ReligionsNet.com
Foundationism

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.


Richard Biggs, a.k.a. Dr. Stephen Franklin
Richard Biggs (d.5/22/2004)
"Dr. Stephen Franklin"
Support Bablyon 5

Foundationism, from Babylon 5, is the brain child of "the great maker" (and, perhaps surprisingly, atheist), J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), and his construction of the religion of Foundationism.

Our hypothetical Foundationism developed on Earth in approximately 2157, inspired by human contact with other (alien) races and civilizations. Among its objectives is to get at the roots of all religions, human and alien, in order to discover the elements they may have in common.

Foundationism can, in some sense, be seen as a metaphor for the inter-religious dialogues of the last hundred or more years (and the pluralism, inclusivism, and syncretism which have arisen from them).

One possible influence is from the Minbaris. For instance, Delenn (Mira Furlan), in the third season of the program, commented to her assistant, Lennier (Bill Mumy), "Prophecy is a poor guide to the future. You only understand it when the events are upon you." Likewise, in the fifth and final season, an unconscious Londo, while nearly dying following an attack in one of his hearts, heard Vir say to him in a dream, "Prophecy is a guess that comes true. When it doesn't, it's a metaphor."

Richard "Rick" Biggs' character, Dr. Stephen Franklin, was a Foundationist. In the third season, he asserts, "God is too big to be defined by words." Then, in the fifth season, Franklin gets into a discussion with G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas), who had, by that time, become the unwilling and unenthusiastic religious leader of his fellow Narn, concerning various aspects of Foundationism. The two of them immediately compare notes.

Franklin says to G'Kar:

Well, I'm a Foundationist, and the idea behind the Foundation is to get back to the roots of all the earth religions, past the doctrines to the core of each belief system to find out what they have in common; and they have alot more in common than you think. It's just when politics and money and nationalism get in the way that things get a little messed up.

Although never referred to as such, Brother Theo, in season three, seems at the least to have been influenced by Foundationist ideas. On his first appearance, he asserted that his and the other brothers' purpose for being on Babylon 5 is to understand the different names and faces of God.

In my view, it is the Covenant, the Will of God, which constitutes a common thread in the major world religions. The Covenant calls for the adoption of virtues, however understood and defined, but the virtues discussed or practiced by the adherents of different religious neworks are not necessarily the same or even similar. It is unnecessary, even undesirable, to make empirically unsupportable statements about religious harmony or to propose a Platonic essentialism or a Peripatetic dogma of first principles.

While resemblances can be found, such as in the often-cited Golden Rule ("Do unto others ..."), applications and understandings of such principles may vary significantly between religious traditions or, indeed, even within a single tradition. Similar words are not necessarily indicative of similar meaning. Moreover, differences can frequently be even more edifying than areas of convergence. Ambiguity is a blessing, not a curse.

This argument has, in effect, taken the standard Durkheimian (Emile Durkheim) sociological definition of religion - namely, a system of belief and praxis, centered on the sacred, which unites its adherents in a moral (or normative) community - and transformed it into a theology of religions.

Finally, a distinction should be made between an axiological theology of religions and an inclusivist soteriology (theology of salvation). Here, salvation is always through God's latest Prophet, irrespective of whether one has recognized Him on the material plane. Such knowledge can, through God's salvific grace and, frequently, an individual's ethical conduct in this world, be given to one in the kingdom beyond, the next world.

Might any of the cast members of Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers be foundationists, too? Since, at this point, we have only seen the pilot, and the series was not picked up by the Scifi Channel, perhaps only JMS will ever know for sure.

If you are interested in joining the Foundationism Ring, a part of the WebRing system, read our informational page.