List of religious ideas in science fiction
This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2007) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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 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.
- 1 Afterlife
- 2 Angels
- 3 Creation myths
- 4 Demons
- 5 Devil
- 6 Eschatology and the ultimate fate of the universe
- 7 Evangelism
- 8 Fictional religions
- 9 God or deities
- 10 Heaven and paradise
- 11 Hell
- 12 Jesus
- 13 Another Son of God
- 14 Judaism
- 15 Logos
- 16 Messianism
- 17 Millennialism and Millenarianism
- 18 Missionarism
- 19 Original sin
- 20 Pope
- 21 Penance
- 22 Reincarnation
- 23 Star of Bethlehem
- 24 Theocracy
- 25 See also
- 26 References
- 27 Further reading
- 28 External links
- The Palace of Eternity (1969) by Bob Shaw
- The Riverworld series, by Philip José Farmer
- Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick - In the novel a company uses a form of cryonic suspension to preserve deceased in a state of "half-life" which allows for limited consciousness and the ability to communicate.
- In Out of the Silent Planet (1938; part of the Space Trilogy), by C. S. Lewis, the protagonist meets "eldila", mysterious beings of light native to the void of interplanetary space (who are actually what Christianity defines as "angels", and who are also identified as Mars, Venus and other deities of Greek and Roman mythology), and are completely loyal and obedient to God, and have never wanted to be worshiped as gods themselves (although the ancient Greeks and Romans mistakenly did so)
- The film Prometheus (2012) explores the myth that human life did not arise spontaneously by chance, but that a humanoid species, the "Engineers", created life on Earth. They also taught humans how to use technology and visited the Earth sporadically. Some elements are similar to the Ancient Aliens myths. The story develops when a scientific expedition travels to confront their creators.[disputed ]
- In the film Blade Runner (1982) based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Roy Batty is an artificial person looking to confront his creator, while Rick Deckard searches for lost humanity despite his job: hunting and "retiring" runaway replicants.[disputed ]
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein[disputed ]
- The short story The Last Question (1956) by Isaac Asimov – Humans of the future ask the supercomputer Multivac how the net amount of entropy of the universe can be massively decreased. Multivac fails, displaying the error message "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER". The story continues through many iterations of computer technology, each more powerful and ethereal than the last. Each of these computers is asked the question, and each returns the same response until finally the universe dies with the exception of Cosmic AC – Multivac's final successor. At that point it has collected all the data it can, and so poses the question to itself. As the universe died, Multivac drew all of humanity into hyperspace, to preserve them until it could finally answer the Last Question. Ultimately, Multivac did decipher the answer, announcing "Let there be light!".
- The early part of Tolkien's The Silmarillion provides a detailed Creation myth, with the world being created through the singing of Angel-like beings under the direction of God. Similar to the Christian account of The War in Heaven, this myth includes the rebellion of Melkor (equivalent of Lucifer/Satan) but considerably different in detail from the Christian account.
- In the Doom series demons from Hell have come into the universe through an inter-dimensional portal which is located on Mars.
- In Princess of Wands by John Ringo, a Christian housewife and soccer mom gets involved in an organization 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" which are clearly meant to be demons.
- In Warhammer 40,000 series, some of the villains of the story appear to be demons, beings of immense power and strength. They can be summoned by certain groups of people with arcane knowledge. They are known as daemons, and the people who hunt them, daemon hunters.
- The TV series, Futurama, features a recurring character called the Robot Devil
- In the 1975 Doctor Who episode "Pyramids of Mars", the Doctor states that Satan is one of the names the last of the Osirians, Sutekh (who considers all life his enemy), is known by.
- In the 1978 sci-fi TV series Battlestar Galactica, the two part episode "War Of The Gods" features a character very much like the Devil who is portrayed by Patrick Macnee. His name is Count Iblis — Iblis being the Islamic name of the 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 both 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.
- Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick - In the novel a company uses a form of cryonic suspension to give deceased limited consciousness and the ability to communicate. Ella is in such a state of "half-life" and instructs the protagonist who also appears to be in such a state on the usage of the spray "Ubik", whose name is derived from the Latin word "ubique" (meaning "everywhere") which can preserve people who are in half-life. As the protagonist finds himself in an increasingly regressing world it is discovered that Jory Miller, another half-lifer, is the cause of this as he devours the life force of other people who are in suspended animation in order to prolong his own existence. While Ubik can be seen as a metaphor for God Jory Miller can be seen as an allegorical representation of the Devil.
- In the episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes" (2014) of the science fiction comedy television series Rick and Morty a character "Summer" reports to her first job in an antique shop run by the Devil that sells items that fulfill a desire for the owner but come at a price making the item essentially worthless (the shop and the Devil's name, Mr. Needful, are both references and parodies of the Stephen King novel Needful Things). During the episode a protagonist "Rick" sets up a competitive counter-business across the street that removes the curses and runs the Devil out of business. The Devil is so dismayed that he tries to kill himself but Summer finds himself in the middle of his suicide attempt and revives him. They relaunch with a new dot-com company that becomes wildly successful. As it turns out, the Devil had no plans to include Summer in reaping the profits and has her hauled off by security. Betrayed by the Devil, she and Rick build muscle mass to get physical revenge.
- In one episode of ST:TAS, the Devil is captured by space-faring Puritans, and is to be destroyed. Kirk argues in his defense.
Eschatology and the ultimate fate of the universe
- In the far future of Le Dernier Homme (1805) by Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville Earth is becoming sterile and the human ability to reproduce is failing. A man travels to the last fertile woman to begin a rebirth of the human race and at return meets Adam, the first man, who has been condemned by God to watch all the damned among his descendants enter Hell, and is now charged with persuading the pair not to prolong the life of humanity, which God has determined must now end. The world then begins to end the dead to rise from their graves while Ormus, the spirit of Earth, who cannot survive without humanity, despairs.
- Omega: The Last Days of the World (1894) by Camille Flammarion
- The poem Darkness (1816) by Lord Byron
- Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon
- The Nine Billion Names of God (1953) by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Last Question (1956) by Isaac Asimov (see #Creation myths)
- City at the End of Time (2008) by Greg Bear
- That Extraordinary Day (2012) by Predrag Vukadinović
- At the end of Tau Zero (1970) by Poul Anderson, the universe collapses in a Big Crunch and then explodes in a new Big Bang. However, the starship with the book's protagonists on board survives because there is still enough uncondensed hydrogen for maneuvering, outside the monobloc, and eventually they could colonize one of the new universe's planets.
- Manifold: Time (1999) by Stephen Baxter begins at the end of space and time, when the last descendants of humanity face an infinite but pointless existence. Due to proton decay the physical universe has collapsed, but some form of intelligence has survived by embedding itself into a lossless computing substrate where it can theoretically survive indefinitely. However, because there will never be new input, eventually all possible thoughts will be exhausted. Some portion of this intelligence decides that this should not have been the ultimate fate of the universe, and takes action to change the past, centering around the early 21st century.
- Left Behind is a series of 16 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with Christian dispensationalist End Times: the pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world. The primary conflict of the series is the members of the Tribulation Force against the Global Community and its leader Nicolae Carpathia—the Antichrist. Left Behind is also the title of the first book in the series. The series was first published 1995–2007 by Tyndale House, a firm with a history of interest in dispensationalism.
- In S. M. Stirling's Nantucket series, the entire island of Nantucket is suddenly transported into the past, to about 1300 BC 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 might never be born at all
- In The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, most of the Jesuit missionaries sent to investigate a radio transmission from an unknown planet (believing that they have been chosen by God to be the first to set foot on an alien world) are killed by the planet's inhabitants; and the sole survivor is enslaved but eventually escapes and returns to Earth with his faith in tatters
- A main theme of Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) is the fictional religion "Mercerism". It is Earth's main religion, in which Empathy Boxes link simultaneous users into a collective consciousness based on the suffering of Wilbur Mercer. In the shared experience of the Empathy Box, Wilbur Mercer takes an endless walk up a mountain while stones are thrown at him, the pain of which all users share. Television broadcasts of "Buster Friendly" represent a second religion, designed to undermine Mercerism.
- The Earthseed religion in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
- The Bajoran religion – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- Cavism in Gore Vidal's novel Messiah - a religion founded by John Cave, an American undertaker. Cave teaches, among other things, not to fear death and to actually desire it under certain circumstances. Later followers come to glorify death, and even enforce it on other members. The founder John Cave is himself ironically killed by his followers when he proves inconvenient for the new religion's development. Cavism eventually completely displaces and destroys Christianity, even to the extent of all Gothic Cathedrals being blown up and destroyed to erase all trace of it.
- The Klingon religion and various other religions from Star Trek
- Bene Gesserit, Buddislam, Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism in Frank Herbert's Dune series
- Bokononism and in Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
- Chernobog, the Satanic, cannibalistic, human-sacrificing god whose worship displaced Christianity in the remnants of Russia in the post-apocalyptic world of The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling.
- Church of All Worlds (inspired a non-fictional religious group of the same name) and other religions from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
- Church of the Second Chance in Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series.
- Cylon monotheistic religion – Battlestar Galactica
- Divine Order of His Shadow – Lexx TV series
- Robotology, Robot Judaism, The First Amalgamated Church and other religions from the animated television program Futurama
- Foundationism – Babylon 5
- Fordism – Brave New World
- The various religions (Sith, Jedi) of Star Wars
- Gorgolorism – in The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague de Camp, the city state of Tarxia is a theocracy dominated by the priesthood of the frog god Gorgolor, who is cinsidered the One True God. In other places, Gorgolor is just a minor god in a larger Pantheon. However, saying that in Tarxia might result in being burned as a heretic.
- Goa'uld religion – most Goa'uld pose as gods to control slave armies. "Goa'uld" means "God" in the Goa'uld language from the television series Stargate SG-1
- Hemilkism in The Gate of Time by Philip José Farmer - in an alternate history where there never was a Roman Empire and European culture has many Semitic elements, a major religion was founded in the Fourteenth Century by a charismatic Irish religious figure named Hemilka. While having some resemblances to Christianity, Hemilkism is not an imperialist faith and therefore does not dominate its world in the way Christianity does in ours.
- Monism (specifically, Evangelical Monism) in Robert Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky. In the last decades of the 21st Century, great waves of Monist proselyting swept out of Persia and numerous Westerners were converted. Two generations later, when the plot takes place, Evangelical Monism is one of the main religious denominations in the US, many American families observing the Monist ritual of lighting the Lamp of Peace during dinner. From references in the book, the Monist faith appears to be Deistic, with a generalized acceptance of a deity having no particular defining characteristics or abilities, and including significant elements of Fire worship - suggesting the influence Mazdaism, the pre-Islamic fire-worshiping religion of Persia. For such a religion to be strongly established in modern Persia/Iran implies a major upheaval in the position of Islam there - for which Heinlein provides no information .
- Ori religion - the main antagonist in Stargate SG-1 after the fall of the Goa'uld. Ori, ascended beings, relatives and mortal enemies of the Ancients, thrive on the life force stolen from their worshippers. The clash is finally resolved in the movie Stargate: The Ark of Truth.
- Church of Science – the bogus religion established by Salvor Hardin in Isaac Asimov's Foundation
- Soterism - in the alternate history of L. Sprague de Camp's Aristotle and the Gun, Christianity never arose. Its place during the Roman Empire was taken by Soterism, an Egypto-Hellenic synthesis founded by a fiery Egyptian prophet, whose followers called him "Soter" - the Greek word for "Savior". Soterism did not become as powerful as Christianity in the history we know, with Mitraism and Odinism surviving at its side. In later times, followers of these religions hounded the scientist Georg Schwartzhorn (much as Galileo was persecuted in our history).
- Church of Humanity Unchained - the primary religion of the Grayson and Masada systems in the Honorverse. (Two churches, with one origin, but now mutually implacably hostile, with massively different theologies.)
- In John Varley's story "Equinoctial", the Rings of Saturn are inhabited by the followers of two mutually-antagonistic religions. The Church of Cosmic Engineering (informally The Engineers), founded by Ringpainter the Great, considers it a Sacred Duty to paint red the Rings of Saturn - a duty holy enough to be worth the devoting of one's entire lifetime to it. The opposing Conservationist Church (Consers in short) is equally certain that painting the Rings is the Ultimate Sacrilege and that undoing all such painting is the task to which one should devote one's life. The two are involved in a centuries-long, fierce religious war - both equally certain that the issue of painting or unpainting the Rings fully justifies killing on sight any member of the opposing Church (see Eight Worlds#Symbiotic spacesuits).
God or deities
- In "2112", the inhabitants of the planets of the Solar Federation venerate Greek nymph Syrinx.
- Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds
- In the film Avatar (2009), the Na'vi, an alien race, worship a goddess named Eywa
- In For I Am a Jealous People, 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, by G. K. Chesterton
- Neverness, by David Zindell
- Parable of the Sower, 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. Stargate SG-1 later introduces the Ancients and the Ori, who are basically indistinguishable from actual gods - particularly the Ori who command worship and actually gain power by it.
- 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; and 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 who is 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.
- Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick - The protagonist Joe Chip is part of a team that was hired to secure the lunar facilities of a company that uses a form of cryonic suspension to give deceased limited consciousness and the ability to communicate from telepaths. Ubik, whose name is derived from the Latin word "ubique" (meaning "everywhere"), can preserve people who are in half-life. Dick's former wife Tessa remarked that "Ubik is a metaphor for God. Ubik is all-powerful and all-knowing, and Ubik is everywhere. The spray can is only a form that Ubik takes to make it easy for people to understand it and use it". The metaphor is also made clear in a passage of the book.
- 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
- James K. Morrow's Godhead trilogy considers the literal death of God, when the two-mile-long corpse of God is found floating at sea. In the first volume, Towing Jehovah (Harcourt Brace, 1994) the angel Raphael calls on supertanker captain Anthony Van Horne to tow the body to an icy tomb in the north, while the faithful and unbelieving alike seek to deal with the fallout of the death of God.
- In the short story The Last Question (1956) by Isaac Asimov humans of the future ask the supercomputer Multivac how the net amount of entropy of the universe can be massively decreased. Multivac fails, displaying the error message "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER". The story continues through many iterations of computer technology, each more powerful and ethereal than the last. Each of these computers is asked the question, and each returns the same response until finally the universe dies with the exception of Cosmic AC – Multivac's final successor. At that point it has collected all the data it can, and so poses the question to itself. As the universe died, Multivac drew all of humanity into hyperspace, to preserve them until it could finally answer the Last Question. Ultimately, Multivac did decipher the answer, announcing "Let there be light!" and essentially ascending to the state of God in the Old Testament.
- In Sara Paretsky's novel Ghost Country, an ancient Mesopotamian gertility goddess calling herself Starr appears in present-day Chicago. She exudes an overwhelming sexuality, affecting both men and women, and attracts an enormous crowd of worshipers, especially from among Chicago's poor and homeless. To the chagrin and scandal of Protestant and Catholic clergy alike, she emulates many of the miracles of Jesus Christ - feeding many people with minute amounts of food, healing the sick and also bringing the dead back to life. Finally she is lynched by a mob of bigoted Christians inside one of the city's most prestigious churches - but her body unaccountably disappears from the morgue three days later, though no one actually saw her rise. Thus disappearing, she has had an enormous - and on whole, positive - impact on the lives of all the book's cast of characters.
- In the universal roleplaying setting Nova Praxis, a supercomputer with the ability to process theoretical environments encompassing all laws of physics, was created. It started inventing all kinds of obscure technology and jumped human technology and civilization forwards by over a millennium, before suddenly shutting down after 3 months of work, likely due to system overload. The computer, called Mimir (Pronounced "me-mer"), is considered by some to be a deity, prophesied to return to gift humanity with the ultimate ascension, and the virtual-reality library that contains all the data produced by "her", called "The black library" due to its black-and-white design, is considered a holy place of pilgrimage.
Heaven and paradise
- "The Reformers" (Weird Science #20) — When three space men dressed in scifi versions of religious garb land on a planet to "free it of evil;" they are greeted by a man named Peter who informs them they are not needed (for there is no crime, no immorality, nor any of the evils seen in other societies); so they plan to create evil for which they can blame literature, clothing, and alcohol (as they have done on previous worlds)—including Earth—they are contracted by their leader (the Devil) who informs that their efforts are doomed...because they have landed in Heaven.
- In an alternate scene of Prometheus (2012) astronaut Elizabeth Shaw who survived the clash with god-like aliens who turned out to be rather malicious asks the AI David to navigate a stranded alien spaceship toward where the alien came from instead of back to Earth, saying "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." Previously Shaw has been portrayed as a deeply religious person whose first encounter with the concept of heaven or paradise stems from when her mother died – a memory David coexperienced during Shaw's hypersleep. Previously an additional dialogue between Shaw and David was shown:
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.
- In the cult science fiction/horror movie Event Horizon, the titular ship passes through an extra-dimensional realm, and the crew—possessed by an entity from Hell—are driven murderously insane
- "A Nice Place to Visit", a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone
- The short story "A Planet Named Shayol" (by Cordwainer Smith), was inspired by Dante's Inferno
- H.G. Wells' A Modern Utopia, 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
- In Behold the Man, by Michael Moorcock, twentieth-century Karl Glogauer (a Jew obsessed with the figures of Jesus and Carl Jung), travels in time to the year 28 A.D. where 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 as is portrayed in the Scriptures, and after having a mental breakdown, steps into the role of Jesus, eventually dying on the cross (having specifically asked Judas to betray him)
- In The Didymus Contingency, by Jeremy Robinson, a scientist's time-travel to see Jesus' death and resurrection—only to witness several scenes not recorded in the New Testament (while realizing Jesus was a fraud)—faces the dilemma of whether or not to make a revelation in the present which would shake the foundations of Christianity is complicated further with the appearance of an assassin from a different future
- The Last Starship from Earth, 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; and who overthrew the Roman Empire by force of arms, and established a theocracy that has lasted until the twentieth century
- In Garry Kilworth's story Let's Go to Golgotha!, tourists from the future can book a time-traveling "Crucifixion Tour", but before setting out, they are strictly told that, when the crowd is asked whether Jesus or Barabbas should be spared, they must all join the call: "Give us Barabbas!"—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 Israelites 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, the church groups turn aggressive and energetically lobby Congress to ban time travel altogether; opening an enormous theological debate unresolved by the end of the book
- Ray Bradbury's 1949 story "The Man," reprinted in The Illustrated Man, tells of a miracle worker who matches the description of Jesus and who travels from planet to planet, healing and teaching. When a spaceship lands on one such planet and is told that the miracle worker had been there just the day before, the arrogant captain vows to chase him down through space until he catches him. After the captain blasts off again in search of the man, another spaceman, who chose to remain behind because of his faith having been awakened by the faith of the people on that planet, is told that the man is still there.
- In The Rescuer, by Arthur Porges, future scientists destroy a three-billion dollar time-travel project because a religious fanatic had taken over the machine, heading for Golgotha with a rifle and five thousand rounds in an attempt to save Jesus and the affair must be kept from the public, since some might identify with "The Rescuer"
- Resurrection Day (1999) by Thomas Wyckoff, is about a man sent back into time to steal Jesus' body to disprove Christianity
- In There Will Be Time, by Poul Anderson, a young twentieth-century American (who has discovered that he has the ability to travel through time without any need of a machine) reasons that there must be others like him and that Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion is a good place to try locating them, goes there and walks through the street singing the Greek mass (which is meaningless to people of the time), but get himself located by agents of a time-travel policing organization, who take him to their headquarters in the far future—without getting 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 to obtain empirical proof that Christ indeed rose from the dead after being crucified, causing the Catholic Church to excommunicate him (the Church hierarchy preferring to continue relying on faith alone and not seeking factual confirmation)
- Times Without Number, by John Brunner, depicts an alternate reality in which the Spanish Armada had conquered England; and when time travel is discovered—controlled by the Catholic Church—it is decreed that every new pope would be privileged to travel to Palestine in the time of Christ's ministry, while everyone else is strictly forbidden to go there
- In The Traveller, by Richard Matheson, a confirmed skeptic is 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) and he witnesses the actual event, causing him to feel empathy for Jesus; and is hauled back to the present after attempting to save him; and, although he had seen no miracles, he is a changed man, having seen "a man giving up his life for the things he believed" and stating, "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 traveler
- In Robert Silverberg's Up the Line, featuring a company organizing 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"
- In one of the episodes of Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series, Jesus was resurrected in a manner completely different from that depicted in Christian theology. Along with millions of other people from all times and places in history, he was given a new, completely human, life along the banks of a mysterious long river on another planet. In this depiction, the revived Jesus is a Jew who never intended to found a new religion, and when encountering Christians from later ages he does not recognize himself in the Divine Jesus which they believe in. He is delighted to encounter an Israelite woman who took part in the Exodus from Egypt and whose eye-witness account of Moses and Aharon is substantially different from that in the Bible. Eventually Jesus is tortured to death by a rabidly antisemitic Medieval German Baron, who angrily rejects the very idea that this Jew might be Jesus. Before dying again, Jesus cries out: "Father, they do know what they are doing!"
Another Son of God
- In the alternate history timeline of Harry Turtledove's In High Places, in which the Black Plague was much worse than in our history, there appeared in the city of Avignon at that time of crisis a charismatic religious leader named Henri, claiming to be "The Second Son of God". He was executed as a heretic. However, on the day after his execution, the church where the Pope and the King of France were worshiping collapsed, killing both of them. This was taken as an act of Divine Retribution and a proof of Henri's claim. Therefore, the worship of Henri as the Second Son of God was officially taken up by the Catholic Church. The life of Henri was described in "The Final Testament", added to the New Testament (with the name implying that the Church would not welcome any Third Son); churches were henceforward built with two towers, standing for Jesus and Henri; since Henri was broken on a wheel, the Wheel became the symbol of Christianity instead of the Cross; and Avignon remained the permanent seat of the Papacy and became a holy city, with pilgrims flocking to the locations associated with Henri's life and martyrdom. In later times, Christians tended in times of crisis to call on Henri rather than on Jesus. This upheaval in Christian theology had the effect of deepening the hostility between Christianity and Islam. The Muslims - grown very powerful due to the Black Plague devastating Europe - respected Jesus as a Prophet, but refused to accord any such status to Henri.
- The Stephen Baxter story "The Lingering Joy", a sequel to Poul Anderson's The Long Remembering , depicts a world on the brink of destruction in nuclear war. A young woman, the story's protagonist, embarks on a kind of "mental time travel", enabling her to experience the life of a Prehistoric ancestress. Her main motivation is religious: to find out whether the Incarnation of Jesus was a single and unique event, or if God had before incarnated among the Neanderthals, to bring salvation to them, too. She experiences the life of a remote ancestress, a rebellious young Cro-Magnon woman who seeks to prove that she can be the equal of her tribe's male hunters. But while in courage and skill she is fully their equal, she cannot match the male hunters' ruthless cruelty. When visiting the last remaining enclave of the Goblins (Neanderthals), on the verge of final extinction, she cannot help feeling empathy and compassion for a male Goblin whose mate was raped and murdered by a male of her own tribe. And then she encounters the miraculous baby who was born to the doomed Goblins, his birth heralded by a strange new star which blazed in the sky, tens of thousands of years before the Star of Bethlehem.
- In the post-apocalyptic world depicted in Edgar Pangborn's novel Davy, the Holy Murkan Church - holding sway over a quasi-medieval culture which had grown in what had been the northeastern US - preaches veneration of Abraham, a Divine Being who was incarnated in human form and underwent martyrdom at what had been Newburgh, New York and became the Holy City of Nuber. Under this new dispensation, Jesus Christ was downgraded to the status of an earlier Prophet who prophesied the Coming of Abraham.
- In James Morrow's novel Only Begotten Daughter, Julie Katz is the new Messiah, the daughter of God, spontaneously conceived from a sperm bank donation by her father, Murray Katz, through "inverse parthenogenesis". Julie struggles with her messianic powers, the mind games of Satan, being hunted by fundamentalists, and the silence of her mother, God. This novel precedes Morrow's Godhead Trilogy.
- I, Gezheh by Clifford Meth, presents a futuristic universe where the proselytizing Hasidic sect Chabad-Lubavitch have gained influence over many alien worlds
- Philip Jose Farmer's 1979 novel Jesus on Mars has terran marsnauts discover a civilization on Mars composed of the technologically superior Krsh and a population of human beings descended from people picked up from earth centuries before. The Krsh and humans now form one community who practice a form of Judaism, having been converted by Matthias, the disciple who replaced Judas as one of the original Twelve. They acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah, God's adopted Son, but not as Deity, causing all sorts of issues for the terran crew (which comprises a nominal Baptist, a liberal Jew and Muslim, and an atheist) who come face to face with a figure claiming to be Christ himself...
- In Frank Herbert's Dune, Paul Muad'dib becomes a prophetic messiah to the Fremen when his mental training and the drug/spice melange allow him to directly perceive time and space
- In Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein, Valentine Michael Smith becomes a messiah figure to some of the general population of the earth, when having been raised by Martians, he turns their philosophy into a human religion
- When the Sleeper Wakes, by H. G. Wells
- Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars
- C. S. Lewis, The Space Trilogy series of novels
- Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun
- John Barnes's The Sky So Big and Black
- He Walked Among Us, Weird Science #13—A spaceman on a four-year expedition uses his technology to help the locals—curing a boy with antibiotics, using dehydrated pills to turn water into milk, creating food—and defying the local priests, after his ship is destroyed by an asteroid; 2,000 years later another ship finds out the spaceman was executed on a rack—becoming the planet's religious symbol—and the spaceman the "son" of their god
Millennialism and Millenarianism
- In the short story The Word to Space by Poul Anderson, alien religious broadcasts were deliberately beamed to humanity.
- A Case of Conscience, by James Blish, is the story of a Jesuit who investigates an alien race which evolves through several forms through the course of its life cycle and which has no religion, any concept of God, an afterlife, or the idea of sin
- 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 until eventually humans become a minority among believers and an alien is elected as Pope
- In Project Pope, 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, have their work preempted when a human Listener discovers what might be the planet Heaven
- In Robert Silverberg's short story Good News from the Vatican a robot is elected to the position of Pope of the Catholic Church.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr.
- The Patterns of Chaos (1972) by Colin Kapp
- Redemption Ark, by Alastair Reynolds
- The Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (2002, 2003, 2005) by Richard K. Morgan - In the novel's somewhat dystopian world, human personalities can be stored digitally and downloaded into new bodies, called sleeves. Most people have cortical stacks in their spinal columns that store their memories. If their body dies, their stack can be stored indefinitely. Catholics have arranged that they will not be resleeved as they believe that the soul goes to Heaven when they die, and so would not pass on to the new sleeve.
- Born with the Dead, (1974) by Robert Silverberg
- Lumen, (1864) by Camille Flammarion
- The Helliconia Trilogy, by Brian W. Aldiss
- Immortality, Inc., (1959) by Robert Sheckley
- Life, the Universe, and Everything, by Douglas Adams, features an unfortunate creature named Agrajag who has reincarnated hundreds—maybe thousands—of times over, each time being accidentally killed by Arthur Dent
- Lord of Light (1967) by Roger Zelazny
- Neon Lotus (1988) by Marc Laidlaw
- Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick - In the novel a company uses a form of cryonic suspension to give deceased limited consciousness and the ability to communicate. Ella is in such a state of "half-life" and tells the protagonist that she's in the process of leaving it for reincarnation which she describes as beginning by a dissolution of personality, an intermingling and "growing together" of different personalities in half-life.
- The Vitanuls (1967) by John Brunner extrapolates the implications of a Hindu cosmology of rebirth in a world that has conquered death.
Star of Bethlehem
- In The Star by Arthur C. Clarke (1955), a Jesuit serving as the astrophysicist of an interstellar exploration ship suffers a deep crisis of faith upon 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 perspective, God had utterly destroyed these peaceful and virtuous beings in order to announce to humanity the birth of his son
- The Accidental Time Machine (2007) by Joe Haldeman – Jesus Christ appears in the Oval Office and tells the President that the Second Coming is here - or so the President tells the nation that night. Some Americans doubt that it is really Jesus at the President's side. Jesus tells the President that heretics should be nuked.
- Gather, Darkness (1943) by Fritz Leiber – A dystopian and rather satirical depiction of a future theocracy and the revolution which brings it down. In it religion is powered by long-lost science; ‘miracles’ are performed by machines and computers and used to keep ignorant peasants frightened and in line.
- The Handmaid's Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood – In the fundamentalist Christian theocracy "Republic of Gilead" in the post-apocalyptic ruins of the United States virtually every thought and action of the protagonist is strictly prescribed by the government.
- If This Goes On—/Revolt in 2100 (1940) by Robert A. Heinlein – The story is set in a future theocratic American society, ruled by the latest in a series of fundamentalist Christian "Prophets". It was revised and expanded for inclusion in the 1953 collection Revolt in 2100.
- The Last Starship from Earth (1968) by John Boyd – The novel is set in a dystopian society in the very near future in whose alternate history 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. He was killed by a crossbow while entering Rome, so the crossbow becomes a religious symbol similar to the cross in our timeline.
- Run, Come See Jerusalem! (1976) by Richard C. Meredith – An alternate United States defeats a Nazi Germany which came much closer to world domination than in our history, but in the aftermath falls under the power of a ruthless home-grown "Prophet".
- The Stork Factor (1975) by Zach Hughes - A repressive religious dictatorship rules a stratified, opiated society in America where no man may advance himself except through religious hypocrisy. Suddenly a young priest, sincere in his religion, finds himself the power of spontaneious healing, a power of overwhelming political import in a society whose medical care is reserved for citizens of high status. He is rescued by the underground after fleeing the police, and while trying to develop and control his unique talent, he inadvertently encounters a survivor of a decadent alien civilization and finds his power increased enormously.
- Candle/The Sky So Big and Black (2000, 2003) by John Barnes
- The Long Tomorrow (1955) by Leigh Brackett – set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, it portrays a world where scientific knowledge is feared and restricted.
- The Chrysalids (1955) by John Wyndham – the novel features an agrarian theocracy, "Waknuk".
- The John Grimes novels (1950s and 1960s) by A. Bertram Chandler include a positively depicted theocracy. On the world "Tharn", the progressive priesthood of a religion resembling Buddhism actively promotes science and technology and confronts a cabal of reactionary robber barons.
- The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965) by Samuel R. Delany includes a fanatic and oppressive theocracy growing up on generation ships engaged on a long interstellar voyage, causing the failure of their mission.
- The world of the Dune series (1965–present) by Frank Herbert is a feudal theocracy.
- In Lord of Light (1967) by Roger Zelazny a spaceshipload of humans set themselves up as gods and rulers of an alien race and their offspring.
- The novel The Last Starship from Earth (1968) by John Boyd is set in a dystopian society in the very near future in whose alternate history 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. He was killed by a crossbow while entering Rome, so the crossbow becomes a religious symbol similar to the cross in our time-line.
- Noninterference (1987) by Harry Turtledove – An illegal interference by Earth agents with a humanoid alien race inadvertently turns a local woman into an immortal, and she eventually becomes the revered Goddess of a planet-wide religion - but all is well, since she is a highly benevolent and good hearted person who makes only a positive use of her complete religious and secular power.
- The Shield of Time (1990) by Poul Anderson – An alternate 20th Century Europe under total control of the Catholic Church, with all dissent immediately crushed by the Inquisition.
- Voyagers VI - The Return (2009) by Ben Bova – Keith Stoner returns to Earth after more than a century of exploring the stars and faces a changed world that is suffering the consequences of disastrous greenhouse flooding. Most nations have been taken over by ultraconservative religion-based governments, such as the "New Morality" in the United States.
- The biopunk/steampunk video game BioShock Infinite (2013) – In the floating city of Columbia, Zachary Hale Comstock leads a single-party theocratic dictatorship based on the Founding Fathers of the United States and himself under title as "Prophet of Columbia" and later Her "Daughter" Elizabeth as "Lamb of Columbia".
- The totalitarian system portrayed 1984 (1949) by George Orwell in many ways equals a theocracy. In the society of the novel Big Brother is always watching everyone, is said to be controlling society and is worshipped by its members. Furthermore, the party's secret slogan is "God is Power". An intended relationship to the concept of a theocracy is highlighted in Orwell's essay "The Prevention of Literature" in which he states that "a totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then, again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revaluation of prominent historical figures".
- The Parafaith War (1996) by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is set in a future where humanity has spread to the stars and divided into several factions. Two factions, the "Eco-Tech Coalition" and the "Revenants of the Prophet" are engaged in a futile war over territory and their competing social philosophies. The ecologically-aware Coalition must hold back the zealous "rev" hordes constantly seeking new territory for their ever-expanding theocratic society.
- In Robert Merle's novel Malevil (1972) nuclear war devastated the world with an agrarian society slowly starting to reform thereafter. One of the main challenges of this new society is to fend off the threat of a new theocratic dictatorship that has taken over a neighboring village of the rationalistic community of Malevil castle, which in turn has to begin research into the reinvention of weapons.
- In The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993) by Starhawk residents of a post-apocalyptic San Francisco live in a utopian sustainable economy which is threatened by an ecologically devastated, violent and overtly-theocratic Christian fundamentalist Los Angeles that plans to wage war against the San Franciscans. The novel explores the events before and during the ensuing struggle between the two nations, pitting utopia and dystopia against each other.
- List of religious ideas in fantasy fiction
- Religious debates over the Harry Potter series
- List of fictional religions
- Mort, John (2002). Christian Fiction: a Guide to the genre. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 159–184. ISBN 1-56308-871-1.
- Sammons, Martha C. (1988). "A Better Country": The Worlds of Religious Fantasy and Science Fiction. Greenwood Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-313-25746-9.
- "On Religion in SF and Fantasy: An Interview with Orson Scott Card"; Writing World online
- Doctor: "Serve you, Sutekh? Your name is abominated in every civilized world, whether that name be Set, Satan, Sodos..."
- UBIK Explained, sort of[permanent dead link] Tessa Dick, It's a Philip K. Dick World, December 4, 2008
- Fitting, Peter (March 1975). "Ubik: The Deconstruction of Bourgeois SF". depauw.edu. Science Fiction Studies. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Included in "Picnic on Nearside", New York, 1980
- Fitting, Peter (March 1975). "Ubik: The Deconstruction of Bourgeois SF". depauw.edu. 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.
- Nova Praxis, Savage Worlds edition, Void Star Studios
- Questions about God and Paradise Lost (Source Quotes)
- 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 this...you 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?
- "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?
- "Prometheus: A look at the deleted scenes". 9 October 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
- "A Modern Utopia," Chapter 9
- Note: The Didymus of the title is the Apostle Saint Thomas, whose initial skepticism of the resurrection earned him the title "Doubting Thomas".
- 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).
- Published in "Down in the Black Gang" (1971) ISBN 0-451-04805-9.
- Published in Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds, ed. Greg bear and Gardner Dozois, Subterranean Press, Boston, 2014
- Silverberg, Robert (1971). "Good News from the Vatican". In Carr, Terry (ed.). Universe 1. Ace Books. pp. 41–52.
- "1943: Gather, Darkness! By Fritz Leiber". SciFi Scentury. 19 July 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- Klein, Sabrina; Tomlinson, Patrick S.; Genesse, Paul. Eighth Day Genesis: A Worldbuilding Codex for Writers and Creatives. p. 245. ISBN 9780985825409. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- "The Stork Factor". orielisbooks.com. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- Chorost, Michael. Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. p. 179. ISBN 9780618378296. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Wagner, Thomas M. "Noninterference - Review". sfreviews.net. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- "SYNOPSIS - VOYAGERS IV: THE RETURN". benbova.com. Archived from the original on 2015-05-08. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Rodden, John. George Orwell: The Politics of Literary Reputation. p. 443. ISBN 978-0765808967. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- Orwell, George. "1984". Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature", Polemic (January 1946)
- Wolfe, Gary K. 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.
- Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression. p. 1143. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Clark, S (2005), Science Fiction and Religion, Blackwell Publishing. doi:10.1002/9780470997055.ch7
- McKee, G (2007), The Gospel According to Science Fiction-From the Twilight Zone to the Final Frontier, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0664229016
- Riley, R., (1985), The Transcendent Adventure: Studies of Religion in Science Fiction Fantasy, Westport, CT., Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0664229016
- The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: Religion
- Science Fiction featuring various specific religions, adherents.com.
- Jewish Chassidic Sci-Fi, chabad.org
- Annotated Bibliography covering Catholicism in Science Fiction, thecatholicwiki.com
- Sci-fi and God - An enhanced episode guide covering and discussing science fiction from a Christian perspective.