Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois and grew up there, in Phoenix, Arizona and in Los Angeles, California. He died, at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, it would seem, of old age.
Bradbury called himself a “delicatessen religionist.” By this, I assume he meant that he liked to take bits and pieces of the world’s religions and digest what seemed the most agreeable, leaving out the rest. Some might say this is non-committal, a cop-out, picking-and-choosing, but for Bradbury, it seems to have been a more meta-religious approach. He said:
My religion encompasses all religions. I believe in God, I believe in the universe. I believe you are god, I believe I am god; I believe the earth is god and the universe is god. We’re all god.
This unity of all things in God could be a sort of pantheist or theist approach, or it could be viewed as a feature of some of the world’s Eastern religions–Buddhism or Hinduism perhaps, or even Universalism in the West. Interestingly, Buddhism seems to be the only specific belief system Bradbury mentioned to the press when asked about his religion:
I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.
Occasionally, religious themes surfaced in Bradbury’s writing. For example, in his book, The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury laments the divide between science and religion that exists in human society. He blames Freud and Darwin and mankind’s pluralistic way of thinking while praising the fictional Martians for their ability to reconcile science and religion.
Clearly Bradbury was an intensely spiritual person. Biographer and friend of Bradbury, Sam Weller, wrote that Bradbury would often proclaim his gratitude toward God when he realized how fortunate he was to live the life he had and possess the talents he possessed. Weller wrote that Bradbury once said while reading some of his own work:
I sit there and cry because I haven’t done any of this. It’s a God-given thing, and I’m so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, ‘At play in the fields of the Lord.’
Blast Off! …to the right side of the aisle
Bradbury had a special place of contempt in his heart for government. We might be able to take a leap of logic and call him a libertarian–or even an anarchist. Consider this quote:
I don’t believe in government. I hate politics. I’m against it. And I hope that sometime this fall, we can destroy part of our government, and next year destroy even more of it. The less government, the happier I will be.
I think our country is in need of a revolution…. There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.
But when it came to partisan politics in the U.S., Bradbury appears to have favored Republicans. He said:
[President George W. Bush] is wonderful. We needed him. Clinton is a shithead and we’re glad to be rid of him.
And that was even before 9/11!
Perhaps somewhat contradictorily, Bradbury was a major supporter of one government institution–public libraries–so we can’t quite call him a true anarchist. Bradbury has credited libraries, to some degree, with raising him during his childhood and crafting him into the wordsmith he ultimately became. He frequently traveled to speak at libraries and when several were faced with budgetary problems in California, Bradbury campaigned to raise money to keep their doors open.
And despite the sci-fi bent of his writing as well as having been considered ahead of his time, Bradbury seemed put off by the technological revolution that took off near the end of his life. He even refused to allow his books to be turned into e-books (with the exception of Fahrenheit 451) saying:
We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.
OK, but none of us can stop the forward march of progress, I guess.
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) on Science, Religion and Darwinism ↩︎
Ray Bradbury on Sci-Fi, God and Robots: The Late Author’s Biggest Ideas ↩︎