views as a humanist are brought out clearly in one of his most famous short stories. The computer is asked if entropy (the winding down or loss of energy in the universe) can be reversed. Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil. "The Last Question. man has invented a super computer known as a Multivac. The time of "resurrection" was at hand as the dead rose from their graves in a new Earthly paradise free of all hate. p. that the lusts and vices of life are what make it worth living.333). in fact. In the short story "The Last Trump." "For what could any Entity. human kind has evolved into one mind free of body." (1990) Asimov paints a picture of a world that was destroyed by atomic war. and this is not Heaven. 334). In the near future. and the plot reveals the existence of God. I expect death to be nothingness and. condemned to fester in its own exuding mental pus for all time is much more fitting. cannot kill their enemies. Oh. lust is absent. conscious of eternal existence." The story spans the entire existence of the universe. and condemned. Asimov says. and pain. and is carried to what he believes to be an afterlife. and co-exists with the computer which . I am thankful to atheism (as cited in Corvallis Secular Society. "I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. The catch is that the man's purpose for eternity is simply to think. including clothes. An atheistic physicist dies. 118). It is presented as a great irony that at a time when all are nude. Surely it is better than eternal torment in Hell and eternal boredom in Heaven (Asimov. 1994. Boredom is much more subtle. 356)" Asimov sums up his atheistic view of the afterlife by saying. lust. and the man has no choice but to exist for all eternity to please the being. All material possessions were destroyed. is how to end the existence of "god. p. yes. want-but an end? (P. The computer says that not enough data is available. we have been judged. The universe was created for the amusement of the all-powerful being. 1994. and I don't believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of a Hitler (Asimov. This idea is carried to its fullest extent in the short story "The Last Answer" (1986)." Asimov's objection to God also stems from his objection to the idea of the afterlife. too. and the answer always comes back that there is not enough data at that time. "I would also want a God who would not allow a Hell. my friend. He soon finds out that he is the prisoner of an all-powerful being that used a "nexus of electromagnetic forces" to imitate the workings of his brain. for removing me from all possible fears of death. The story progresses many eons and through the years." Along with this. and at each stage." This view on the afterlife is exemplified in Asimov's science fiction works as well. but hell (p. the computers evolve along with man. it is asked if entropy can be reversed. And those that lived for war. in essence giving the man immortality. The inner torture of a mind unable to escape itself in any way.This belief is taken to its fullest extent when Asimov states he would choose oblivion over an afterlife: "There is nothing frightening about an eternal dreamless sleep. It is Asimov's contention. 1997). The last answer that the man intends to spend eternity thinking about. and that the afterlife would be pointless: The Dantean conceptions of Inferno were childish and unworthy of the divine imagination: fire and torture.

C. The last question.exists in hyperspace. Asimov. The Foundation trilogy.clark. Seiler & Jenkins.net/pub/edseiler/WWW/asimov_FAQ. but to profess his beliefs against the existence of a god. Overall. Corvallis Secular Society (1997). and often they resemble Christian motifs. E-mail me your comments!! . (1990). This is a direct representation of Asimov's humanist beliefs. As the universe come to an end and man fades out. (ed)." This incredible science fiction story has the underlying theme that man created God. In Contemporary literary criticism (pp. In Gold (pp. I. or an afterlife. In Robot dreams (pp. In Robot dreams (pp. according to Asimov. (1974). 297-302). I. J.W. to burlesque religion.89-90). Asimov. In World authors 1950-1970 (pp. Isaac Asimov on religion retrieved May 9. 246). (ed). References Asimov. (1975). and says "Let there be light (P. Wilson Company.H. Detroit: Gale Research Company.org/newsletter/1997/aug97/asimov. J. it can be seen that Asimov does use religious themes in his works. and that the problems of society can be solved only by man. or man's creation. (1995). New York: Doubleday. The last answer. (1999). The last trump. (comp). In The complete stories (pp. the computer discovers how to reverse entropy. New York: The H. New York: Berkley Publishing Group. 16-17). Religion and science fiction. Asimov: a memoir. (1986). (1986). New York: Harper Collins. New York: Berkley Publishing Group. (1994). I. I. I. Asimov.html Wakeman. 106-119). The use of religion is not intended. 234-246). 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://css. Frequently asked questions about Isaac Asimov Retrieved May 5. 350-356). I. New York: Doubleday. New York: Equinox. Asimov. (1975). 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www. Isaac Asimov.peak. Asimov. and that a supernatural being is not needed. Isaac Asimov. I.html Riley.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful