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Science fiction often portrays real religions being exported to alien planets.
Science fiction often addresses the topic of religion, despite the long history of conflict between the disciplines of science and religion. Some stories use religious themes 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. Orson Scott Card, however, has criticised the genre for oversimplifying religion, which he claims is always shown as "ridiculous and false".
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 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, often written as allegory for inspirational or propaganda purposes.
- In Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis the protagonist meets "eldila", mysterious beings of light native to the void of interplanetary space, and who are actually what Christianity defines as angels. In later parts of Lewis' Space Trilogy it is disclosed that the eldila are also identical with Mars, Venus and other deities of Greek and Roman mythology, that they are angels completely loyal and obedient to God, and that they never wanted to be worshiped as gods themselves, though the ancient Greeks and Romans mistakenly so worshiped them.
- In the film Blade Runner, Roy Batty is an artificial person looking to confront his creator, while Rick Deckard searches for lost humanity despite his job: hunting and "retiring" drapetomaniac replicants.
- Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley.
- Tolkien's The Silmarillion begins with a depiction of Creation, clearly influenced by the account given by Christianity but including many features unique to Tolkien's writing.
- In the Doom series, demons have come into the world through an interdimensional portal made on Mars that went to Hell.
- In Princess of Wands by John Ringo, a Christian housewife/soccer mom gets involved in an organisation which co-operates with the FBI in dealing with demons.
- in That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis the villains of the story are guided by beings they call "macrobes" that are clearly meant to be demons.
- The TV series Futurama features a recurring character called the Robot Devil.
- The 2006 Doctor Who episodes "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" feature an ancient being known as the Beast, which claims to be the basis of the Devil figure in all religions and mythologies. Earlier in The Dæmons, it is shown a race resembling the typical image of the Devil had visited Earth and become the basis for Gods and Demons.
- In Perelandra by C. S. Lewis the protagonist must fight against a man possessed by a demon, hinted to be the devil himself.
- In S. M. Stirling's Nantucket series, the entire island of Nantucket is suddenly transported into the past, to about 1300 B.C, and the modern Americans marooned in the past must make the best of the Bronze Age world in which they find themselves. The Christians among them face the dilemma of whether or not to embark on missionary activity and spread their religion - even though Jesus Christ had not yet been born, and the very act of their spreading Christianity might so fundamentally change the world that Jesus would never be born at all.
- In The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, Jesuit missionaries are sent to investigate a radio transmission from an unknown planet, believing that they have been chosen by God to be the first to step foot on an alien world. Most of them are killed by the planet's inhabitants, and the sole survivor is enslaved. He finally escapes and returns to Earth with his faith in tatters.
- Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds.
- In the film Avatar, the Na'vi, an alien race, worship a goddess named Eywa.
- In "For I Am a Jealous People" (1954) by Lester del Rey, Jehovah abandons humanity and sponsors an alien race in an invasion of Earth.
- The video game Homeworld features a single god called Sajuuk.
- In Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, a nobleman re-creates a rival religious movement to dethrone a false pantheon of Hindu-inspired "Gods" on a world where magic and science coexist.
- The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) by G. K. Chesterton.
- Neverness (1988) by David Zindell.
- Parable of the Sower (1993) by Octavia E. Butler features a religion called Earthseed, where "God is change".
- In the TV series Stargate SG-1, and the 1994 Stargate film, the supposed ancient gods are revealed to be powerful, parasitic aliens posing as supernatural beings to exploit mankind.
- In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, an alien force of incredible, God-like power enters Federation space, forcing the Enterprise crew to discover the meaning and purpose of its arrival.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Who Watches the Watchers", a serious accident with a hidden scientific observation post starts a chain of events that leads to a primitive civilization becoming convinced that the Starfleet personnel are divine beings with Capt. Jean-Luc Picard being the supreme one. The crew of the Enterprise struggle to prevent the reestablishment of religion in the civilization.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?", the Enterprise crew encounters an alien figure reminiscent of the ancient Greek god Apollo.
- In Philip K. Dick's novel "VALIS", the protagonist faces an all-powerful God who subtly manipulates the actions and thoughts of humans in an effort to redeem humanity.
- The protagonist of "The Worthing Saga" by Orson Scott Card keeps himself in hidden stasis over the years, and becomes the target of worship by the descendants of the very settlers that he delivered to a new world.
- "The Reformers" (1952) Weird Science #20—Three space men dressed in scifi versions of bishop garb land on planet to reform it of evil. There are greeted by a man named Peter and told they are not needed for there is no crime, no immorality, or any of the evils seen in other societies. They decide to create these evils themselves so that they can blame these evils on literature, clothing, and alcohol as they have done on previous worlds (including Earth). They contact their home base and we learn that their leader is the Devil and the planet they are on is Heaven.
"Give us Barabbas!" Were they all tourists? (from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons
- H.G. Wells' A Modern Utopia (1903) takes place in an alternate timeline in which "Jesus Christ had been born into a liberal and progressive Roman Empire that spread from the Arctic Ocean to the Bight of Benin, and was to know no Decline and Fall"  - with profound implications for Jesus' religious teachings (and later on those of Muhammad as well).
- In Behold the Man (1966) by Michael Moorcock, the twentieth-century Karl Glogauer, a Jew obsessed with the figure of Jesus (and with Carl Jung) travels in time to the year 28 A.D. He meets various New Testament figures such as John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, and discovers that Mary and Joseph's child, Jesus, is a mentally retarded hunchback, who could never become the Jesus portrayed in Scripture. Glogauer begins to have a mental breakdown and steps into the role of Jesus, eventually dying on the cross (having specifically asked Judas to betray him).
- In The Didymus Contingency (2004) by Jeremy Robinson, described by its publisher as "religious yet worldly", a scientist discovers time-travel and sets out to see Jesus' death and resurrection - only to witness several scenes not recorded in the New Testament and get proof that Jesus was a fraud. The dilemma of whether or not to make in the present a revelation which would shake the foundations of Christianity is mixed with the appearance of an assassin from the further future and further plot twists... (The Didymus of the title is the Apostle Saint Thomas, whose initial skepticism of the resurrection earned him the title "Doubting Thomas").
- The Last Starship from Earth (1968) by John Boyd is set in a dystopian society in the very near future, in an alternate timeline where Jesus Christ became a revolutionary agitator and was never subjected to crucifixion. He assembled an army to overthrow the Roman Empire, and established a theocracy that has lasted until the twentieth century.
- In Garry Kilworth's story "Let's go to Golgotha" (1975 - published in a collection of the same name), tourists from the future can book on a time-traveling "Crucifixion Tour". Before setting out, they are strictly warned that they must not do anything to disrupt history. Specifically, when the crowd is asked whether Jesus or Barabbas should be spared, they must all join the call "Give us Barabbas!". (A priest absolves them from any guilt for so doing). However, when the moment comes, the protagonist suddenly realizes that the crowd condemning Jesus to the cross is composed entirely of tourists from the future, and that no actual Jewish Jerusalemites of 33 A.D. are present at all.
- When the protagonists of Clifford Simak's Mastodonia make trips to the past commercially available, American church groups band together and seek to purchase an exclusive franchise for Jesus' time on Earth - not because they want to go there but because they do not want anyone at all to go there. The clergymen state quite forthrightly their apprehension that time travel would disprove some of the accounts given in the Gospels and thus undermine Christianity. When refused an exclusive Jesus-franchise, the church groups turn aggressive and energetically lobby Congress to ban traveling to Jesus' time, or even ban time travel altogether. This opens up an enormous theological debate, soon described as "the biggest religious controversy since the Reformation". The controversy remains unresolved by the end of the book, and meanwhile the pragmatic time-travel organizers concentrate on less controversial (and very lucrative) dinosaur-hunting safaris to the very distant past.
- In The Rescuer (1962) by Arthur Porges, scientists in 2015 face charges of having deliberately destroyed a three-billion dollar project. They tell the judges that instead of the carefully controlled experiment in time-travel they had planned, a religious fanatic had taken over the machine, and headed for Golgotha with a rifle and five thousand rounds. His attempt to save Jesus might have wiped out the entire present world as we know it, and the only way to stop it was by destroying the machine. The affair must be kept from the public, since some might identify with "The Rescuer".
- "Resurrection Day" by Thomas Wycoff is about a man sent back into time to steal Jesus' body to disprove Christianity.
- In There Will Be Time (1972) by Poul Anderson, a young twentieth century American discovers that he had been born with the ability to travel through time without any need of a machine. Reasoning that there must be others like him and that Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion is a good place to try locating them, he goes there and walks through the street singing the Greek mass, which is of course meaningless to people of the time. This does help him to get located by agents of a time-traveling organization, who take him to their headquarters in the far future - without having gotten to see Jesus at all.
- In the TimeWars series by Simon Hawke, set in 2461, Cardinal Lodovico Consorti proposes to use the recently-discovered time-travel technology in order to obtain empirical proof that Christ indeed rose from the dead after being crucified. In reaction, the Catholic Church excommunicates the Cardinal, with the Church hierarchy preferring to continue relying on faith alone and not seek such a factual confirmation.
- Times Without Number (1962) by John Brunner depicts an alternate reality in which the Spanish Armada conquered England. In this Twentieth Century, time travel is discovered - controlled, like much else in the world, by the Catholic Church. It is decreed that every new pope, on entering his job, would be privileged to travel to Palestine in the time of Christ's ministry. Everybody else is strictly forbidden to go anywhere near.
- In The Traveller (1954) by Richard Matheson, a professor who is a confirmed sceptic is for that reason chosen to be the first to travel in time to see the crucifixion, in a kind of traveling cage which makes him invisible to the people of the past. Seeing the actual scene, he feels an increasing empathy for Jesus, and finally attempts to save him and is hauled back to the present by the monitoring conductors of the experiment. He comes back a changed man - though he had seen no miracles, he did see "a man giving up his life for the things he believed" and "that should be miracle enough for everybody".
- The plot of Jesus Video, a German novel by Andreas Eschbach, revolves around the search for a hidden video camera that is believed to hold digital footage of Jesus recorded by a time traveller. 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).
- In Robert Silverberg's Up the Line, featuring a company organizing tourist tours into the past, a character notes that "the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount grows bigger and bigger, every time I go there again".
- "I, Gezheh" by Clifford Meth presents a futuristic universe where the proselytizing Hasidic sect Chabad-Lubavitch have gained influence over many alien worlds.
- A Case of Conscience (1959) by James Blish is the story of a Jesuit who investigates an alien race that has no religion; they are completely without any concept of God, an afterlife, or the idea of sin, and the species evolves through several forms through the course of its life cycle.
- In Perelandra by C. S. Lewis the protagonist must stop a second Fall of Man from happening on another planet.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman revolves around the idea of original sin through the mention of Dust.
- In "In partibus infidelium" ("In the Land of the Unbelievers") by Polish writer Jacek Dukaj, humanity makes contact with other space-faring civilizations, and Christianity - specifically, the Catholic Church - spreads far and wide. Humans become a minority among believers and an alien is elected as the Pope.
- In Project Pope (1981) by Clifford Simak, robots on the planet End of Nowhere have labored a thousand years to build a computerized, infallible pope to eke out the ultimate truth. Their work is preempted when a human Listener discovers what might be the planet Heaven.
- In "The Star" (1955) by Arthur C. Clarke, a Jesuit serving as the astrophysicist of an interstellar exploration ship suffers a deep crisis of faith on discovering that the star seen on Earth at 4 BC was actually a supernova which destroyed an entire sentient and highly developed race. In Christian religious terms, God had utterly destroyed these peaceful and virtuous beings, in order to announce to humanity the birth of his son.
Depictions of a fictional society dominated by a theocracy are a recurring theme in science fiction. Such depictions are mostly dystopian, and in some cases humorous or satirical.
See also 
- Clark, S (2005), Science Fiction and Religion, Blackwell Publishing.
- McKee, G (2007), The Gospel According to Science Fiction-From the Twilight Zone to the Final Frontier, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
- Riley, R., (1985), The Transcendent Adventure: Studies of Religion in Science Fiction Fantasy, Westport, CT., Greenwood Press.
External links