"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." That's the third of Arthur C. Clarke's laws; substitute the world "magic" for religion, and that's about the gist of Foundation. The Foundation uses religion to spread its influence and power across the galaxy. Since the people of the barbarous Four Kingdoms don't understand nuclear technology or the science behind it, they assume it comes from a supernatural source. In a sense, Asimov is playing off the idea that before people understood how lightning worked they chalked it up to Zeus. So, in Foundation, religion is something used by some to gain power over others. (Don't agree? Go to the book and prove it!)
Questions About Religion
- What are the positive and negative aspects of Hardin's promotion of science as religion?
- What conclusions about the theme of religion can you draw from Hardin's religious promotion of science? Would you say that Hardin's religion is a positive force or a negative force? Why or why not?
- Pick two characters from the novel: one who believes in the religion of the Foundation and one who does not. Now compare and contrast their personalities, their role in the story, and their ultimate fate. What do you notice between the two? What conclusions can you draw from this comparison relating to the theme of religion in the novel?
Chew on This
Although the religion in Foundation helps Hardin prevent war, his inability to teach the scientific method ultimately sets society back.
Wienis's downfall resulted directly from his inability to understand religion and not Hardin's plan.