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Science fiction often portrays real religions being exported to alien planets
Science fiction often portrays real religions being exported to alien planets

Science fiction will sometimes address the topic of religion. Often religious themes are used to convey a broader message, but others confront the subject head-on—contemplating, for example, how attitudes towards faith might shift in the wake of ever-advancing technological progress, or offering creative scientific explanations for the apparently mystical events related in religious texts (gods as aliens, prophets as time travelers, etc.). As an exploratory medium, science fiction rarely takes religion at face value by simply accepting or rejecting it; when religious themes are presented, they tend to be investigated deeply.

Some science fiction works portray invented religions, either placed into a contemporary Earth society (such as the Earthseed religion in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower), or in the far future (as seen in Dune by Frank Herbert, with its Orange Catholic Bible). Other works examine the role of existing religions in a futuristic or alternate society. The classic A Canticle for Leibowitz explores a world in which Catholicism is one of the few institutions to survive an apocalypse, and chronicles its slow re-achievement of prominence as civilisation returns.

Christian science fiction also exists,[1] sometimes written as allegory for inspirational purposes.[2]

Orson Scott Card has criticized the genre for oversimplifying religion, which he claims is always shown as "ridiculous and false".[3]


See also: Afterlife


See also: Angels and List of fictional angels

Creation myths

See also: Creation myth and Cosmogony


See also: Demons and List of fictional demons


See also: Devil and Devil in the arts and popular culture

Eschatology and the ultimate fate of the universe

See also: Eschatology, Ultimate fate of the universe, and Category:End of the universe in fiction


See also: Evangelism

Fictional religions

See also: List of fictional religions

God or deities

See also: God, Deity, and List of fictional deities

Heaven and paradise

See also: Heaven, Paradise, and § Afterlife

Elizabeth Shaw: Before that thing ripped your head off, what did he say, David?
David (AI): "Thing;" Dr. Shaw? Not too long ago, you considered them gods.
Elizabeth Shaw: God never tried to kill me. So... what did he say? Where did he come from?
David: There is no direct translation, but... Several of your ancient cultures had a word similar to it... "Paradise".

When David asks her what she hopes to achieve by going there she tells him that she wants to know why the aliens (the "Engineers") created humanity and why they later intended to destroy them.


See also: Hell and Hell in the arts and popular culture


See also: Jesus and Second Coming § In modern culture

"Give us Barabbas!" Were they all tourists? (from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910)
"Give us Barabbas!" Were they all tourists? (from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910)

Another Son of God

Daughter of God

Non-dominant Christianity

Harry Turtledove's Gunpowder Empire describes an alternate history in which the Roman Empire never fell and remained in existence until the 21st century and beyond. Constantine was never an emperor and Christianity never became the Empire's dominant religion, remaining a minority religion, one among many. For centuries Christianity had been brutally persecuted, because Christians were adamantly opposed to all other religions of the Empire, refusing to take part in any religious ceremony even when paying for such defiance with their lives. But after several centuries, a modus vivendi was achieved whereby those who became known as Imperial Christians agreed to make an offering of incense (rather than an animal sacrifice) and make this offering for "The Spirit of the Emperor" without recognizing the Emperor's divinity or referring to any other deity. An Imperial Christian moving to a new city was required by law to make such an offering, and had to pay for the handful of incense at the full price of a sacrificial animal. Officials harboring anti-Christian prejudice often provided Imperial Christians performing this duty with an inferior quality incense, to punish them for their insincerity. A more intransigent faction, calling themselves Hard Christians, refused to take part in such ceremonies and scorned the Imperial Christians for their willingness to compromise. The Imperial authorities did not actively persecute the Hard Christians, either, but such defiance could entail various disabilities in daily life. The difference between the two kinds of Christians often overlapped with class differences: The Imperial Christians tended to be well-to-do merchants and artisans, whose business interests required being on reasonably good terms with the authorities, while the Hard Christians were often from the lower classes, in many cases slaves or former slaves. For their part, the Imperial authorities persisted in regarding Jesus as one among the Empire's many gods, giving him a statue and a niche in official temples on an equal footing with the other deities. One artist came up with a mosaic which showed Jesus and Mithras as equal teammates in battle against a demon. Christians of all kinds resented this representation of Jesus, but were powerless to change it. In the rival Empire of Lietuva, Christianity was not tolerated, the Lietuvan authorities greatly resenting the Christians' refusal to recognize Perkunas and proclaiming him a "false god". Lietuva was known among Christians as "the place where one can still become a martyr," which made it somewhat attractive to certain Christians. Crosstime travelers who visited this Rome and studied its culture became interested in the differences between the Bible used by its Christians and the Bible in this universe. For example, in the Bible used by Christians in the surviving Roman Empire there were only three Gospels, as the Book of John had never been written (and John the Apostle himself possibly never born); the Acts of the Apostles had the same name, but recorded quite different acts; and the Epistles of Paul included several addressed to churches in locations to which the Paul the Apostle never wrote in the history of the Home Timeline. St. Jerome was never born in this alternate, so someone else had translated the Bible into Latin. Such differences provided scholars in the Home Timeline with material to embark on the new field of Comparative Crosstime Bible Studies.


See also: Judaism


See also: Logos


See also: Messianism

Millennialism and Millenarianism

See also: Millennialism and Millenarianism

Original sin

See also: Original sin


See also: Pope


See also: Penance


See also: Reincarnation and Reincarnation in popular culture

Star of Bethlehem

See also: Star of Bethlehem


Depictions of a fictional society dominated by a theocracy are a recurring theme in science fiction. Such depictions are mostly dystopian, in some cases humorous or satirical and rarely positive.

See also


  1. ^ Mort, John (2002). Christian Fiction: a Guide to the genre. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 159–184. ISBN 1-56308-871-1.
  2. ^ Sammons, Martha C. (1988). "A Better Country": The Worlds of Religious Fantasy and Science Fiction. Greenwood Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-313-25746-9.
  3. ^ "On Religion in SF and Fantasy: An Interview with Orson Scott Card"; Writing World online
  4. ^ Doctor: "Serve you, Sutekh? Your name is abominated in every civilized world, whether that name be Set, Satan, Sodos..."
  5. ^ a b UBIK Explained, sort of[permanent dead link] Tessa Dick, It's a Philip K. Dick World, December 4, 2008
  6. ^ a b Fitting, Peter (March 1975). "Ubik: The Deconstruction of Bourgeois SF". Science Fiction Studies. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  7. ^ Included in "Picnic on Nearside", New York, 1980
  8. ^ Fitting, Peter (March 1975). "Ubik: The Deconstruction of Bourgeois SF". Retrieved 28 June 2015. I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.
  9. ^ Nova Praxis, Savage Worlds edition, Void Star Studios
  10. ^ "Alien Explorations: Alien Covenant: Questions about God and Paradise Lost".
  11. ^ a b Quote from the alternate scene: David: Dr. Shaw! Over here!
    Elizabeth Shaw: Where is my cross?
    David: The pouch in my utility belt...the other pouch.
    ...even after all still believe, don't you?
    Elizabeth Shaw: You said you could figure out their navigation....use their maps.
    David: Yes, of course. Once we get to one of their other ships...finding a path to Earth should be relatively straightforward
    Elizabeth Shaw: I don't want to go back to where we came from...I want to go where they came from...I want to go to paradise. You think you can do that, David?
    David: Yes. I believe I can. May I ask what you hope to achieve by going there?
    Elizabeth Shaw: They created us. And they tried to kill us. They changed their minds. I deserve to know why.
    David: Does it matter why they changed their minds?
    Elizabeth Shaw: Heh. Yeah...yes, it does.
    David: I don't understand.
    Elizabeth Shaw: Well, I guess that's because I'm a human being...and you're a fucking robot. Do you mind?
    David: Mind?
  12. ^ "Prometheus Quotes: Striking Concept". Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. [on the ship, Prometheus, David checks on the crew who are in hypersleep, he gazes upon Shaw and sees what she's dreaming of, which is from her childhood when she is with her father in a foreign land looking at a funeral procession]
    Young Shaw: What happened to that man?
    Shaw's Father: He died.
    Young Shaw: Why aren't you helping them?
    Shaw's Father: They don't want my help. They're God's different than ours.
    Young Shaw: Why did he die?
    Shaw's Father: Sooner or later everyone does.
    Young Shaw: Like mommy?
    Shaw's Father: Like mommy.
    Young Shaw: Where do they go?
    Shaw's Father: Everyone has their own word; heaven, paradise. Whatever it's called, it's someplace beautiful.
    Young Shaw: How do you know it's beautiful?
    Shaw's Father: Cause that's what I choose to believe. What do you believe, darling?
  13. ^ "Prometheus: A look at the deleted scenes". 9 October 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  14. ^ "A Modern Utopia," Chapter 9
  15. ^ Note: The Didymus of the title is the Apostle Saint Thomas, whose initial skepticism of the resurrection earned him the title "Doubting Thomas".
  16. ^ Note: The book, written in 1997, was adapted into a television movie called Das Jesus Video in 2002. The film was released in English under the title The Hunt for the Hidden Relic (or Hidden Relic).
  17. ^ Published in "Down in the Black Gang" (1971) ISBN 0-451-04805-9.
  18. ^ Published in Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds, ed. Greg bear and Gardner Dozois, Subterranean Press, Boston, 2014
  19. ^ "IMDb article".
  20. ^ " listing".
  21. ^ Silverberg, Robert (1971). "Good News from the Vatican". In Carr, Terry (ed.). Universe 1. Ace Books. pp. 41–52.
  22. ^ "1943: Gather, Darkness! By Fritz Leiber". SciFi Scentury. 19 July 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  23. ^ a b Klein, Sabrina; Tomlinson, Patrick S.; Genesse, Paul (July 2012). Eighth Day Genesis: A Worldbuilding Codex for Writers and Creatives. p. 245. ISBN 9780985825409. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  24. ^ "The Stork Factor". Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  25. ^ Chorost, Michael (2005). Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 179. ISBN 9780618378296. Retrieved 27 June 2015. dune theocracy.
  26. ^ Wagner, Thomas M. "Noninterference - Review". Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  27. ^ "SYNOPSIS - VOYAGERS IV: THE RETURN". Archived from the original on 2015-05-08. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  28. ^ Rodden, John (31 December 2001). George Orwell: The Politics of Literary Reputation. p. 443. ISBN 978-0765808967. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  29. ^ Orwell, George. "1984". Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  30. ^ George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature", Polemic (January 1946)
  31. ^ Wolfe, Gary K. (3 January 2011). Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature. ISBN 978-0819569370. In Merle's MaleviI, following the holocaust of nuclear chain-reactions, the rationalistic communal life of Malevil castle under the direction of Emmanuel Comte comes into conflict with an oppressive theocracy imposed on a neighboring village by the hypocritical false priest Fulbert le Naud. The ensuing struggle for supremacy not only validates the humanism of Malevil's system, but also indirectly validates the need for technology, since the struggle convinces the inhabitants of Malevil that they must begin research into the reinvention of weapons in order to protect their interests and values—despite their acute awareness of what the technology of weaponry can ultimately lead to.
  32. ^ Laderman, Gary; León, Luis (17 December 2014). Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression. p. 1143. ISBN 9781610691109. Retrieved 22 August 2015.

Further reading