Great Teachers, Great Courses...

Susan Schwartz

Students in “Religions of Star Trek” with Dr. Susan Schwartz often get more insight into contemporary religion than they anticipated.

The course focuses on the Star Trek franchise and the religious issues the series frequently discusses. Dr. Schwartz, Professor of Religion Studies, invites her students to look at the way the show features actual religions, which are often spun in a way to appear alien to fans.

Schwartz finds that analyzing religion through Star Trek allows her students to put some space between themselves and perceived religious beliefs.

“Science fiction allows people to explore religion from a safe distance,” says Schwartz. “Religion is a sensitive subject; this allows us to broach topics that might otherwise be uncomfortable to discuss.”

Throughout the class, students focus on the concepts and issues of religion.

Schwartz’s book, “Religions of Star Trek,” is one of the texts students use in the course. The work, a joint collaboration with Ross Kraemer from Brown University and William Cassidy from Alfred University, invites students to ask ‘Is There God in the Universe?’ ‘What Happens When You Die?’ and ‘Can Science Save One’s Soul?’

Students question how religion and technology appear to be both at odds with and compliment each other. The parallel and conflict between religion and science are concepts Schwartz’s students can relate to in their technology-filled lives.

“One aspect of the class focuses on how science has challenged religion,” says Schwartz. “The class really gets interesting when we look at how religion has responded and reacted to that challenge.”

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