Is there an anti-religious bias in publishing and the art and film industries? The answer often depends upon what side of the question you fall on. According to this breakdown of Democrat vs. Republican Occupations, under the category of Book Publisher, Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats 100 to 0. For those of us who happen to be politically and religiously conservative, this is not a huge surprise. Thankfully, there is beginning to be a bit of pushback against publishers foisting a blatantly progressive agenda.
While I mostly believe that there IS an anti-religious bias in “secular” media — make that an anti CONSERVATIVE religious bias — it’s not nearly as vast as many claim. In fact, many artists of faith use this as an excuse to retreat from, rather than professionally engage culture. Which is a big factor in the maintenance of the “Christian art” industry.
That said, I recently stumbled upon a semi-pro sci-fi mag that is very up front about its bias. Crossed Genre Press is candid about its “progressive bent.” For example, in their Submission Guidelines they solicit Stories containing:
- Queer Main Characters
- MC’s of Color
- Women MC’s
- Disabled MC’s
- Science saves the day!
- Far future
- Stories set outside North America
Equally telling is what CGP is NOT looking for:
- Stories based off the assumption that any particular religion’s beliefs are real
- Weak women being rescued by macho guys
- Vampires, zombies, werewolves, Arthurian retellings, Eurocentric faeries, or ghost stories
- Time travel
It’s hard to maintain that publishers are indiscriminate and unbiased when their submissions page flat-out says “keep your Religion to yourself.” Sure, publishers are free to want what they want. Seeking to expand representation of a multicultural universe and dash steretypes can be admirable. Besides, religious publishers do the same thing! They are blatant in vetting their stories FOR religious content. Still, I’d expect a bit of frothing if I announced that I was publishing an anti-Science anthology. The guidelines would read,
What we’re NOT seeking:
- Stories based off the assumption that [Science’s] beliefs are real
In an age where Science has replaced Religion as our creed of choice, I’d be inviting ridicule and disdain from the smart kids. “Another anti-science conservative!” they’d bemoan. Nevertheless, here we have a publisher doing just the opposite. They don’t want stories where Science is portrayed as a “villain.” In other words, Science as Savior is a winning narrative.
Of course, you could argue that science and religion are two different things. Even though both require faith. And pitting science against religion is a narrative that conveniently services the secular POV. By requesting tales where Science is Savior and religion isn’t true, one can safely construct a god of our own design. While denying any religion theirs.
But from a writer’s perspective, seeking stories that are NOT “based off the assumption that any particular religion’s beliefs are real” is problematic. For one thing, shouldn’t our religious characters act like what they believe is real? I have met very few religious folk who believe something while not believing it is true or real. I’m just not sure what kind of religion asks its devotees to believe what is fake. Furthermore, if someone believes that all religions are true, they’re essentially saying that there is no truth. Religions make truth claims. If a person believes that “no religions are real/true,” then they believe that THAT belief is true. So it’s a bit telling when a publisher wants its Science immutable, and its Religion squishy.
So is sci-fi “anti-religion”? Basing the conclusion on one indie mag is unfair. Fact is, there are plenty of religious themes in the genre and religious writers who are writing great stories. But if Cross Genre Press is any example, the only religion worth portraying is the one that no one believes is really worth believing.