Study Guide

Dune Religion

By Frank Herbert


If the box office take for The Avengers of $623 million is any indication, people love superheroes. Love them. And this love of superhuman qualities mirrors a side of humanity Dune taps into with its treatment of religion. No, seriously, just hear us out. In the novel, Paul enters into the role of Muad'Dib, the Fremen messiah. His superhuman strength, intelligence, and power means that the Fremen easily accept Paul as their savior—but at what cost? On the one hand, Paul uses the Fremen to his own (selfish?) political gains. On the other hand, he does technically act as savior for the Fremen, unshackling them from Harkonnen rule. The end result is jihad, a violent universal conflict that spreads beyond Paul's control and even beyond his will. Faith, it seems, is one thing, while faith in the infallibility of a superhuman leader is quite another.

Questions About Religion

  1. In our discussion of the "Fate & Free Will" theme, we asked if you thought Paul really is the messiah prophesized by the Fremen or whether he simply uses the myth to his own advantage. We're asking the same question here, but with a twist. Regarding the theme of religion, does the difference even matter in the end?
  2. The Orange Catholic Bible comprises many religious texts into one mega-text (see our "Symbols" section for more). Where do you see the Orange Catholic Bible coming into play in the novel? List the instances. Based on this list, how does the Orange Catholic Bible affect the theme of religion in Dune? Explain your answer.
  3. Paul and Jessica are the big chimichangas when it comes to religious superheroes. But do you see any other characters taking the role of religious leaders amongst their people? If so, who, and what does this tell you about the role of the religious superman in the novel? If not, then explain why you think this is, and explain what this tells you about the role of the religious superman in the novel.
  4. How about a question about morality to spice things up? Do you feel the spread of the Bene Gesserit Missionaria Protectiva to be a moral, immoral, or amoral act? (Check out our choice quotes for more on the Missionaria.) Pick one and explain your answer. Next, which of the three do you think Paul's and Jessica's use of the Missionaria Protectiva falls under? Again, please explain.

Chew on This

Dune keeps a very distinct line between politics and religion. Although the line is distinct, it is also very subtle. You have to keep a discerning eye to notice it. Instead, it is nature that shapes the religion in any given ecology.

Of course, the opposite might be true. We could argue that religion is shaped more by politics than by nature.

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