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Belief Makes You Stupid

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"So, as you can see, you are just over the line of mental retardation."
"Along comes Jesus with this wonderful, moralistic philosophy, about why we should be tolerant and understanding of our fellow human beings, and then we spend the next two thousand years killing one another, because we can't quite agree on how he said it."
— Interview with the Monty Python team

When a work of fiction is insistent on the differences between religious idealism and the demands of the plot, overly religious characters may be portrayed as out of touch with the world around them.

May lead to Ideological Rock–Paper–Scissors or a Mêlée à Trois if religion, magic, and science coexist in the same universe and are out to get one another.

Compare If Jesus, Then Aliens, No Such Thing as Space Jesus, Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions, Lawful Stupid, Chaotic Stupid, and many versions of the Corrupt Church. Contrast God Guise, in which the effect is quaint or humorous rather than abrasive, Clap Your Hands If You Believe, where belief actually alters reality, and Flat-Earth Atheist, where disbelief makes you stupid. Likely to be a Strawman Political. Probably takes the Enlightenment side of Romanticism Versus Enlightenment. Use of this trope isn't always, but can be, a sign of an Author Tract, especially if it's overused. If the belief is actually true, expect reinforcing action from a Celestial Bureaucracy. The polar opposite is Hollywood Atheist.

As with other strawman tropes, Belief Makes You Stupid is a commentary of Real Life attitudes crafted to suit the purposes of various authors; by definition, real religious people are not examples, and each religion should be assessed on its full history, teachings, and merits rather than tarring some or all with the same brush. The fact that there are a Vocal Minority of religious people in Real Life, depending on the religion, who exhibit these characteristics does not mean that you should assume that those characteristics apply to every religious person that you meet or every follower of a particular religion.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kanzaki Kaori and Stiyl Magnus in A Certain Magical Index. Granted, it was a Religion of Evil to begin with, but Failing Neurology Forever combined with Church Militant and Your Mind Makes It Real leaves them bitter and frustrated when some basic scientific analysis and public knowledge revealed how thoroughly they were being duped into mind-wiping their friend on a regular basis for political reasons. Subsequent antagonists are usually motivated by religious-based 'logic' that generally leaves them pawns of the church or causes mass destruction with no actual plan.
    • The Science side can also fall into this if they take their technology for granted.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (both versions), Ed and Al travels to a town where everyone except for the leader of the Corrupt Church runs on this trope. Such as blindly following a manipulative con artist, and when he disappears, going violent and destroying everything (which may not have been the conman's intention, but certainly was that of those who put him in power). Otherwise, this is Subverted; while both series can come down pretty hard on religion, what they are really against is zealotry and dogma, as we see many religious characters make a positive difference in the story.
  • Simoun takes this trope, puts it over its knee, gives it a paddling, whips it with chains, and throws its lacerated corpse in a ditch. The series has this one character who not only actively and knowingly disrespects the tenets of the main religion whose workings we get to see, but forces other characters to do so against their will; the depiction of his bitter, unhelpful, avaricious stupidity and almost palpable, reptilian sleaziness is… quite something. There are sympathetic non-religious characters, including one of the main romantic leads, but overall this is pretty much the anti-Agora in its portrayal of religion.
  • In The Legend of Mother Sarah, the well-meaning but passive and jaded Mother Theresa would rather pray to God for an agonizing soldier's soul rather than getting a doctor to stop the hemorrhage and save his life. An act she immediately gets called out on by a fellow soldier and Sarah herself.

    Comic Books 
  • The religious fanatics in Bio Apocalypse take this trope to the extreme.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Recurring antagonists from Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) is the Universal Church of Truth. A fanatical group who zealously worship Adam Warlock (who is in fact on the Guardians as they oppose the team) as their savior. Yes, they end up directly opposing their Jesus figure is on several times until his Superpowered Evil Side takes over and he leads the church. During the Realm of Kings event, they try to worship a baby Eldritch Abomination, even after it bites someone's head off (they consider this a "blessing").
  • Subverted with the Church of the Eternal Light, an antagonist group to Captain Comet from the 2006 Mystery in Space relaunch. Despite billing themselves as a church, the group is actually a corporation, and the only things they believe in and worship are profit and power, making them a Religion of Evil but not stupid (well, except for the colossal mistake they made in picking a fight with Captain Comet).
  • Termight Empire in Nemesis the Warlock are religious fanatics seeing aliens as demons, worshiping a clearly insane leader as a god and getting themselves killed with undying fanaticism. Nemesis' battle cry is Credo! (I Believe in Latin), but he points out he means it like "believe in yourself".
  • Defied in Supergirl (Volume 5). During the New Krypton story arc, Supergirl frequently and openly mocks her friend Thara's belief in the Kryptonian gods and treats her as a loony who believes she is Rao's daughter Flamebird's incarnation. When it is revealed that Thara IS in fact Flamebird, Kara apologizes and feels happy, because if their gods are real, then her deceased father is in a better place.
  • Occasionally over the years Superman has seen sects and cults arise devoted to his worship, much to his consternation. At least two of his villains are former disaffected worshipers: the first Gog from The Kingdom was a man who founded a church to Superman after being saved by him as a boy, only to go crazy and turn against him after discovering that he was "responsible" (not really, but he didn't stop it) for the nuclear explosion that kicked off Kingdom Come. Years later a second Superman cult arose in the bottled city of Kandor, with one of its most ardent devotees, a Kryptonian named Preus, snapping and becoming a Super Supremacist after learning that Superman was responsible (actually responsible this time) for Kandor being in a bottle in the first place.
  • The Cartoon History of the Universe: Gonick is quick to point out and highlight the many religious absurdities found throughout history. Explicitly invoked in a brief bit about the Indian materialists; when they say that the supernatural and afterlife are lies keeping the people ignorant and afraid, the ruler angrily points out that he likes them better that way.
  • The Acolytes of Magneto from the X-Men comics are a religious sect who buy fully into the Cult of Personality around Magneto, to the point of worshiping him outright as a divine mutant messiah. The entire religion around Magneto is basically just a bastardized offshoot of Christianity cooked up by Deceptive Disciple villain Fabian Cortez solely so he could have a flock of "mindless sheep" (his own words) to lead around in his quest to win the Upstarts competition. And yet even after Cortez's deception is exposed and the fallibility of the Acolytes' dogma is made clear to them after the Fatal Attractions (Marvel Comics) event, they continue to cling to the lie of their faith. Many of their rank and file members are flat Mook characters who play this trope painfully straight.
    • Exodus, the leader of the Acolytes, deserves special mention. He's so devoted to the dogma of the Acolyte faith that, during the Blood Ties (Marvel Comics) event, he is shown worshiping an Empty Shell of Magneto reduced to a persistent vegetative state. It was later revealed that he cared for Magneto's physical needs and believed that Magneto was speaking to him in said vegetative state.
    • Played with in the human counterpart organization to the Acolytes, the Purifiers. They don't revere their leader William Stryker as any kind of divine figure and their dogma is mostly faithful to basic Christian tenets. They just also happen to believe that all mutants are demons and they can suspend that pesky "thou shalt not kill" commandment whenever dealing with them. Frighteningly, many of them have military/paramilitary training (they even raise up Child Soldiers according to X-Men: Destiny), making them dangerously competent if not particularly sane.

    Fan Works 
  • A major theme of Angel of the Bat is the idea that religious extremism is very dangerous and can lead to horrible, violent actions. Religion handled with careful consideration and judgement, however, is depicted as healthy and reassuring.
  • The Macross Delta fanfic How Roid's Plan Could Have Backfired Horribly blames many of Windermere's problems, including the very origins of the conflict between the NUN and the Kingdom of Wind, over religious extremists with too much influence pushing king Gramia and his predecessors into stupid decisions, mostly keeping the pre-contact agrarian economy-meaning that, before seceding, the NUN considered Windermere a net drain and their garrison units were the dregs of the military, and after seceding their population is facing starvation and epidemics without NUN supplies.
  • If There Are Wolves Among The Stars: Zigzags this trope. Relk 'Forsevai takes a dramatic leap in competence when he begins questioning the Covenant (see the Halo entry below under Video Games), however by the sequel he has begun exploring spirituality again with no noticeable drop in intelligence.
  • Surprisingly mostly averted in Left Beyond since Yahwists are not stupid, merely supremely confident that their God will prevail. This does discourage them from bothering with advancing their tech level or undertaking great works that aren't related to worship, however.
  • The Three Heroes Church from Hope of the Shield Hero are seemingly even stupider than their Canon counterparts; while both groups think that Shields Are Useless due to The Shield Hero being The Antichrist of their faith, the Knights who are loyal to the Church in the fanfic take this belief to absolute stupid levels by going into battle without carrying any form of Shield with them to protect them from damage. In Chapter 53, the Church Knights are forced to take cover behind walls and wagons to avoid incoming spells and arrows fired at them by Queen Mirellias' Royal Knights: who are all carrying both weapons and shields, and manage to suffer fewer casualties than their Church counterparts do.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos could probably be called Belief Makes You Stupid: The Fanfic with its Anvilicious skewering of religious faith. Although, since All Myths Are True and are out to get you in the story's universe, this may actually be a prudent suggestion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Agora, focusing on the death of the philosopher Hypatia, depicts Christians as fanatical assholes, in which their fanaticism is raised a tad thanks to the sheer intolerance towards pagans and Jews; the "stupid" part of the trope comes from the fact their intolerance blinds them to the point of stupidity, attacking at random with disastrous consequences. The account used comes from pagan writer Damascius (who was an enemy of the Christians) and Edward Gibbon, a staunch critic of Christianity. The real Hypatia was murdered by Christians, but not over religion-she had been caught up with a violent political dispute. Also, she was a pagan Neoplatonist herself, rather than, as the film portrays, a proto-atheist empiricist on the verge of discovering heliocentrism.
  • Devi: The patriarch of a rich Indian family, a devotee of Kali, has a dream that convinced him that his 17-year-old daughter-in-law Doya actually is Kali, or a human incarnation. Eventually, he brings his little grandson to Doya for some faith healing when the boy has a fever...and the boy dies. Lampshaded when Doya's outraged husband says "Your blind faith is responsible for his death!"
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian depicts religious believers as stupid at a number of points, refusing to think for themselves and fracturing off into sects divided by trivialities. The Jewish revolutionary organizations and the followers of Brian are both examples (the former shows that political beliefs can make a person just as stupid as religious ones too). The Pythons, however, were adamant in the face of criticism that they didn't mean for this to reflect on the actual Jesus (who is shown only briefly from a distance) but rather on the more gullible and fanatical people who take religious beliefs in bad directions.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the escaped prisoner, Everett, repeatedly chides people for their religious gullibility. Examples:
    • When Everett witnesses a riverside baptism service, he comments: "Well, I guess hard times flush out the chumps; everybody's lookin' for answers."
    • After Everett's travel companions get baptized themselves, Everett remarks; "Baptism! You two are dumber than a bag of hammers."
    • Toward the end of the film, when facing his own death, Everett falls on his knees and repents of his sins before God. After he is delivered from death (thanks to a sudden and massive flood of water), Everett discounts his conversion by noting that "any human being will cast about in a moment of stress." When his companions proclaim that the flood was an act of God, Everett comments, "Again, you hayseeds are showin' your want for intellect." (Note: Everett's watery salvation functions as a clever twist on Death by Irony. Deliverance by Irony, perhaps?)
  • There is a take on this trope in My Father My Lord. Although the deeply pious father is shown to have a slightly negative impact on his wife and son because of his devotion to Judaism at first, his faith ultimately is shown to have tragic consequences; one day taking his son Menachem to the Red Sea, whilst his father and the other devotees are lost in fervent prayer, he slips away into the water and drowns. His father's love for the unseen trumped his fatherly duties to keep watch over his son.
  • Starship Troopers 3: Marauder: As subtle as a Morita Assault Rifle to the face. Admiral Enolo Phid begins to use religion as part of the Federation's propaganda after witnessing in the video records traitor Sky Marshall Omar Anoke communicating in near-religious ecstasy with the Brain Bug from the first movie that was being contained for interrogation. Seeing the most powerful man in the galaxy do exactly as he's told without thought or protest convinces her to adopt a Christian-esque religion to render the people servile. This reflects Emperor Constantine's co-option of the Christian religion that was growing popular among the plebs, claiming the new god was On Our Side and Wants Us To Win. In Anoke's case, he orchestrates a massacre on Roku San on behalf of the "God Bug" Behemecoatl and manipulates fellow religiously devout assistant, Holly, into falling for his eloquent religious words before she learns who his "god" really is during his betrayal, casually suggesting killing him as he's worshiping "the wrong god". Amid all the bashing, former atheist Action Girl Lola's religious awakening appears to be the only instance where religion is not associated with mind control. Mind you, there's a bit of a subtle satire as the atheist Federation is every bit as evil and controlling without religion as with it. Belief doesn't make people stupid as they're stupid and evil no matter what.
  • In Tsogt Taij the Chinese and Tibetan forces invading Mongolia are trying to convert Mongolians to Tibetan "Yellow Hat" Buddhism in order to make them easier to control. And the Tibetan lamas themselves also display this trope, resorting to prayer instead of raising an army when Tsogt Taij's Mongolian army is at the gates of Lhasa.
  • Pharaoh: The Egyptian army is on the march when two dung beetles, aka sacred scarabs, crosses its path. Herhor the high priest insists on making the whole army take a time-consuming detour rather than cross the path of the scarabs. Prince Ramses is appalled.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953): Averted in a strange way. The source material (at least the second half) is a firm criticism of religion, and there are religious characters who eventually turn out unhinged and dangerous in the wake of the invasion. The film is almost the complete opposite (very likely due to being made in the era of the Red Scare and The Hollywood Blacklist) - the main religious character is kind and righteous and is given a meaningful death (one that shows that the Martians are incapable of being approached in any peaceful fashion), and the closing narration comments on how the smallest creatures of God's kingdom defeated the invaders. Even in the original, despite his experience with the lunatic curate, the protagonist gives a prayer of gratitude for deliverance. And although it's far more leaning into the nature of a divine miracle in this story, the following is direct from the original story and is echoed in the movie's ending:
    And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians—dead!—slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.

  • An old joke: Lenny, a deeply religious man, lives by a river. He prays every day, reads the Bible from cover to cover, and does nothing but good works. One day, there's a massive storm. and Lenny hears a news report on the radio that due to the rains a nearby dam up-river is going to burst and flood the town. So Lenny thinks "It'll be okay, the Bible says that God loves me and is watching over me. He'll protect me." But sure enough, the dam bursts, the river breaks its banks, and Lenny's house begins to flood. When he goes up to the next floor, he sees a friend in a rowboat. "Lenny," the friend calls out, "the whole house will be underwater soon. Get in my boat, I'll take us to higher land." "No need," Lenny calls back, "God loves me and is watching over me. He'll protect me, so I have nothing to fear." But the rains keep coming and the waters keep getting higher, however, eventually forcing Lenny to get onto his roof. A rescue helicopter flies overhead. "You down there," the pilot shouts through the loudspeaker, "the entire town's gonna be completely under water soon. Grab the rope ladder and I'll fly you out." "No need," Lenny yells back, "God loves me and is watching over me. He'll protect me." But the rains keep coming, the waters get higher, and Lenny has nowhere else to go. He drowns. When he gets to the Pearly Gates, Lenny is absolutely pissed, and demands an audience with God. When God shows up, Lenny yells "God, I prayed to you every day. I lived a good life and did nothing but good works, and in the Bible it said you would watch over me and protect me if I did. How could you just let me drown like that?"

    And God incredulously replies "... Lenny, I sent you a radio report, a boat, and a helicopter. What the hell else do you want from me?"

  • Alderamin on the Sky: Kanna Temari realizes after reading a comparison of the native religion of the Sinack people to the mainstream Aldera church that the Sinack don't believe in the god Alderamin nor do they follow Alderan religious law, but are still able to pair with the elemental spirits everyone else has, which throws the fundamental basis of the Aldera religion into question. This deeply pleases Science Hero Ikta Solork, who reached the same conclusion long ago: that the spirits have nothing to do with any god, which combines with his antipathy towards the church for retarding mankind's progress.
  • Explored in All Tomorrows, and a view expressed by the Narrator (an alien archeologist and historian). Having a strong conviction in an intangible destiny for yourself can only do you a disservice because the nature of the universe is that everything is finite, and even if you manage to reach that ill-defined goal, it can easily be taken from beneath you by forces completely beyond your control just like it does to the people you step over to get there. The Qu were so obsessed with being the masters of all organic life that they never considered that the humans they mutated would keep evolving past what they wanted them to be, and eventually (we're talking hundreds of millions of years) the Qu were hunted down and driven extinct by the descendants of humans that escaped being transformed into abominations by travelling in void-ships. The Narrator points out that the Qu ultimately left no lasting impact on the galaxy and their efforts were All for Nothing. The journey you make matters far more than your idea of the destination, so live in the moment and seize all tomorrows!
  • Religious people in Neal Stephenson's Anathem run the full gamut of stupid, from trying to murder a guy who saved one of their members' lives to believing that strange lights in the sky are a sign that the world is going to be judged (the work also provides numerous examples of not-stupid religious people).
  • John Galt in Atlas Shrugged believes this is the case, and states as much as part of his argument in a (famously lengthy) "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the populations of the world. Whether he is right is never shown, as the book features no overtly religious characters of any persuasion.
  • Subverted in the Book of the Long Sun. Patera Silk's religion and gods are false, but there are facets of truth behind the lies. Silk manages to be a great leader in spite of it.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • Cain joins an Adeptus Mechanicus expedition on a dead world, which turns out to be full of Necrons. Of course the tech-priests go inside and wake the Necrons, resulting in the loss of the entire expedition and their ship, with Cain only escaping by throwing himself through a portal and into a Space Marine invasion force, who recover him.
    • Later, he runs into yet another tomb-world (that's under attack by orks), and once again the Mechanicus drop everything to go wake up the Necrons. Cain manages to get the evacuation started in time to avert a complete disaster, thanks to crippling an ork gargant and an explosion felt from orbit.
    • Cain finds himself on a world fighting Chaos loonies. They enact several rituals for an unknown purpose, but when the Tallarns run into one on their side of the planet, they burn it before anything can be learned from it. A last-second offhand comment gives Cain the location of the last ritual, where he arrives in time (joined by a squad of Tallarns who were there to arrest him) to prevent a daemon princess from taking over the world. Afterwards, those Tallarns believe Cain to be a manifestation of the God-Emperor's will.
    • On a world infested by Tyranids, Cain is sent to inform a squad of Sisters of Battle that they need to get back in defensive formation instead of charging towards the bugs. Only when he informs them that there's a bunch of civilians about to be slaughtered because the Sisters weren't there to protect them do they relent and fall back. And they all die anyway when it turns out they'd been harboring a rogue Inquisitor who'd used them to murder Imperials in the way of his insane plans.
  • Although the Discworld novels criticize organized religion much more than belief itself, the third The Science of Discworld book, Darwin's Watch, employs this trope somewhat. "Somewhat", in this case, meaning "If Darwin hadn't written Origin of the Species, humanity would never leave the planet before it froze." In fact, Darwin doesn't just not write it. He writes a book just as convincing in the other direction and more or less ends science.
  • Dune. Anyone order a thousand years of Holy Wars that nearly sent interstellar travel down the tubes? The setting specifically examines the issue of how a large populace interprets the words and deeds of a religious prophet who spoke and acted for a specific place and time. In truth the prophet(s) eventually managed to accomplish what they set out to do, human physiology and psychology advanced, and human society became more modern, peaceful, and diplomatic. Then the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres decide to get into a fight over who can better use hypno-sex to control populations, and things get messy.
  • Explored and deconstructed in the Everworld books. Since All Myths Are True in the titular Everworld, the various human residents who believe in and worship the gods are correct in their belief, since, well, the gods are right there. On the other hand, though, most of the gods range from Jerkass territory to outright evil, meaning their human adherents work against their own interests by obeying these tyrannical beings. And later it's heavily implied that the gods draw their strength from their followers, putting said adherents in this almost farcical situation of having the power to defy their capricious gods if they all rebelled at once, but being too cowed by fear and awe to do it. Token Evil Teammate of the Everworld group Senna Wales realizes how petty the gods are and decides she'd be a much better ruler to Everworld than them, leading her to Jump Off The Slippery Slope and become the main antagonist of the series.
  • Father Brown
    • Father Brown’s general appearance makes him look dumb to everyone, but this trope is continually applied to him by the fact that he is a Catholic priest: a lot of people in his stories (The Blue Cross, The Flying Stars, The Hammer of God, The Eye of Apollo) constantly make the wrong assumption that a priest is a celibate simpleton, unaware that in Real Life a priest must study philosophy and theology precisely to defend his beliefs helped by logic, and the fact of hearing a lot of people confessing sins to him gives him an interesting perspective about reality. Lampshaded in The Blue Cross when he explains to Master of Disguise Gentleman Thief Flambeau how he discovered him:
      "How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" cried Flambeau.
      The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical opponent.
      "'Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose, he said. Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't a priest."
      "What?" asked the thief, almost gaping.
      "You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology."
    • In this case, it is Truth in Television, being inspired by the remarks Chesterton heard students making about Monsignor O'Connor.
    • Father Brown ends up inverting the trope in "The Oracle of the Dog'':
    The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: "The Mayors": The disparity of technological development between Terminus and their neighbors leads to the Four Kingdoms being unable to comprehend the science of the Foundation. So Mayor Hardin Inverts their ignorance by establishing a Scam Religion for their neighbors to accept (because they already saw it as sorcery).
  • In Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Waverly has this belief about religion, even though she is dating the highly religious Kieran. When she and all the girls on her Generation Ship the Empyrean are kidnapped by their sister ship, she distrusts their zealous captain Pastor Anne Mather. Later, when she sees the same tendencies in Kieran, who has taken over the Empyrean after the death of the captain, she automatically distrusts him and all his followers.
  • Good Omens:
    • Most of humanity appears this way. Best shown when Aziraphale gets accidentally exorcised by Shadwell and spends the next several hours body-surfing around the aether, causing nearly everyone he encounters to assume they're being inhabited by a Demon. With slight irritation, Aziraphale has to correct them that he's actually an Angel.
    • Aziraphale also excoriates a televangelist and his congregation for the ludicrous notion of the Rapture, pointing out that during the Final Battle, the Angels fighting in the Celestial War will simply be too busy fighting the forces of Hell to go around picking random people up. Between the Heavenly War and the War down on Earth, any human that dies in the crossfire will be considered acceptable civilian casualties and it's up to God to clean that mess up... And that's if they actually win! It's not really belief in general, it's just that that specific aspect (which is pretty much unique to American evangelicals) happens to be wrong.
    • Earlier in the book, Aziraphale speculate with his demon friend Crowley about how will The End of the World as We Know It happen. Aziraphale suggests an astroid strike, that will wipe out "all higher life forms". Crowley quips back that nothing will be left "but dust and fundamentalists". Aziraphale thinks that was a mean-spirited joke, but doesn't necessarily tries to argue.
  • In his nonfiction, Robert Anton Wilson of Illuminatus! fame has declared, in direct quote that "Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence." Notably he includes dogmatic science (as opposed to progressive science) under the definition, as well. The theme of free-thinkers who dare to question the "obvious" values and beliefs of their society is constant in all his novels.
  • Subverted in Lands of Ice and Mice. While the Thule shamans view things through a religious prism, they are largely responsible for many of their society's advancements. One example is Manupataq, a shaman who pretty much invented quarantine procedure after surviving the arrival of European diseases like smallpox. Of course, her religion also believes that Jesus Christ is a plague god.
  • Science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer, although an atheist himself, portrays religious beliefs and adherents sympathetically overall.
    • Discussed and averted by Sarkar in The Terminal Experiment. He calls out Peter on multiple occasions for assuming that he must believe in pseudoscience like near-death experiences and creationism because he is a religious Muslim. At one point he even says "Just because I'm religious does not mean I am an idiot."
    • Zigzagged in Calculating God. The antagonists are Christian terrorists and strict creationists bent on vandalizing the Burgess Shall display because in their minds it's use as strong evidence for evolution must mean it's a hoax. Both are dogmatic and none too bright. On the other hand, the aliens are perfectly intelligent, believing in God based on empirical evidence (without anything irrational like saying that evolution is a lie).
    • Also avoided in The Neanderthal Parallax where Mary and Louise are Catholics but competent scientists too, with the intelligence you would expect. While the book ultimately portrays religion as false it doesn't claim they're fools for having believed in Catholicism.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: Zigzagged. The zanareen are religious fanatics whose members seek to prove they're the Firebringer by fasting, prayer and eventually throwing themselves into a live volcano. The rest of the religious characters are smart and level-headed however. Even the zanareen belief this is what the Firebringer can survive is true, they're just wrong about it being any of them.
  • In The Ship Who..., religious people are Acceptable Targets. This is a variant of The Future in which humanity hasn't Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions but when religious belief comes up in the first novel it's associated with people who have to be argued into starting a Homeworld Evacuation, or a Cult Colony that's turned to death-worship to deal with living in a miserable place.
    • In The Ship Who Searched, Tia has nothing but contempt for native people objecting to archaeologists digging up their ancestral artifacts, thinking that only religious fundamentalists would do so and that they'd happily Zerg Rush outsiders to prove their belief.
    • The City Who Fought has Amos's Space Amish background make him struggle with more technological aspects of the setting, particularly shellpeople. He was considered "godless" at home, but he still has some degree of lingering sentiments that toe up to a downplayed Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like, though he's smart enough to remember that Guiynon has rescued him and his followers and knows he shouldn't think of him as an abomination. More devout people, Amos reflects bitterly, basically offered their throats to the invaders.
  • The accidental villain of the Star Wars Legends Galaxy of Fear novel "The Swarm" is a shining example of this. Vroon is a S'krrr, and a member of a S'krrr cult which worships drog beetles, a species of insanely fast-multiplying carnivorous insect that occupies a very low position on the food chain. This would be a harmless quirk, except that he's also head gardener on a space station that has a colony of drog beetles, and because of his beliefs, he feels justified in killing off all drog beetle-predators in order to "save" the drog beetles. Of course, without any predators, the drog beetles explode in numbers, eventually becoming a voracious swarm that starts devouring the station's inhabitants and forcing them to flee. Vroon's Karmic Death in the mandibles of the swarm that he created is well-warranted.
  • Sword of Truth holds that both belief and emotion make you stupid. So a character who claims he has faith in his feelings must be quite insane. Mind you, characters claiming this have been known to make some rather impressive intuitive leaps themselves.
  • In Piers Anthony's mega-book Tarot, a distant world was settled by members of several different religions, each so convinced that theirs was the true way (so far as to not even speak to or help others during crises) that the only way they got anything done was to all agree to a pact to never bring up religious belief, as long as the main character, Brother Paul, was there investigating a local phenomenon.
  • Subverted in Lenobia's Vow. Religious characters are either good or evil, but none of them are stupid. Lampshaded when Lenobia and Sister Madeleine talk about their morning routines.
    "Sister, for several weeks I have been leaving our quarters before dawn and returning before most of the ship awakens."
    "Yes, child. I know."
    "Oh. I thought you were praying."
    "Lenobia, I believe you will discover that many of my good sisters and I are able to think and pray at the same time."
  • Subverted in Tom's Midnight Garden. Abel, the pious caretaker, at first appears to be a superstitious ignoramus, who thinks Tom is a demon; eventually, his belief allows him to recognize that Tom isn't evil. Later, as discussed in a conversation between Hatty Bartholomew and Tom, the fact that Abel could see Tom strongly implies that he was far more perceptive than anyone gave him credit for.
  • In Wicked, Nessarose Thropp is a religious fanatic whose contributions to conversation are often not wanted and perceived by whoever is narrating as narrow-minded or too innocent.
  • In Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's not so much belief itself that makes you stupid (Member and other people in Ansul worship their Fantasy Pantheon with devotion), but mindless and inflexible adherence to religious dogma. Particularly if that dogma says that books and reading are the devil's work.
  • A recurring theme in the works of Karl Marx. Belief doesn't quite make you stupid, but it does make you believe that an eternal paradise exists in the next life so you won't really be encouraged to improve your lot in this one, and is only supported by the ruling classes to keep the workers from doing something with their dangerous free time, such as organizing, thinking and discussing real solutions to their lives. He doesn't blame people for this, however, seeing religion as a way to cope (that's what "opium of the people" really meant) that in his view would fade away when the conditions which caused suffering were ended. Sadly, many later Marxists tried to suppress religion, partly since their programs invariably made things worse, not better, and so even if Marx was correct they didn't change things.
  • Very common in Soviet propaganda literature, especially the early one. A classic example is "Of Titus and Van'ka" by Vladimir Mayakovsky, where the religious Titus is described as "dumb as a log" and prays to the saints for lightning to spare his house until it burns down, leaving him a pauper, while Van'ka, who is a properly Soviet materialist with educated friends, simply installs a lightning rod.

    Live Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • The episode "Believers" depicts a family from a zealously religious species refusing to allow Dr. Franklin to perform a simple life-saving surgery on their son because their religion states that he will lose his spirit if he is cut open. The alien parents are earnest and loving, but their arguments are little more than strawmen, and their culture is depicted as insular and close-minded at every turn. Franklin's belief that science is superior to their religion fits this trope as well, right up to the point where he saves the child, expecting the parents to turn around and realize he was right, only to have the wind taken out of his self-righteous sails when the parents kill their own child, believing him to be effectively a soulless zombie. In the end, the episode leaves who was right and who was wrong ambiguous and up to the viewer to decide. In another episode Franklin is revealed to have a religion himself (albeit one that's fictional) and not portrayed as any less intelligent for it (this helps him beat a drug addiction, in fact).
    • The episode "Confessions and Lamentations" is much less ambiguous: the Markab race is plagued by Drafa, an airborne disease 100% contagious and 100% lethal, and due to the widespread belief of it being a divine punishment for immorality, the Markab failed to take the appropriate precautions, even forbidding the few Markab who believed it to be just a deadly disease from enlisting help from non-Markab and negating funds to study it. In the end Franklin manages to find a vaccine and a cure thanks to Lazarenn (a Markab doctor on the station), becoming ill and sacrificing himself to allow him to study the illness, but by then the entire Markab population on the station is dead, and the losses among the wider Markab population are so great that the race is not genetically viable anymore, dooming it to die out in a few generations.
    • On the other hand, Babylon 5 averts this trope more often than your typical Space Opera TV show, for instance including an entire order of Catholic monks who stay on the station for a season to learn more about alien religions, who are never depicted as either unintelligent or deluded. Indeed, nearly all shades of belief (and nonbelief) tend to get a fair shake on the show. Pretty impressive, considering series creator J. Michael Straczynski is a staunch atheist.
    • Even being an atheist, Straczynski himself does not believe this trope. He makes a conscious effort to avert it. At the most, he thinks that certain beliefs make you naive about the real world. He read the entire Bible twice and enjoyed it during his studies of ancient philosophy, and has said that he wishes he could believe in forgiveness in the way that devout Christians do, but that he cannot forgive evil people on an emotional level. He also repeatedly noted that his beliefs weren't relevant to the story he wanted to tell. Hence his constant use of the religious version of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon's mother is about as offensively stereotypical as you can get for a Bible-believing Texan.note  Conversely, she's also often portrayed as the down-to-earth voice of reason in contrast to Sheldon's antics.
  • Typical of a New Atheist, Bill Maher once told a guest that being a man of faith meant he was a man who "suspends critical judgement and accepts things on no evidence". Shockingly, Maher's religious guest agreed with him, a moment so strange that a Roman Catholic Bishop did a whole video on it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A staple of the classic series. Religion was usually portrayed as the antithesis of science and any character fanatically loyal to a "god" and doing things in "his" name would ultimately be revealed to be deluded and worshiping a mad computer ("The Face of Evil"), an empty spacesuit ("Planet of Fire"), etc.
    • Modern Doctor Who has used this and its opposite, but an example of the trope being played straight would be "The Doctor's Daughter", where the soldiers' "creation myth" turns out to be only a week old, due to the nature of their clone-based reproduction and the atrocious death rate of the war.
      • Explored also in the two-parter "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", when the Doctor confronts what may or may not be the original, actual, factual, Devil. What really bugs him is the claim that it predates the Universe, but in the end he admits that just because he believes that's impossible/gibberish doesn't mean it couldn't really be so.
  • Somewhat subverted in Lewis, with DS James Hathaway being an ex-seminary student, and also incredibly smart. Played Straight when he reveals his involvement in the suicide case of "Life Born of Fire" He told his gay friend that God couldn't love him as he was, starting the chain of events that led to his suicide.
    Hathaway: Have you ever been so sure you were right and then you look back and you can't believe what you thought? I was training to be a priest! It was so exciting. I was surrounded by people who thought just like me and I thought just like them! But these things they say, it's so easy. Like breathing, you just believe it and I believed!
  • On Lost, Richard Alpert is Catholic, and, in 1867, he accidentally kills a man while getting medicine for his dying wife, gets arrested, is told he can't be absolved for his sins,note  and then crashes on the island. Naturally, he is willing to believe he's gone to hell when told just that by an apparition of his dead wife and a mysterious Man in Black. Exploiting Richard's faith, the Man in Black tells him he can only escape "hell" by killing "the devil," the Man in Black's archenemy Jacob. The plan falls through when Jacob explains Richard is not dead, not in hell, and was misled by the Man in Black.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Corner Of The Eye" the aliens claim among themselves that (most) humans' belief in a benevolent god is their greatest weakness, a fatal flaw they will use to trick humanity into doing what they want by having a seeming real miracle worker provided in the form of Father Jonascu. Father Royce, who overheard, retorts that this belief is their greatest strength, and he seems to be right as it inspires both later standing against them as they're revealed to be evil. Additionally, both are portrayed as perfectly intelligent, rational priests.
  • On Stargate SG-1, Senator Kinsey shows himself to be this in his first appearance. When he talks about how things will be okay if the Stargate project is shut down, the team tell him about the Goa'uld. They then just stare in shock when Kinsey says even if this alien armada invades God will not let anything happen to the United States.
  • Star Trek, especially Deep Space Nine fleshed out the Bajorans as more than spiritual cannon fodder for the Cardassians. Many episodes throughout the series explore the importance of faith (spiritual and otherwise) as well as the nebulous boundary between Sufficiently Advanced Aliens (be they benign or malicious) and actual gods, especially when they really are (relatively) omniscient.
  • Supergirl (2015): In "The Faithful" it's averted actually, as only what the Cult is doing is presented in a bad light, since it's deluded and dangerous. Otherwise belief is presented as something positive, relieving and held by intelligent people too as demonstrated at the end, with Kara (and Coville) praying to Rao, My'rnn and J'onn praying to H'ronmeer, and James earlier stating that he always feels good when he goes to church on Sundays.
  • Averted on The X-Files, of all shows. Though the premise of aliens and the paranormal may seem like the antithesis of religion (as it's usually portrayed), religion gets a ton of screen time during the series. Besides the Monster of the Week episodes that deal with things like stigmata, demonic possession, and recordings made by Christ, the show has a lot of religious undertones. However, these undertones aren't "God is responsible for everything on the show" kind of things. More questioning religion and how it came to be. At one point, Scully finds an extraterrestrial engraving that contains passages from the Bible, and Scully herself experiences a birthing experience similar to the birth of Christ. This interplay of religion and science also plays a large role in Scully's character development. Though a skeptic of Mulder's theories, she is a practicing Catholic and often must reconcile what she's learning with her faith. Played straight in earlier seasons, however. Mulder does everything but call Scully an idiot for her belief. It comes out horribly, however, as up to this point, Mulder has yet to come up with any significant proof for his own theories. And someone who believes in spirits and some sort of afterlife who criticizes the religious will always seem a bit silly. Scully calls Mulder out on this several times.

  • The Sex Pistols: I kick you in the brains when you kneel down to pray/ pray to your god. - No Feelings - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
  • Frank Zappa: Also a staple in a lot of his songs: Cosmik Debris (Apostrophe (')), Dumb All Over, Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk, The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,...
  • Imagine by John Lennon where he imagines a world where religion, countries, possessions, belief in heaven or hell don't exist and people could live in harmony, as a brotherhood of men. In God, I Found Out and Working Class Hero from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band he also criticizes religion.
  • Bad Religion: A theme in their work too.
  • The Rolling Stones: The line I watched with glee as your kings and queens fought for ten decades for the gods they made - Sympathy For The Devil from Beggars Banquet.
  • Dead Kennedys: On their album Frankenchrist the track Jock-O-Rama.
  • Marilyn Manson: A staple in his work too.
  • Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side (The Times They Are A-Changin')
  • The Agonist: Predator and Prayer "How are you so gullible? So easily swayed? I just want to shake you, Break through your daze. Our brains aren't sophisticated enough to understand the complexity and wonder of Nature. God is a man-made invention to allocate power and responsibility to a tactile body."
    "Believers prefer to be right than correct. In an environment for change, turn left."
  • Jacques Brel: Also a theme in Brel's oeuvre. In the song Dites he says that if all the things the Church teaches are true they sure are great, because all of it is absolutely beautiful if you believe it to be true.
  • Depeche Mode: From "Lie to Me":
    Belief is the way
    The way of the innocent
    And when I say innocent
    I should say naive

    New Media 
  • "Creepy Steve" in the Character Blog series KateModern is blissfully unaware of the criminal actions of the Hymn of One.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus believe that all knowledge already exists, and that it must be found from ruins of the past rather than reinvented. They tend to call any new technologies, human or alien, heresy unless they can be called a "modification" of an existing STC technology. The Predator Annihilator is a well known example of this. In this case, though, they're kinda right, because the majority of human technological prowess was lost during the Age of Strife, and they're trying to recover it from various Forge Worlds. Besides the trauma of the many horrific technologies that were used during the Age of Strife itself, a major contributing factor to the terrible damage said age caused upon the old human interstellar civilization was the preceding war with the Men of Iron, which explains why the Martian Tech-priests and the Imperium in general are so wary to the point of superstition of the very concept of scientific innovation, and why they renamed the pre-Age of Strife period from "Golden Age of Technology" as it was called back then to "Dark Age of Technology". They're terrified that someone would unleash another technological catastrophe that may very well finish off what the Men of Iron and the Age of Strife started.
    • Their behavior towards the Necrons is a shining example of this. What do you do when there's an army of dormant killbots that's lain undisturbed for countless millennia? Why, wake them up to revere them and then act surprised when they get disintegrated to a man (and if they're told not to, by someone who actually knows what he's talking about, they go and do it anyway). Not helping this is the all-but-stated fact that the Omnissiah they worship (as an aspect of the Emperor, to keep the Inquisition off their backs) is in fact the Void Dragon, one of the Necrons' gods.
    • Even the mainline Imperial Church has this. One of their creeds is "Blessed is the mind too small for doubt."
    • The Warhammer 40000 universe plays with this trope, because there is actually little space for belief. All tenets of religion (the existence of God-Emperor and ruinous powers of Chaos to name a few) are based on fact. The members of the clergy (especially members of the Inquisition and the Adeptus Mechanicus) are usually the best-educated people around.
    • The Emperor, agreeing with this trope, outlawed any form of faith so human belief wouldn't empower Chaos anymore. Not only did it not work as faith is only a part of Chaos, as it feeds on emotions as well, but also let everybody in the dark about the existence of nasty dark gods and demons be vulnerable to their offers of attaining great power for a terrible price. This led to the Horus Heresy.
    • The Sisters of Battle tend to let their faith and holy zeal overcome their tactical sense, leading to getting slaughtered pointlessly.
    • This is the general view of the Tau Empire. Their species has an innate resistance to the Warp that basically makes them immune to the psychic temptations and explosions that plague humanity (and don't even use Warp travel), so they simply don't get that the powers of Chaos are real, writing off daemons appearing in realspace as a particularly unpleasant species of alien.
    • And then there's the orks, though in their case it's more being naturally stupid and their belief being a collective psychic power that occasionally fails entertainingly, so it's all good (they've gone to war over which of their twin gods is which, and couldn't care less).
    • The Imperials with the most single-minded devotion to the Emperor are the Ogryns, a human subspecies of very stupid giants that require surgery just to rise to childlike intelligence and also possess unquestioning faith in the God-Emperor. Where regular humans fall to Chaos to satisfy their ambition or bloodlust, Ogryns are basically tricked into thinking the Emperor doesn't like their manipulator's enemies.
  • Inverted in the Dungeons & Dragons setting Planescape, thanks to heavy use of Clap Your Hands If You Believe.
    • And the Forgotten Realms. Considering what happens to the Faithless, you'd be much dumber to not worship a god.
    • The Eberron setting is deliberately vague about whether most of its gods "really" exist or not. It's not even slightly vague about the fact that in practical terms it doesn't matter; everyone goes to the same place when they die at least in the short (cosmologically speaking) term, and clerics of all faiths, even the ones that mutually contradict each other, get clerical spells. Any "Commune with Deity" type spells get you something like an archangel instead, who, if really pressed on the issue, may admit they've never actually seen the gods either. There are several established faiths, but a cleric who really wants to can devote himself to an ideal or concept instead with no penalties (some of the established faiths have prestige classes with special abilities, for which you must be a member of that faith, but all regular clerical spells work just fine for any cleric).
  • The 7th Sea setting has the Vaticine church, which actually inverts the trope by advancing the position that all of the world is a puzzle that their god, Theus, laid out for humanity to unravel, and thus the church is one of the greatest forces for scientific advancement in the world. However, the Castillian Inquisition is just as bad for the advancement of science as it sounds.
  • Leviathan: The Tempest: The Wake of Nu-Strain Leviathans produces this effect. Their cultists come to believe in elaborate yet nonsensical cosmic mythologies to explain the world, often reducing the Leviathan herself to little more than a vessel or focus for whatever faux-divine forces the cult concocts to explain the world in which they live.

    Video Games  
  • Shown in Anno 1404 with Marie D'Artois' initially innocent and then increasingly delusional fervor of, but also done with great care so as to not paint religion as a whole this way: all of the other main characters are devoutly religious, and show themselves to be very good and wise people through their religion rather than in spite of it. This also gives a bit of contrast between the villains' Corrupt Church and the heroes' Saintly Church. If you have her as an A.I. player in Continuous Mode, her belief makes her a wildcard (She's rated as a medium difficulty A.I.).
  • The very backstory to The Binding of Isaac is somewhere between this trope and "Belief Makes You Evil". Isaac's mom is shown in the opening to be very devout, if not The Fundamentalist, so when she hears "a voice" in her head she immediately assumes that this is God and so seeks to obey Him. Resulting her emotionally abusing Isaac by stealing/destroying all his belongings (including murdering his pets, the game implies), locking him in his room, and then trying to kill him as a Human Sacrifice to God. At least, this is how it appears; the game's Multiple Endings and Ambiguous Canon leaves the actual details of what's going on pretty much up to the player to decide.
    • At the very least, there's a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane thing going on, with some endings going with Mom just being crazy, some endings going with Isaac misreading the entire situation, and some endings going with Mom actually hearing a voice from a real biblical being. Which can either be a deceitful demon or the actual God — who, again, can either be demanding Isaac's life because God Is Evil or commanding it as a legitimately holy act, because Isaac is going to become a demon, if not the Antichrist. And even then, it's left vague if Isaac is destined to become evil or if he ends up turning to evil out of rage at his Mom trying to kill him at God's command.
    • Not helping in the slightest is the Shrug of God about what the hell is actually going on:
      McMillen: “It was never implied that [Mom's] insane. And if you’re going by the Bible and you believe all the stories, then why wouldn’t you think that it’s possible now for that stuff to happen?”
  • Your flock in Cult of the Lamb is very much dependant on the Lamb to do much, at least early on. You have to cook for them, clean up after them and tell them to make buildings. Eventually you can start automating parts of their lives with the right Divine Inspirations. Also of note, followers being gullible is a good thing as it allows you to get more Loyalty out of them.
  • Played with constantly in 4X games, especially the works of Sid Meier (most notably in his Civilization series):
    • Adopting general policies related to theocratic government often slows down your researching ability (generally either halving the rate or stopping Libraries, Universities, etc. from applying bonuses). The tradeoff is faith-empowered troops and cheaper (if not outright free) variants thereof, along with marginally happier citizens (or in Civ II, no unhappy citizens at all).
    • Civ IV is unique among the series to feature distinct religions, and boy, does it play with this trope.
      • In general, each of the seven religions serves as merely a diplomatic modifier, encouraging alliances between empires of the same religion and directing animosity towards the heathens that dare to worship some other deity. The difference is almost entirely cosmetic, and the only reason conflict even comes about is because the AI is programmed to automatically hate empires of different religions. In multiplayer games, religion is a non-factor in deciding allies and enemies. In this case, Belief Makes The AI Stupid(er).
      • Religious governments do not receive any penalty to research, but a government with the "Free Religion" civic, which cancels out the government's religious affiliation, grants a bonus to research. However, the game also rewards religious diversity (i.e. spreading multiple religions), especially since Free Religion gives better bonuses the more religions you have in your empire, and the natural setting is paganism, so there is no 'state atheism' setting, despite the presence of Communism and State Property. Additionally, Monasteries (which are available to all religions) grant nice early research bonuses.
    • Civ V initially ran with this - cutting off the science based civic tree if one adopted the faith based tree and vice versa - before removing that rule and ultimately compeletely averting - and, to some degree, inverting - this trope. Every religions can be configured by a founding player (they are generally beneficial, although some suit a specific playing style more than others) and the 'Jesuit Education' perk allows the player to buy research buildings for faith points, completely inverting this trope.
    • Civilization VI largely averts this, at times even inverting it. Depending on how you build your religion (beliefs like Jesuit Education, worship buildings like the Wat) and what Great Scientist bonuses you're able to snag, it is entirely possible to create a very strong synergy between Science and Faith. Arabia is also very well-suited to creating a scientific and religious civilization, mirroring the real-life intellectual achievements of the Islamic Golden Age. This trope is lampshaded somewhat in the opening narration for an Arabian campaign:
    The marriage of science and religion is a delicate balancing act, but one that you have mastered, Saladin.
    • Same goes for the Lord's Believers (and Expansion Pack counterpart Cult of Planet) in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, except it's permanent due to ideology separating factions rather than nationality.
      • Note, however, that the Believers are specifically identified as scary fanatics and are not supposed to be representative of religion in general, any more than Zakharov's willingness to perform unethical research is supposed to be representative of all scientists.
      • Also subverted with Sister Miriam's in-game bio and quotes: While she's definitely wary of technological advancement, she hardly thinks that Science Is Bad (at least, not at first). She is also a trained psychologist and (like all of the leaders) has a deep, philosophical reason for her concerns. Miriam seems to have read and understood Dostoyevsky, to some degree—not scientific, but not stupid either. And considering how creepy some late-game technologies are, she really has a point about some of them, such as the folly of putting an AI in charge of entire cities.
      • The GURPS roleplaying supplement examines it further: The best and brightest in Believer society are more likely to become theologians than scientists, and new technology has to be vetted by the Moral Guardians for approved uses before it becomes commonplace.
    • Pandora: First Contact also has this in it's own religious faction, which also suffers from a penalty to researching new technology.
    • Ironically, this trope was useful in Civ 2: The theocracy was inept when it came to scientific advancement, but the religious fervor made every citizen satisfied with his life and it was the best kind of regime to win war: Jumping from democracy in times of peace to theocracy in times of war and back to democracy once the war was won was a very efficient strategy (for beginners, at any rate).
    • In the DS version of Revolution, this trope is played straight and inverted. The closest thing to a theocracy is the 'Fundamentalism' government type, whereby cities abandon scientific study for the sake of culture. However, religion in general actually improves scientific advancement by giving you access to technology like the printing press.
    • Surprisingly, averted in Civilization: Beyond Earth despite the game being a Spiritual Successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The only clearly religious faction in the game, the Kavithan Protectorate, doesn't suffer any negative effects by virtue of being religious. This is because no faction has downsides, the choice of faction merely determines which bonuses you get. The KP primarily gets cultural bonuses. In fact, if KP is played right, the faction can have a higher scientific output than other factions with the careful use of virtues.
  • Averted by The Brotherhood of Nod in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series. Despite their nature of a religious cult, their science especially in regards to Tiberium is far beyond GDI's. Of course this is thanks to them not caring about morality, ethics or sanity.
  • In Crusader Kings, this trope is mostly inverted. Scientific progress is aided by a ruler's Learning skill, which also determines a character's theological ability. The highest Learning bonus is given by the "Mastermind Theologician" educational trait.
  • Dead Space gives us Unitology, a religion that preaches oneness of all humanity, but only after death. They also don't reveal the whole Necromoprh mutation thing except to their most exclusive members, i.e. the ones that have paid the most money and are thus the most loyal.
  • Demon's Souls' treatment of this is quite interesting. Magic is treated by some Sages (notably Sage Freke) as something quasi-scientific, while Faith is reserved for the masses, led by a saint. While Urbain's followers (especially that one person in the corner that does nothing but moans his fate without doing anything) and Urbain himself is shown to be a bit thick and detached with the reality and the identity of the god they worship, Saint Urbain did subtly recognize that the main Big Bad, The Old One isn't a large cosmic Eldritch Abomination everyone make it out to be. On the other hand, magic isn't as straight out scientific as Freke analyzed (what with Yuria's witchcraft having an element of chaos to it). This, coupled with Freke's reversal of attitude at the end of the game (that is, from "what does Souls' relation to magic" to For Magic!) means that, if Belief Makes You Stupid, Naytheism Makes You Power Hungry. In strictly game terms however, Faith is the only thing that increases your Magic Defense, firmly establishing the Magic Versus Faith theme. Then it's heavily implied that the Old One is the "god" Urbain and his followers worship. Their "Miracles" are Soul Arts.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series, this is heavily played with. The way the stories are told (player perspective only) and the way said player receives information about the religions (other character perspectives only), most religions claim this about conflicting religions.
    • Though near-universally depicted as a benevolent Saintly Church throughout the series, The Church of the Nine Divines (the official religion of the Third Tamriellic Empire) does have skeletons in its closet. It participates in mass censorship, re-writing history both to downplay some of the atrocities committed by the races of men and to hide the flaws of great heroes of mankind. It was originally founded as part of a Bargain with Heaven, made with the Aedra in exchange for their aid in overthrowing the Ayleid empire (with the Alessian Order, an extremest and fantastically racist sect within the church later working to drive the Ayleids to complete extinction).
  • Europa Universalis features a slider that dictates the church's activities: one side puts focus towards the arts, humanities, and sciences, while the other side focuses on missionary and conversion efforts. Interestingly, a later patch popular Game Mod renamed the slider from "Innovation vs. Narrowmindedness" to the more even-handed "Innovation vs. Tradition" to emphasize the fact that both sides are equally viable choices depending on the player's strategy, making it more a case of Conservatism Makes You Conservative. Which religion you culture belongs to can have a bigger effect. There's your choice of state religion, and your religious/cultural 'tech group'. Catholics and Protestants share a 'latin' tech group, the best, but Reformed>Protestant>Catholic>Counter-reformed, and so on. Because of the game's time period, there is strictly speaking no 'no belief' setting to make you 'less stupid'.
  • Portrayed oddly in Final Fantasy Tactics: The higher a character's Faith stat, the more damage he deals and receives with magic. If it's too high, he'll desert to pursue a higher calling. On the other hand, atheists are utterly useless when it comes to casting magic but make for effective walls against it. The main story could also be a subversion. There are some pretty stupid and/or horrible people involved in the religion, but there is a hint of divine intervention to help out Ramza here and there, and he's not what you'd call dense by any means. He's just an Unwitting Pawn because he refuses to be a scheming, Manipulative Bastard like every villain and their dog.
  • Wakka in Final Fantasy X, although he does get better over the course of the game. Best demonstrated by this exchange:
    Wakka: But you Al Bhed use the forbidden Machina! You know what that means? Sin was born because people used Machina!
    Rikku: You got proof? Show me proof!
    Wakka: It's in Yevon's teachings! Oh, not that you'd know.
    Rikku: That's not good enough! Yevon says this, Yevon says that... Can't you think for yourself?
  • Inverted in the Sumeru Arc of Genshin Impact: Lack of Belief Makes You Stupid. Sumeru is home to The Akademiya, Teyvat's premier university and research institute, presided by the God of Wisdom, Rukkhadevata. After Rukkhadevata's death, The Akademiya refuses to acknowledge Kusanali as her successor, seeing her as a Sketchy Successor and the reason why there haven't been any breakthrough in 500 years. The main quest shows that Rukkhadevata regressed physically long before the Cataclysm and that Kusanali is a dead ringer to her. The Akademiya could have made the reasonable (if inaccurate) assumption that their beloved goddess lost her memory and power, and nursed her back to full strength. Instead, they kick Kusanali to the curb, showing that for all their praises towards Rukkhadevata, they never held true devotion towards her.
  • The Covenant of Halo hold Forerunner technology as religious artifacts. In theory, they simply copy the artifacts as they are, with it being considered heresy to change or improve on them in any way, shape, or form. In practice, the Covenant are so religiously hidebound that even simply trying to better understand Forerunner technology runs the risk of being seen as heresy, which means that their knock-offs are vastly inferior to the Forerunner originals. Due to this intellectual stagnation, the Covenant's mathematics are way behind humanity's, despite the former being leaps and bounds ahead technologically. When humans get hold of Covenant technology and apply their superior mathematics, the results are often far more powerful than what the Covenant have; in Halo: First Strike, Cortana got better effects from a captured ship's engines and weapons simply by fiddling with the control software settings. However, this is more because of ignorance than stupidity; most species of the Covenant are actually quite intelligent, but are actively discouraged from becoming too interested in science, which is monopolized by a small inbred group of Prophets. In fact, after the Covenant collapses, a number of its successor factions, no longer bound by religious restrictions, have been making scientific and technological innovations at an impressive pace.
  • Inverted in Immortal Souls, to an almost exaggerated degree. The Templars are by far the most technologically advanced group in the setting, having Powered Armor, Energy Weapons, and the like in what is otherwise a present-day setting, presumably so they as squishy humans can hope to match the powerful supernatural monsters they fight. They also engage in Mad Scientist-esque scientific research on said monsters. Lampshaded at one point when their leader boasts they'll succeed "thanks to our advanced technology and superior divine right".
  • In Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, Alita (as part of the Inquisition which enforces a ban on religion) expresses the idea while debating a religious hermit, who argues in response that unthinking adherence to doctrine is the real problem, and that this is not particular to religion.
    Alita: Religion destroys free will.
    Eremite: Dogma destroys free will.
  • Zig-Zagged Trope in Path of Exile. The Templar exile player character is the only religious PC and is chastised by several Non Player Characters for believing blindly in his faith. Nobody has anything good to say about the Templar order either, due to how High Templar Dominus has corrupted it. On the other hand, once the Templar has defeated the True Final Boss Tasuni has this to say:
    You, Templar have but one gift. Belief. You believed that God chose you to free Wraeclast from its nightmare and you've done everything in your power to prove that belief to be true.
    It's a lie of course, but what a beautiful and powerful deceit! Please, continue to lie to yourself, Templar. It brings out the best in you.
    • Fanatic belief is what ruined Kaom and his tribe; believing he was The Chosen One of Tukohama, despite numerous casualties under his command, Kaom refused to budge an inch from his colony on Wraeclast until it claimed him and most of his tribe. His stupidity is so thorough that even Tukohama himself was disgusted with his incompetence, burning the records of his existence. And then you kill Tukohama, who has been driven insane by his own self-absorbed arrogance.
    • Kira is fanatically dedicated to upholding the edicts of the gods, which puts her at odds with the progressives. Once the gods return, Kira is all-too-happy to murder her chieftain under the direct orders of her mentally-unstable goddess.
  • Shin Megami Tensei's Messians and Gaians. Ye gods. Both, while having many, many good points in favor of their own sides. Still, their favorite method of conversion is essentially beating the other side to death while proclaiming their superiority. Even their own leaders don't think that highly of them.
  • A mostly non-religious example: in Sleeping Dogs (2012), one of the quests involves Gaslighting the incredibly superstitious and paranoid "Two-Chin" Tsao by breaking into his house and messing around with his furniture, thus ruining his feng shui and leaving him a broken wreck. The guy helping you also notes that even if he wasn't superstitious, the sheer fact that someone clearly broke into his house to mess with him is enough to break the guy.
  • In an episode of Star Trek Judgment Rites, Guest-Star Party Member Ensign Jons - a geneticist - is revealed to be a believer. This is very unusual in Star Trek as a whole, and both Kirk and Spock make remarks about it. However the episode then takes it up several notches when Jons is the only one who falls for an alien ruse: holograms of an angel and a demon represent two warring colonies of single-celled creatures, and Jons immediately takes the angel's side without question, defending his decision on purely moralistic terms. He nearly sabotages the whole mission based on his beliefs, and Kirk has to talk him down by pointing out the absolute obvious: that these are holograms representing single-celled creatures.
  • Averted in Stellaris. Being a Spiritualist star nation will still get you insulted Hollywood Atheist-style by Materialists, but the two are treated as two sides of the same coin. Although Materialists do get bonuses to Research, Spiritualist Empires are perfectly capable of developing and fielding advanced technology (though certain "scientific sins" like sentient machines and Designer Babies are explicitly verboten), and their bonuses to Unity allow them to develop scientific Traditions faster than Materialist nations. Spiritualists are also more likely to employ psionics as a counterpart to Materialists' cybernetics.
    "Our science has proved that Consciousness begets reality."
  • In Surviving Mars, one of the original mission sponsors is the "Church of the New Ark". All colonists will have the religious trait, ensuring that suicides don't happen. The downside of choosing this sponsor is that it does not provide any sponsor research from back on Earth - all your research must come from Mars.
  • Tales of the Abyss is a subversion. The intelligent, level-headed followers of the Order of Lorelei (ie: Tear and Ion) are on the side of good. The Knight Templars like Mohs, on the other hand...
    • On the same palm, the entire military division of the Order is manipulated into helping (or worse, cooperating) with the Big Bad's evil plans. Its higher-ranking members have names like "Dist the Reaper" and "Asch the Bloody".
      • Although, as it turns out, said characters are trying to destroy the aforementioned deity-equivalent.
  • Justified in Tears to Tiara 2. The Holy Church is actively repressing all non-religious knowledge.
    • Izebel comments to herself that Laelius, a knight of The Empire bent on restoring the Glory Days, does not know that during said days the common soldiers of the empire was responsible for most of the construction and would have been perfectly able of reconstructing a stone arch bridge.
  • Inverted in Wolfenstein: The New Order. The Nazis' super-science was reverse-engineered from that of the Da'at Yichud, a secret Jewish sect of inventors who use the act of creating devices as a way to commune with God. Essentially, the Da'at Yichud have For Science! as religious dogma; the act of creation is itself holy. While the Nazi tech is advanced, Da'at Yichud tech is so far beyond it that member Set Roth indirectly mentions Clarke's Third Law when talking about it, and Roth himself is a Gadgeteer Genius of the highest caliber, able to hack a war robot guarding a concentration camp with nothing but a remote he cobbled together from scraps.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles X, one of the questlines which splits from setting up the Water Filtration Plant involves a religious zealot who secretly plants a chemical into the plant which, while harmless to humans, is incredibly toxic to several of the alien species living in New LA. She then proceeds to give out the antidote to the aliens who agree to convert to her faith, claiming it to be holy water from her faith's god. The player must assist a Ma-non who is extremely skeptical of religion as a whole (and constantly lets you know that) as he attempts to debunk the scam. Later on it's revealed that the "god" the zealot had seen was in fact a shapeshifting alien who took advantage of her faith to get her to poison the residents of New LA.

  • Freefall averts this with Gregor Thurmad. He's completely devoted to his religion, which doesn't stop him from having deep, critical opinions on souls both natural and artificial, whether humanity should embrace The Singularity, the social similarities between humanity and the only alien race they've encountered and biotechnology's role in humanity's fate, and quick enough on the uptake to realize after a passing remark he's talking to a former spy.
  • The Gods of Arr-Kelaan: Ronson has this opinion, ironically he's the Top God of the Traveler pantheon (Portfolio: Alcohol and Apathy). However any organized temple devoted to him quickly proves him right, one time he visits a temple, tells them that outright that they shouldn't be worshipping him, explains that their holy relic was actually made by Bikke posing as him, and smashes it. As he's leaving he hears them trying to glue it back together.
  • In this strip of Tales of the Questor one person indicates that the religion "Does not takes kindly to ideas— or thinking — not their own crafting." The pauses are probably intentional. He also indicates his job is to deal with anything that might threaten or challenge his master's beliefs in any way. It is a recurring issue in the comic that humans, partly because of religion, cannot deal with the concept of 'Lux energies' and insist on calling it magic, and with magic being evil to them...
    • Thoroughly averted, though, with the more religious of his racconans, whose beliefs spark compassion.
    • Rather obviously Catholic vs. Protestant, with the strawman religion being Catholicism (the churches are called Sojourners' and Universal (Catholic means universal) and the use of symbols, architecture, etc, suggests the parallel also.)
    • Inverted in the crossover with Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, The Probability Bomb: In the society of QQSR, scientists who choose believe in evolution, rather than Intelligent Design are derided as "Evolutionists" and are considered the universe's equivalents of a Flat-Earth Atheist. Not helping matters is the nihilist Path of Inspiration, who are outright genocidal.
  • Tamago in Negamaki! causes zig-zagging with this trope. He's overtly religious and profoundly stupid about it but when Chief Buffalo Jerky asks if all religious people are like him, Negamaki cites the many positive aspects of having a religious conviction; Tamago would be that stupid without one.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Giraard Draketooth leaves, as part of his illusory message to The Paladin Soon Kim, a scathing comment about how logic is "the part of your brain that weeps when you kneel down and pray to a glorified petting zoo". This is actually both a reference and a double subversion of the trope, as this trope applies to Girard himself, given he's living in a world where gods are real and actively talk to people.
  • Unsounded: While Duane is surprisingly intelligent / verbose for an undead, his fundamentalist belief in Sasselit leaves him blind to points of view that a dumber man could figure out - such as HOW Lady Illganyag is deceiving him; she pretends that his faith is an absolute, and can feed him piano wires about topics pertaining to it even when he (rightly) distrusts everything else about her.
  • When Heaven Spits You Out: When Ryan is forced to kiss the feet of a statue of Jesus during a church service, he feels stupid for having done so.

    Web Original 
  • Starpocalypse features a future world where the last religious human, the Space Pope, is leaves earth to find God. He's considered an idiot by his own robot servant, and the rest of humanity, and he dies searching for God. However, this could be a subversion, as his ship does eventually find God...but it turns out God is homicidal and stupid.
  • The majority of the "Religion" tags on Not Always Right, as well as Not Always Working and other sister sites.
  • Rotten Dot Com: Several articles in the rotten library have funny, but thoughtful insights in the absurdities and inconsistencies of major religions and religious people.
  • The Emperor says this almost verbatim in "If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device".
    Emperor:: I destroyed all asshole religions that existed on Terra. Do you want to know why?
    Custodes: Because you are the one true God, my lord.
    Emperor: Wrong. It is because religion is stupid, superstitious, brainwashing crap that makes you into an asshole.
  • Ironically subverted by a lot of pro-atheism YouTube personalities, such as AronRa, who believe that belief makes you credulous, and possibly makes you bigoted, but this is not at all the same as belief making you stupid. After all, a smart person is just as likely as a stupid person to believe something absurd, but much more likely than the stupid person to rationalize this belief. Also, it’s generally accepted that certain pseudoscience apologists have been refuted too many times for them to be unaware of their mistakes, and as such are knowingly lying, not innocently ignorant.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy in basically any post-Un-Cancelled episode portrays religious people as fanatical morons. Especially "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven."
  • South Park's general philosophy towards religion seems to be "Faith may make you stupid sometimes, but it will probably also make you good (or at least well-meaning)." In other words, it gets a Dumb Is Good portrayal.
    • The episode "All About Mormons" especially plays with this; the Mormon family is presented as ridiculously gullible for buying the story of how their religion was founded, but when Stan calls them out for that one of their sons points out that they're also the only family in the entire town who's happy and loving, largely because their church's main focus is on family values, not religious history. Then they still got it a bit off, as the history of the church is a major focus of study (alternating with books of scripture). The origin story is seen as vitally important, as it's the thing the LDS church bases its validity on. note 
    • The Aesop of the episodes "Go God Go" and "Go God Go XII" is that religion or no religion, humanity (and sapient otterdom) will still find petty reasons to murder each other.
    Cartman: Wait... Isn't... everybody at war over atheism?
    Shvek: Atheism? No. We've learned to get rid of all the isms in our time.
    Medic: Yes. Long ago we realized isms are great for those who are rational, but in the hands of irrational people, isms always lead to violence.
    Cartman: So there is no war now in the future?
    Blavius: Of course there's war! The stupid French-Chinese think they have a right to Hawaii!
  • The Simpsons: The show has always enjoyed poking fun at the absurdities and inconsistencies of religion, right from the very first seasons. You could make an entire list of all the anti-religious or at least skeptical jokes in the show about blindly following religion and/or everything religious preachers say. Reverend Lovejoy has been portrayed as a hypocritical preacher who is more interested in gaining money from churchgoers and judging other people's behavior than anything else. His gossipy and judgmental wife Helen falls in the same category. Funny enough, even Ned Flanders- who actually is a good person and doing everything the Bible says "even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff", as he said in "Hurricane Neddy"- irritates Lovejoy. Flanders himself, though portrayed as a good man with virtues in early seasons, has also been portrayed as somewhat of a caricature of what a good Christian should be, with his faith almost being omnipresent in his daily life to such a degree that it becomes a bit ridiculous. In later seasons the show's creators seem to have made Ned more Flanderized from "overly religious Good Samaritan" to "The Fundamentalist Knight Templar", usually to serve as a foil against the more scientifically-minded Lisa. In "The Monkey Suit", Ned's opposition to the teaching of evolution turns the town into a fundamentalist dystopia, and in "You Kent Always Say What You Want" he went on a crusade to cleanse television after Kent Brockman swore in pain upon taking some hot coffee to the crotch.note .
    • A particularly infamous example of this trope is the episode "Homr" in which Homer removes a crayon from his brain and becomes super intelligent as a result. He uses his new found high I.Q., among other things, to scientifically prove why God couldn't possibly exist. Flanders is, of course, angry, but after reading Homer's text through he quickly concludes he's absolutely correct. Instead of just accepting the other viewpoint Flanders then decides that he must prevent the others from ever seeing the document, though Homer is already putting it underneath every car's windshield wiper.
    • Marge has at times allowed her religious views to cloud not only her common sense but her sense of morality as well.
  • Like the game, this is almost played straight in Dead Space: Downfall. Nearly all the Unitologists are shown as either ignorant, horrible misguided, violent lunatics, and even just plain not right in the head. The biggest exception is Samuel Irons who is portrayed as being the Only Sane Man among the entire Unitologist sect, as he is clearly aware that the Marker and necromorphs are a threat rather than as a key to ascension. Not only does he help the initially distrustful Doomed Protagonist Alissa Vincent and her P.C.S.I. Security team cut down the horde of undead marauders, he performs a Heroic Sacrifice by distracting the necromorphs so that Alissa and her remaining team member helped the survivors escape (which all go in vain of course).
    • Rather justified in that necromorphs have the ability to drive people insane with their presence, and not only have Unitologists been subtly indoctrinated to undermine their resistance to this effect, a religious-styled obsession with necromorphs that includes willingly committing suicide or allowing necromorphs to massacre them is explicitly one of the effects that their insanity aura can induce.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, a village's blind faith in a fortune-teller nearly gets them all killed. Even Katara, who is often a voice of reason, falls victim to this trope, and asks for huge numbers of ridiculously specific predictions; at one point she asks if she should have a mango or papaya for breakfast the next day, (and on being exasperatedly told the latter, she goes and buys one, even though she hates papayas). However, in a slight zig-zag, while the many flaws in their logic are pointed out by Sokka, (who gets completely ignored,) none of the predictions actually turn out to be wrong, even though they require the Gaang's direct intervention to turn out right. Most of them, however, were of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy variety (like the guy she told he would meet the love of his life while wearing red shoes, so he started wearing them every day), nobody in the village seems to understand the logic behind this when Sokka tries to explain it.
    • And then you remember that this show is about the mythical avatar who disappeared 100 years ago and now has reappeared as a 12-year-old boy who is supposed to put an end to a 100 years war that has devastated most of the world and people's overall hope.
  • Cleverly subverted in Moral Orel. The people of Moralton are all either naive, clueless idiots, vain hedonistic hypocrites, or barely-hidden sociopaths (and often more than one), and they're all very deeply religious. But as the series goes on, it becomes abundantly clear that religion has nothing to do with it and the majority of the town are really just self-absorbed scum whose piety is skin-deep and mostly for the sake of appearances. The Reverend is actually one of the nicest and most intelligent people in the town, even though being the shepherd to this particular flock has given him a pretty heavy dose of cynicism.


Video Example(s):


The Age of Strife

The Man-Emperor cites to Kitten why he started The Imperium of Man and had wanted to rid Humanity of Religion: not out of wanting to be worshipped, but rather out of advancing Humanity into the stars.

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Main / BeliefMakesYouStupid

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