Is Star Trek’s Q a stand in for the Christian God?

To me the answer is obviously yes.  For those who are not familiar with the character, Q is an near omnipotent being who appears various Star Trek series, including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.  He is played, by John De Lancie and is part of a “Q Continuum” populated by similar near-omnipotent beings in a realm beyond understanding of inferior beings such as ourselves.

I have been watching The Next Generation over the last and generally speaking whenever a Q episode comes on, my reaction is “not this jerk again”.  More often than not the character is an insufferable prick.  He frequently uses the show’s main characters as representatives of all of humanity, which the continuum constantly feels the need to put on trial.  Q threatens to kill all human life, if the enterprise crew are unable to prove that they are not a “dangerous race” that should be destroyed.

Q tends to be a smug, condescending and dismissive of human values.  He judges humanity on standards that he does not seem to apply to himself and does numerous things that make life difficult for the show’s protagonist.  As one character sums it up “He’s devious and amoral and unreliable and irresponsible and… and definitely not to be trusted.”

The similarities between this character and the God/Gods of western monotheism should be obvious.  Both judge humanity by unrealistic, arbitrary and harsh criteria.  Both are evasive regarding their motives.  There are countless times when Q reminds me of the capricious legalistic god of the old testament, as well as the deplorable god of the New Testament, who threatens to eternally punish anyone with the wrong beliefs.

I cannot help but think the similarities are not accidental.  Star Trek series, in which Gene Roddenberry was involved tended to present an atheistic view of the future.  Roddenberry saw religion as a source of wars and human suffering, and made it clear to writers that religious and mystical thinking were not to be included in his programs.  He rejected the idea of having a Christian Chaplain on the Enterprise, because he the idea of all religions aside from Christianity, no longer existing in the future would be absurd, as would be the idea that the federation would want to impose one sects religious views on the rest of society.

As such there were multiple episodes, that explored religious ideas in a skeptical light.  The Next Generation episode, “Who Watches the Watchers” comes to mind.  In this episode, the shows protagonists are mistaken for God’s by a less advanced alien culture.  It strikes me as unsurprising that the show’s developers would also create a character like Q, which illustrates the undesirable side of have an omnipotent, judgmental figure, with his own moral standards, intervening in our lives.

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