Is Doctor Who a religion? PBS thinks so.

A symbol of a new religion? It is according to some.

PBS’s Idea youtube channel (read tax payer funded) recently put up this very well made, but in my opinion insane video.


I have to give Credit to a link I saw on another website where the Marysue broke the story into mainstream nerd net news.

I have to confess I had no idea the channel existed and find it a little odd that ultimately the whole deal  is paid for by tax payers but this isn’t a political blog, so I’ll leave that one aside.

The video uses a definition of religion by Clifford Geertz*

(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic

The definition itself shows problems and bias. “an aura” doesn’t seem to connect with reality, and reality doesn’t seem uniquely realistic, reality corresponds to what is true.

The video host, while performing very well misses a key point about world religions, they correspond to actual teachers or prophets! of course they can’t all be right, but they at least claim to be reality where Doctor Who clearly does not. I will not deny that there are some moral and philosophical lessons in Doctor Who, some I may even explore on here, but a religion? That is the exact extreme that I wanted to clearly stand against when I made this blog.  We should not find our religion in the world. The first time i had heard of such
it was in the Gospel according to the Simpsons.

Despite Flanders example, I’d say stick to the real stuff

I feel there is an important difference in recognizing good analogies, lessons, or impact of religion into Nerd Culture and looking for or seeking our actual religion in nerd culture. Fiction does not fundamentally answer questions like, Where do I come from? What happens when I die?  How can I live right? What is right and wrong anyways? If we seek those answers in fiction we will be carried away the whims of various authors and live with ideas that do not match reality. C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. ” I will continue to enjoy Doctor Who, but I will also continue to anchor my life on a real God, and not a religious system some are imposing on a fictional character.

*Greetz, Clifford. Religion as a cultural system. Anthropological approaches to the study of religion. M. Banton. London, Tavistock: XLIII, 176. (1985)

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