If and when humanity ever goes out into space to establish colonies, unless we develop some sort of super-fast warp drive surprisingly early, the first few extrasolar colonies will be rather isolated for quite a while. They will also be rather expensive to set up. What sort of people would volunteer for such an endeavor? Who would willingly cut themselves off from all other human contact, leave all their friends, neighbors, and relatives behind, and strand themselves years away from any support, rescue, or even conversation quite literally light-years from home? And who could afford to build a Generation Ship, Sleeper Ship, or other large but low-tech means of journeying to another world with enough people and equipment to found a self-supporting colony on a brand new world?
A band of religious fanatics, that's who.
The sort of people who, in Real Life, build isolated compounds out in the middle of the desert. The sort who set out in leaky boats with names like Mayflower and cross vast oceans to build quaint little English villages in the middle of the wilderness on a barely-explored continent.
Even once colonization really gets going, there will still be groups of like-minded religious individuals who pool together their worldly wealth and found themselves a colony of their own, where they will be free from persecution (or perhaps just free to persecute the heck out of any of their number who aren't theologically pure enough).
This trope is for both colonies explicitly founded by monolithic religious organizations, whether mainstream or cult-like, and for colonies which, some time after their founding, become religiously monolithic due to a sort of revival fervor or the rise of a local charismatic religious leader who converts the vast majority of the population.
Frequently overlaps with Space Amish, when the rejection of technology is religiously based. Naturally qualifies as a Planet of Hats. In sci-fi, Mormons are a probably the favorite pick for this- although they are usually off-screen. If the cult develops unsavoury traditions that it hides from visitors, the result will be a Town with a Dark Secret.
One possible outcome when Settling the Frontier.
- The Starship Troopers prequel comic by Dark Horse Comics takes place in the Port Joe Smith colony mentioned in the Film section.
- In an Aliens Special, also by Dark Horse, a company is cutting costs by having a variety of cults help terraform a planet in return for being able to practice their religions in peace. Mentioned are a cult that worships an H.P. Lovecraft expy, Presleyans, and the Latter-Day Satanists.
- In IDW's Star Trek comic's movieverse version of "Return of the Archons", Beta III is a human colony that worships a computer created by an insane social scientist. (Not the original episode, which has a broadly similar concept, except the Betans are Humanoid Aliens.)
- In Pitch Black, Richard B. Riddick encounters Imam, a character determined to find the colony New Mecca, where multiple religious groups are alleged to co-exist without religious conflict.
- In Starship Troopers, "Mormon Extremists" build themselves Port Joe Smith, a fortified human outpost on a planet considered by the Arachnids to be part of their sphere of influence. It didn't end well.
- In The Wicker Man (1973), there is the pagan cult that lives on the remote Scottish island of Summerisle.
- Pick any Sci-Fi-based Orson Scott Card series.
- Honor Harrington:
- Grayson was founded by the Church of Humanity Unchained, a sort of Space Amish cult that wanted to escape from the corrosive effects of technology. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to them, the planet they landed on had such high concentrations of heavy metals that they needed a very high level of technology to simply survive. They later went through a civil war and schism and sent out their own colony of religious dissenters to exile, who formed their own Cult Colony on the nearby (and much more friendly to human habitation) planet of Masada.
- Weber is quite fond of this trope. It crops up several times in the side stories. One is a relatively new colony formed from religious dissidents off Haven, in the novella The Service of the Sword in the anthology of the same name. Another crops up as part of the Tallbot Sector in much the same position as Grayson, though in this case its a local bug killing their crops and they were able to relocate to another habitable planet in the other half of their binary star system very early on. Unlike Grayson the current population is solidly atheist and rather bitter about their ancestors' fanaticism. The Haven-controlled world of Prague was settled by white-supremacists who were out to create an Aryan paradise, but only ended up with a dirt-poor backwater planet known best for the natural good looks of its prostitutes. Thandi Palane's homeworld was settled by black-supremacists who, due to an unintnetional side effect of genetic engineering, ended up with descendants who were practically albino. Weber also likes having ironic things happen to this type of colony.
- Another David Weber example is Pardal from Heirs of Empire; this is the variety that didn't start out fanatical, but became so after the interstellar civilization that founded it broke down. Specifically a super-bioweapon got spread by their matter-transmitters throughout the Empire; Pardal quarantined itself, but heard the death of the rest of the empire on its "radio". Since technology had wiped out their civilization, they destroyed it all and went back to a preindustrial lifestyle, founding a church and theocracy to enforce that. The Safehold series is similar, but the anti-technology religion was artificially created to prevent the planet from being visible (due to radio emissions) to the genocidal alien Gbaba. And also because it's creators were a bunch of megalomaniacs that wanted to be worshiped. And may have ended up Believing Their Own Lies in the end.
- Several Robert A. Heinlein stories mention such colonies, such as that one planet mentioned in Friday where the Pope-in-Exile is allowed to openly celebrate mass.
- At the end of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Talents, the second book in the "Parable" series, the followers of the new religion known as Earthseed (created by the main character, Lauren) go up in space to fulfill their "destiny", which is to establish a colony and "take root among the stars". One wonders how this would have progressed if she had gotten to write the scheduled third book.
- LE Modesitt Jr's science fiction duology The Parafaith War and The Ethos Effect uses this along with divisions along racial lines, to the point where some characters begin confusing race with ideology. The predominantly Caucasian "Revenants of the Prophet" evolved out of a merging of Mormons and a white Muslim offshoot sect. The protagonist of The Parafaith War has to deal with strong suspicion about his motives and loyalties because he looks a lot like a generic Rev in a society whose population was mostly derived from south/east Asia.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Ethan of Athos, the planet Athos was settled by a misogynistic religious order as an all-male colony. They used frozen eggs and artificial wombs to keep the population up. The inherent practical problems of maintaining a stable population on a planet where importing so much as a photograph of a woman involves considerable paperwork is the focus of the plot, and the Athosians are treated quite sympathetically by the standards of this trope.
- John Varley's Gaea Trilogy has another unisex colony, only with neopagan lesbian separatists and frozen sperm.
- Founding Fathers, a short story by Stephen Dedman, mentions several planets of this type, and is set on one settled by a bunch of people who were prepared to go to the trouble in order to live and raise their families on a planet with no black people.
- In the Prince Roger series, one of the major characters is from a colony that was originally this. It was originally strict Roman Catholic, but then the witch hunts started and in the present day the main religion of the planet is Satanism of the Satan Is Good variety.
- In Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle, the dawn of space colonization causes humanity to separate along philosphical lines (Faithholders, Warriors, Rationalists, Mystics, etc.)
- The interstellar arks in Charles Sheffield's McAndrew stories include the "Amish Ark" of people seeking a low-tech life and the "Cyber Ark" of people dedicated to the development of AI yes, they found out the hard way that A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
- Arthur C Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth mentions different religions, namely Mormons, Neo-Christians and Muslims, sending seedships in the generations before the End. It's implied that they may very well have succeeded.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Genome, the entire population of the Ebon colony consists of the devout followers of the Church of the Angered Christ, which mandates that all aliens must be exterminated to make way for the "true children of God." To this end, they start breeding experts in torturing and killing aliens and building devastating weapons and ships (including Star Killing bombs). By the time The Empire decides to shut this nuthouse down in order to appease it's alien neighbors, the military strength of Ebon rivals the combined might of The Empire. However, no Ebonite will willingly kill a human, and their entire fleet is destroyed with only a few shots fired in response (mostly by nervous captains who immediately commit suicide). When humanity is threatened with an all-out war with their alien neighbors, the Emperor seriously considers letting the Ebonites loose in order to save The Empire. Thankfully, it never gets to that.
- Sharon Shinn's Samaria' series features a planet founded by Christians. There are genetically engineered humans with wings called angels, whose voices call out to a spaceship in the sky that runs the planet.
- In C. J. Cherryh's Rider series, a group of fundamentalist Christians colonized what turned out to be a Death World due to the telepathic carnivores which use Jedi Mind Tricks to hunt humans. The colony can only survive due to some humans having a symbiotic relationship with the alien night horses, even though most of the colony regards the night horses as demonic and their human riders as a barely tolerated necessary evil.
- The novel The Nineteenth Wife features the First Latter Day Saints, a fictional fundamentalist Mormon cult located in the (likewise fictional) town of Mesadale, Utah. The Firsts and Mesadale are closely modeled on the very real Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also called the United Effort Plan or UEP) and Colorado City (formerly Short Creek), Utah.
- The worshippers of the Holy Cows living aboard the generation ship in Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars. They venerate dairy products over all other food groups.
- In a benign example, the Fox Cluster orbital colonies from 2081, a futurist book published 30 years ago, were founded by pacifists who wanted to establish a community so far away from civilization that it could never be threatened by war. Many of its founders were dedicated Quakers, although membership wasn't mandatory and nobody makes a big deal of this in the story.
- Faction Paradox has the Remote, a group of colonists indoctrinated by corrupt Time Lords in an effort to convert them into effective shocktroopers. However, there were rather interesting effects when instead of being indoctrinated into a religion of any kind, said gentlemen used TV programs to control the colonists...
- The Big Bad of the first Dirigent Mercenary Corps book is a group of religious fanatics that were exiled from Earth for trying to take it over. They wound up on an existing colony. At first they pretty much kept to themselves, then they went back to their old tricks, at which point the colonists hired the DMC to protect them.
- In the StarCraft Expanded Universe novel Speed of Darkness, Ardo Melnikov was raised on Bountiful, a benevolent version of this trope. Or was he? The trope appeared in other works, such as A Ghost Story, where a wrecked colony was raided for data the colony wasn't dead and is briefly mentioned in Uprising, where the main character was raised on a planet that had a number of radical religions that fled the central government to get there, although he himself wasn't a member.
- In Frank Herbert's Dune series, Arrakis was originally settled by members of a Zensunni sect escaping slavery and persecution. This actually fits both types of this trope, since after the original religious settlement, they ended up following a rather different religion based partly on the harsh environment of the world and partly on manipulation by the Bene Gesserit.
- The prequel novels feature many other planets settled by Buddhislamics (mostly Zensunnis and Zenshiites). However, since the League of Nobles has legalized the enslavement of Buddhislamics for refusing to aid them in their fight against the Thinking Machines, many of those worlds are raided by slavers.
- Mostly averted in the Star Carrier series due to the fact that most nations were forced to sign the White Covenant severely limiting religious expression in order to join the Confederation. Most Muslim states refused, though. The series starts with the Confederation fleet arriving to help evacuate a Muslim colony that has been attacked by the Turusch. Well, technically, the mission is to evacuate the Space Marine contingent on the planet, but Admiral Koenig decides to save as many colonists as possible, focusing mainly on women and children. The conflict comes from the Muslim men being horrified that their women would be among infidels without their husbands. Koenig has to threaten the colony with Death from Above for the colonists to finally allow their women to board the transports.
- Played for laughs in the Robert Sheckley short story "The Native Problem"; a man travels to a distant tropical planet via a FTL ship and stakes a solitary claim, only to have a sublight colony ship full of xenophobic (and rather incompetent) religious fundamentalists show up. He eventually marries into the new colony as the "last" member of his tribe of "extinct" natives.
- In The Expanse, the Church of Latter Day Saints (AKA Mormons) are financing the construction of a massive Generation Ship - the first of its kind - destined for approximately 100 years of travel to a nearby star. When it is shown in the TV series, it's larger than a city and the only ship to have Centrifugal Gravity.
- The Burning Bridge, by Poul Anderson, is set an a spacecraft going to establish such a colony to escape political persecution on Earth. Then a message arrives via Subspace Ansible asking them to return home as the political situation has changed. The question then becomes, do you believe the message and return home, or go on to establish the colony, which will require years of labor on an inhospitable world?
- Alexis Carew: The New London Fringe contains several, as the central government's general approach to annoying political and religious groups is to encourage them to go someplace else. The third book HMS Nightingale deals with two such planets in particular:
- Man's Fall is composed of neo-Luddites who eschew any technology more advanced than gunpowder firearms (they're also pacifists who only keep guns for hunting and dealing with livestock predators), only maintaining a bare minimum spaceportnote because, like all New London planets, they're required by Crown law to resupply Royal Navy warships (for payment) or else the Navy will withdraw its protection. They justify this with a religious belief that darkspace is in fact heaven and therefore forbidden to mortals.
- Al Jadiq is ruled by what amounts to Wahhabi Muslims. They have been known to kidnap and behead spacers for chatting up their women, and their leaders initially refuse to even acknowledge Alexis. She eventually retaliates by threatening at gunpoint to declare them to be in rebellion against the Crown unless they release two of her crew they've imprisoned. Also, the conflict of the book is set off by the Al Jadiqis insisting on trying to trade with the Man's Fallers against their wishes.
- Refugees: The characters live on a compound and engage in Communion, a religious meditation in which they travel to distant places. They also hold ceremonies and Big Sings. No one is allowed to question the Benefactors.
- This is the origin for the Archduchy of Crius in Lucifer's Star which was founded by Prophet Stephen Allenway. Allenway had some strange views about religion (specifically that Jesus was actually a redeemed Lucifer among other quasi-Gnostic beliefs) which made him unwelcome on the PREVIOUS Cult Colony his followers lived on. Eventually, the Crius cultists took in a bunch of refugees with laws that made them nobility above them and turned their home planet into a Feudal Future state.
- The prison colony of Cygnus Alpha in the first season of Blake's 7 was ruled by a corrupt cult leader who enforced his control by controlling access to a "medicine" that protected against a divinely-sent plague. The disease was actually a mild poison the cult was dosing itself and new arrivals with, but only the leader/s knew this.
- Several planets in various Star Trek series:
- Chakotay hailed from one set up by Native Americans trying to preserve their heritage.
- Nimbus III in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier might qualify once Sybok takes over.
- The colony in "The Way to Eden", if it had lasted long enough to properly be called a colony.
- The Luddite colony from Deep Space Nine episode "Paradise" is a dark and unwilling variation: rather than recruit like-minded potential colonists, the leader instead intentionally stranded her fellow shipmates/passengers and used a secret anti-technology energy field to force them to live according to her luddite philosophy. When this is eventually revealed, most of the surviving colonists decide to remain and figure out for themselves whether to maintain their way of life, but she herself is arrested for the crimes she committed stranding them there and for the murder of those colonists who died since because of her enforcing the anti-technology (including medicine) lifestyle.
- The social experiment from "The Masterpiece Society".
- The colony from "Up The Long Ladder" was said to have been founded by runaway "Neo-transcendentalists", though that was not elaborated upon and and it didn't really seem to have a hat.
- Dukat sets one up for Pah-Wraith followers on Empok Nor in "Covenant".
- A preacher in The Outer Limits (1995) episode "A New Life" led a group of followers to the woods to form a colony. It turns out that the preacher is an alien who wanted to enslave the followers' descendants.
- Averted for the most part in Warhammer 40,000, as most Imperial cults end up different due to centuries of isolation rather than being different at the start (those are usually eliminated quite quickly). When these isolated planets rejoin the Imperium the more pragmatic Inquisitors and Ecclesiarchs just check that there's no real heresy and let them get on with life instead of purging them from orbit because the stained-glass window shows the God Emperor's eyes in the wrong color. In fact they're willing to let quite a lot go, do you want to worship the Emperor in the belief that he was a simple farmer before being the Emperor, go ahead. Do you believe that the stars are the Emperors eyes and that he is always watching you, that's fine to. Both of those are canon examples, the big point is that it is clearly the Emperor you worship and not chaos or something else.
- Bioshock: Andrew Ryan, a Corrupt Corporate Executive with money (and forests) to burn and serious beef with anything resembling communism, built an underwater city where he could build a cult of personality that didn't require inventing some kind of ridiculous, communist-inspiring god. And then they accidentally found evidence of a god, and it was a slug. And most of the city realized (A)they missed the sun and the surface of the earth, (B)they had evidence that it was partially shaped instead of naturally evolved, and (C) they could take it all by the balls if they used the bioaugmentations of the slug to become superhuman conquerors and be worshiped as gods. Ryan forced them all to stay inside and play with their toys. Insanity ensued.
- BioshockInfinite: And Columbia is even worse - they built a flying city so they could become All-American Nazis.
- In the Elite series of space-exploration games, there's a small colony in the van Maanen's star system, not far from Earth, which is home to an extremist cult of religious types. Rather than the usual pastoral approach, they live in underground caverns and mine for gemstones by hand, exporting the gems to buy the bare necessities for survival on the hostile planet. A very popular stop, both due to the gemstone exports (albeit at very low ammounts) and the HUUUGE ammount of 'Illegal Goods' you can smuggle in there from nearby star-systems at a healthy profit.
- In EVE Online, the Amarr Empire is descended from a colony established by a fringe Catholic sect called the Conformists. Later on, the Blood Raiders flee the Amarr empire and into deep space in order to practice their religion in relative peace.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Bright Brotherhood wants to use rockets to blast their way to space to find a place where they won't be persecuted. The player can either help them or sabotage their flight so that the rockets blow up. The Distant Finale shows they end up landing back in the Mojave anyways, wander back in the direction they came from, and end up helping to evacuate Novac during the Legion invasion.
- Infinite Space has the Holy Nation of Adis, which forbids people from traveling to space.
- Mass Effect has a mission where Shepard has to infiltrate a colony controlled by the cultists and abduct their leader. Said "colony" is two buildings with a combined population less than 20.
- The Lord's Believers in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri seek to turn Planet into one of these.
“God has finally shown us the path to a new paradise, so do not fear my brothers and sisters – for I am destined to be the shepherd leading you to salvation.”
- The Cult of Planet in the Expansion Pack also seeks to do this.
- The Spiritual Successor Pandora: First Contact has the Divine Ascension, led by Lady Lilith Vermillion. Originally founded by Lilith to gather blackmail information on her followers via the social media, it has grown by leaps and bounds. At some point, a failed assassination attempt results in Lilith believing herself to be a genuine prophet.
-– Lady Lilith Vermillion, The Path to Salvation
- StarCraft II has the Protoss Tal'darim faction, a splinter of their society that split off so long ago that the mainstream Protoss seem to have forgotten they ever existed. Their culture is radically different, focused around Klingon Promotion, dominating leadership, and huffing Terrazine gas. Oh, and they worship a being called Amon, who happens to be a fallen Xel'Naga and the Big Bad of the entire franchise.
- Far Cry 5 takes place in a county of Montana that has been taken over by a doomsday cult.
- In Surviving Mars, one of the available sponsors you can select for your Martian colony is called the Church of the New Ark. Their birthrate is doubled and all colonists get the Religious trait (higher base morale, low sanity never leads to suicide), but they start out with only one rocket, they don't generate research on their own, and hydroponic farms produce 50% less food.
- In The Secret World, the Morninglight have built one of these in South Africa called New Jerusalem.
- The planet of New Tau Ceti in Associated Space was founded as a "pastoral enclave" by a religious movement that decided only humans could sin, so if humans became animals again, they could live without sin. So the cult members turned themselves into sheep. But the sheep still sometimes did stuff that would otherwise be considered sin, so the solution was that the sheep were blameless, but the shepherd had to pay the price for the actions of the sheep under their protection. Random visitors to the planet are thus conscripted as shepherds and forced to fight for their lives in an arena against a genetically-engineered super wolf. If they do well enough, they have defeated sin, and may depart in peace. If they die, well, they've paid the price for sin, as is only proper.
- Tech Infantry has the Christian Federation, who turn themselves into this as part of their rebellion against the Earth Federation. Eventually they are crushed with the help of a force of volunteer Jewish mercenaries, who build themselves a Cult Colony called New Israel on the ruins of the former Christian Federation planets.
- The aptly named Colony from We're Alive.
- The Para Imperium intentionally creates these through its' memetic quarantine policies. Ideological groups deemed a threat to interstellar civilization are rounded up and exiled en masse to frontier planets with no advanced technology.
- The Pilgrims, best remembered for inspiring the tradition of Thanksgiving Day, largely belonged to a separatist Puritan faction aiming to cut all ties with the Church of England (as opposed to other Puritans who wanted to reform the Church from within). They left Britain for The Netherlands, which had much the same reputation then as now, but at least didn't have the Archbishop of Canterbury as part of the state. In 1620, some of the separatists, afraid that their children were Going Native and losing their English identity, booked the freighter Mayflower to found Plymouth in what is today Massachusetts. They were originally planning to settle in the existing colony of Jamestown, Virginia, but were blown off course. Some of the settlers took that opportunity to create a brand new settlement instead of trying to go back to Virginia, partly so that no one would hold power over them, as documented in the Mayflower Compact.
- In 1630, members of another Puritan sect founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony forty miles north of Plymouth, establishing the city of Boston. They promptly made it illegal to be anything but a Puritan, and soon were expelling large numbers of their own members for not being sufficiently Puritan, which is how the nearby colonies of Rhode Island and Connecticut got started. (That Boston today is associated with liberalism and Irish Catholics is a supreme irony that probably has the founding Puritans rolling in their graves.)
- One of the groups expelled from Massachusetts Bay Colony settled down in Rhode Island, where they promptly began expelling each other over disagreements. Eventually, everyone was gone except the preacher and his wife, who then had an argument, declared each other heretics, and excommunicated each other. Just in case you were wondering why the Puritans kicked them out...
- The Mormons fled persecution in Illinois and Missouri by packing up and heading to Utah, then part of Mexico and inhabited only by Natives. In 1890, the Mormon leadership agreed to ban polygamy, opening a path for statehood and an end to official persecution. A few refused to accept this and began founding their own towns in other nearby states, territories, and countries where they could practice their polygamous lifestyle in relative peace. Some of these towns are still going strong today, with polygamy still going on, even if there is a high-profile raid every several years or so.
- On a darker note, charismatic preacher Jim Jones founded his own colony, Jonestown, with around a thousand followers, in Guyana. It ended badly.
- The modern nation of Israel was established in order for the Jews to have an own state again. The area they picked out was also their ancient ancestral homeland, subverting this trope to a degree. Also partially averted in that they welcome people who don't follow their beliefs to the extent that there have been periodic worries that the majority will someday be non-Jewish, though there are some restrictions on that for "the legal code was written by shell shocked Holocaust survivors" reasons.
- Utopia, Ohio was home to a bizarre cult that believed that the world was about to enter a 35,000-year-long peace, that people were going to be organized into 'phalanxes' (like communes), and that the oceans were going to turn to lemonade. Yes, seriously. We wish we could make this stuff up. Read more here, courtesy of Forgotten Ohio.
- People like the Branch Davidians (of the infamous Waco siege) count as this. If it weren't for the fact that they have their own homes and the only place that they've walled up is their place of worship, the Westboro Baptist Church might also count as this.
- Russian Old Believers (members of various ultra-conservative schismatic sects of Orthodox Christianity) founded many Siberian towns and villages during the 17th century. There still are Old Believer villages in Siberia. Their remoteness let them survive both the Tsarist era proselytism by canonical Orthodox preachers and the Communist era anti-religious policies.