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The Dangerous Religion of the Corporate Space Race

A revealing look at the parallel mythologies behind the colonization of Earth and space—and a bold vision for a more equitable, responsible future both on and beyond our planet.
As environmental, political, and public health crises multiply on Earth, we are also at the dawn of a new space race in which governments team up with celebrity billionaires to exploit the cosmos for human gain. The best-known of these pioneers are selling different visions of the future: while Elon Musk and SpaceX seek to establish a human presence on Mars, Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin work toward moving millions of earthlings into rotating near-Earth habitats. Despite these distinctions, these two billionaires share a core utopian project: the salvation of humanity through the exploitation of space.
In Astrotopia, philosopher of science and religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein pulls back the curtain on the not-so-new myths these space barons are peddling, like growth without limit, energy without guilt, and salvation in a brand-new world. As Rubenstein reveals, we have already seen the destructive effects of this frontier zealotry in the centuries-long history of European colonialism. Much like the imperial project on Earth, this renewed effort to conquer space is presented as a religious calling: in the face of a coming apocalypse, some very wealthy messiahs are offering an other-worldly escape to a chosen few. But Rubenstein does more than expose the values of capitalist technoscience as the product of bad mythologies. She offers a vision of exploring space without reproducing the atrocities of earthly colonialism, encouraging us to find and even make stories that put cosmic caretaking over profiteering.

224 pages | 12 halftones | 6 x 9

History: History of Ideas

Philosophy: Philosophy of Religion

Religion: American Religions, Christianity, Religion and Society


“A timely book that makes an important and well-argued point: that the new space race, indeed much like the old one, is driven largely by a combination of an instinct for capitalist exploitation and colonization coupled to a quasi-religious impulse drawing on some of the worst of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Astrotopia ought to stimulate some much-needed debate.”

Philip Ball, author of "The Modern Myths: Adventures in the Machinery of the Popular Imagination"

“One of the most philosophically sophisticated, mythically impactful, contemporarily relevant, and wickedly funny books I have read in a very long time. ‘Influential’ is a grotesque understatement. ‘Game-changing’ is more like it.”

Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of "The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge"

“The NewSpace era is marked by growing excitement and worry. The most significant issue moving forward is how to prevent destructive practices from crystallizing as the space endeavor grows. The first thing to do is to dispel the myth from the reality, and this book is one attempt to do that. For this field to advance, we need more critical perspectives that are forward-looking and suggest a pathway toward alternative hopeful and inclusive space futures.”

Timiebi Aganaba, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, College of Global Futures, Arizona State University

“This book is a must-read for anyone who believes that the space race is a romantic enterprise defining humanity’s destiny. Alas, as Rubenstein argues with wit and urgency, the space race is a reinvention of the worst colonialism has to offer, a mythologized narrative of exploitation and hubris poised to turn outer space into ‘another theater of greed and war.’”

Marcelo Gleiser, Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy, Dartmouth College, 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate

Astrotopia is an adventurous ride into outer space. Rubenstein masterfully places our desire to travel the cosmic seas within a historical and religious context, which is illuminating. Sublimely entertaining, Rubenstein brings levity to such a complex subject matter. To understand the future of the space industry, Astrotopia is a must-read.”

Ingrid LaFleur, founder and director, The Afrofuture Strategies Institute

Astrotopia is a timely and lively read that helps us see the old myths behind NewSpace. Rubenstein exposes the religious and imperialistic roots of our outer-space plans, challenging us to rethink our motivations and justifications for our dreams of leaving Earth. Anyone who has ever asked why we are so intent on going to Mars and elsewhere, and especially those of us who consider ourselves space enthusiasts, should read this and ask whether we’re really satisfied with the futures being drawn up for us by astro-oligarchs or whether there may be other, and better, options.”

David Grinspoon, coauthor of "Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto"

"Rubenstein lends fresh energy to a familiar debate about the value of space programs, dreams of mining the solar system, and colonizing the moon and Mars."

Kirkus Reviews

Table of Contents

Introduction: We Hold This Myth to Be Potential
1 Our Infinite Future in Infinite Space
2 Creation and Conquest
3 The American Promised Land
4 The Final Frontier
5 Whose Space Is It?
6 The Rights of Rocks
7 Other Spacetimes
Conclusion: Revolt of the Pantheists


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