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Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions

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"Christianity will doubtless still survive in the earth ten centuries hence — stuffed and in a museum."
Mark Twain, Notebook

One way to show how "advanced" a society is in Science Fiction or certain kinds of fantasy works is to show that it's given up religion. A society may consider religion backward and primitive, consider it a dangerous tool for controlling the populace, or have discovered it was a Scam Religion. Such societies are often contrasted in the same work with more "primitive" societies which are still religious to some degree; these are usually portrayed as harmless fanatics, often of a Fantasy Counterpart Religion.


This is a difficult trope to write about well, and many who use it fall into Author Tracts. Part of this is because of the demographics of science fiction writers; especially in the "Golden Age" of sci-fi, empiricists and secular humanists were particularly attracted to the genre. A common variation of this trope sees the "advanced" society show the "primitive" society the error of its ways and prove that The Presents Were Never from Santa. Since then, sci-fi has become more mainstream (and the militant atheist a more annoying character), so this trope's usage has become more nuanced. Nowadays, you might find a society that discovered it was worshipping advanced technology or Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. You might even see the inverse, where an atheistic society discovers for whatever reason that it kind of needed silly superstition to function, or even the God or gods they worshiped being proven true.


Yet other works might keep the future society's atheism, but treat it less sympathetically as part of a dystopian tyrannical regime's oppressive ideology. In such cases, it's not the people who have actually stopped believing — although this is the version you'll get from the government's shills among the academics and in the controlled media — but the Secret Police who harass anyone who isn't a good atheist. Such a society is probably based at least in part on the State Atheism of the real-life Communist states, and may be as Anvilicious as the original version of the trope in its own way.

Very often paired with an Alternative Calendar, since the one we use today is strongly influenced by Christianity. Societies will then choose a new "year zero", which will often coincide with a major scientific breakthrough — the moon landing is among the most popular.


Compare What We Now Know to Be True and No Such Thing as Space Jesus. Contrast Gravity Is Only a Theory, Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, and Science Is Wrong. See also Religion Rant Song. The individual-scale version of this trope is the Hollywood Atheist.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, religious beliefs are close to non-existent, which is explained as a result of people becoming disillusioned over religion after a nuclear holocaust mentioned in the backstory. The only organised religion present in the series, the Terraist Church, turns out to be a Path of Inspiration which aims to revive Earth's past glory through subversive actions such as assassinating key figures of the galaxy.
  • Religion is rarely mentioned in the classic Universal Century timeline of Gundam. In fact, the UC calendar was originally established in order to invoke this trope and usher in an utopian age for mankind. There is still room from any number of fringe cults, but these mostly have political ulterior motives, such as the Zanscare Empire in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam or the myriad manifestations of Zeon ideology.
    • Defied in 0096 Unicorn: The reason why spacenoids had such a fervent worship of Christianity, which transitioned to a blind obedience to Zeon philosophy, was because they had nothing else to live for or hope with in the cold, resource-scare void of space. As Marida explains, the Universal Century was anything but atheist for the poverty-stricken colonists.
  • In Code Geass, Lloyd lightly teases Suzaku about how the Japanese still believes in such superstitions.
  • A modern-day variant in Your Name; according to Another Side: Earthbound, one of the key reasons for Toshiki running for mayor was to try and invoke this in Itomori and break the hold that the Miyamizu and their Shinto beliefs have traditionally held over the town after Futaba's death shattered his faith in the gods. He realises almost too late that there is indeed truth in the legends he sneered at.
  • Averted and even inverted in the manga Alice in Borderland. At one point, some of the characters wonder how they ended up in a strange world that requires them to play deadly games to keep living. One character, a forensic scientist, muses about different supernatural and spiritual reasons they might be there. Another character asks how a scientist could still believe such things, and she replies that science has only been able to take humanity so far, and at some point there are big things that even science hasn't yet been able to tell them.

    Comic Books 
  • In Warren Ellis' Supergod, faith is stated to be a biological flaw in human neurology that enables group behavior without the enlightened self-interest that should preclude it — a "narcotic response" to the concept of a higher power. This means most people will follow leaders based on their ability to evoke that response rather than their ability to encourage survival. It also means that most people would be quite willing to surrender their free will to powerful forces that don't even see them as bacteria. You can guess how that turns out.
  • Zig-zagged in Jannah Station, where Earthlings are the only large group of remaining atheists. Almost everyone off-planet is religious to some extent or other.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Eugenesis: The people of Cybertron have taken on this attitude after the first time Unicron showed up to eat everyone, with "theo-scientists" pouring out of the woodwork to calmly disseminate every aspect of Cybertron's religious texts. Of course, even they haven't figured out how the Matrix functions. And they become oddly quiet when the subject of the built-in kill-switch every Cybertronian has comes up.
  • Bait and Switch (STO):
    • Downplayed with the primary protagonist of The 'Verse. Kanril Eleya is Bajoran and is a member of their religion from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but mentions she's been compared by one of her senior staff to a "Christmas-and-Easter Christian" (she thinks he's exaggerating).
    • In Solaere ssiun Hnaifv'daenn, this is turned on its head from Star Trek norms, with an irreligious Romulan pulling this on the human protagonist, a practicing Muslim who cites religious law as a reason for not taking a vaccine orally (the fic is said to be taking place during Ramadan, when an oral vaccine would break Khoroushi's fast). The author has mentioned in forum posts that the trope annoys him.
  • Hogwarts and Magical Britain's magic in Scion of Sorcery is seen as primitive and regressive in comparison to the Masters of the Mystic Arts' teachings. Harry is especially critical of the housing system, making a point that it serves little purpose than to drum up arbitrary tribalism among the students and staff.
  • Deconstructed in the Lighting the Darkness Arc Equestria: Across the Multiverse: the civilization of the visited world has long since forgotten their goddess Queen Equinox and became a modern humanity era civilization. Except in this case, Queen Equinox actually existed and sacrificed herself to save the planet from a asteroid, so when the powerful demon Lord Yomi escapes his prison, the world is powerless against him because he's now an Outside-Context Problem because no one remembers his weaknesses or how to invoke Holy Burns Evil anymore. Yomi effortlessly takes over the world and no one can do anything about it until the Mane Six arrive and bring back magic. Turns out that 'outgrowing' religion isn't such a good idea when it was actually real.
  • The War of the Masters:
    • Earthborn humans tend to be atheist and at least one character remarks that "we don't believe in God on Earth in the 25th century". To which a Denali responds, "That's okay, He believes in you." In this vein, humans from worlds other than Earth tend to be more commonly religiously inclined, and it's noted that the Bajorans, who are members of the Federation but tend to dislike Earth specifically, feel some kinship to them for this: in "Sound The Alarm", Kanril Eleya is particularly infuriated to see Orion slave raiders have murdered an Episcopal priestess and burned her church. Moab III in particular has a large Orthodox Jewish population, having been settled originally by (among other things) Israelis who were displaced by the destruction of Israel in World War III, and Elizabeth Tran at one point criticizes what she sees as the conversion of the Holy Land to something resembling a theme park of "what we used to believe".
    • In Looking Into Enemy Eyes, a Bajoran in the USS George Hammond's science department offers an interpretation of Klingon misotheism that stems from the Apocalypse How inflicted by the H'urq invasion. He suggests that the Klingons symbolically "killed" their gods by ceasing to worship them in favor of venerating the mortal heroes who actually defeated the H'urq.
    • During one of the Courtroom Episodes on Bajor in Create Your Own Fate, Eleya mentions watching the face of the Federation's lawyer to see what he thinks of the court session opening with a public prayer, narrating that "separation of church and state is a hazy thing for us". (This is something that would never happen in a real-life US court, never mind a Federation court.)
    • In Myrmidons, a Moabite officer says she believes in God but doesn't believe He answers prayers, only judges you when you die.
  • Zigzagged in Rocketship Voyager. Chakotay follows the spiritual beliefs of his Lakota ancestors, which is regarded as a Belter eccentricity by Captain Janeway who has little regard for these wacky religious cults because she was raised as a Scientologist like most people on Earth. Agritech Keshari on the other hand wears a turban and believes in reincarnation, implying that she's a Sikh. The Catholic church is also making an aggressive push to gain new converts among extraterran races. Half-Human Hybrid B'Elanna Torres was raised in a Catholic convent on Venus, though she quickly hides her rosary when Chakotay comes to see her.

  • Star Wars:
    • In Star Wars: A New Hope, the Force is considered mythology in many circles. Of course, the Force is very real in-universe, making this a case of widespread ignorance or Flat Earth Atheism. Han outright states that he doesn't believe in it (before he sees it for himself), and even an Imperial officer challenges Darth Vader directly on the Force's existence (or at least it's usefulness). It ends badly for him:
    Darth Vader: Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
    Admiral Motti: Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fort—
    Darth Vader: (Force-chokes Motti) I find your lack of faith disturbing.
    • Aside from this however it seems to be mostly played straight for the movies, which don't mention religion (aside from the Ewoks thinking Threepio's a god, but that also fits the trope). Expanded Universe materials are another story though.
    • Then again, considering the overwhelming amount of old school romanticism that permeates the franchise, it seems less likely that this trope is in play, rather than simply that popular entertainment in decades past was usually shy about talking about religion in general. And make whatever you like of Threepio's declarations of "Thank the Maker!"
    • The old EU treated the Force as being more or less irrelevant to anyone who wasn't a Jedi or Sith, and most denizens of the galaxy were only vaguely aware that the two were different beyond being a petty religious schism. The new EU has introduced it as a more wide-spread religion which the Empire suppressed and which made a comeback after it fell. It was also confirmed that "the Maker" is a creator god which some believe in.
    • The new EU has the Empire attempt to enforce this by banning religion and belief in the supernatural generally, though there are underground religions around despite this, as you'd expect.
  • In Halo: Nightfall, ONI agent Horrigan cites the fact that the Sedrans still believe in Valhalla as a reason to look down on them. Granted, he's a Jerkass, there's an Interservice Rivalry going on, and his CO Jameson Locke doesn't seem to share Horrigan's disdain.
  • In Alien: Covenant, Oram believes this is why he was passed over for the position of captain. When he assumes the position following the captain's death, he worries about not being taken seriously because of it. It doesn't actually come up outside this conversation, however, suggesting it's more a confidence issue.
  • God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness: Pearce takes this view regarding religion, saying people have outgrown the need for it.
  • Fahrenheit 451 (2018): Beatty refers to ages past as the time when people believed in gods. That said, the Bible is one of just three books exempted from the ban, though we still see no sign of religiosity by anyone.

  • Stanisław Lem was known to address this trope; he played with it impressively considering that he was writing in and for Communist countries.
    • In Fiasco, the expedition's crew includes a priest, who's portrayed positively.
    • Solaris was his weirdest usage; the protagonist broods about how humanity hasn't improved in any way, but at the same time he broods about how great it is that humanity has outgrown foolish notions of God. He spent much of that book exploring how such a person might view a very unfamiliar alien being.
  • Arthur C. Clarke has done this several times:
    • In 3001: The Final Odyssey, the Earth of the titular year has long since abandoned religion. It's said that everyone is either a theist or a deist, as defined: the theists say there's at least one god, and the deists say there's at most one god.
    • The Light of Other Days, co-written with Stephen Baxter, had a device that could see into the past. It proves, among other things, that Moses didn't exist, but was rather a merger of several different historical personages. Jesus did, but he was just a good person who inspired people, rather than a miracle-maker.
    • Childhood's End has a similar device, which winds up discrediting every religion save Buddhism. The visitors' resemblance to stereotypical devils is because they are heralds of a change so monumental it echoes back through human history, causing the "devil" image in the first place.
    • The Fountains of Paradise, about the building of a Space Elevator and humanity's First Contact with an alien AI, had the AI disprove the works of Thomas Aquinas, and possibly Christianity itself. And that was all in the exposition. There is one religion left practicing (a Buddhist-type), but it leaves its monastery when the yellow butterflies reach the top of the hill it's on, simply because they were prophesied to do it. It is mentioned that Vatican still exists as a center of Catholicism, but it suffers from severe financial troubles, implying that the number of practicing Catholics is minuscule.
    • The closing stories in the Rama books, on which Clarke either collaborated or wrote himself, subvert this. The setting has humanity already in religious decline by default, but the very end of the series presents not only possible evidence for the existence of a divine being such as God, but an explanation for his laissez-faire attitude to dealing with his creation.
  • Iain M. Banks:
    • In the Culture novels, the Culture looks at religion as a delusion which is deserving of sympathy. This viewpoint runs into trouble in Look to Windward, where the "enlightened" races are irritated and nonplussed that whether or not the Chelgrian heaven existed before, it demonstrably exists now. Surface Detail features sophisticated virtual reality environments, many of which are based on each religion's hell, which proves to be a contentious issue in galactic politics.
    • The Algebraist features a future religion that actually fits in a science fiction setting. The dogma is that the universe is a simulation, and the goal is to end the simulation by getting enough of the participants in the simulation to realize that they are in one. The main character of The Algebraist seems skeptical of this religion, though. The simulation hypothesis is also brought up in the Culture novel Matter, without a religion surrounding it. See Simulation hypothesis for the real-life example.
  • Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination didn't explicitly say that all religion was outmoded in its society, but Christianity was illegal, and pictures of nuns praying was considered equivalent to pornography.
  • A Case Of Conscience toys with this. It features a totally agnostic — if not atheistic — alien race that also live in a perfect world and society, facing a bombed-out, nuclear-fried, and heavily Catholic human race. The priest included in the first contact mission considered that society a danger to humanity precisely because it was a rationalistic atheistic utopia; unfortunately, he'd already befriended one of those people before he made the decision. The humans wind up blowing up the alien world thanks to what may have been an exorcism.
  • Giants Series: Giants Star has a particularly fierce instance: the protagonists deduce the existence of an alien Ancient Conspiracy to suppress human progress as a reasonably parsimonious explanation for the continued existence of religion in modern times. The truth, as revealed in Entoverse, turns out to be that human religion, along with pretty much all mysticism and spirituality, is a result of Body Surfing Starfish Aliens from a Stable Time Loop-establishing planet-sized supercomputer humans built.
  • Anne McCaffrey's Pern is a world without religion. The expressions "Jays" and "by all that's holy" are still in use, but only as swears.
  • Caffrey's Talents series plays this mostly straight. Those few protagonists who espouse a belief in a higher power are, at most, vaguely Deist. Those who are openly devout are almost always portrayed as mentally unstable troublemakers. Organized religious populations are shunted to backwater worlds where "the harm they can do is minimized."
  • The elves of the Inheritance Cycle have outgrown religion; however, Eragon is slightly distrustful of the elves' atheism, and in the third book, a being that's pretty hard to interprete as anything other than a Dwarven god appears to bless their new king.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy, the rival powers in the Confederation are the staunchly atheist Edenists and the staunchly Christian Kulu Kingdom. The Edenists' philosophy and way of life lead to the closest thing to paradise as one can get, and they're also the only humans who can fully resist the possessed.
  • Neal Stephenson's Anathem features a world in which a group of secular monks wall themselves away from society and study pure logic, science, philosophy and art. Although they are not officially atheistic, few members hold onto any religious beliefs. In the outside world, religions rise and fall unnoticed. While venturing in the outside world, monks can quickly reduce any religion they encounter into one of a number of basic categories so that they can avoid causing offense. Religious non-monks are mostly presented as morons, while the brightest are good enough that they aren't completely humiliated when they try to debate with a monk.
  • The Humanx Commonwealth novels uses a variation; although humans and several other species seek guidance from the United Church, which has a Unitarian-style philosophy where people only look for ethical guidance and don't buy into the ritualistic aspects of religion that fall under this trope's "superstition" label.
  • In the Uglies series, the people of the future sarcastically refer to gods as "invisible superheroes in the sky". There are some groups trying to bring religion back, but it isn't catching on.
  • Roger Zelazny enjoyed making far-far-far-future societies where humans had become Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and taken on the roles and power of ancient gods. In Creatures of Light and Darkness, they had taken on the personae of Ancient Egyptian gods, including managing afterlives. But one of the most prominent characters was Madrak the Mighty, a warrior-priest "of the non-theistic, non-sectarian sort", whose personal religion was based on an agnostic's deity — another character referred to him as a "holy ambulance-chaser". When Set the Destroyer pointed out to him that Madrak had just aided in the destruction of the Nameless, an Eldritch Abomination from beyond the universe, which perfectly fit the definition of Madrak's agnostic God, the idea that his god existed — and that he profited by its death — made him suffer a crisis of faith.
  • John C. Wright's The Golden Oecumene never says anything one way or the other about religion, but it's somewhat odd that in a setting where characters are defined heavily by their philosophical beliefs, the only person who engages in any form of worship or mysticism is a bit character whose philosophy is never explained. This might seem even odder when one considers that Wright is a devout traditionalist Catholic, except that he wrote the trilogy before he converted.
  • The Doctor Who book Night of the Humans is essentially one long rant about how awful and evil every single religion is. The Doctor responds to a crash-landed alien race on a massive pile of space-junk that is threatening a nearby planet. This interesting premise is quickly and completely overshadowed by the book's message. The chosen "god" of the crashed humans turns out to be a creepy, creepy, clown called Gobo.
  • In Divergent, it is implied that the Abnegation faction, which lives much like the Amish, is the only section of society that still believes in God. However, Insurgent shows that the Amity Faction practices some sort of naturalistic religion.
  • Averted in the Web Novel The Record Of Unusual Creatures, since gods actually exist and even have administrations running their universes. After their resettlement onto a new planet (which is coincidentally hand crafted by a god, Raven 12345 herself) with the help of Hao Ren and his party, the Aerym elves, a solar-system civilization with no FTL technology, decide to set up a religion worshipping Raven 12345 to maintain social order and give hope to the people.
  • Downplayed in the Star Carrier series. Due to Islamic terrorism having been largely responsible for World War III in the backstory, all faiths have to abide by a pledge called the White Covenant that makes many religious practices (chiefly proselytizing and conversion by threat or force) violations of basic human rights. It's mentioned in book four that being religious and having it listed in your military jacket can seriously hamper your career. Most nations have signed the White Covenant, except for the Islamic Theocracy, which has been barred from the Confederation because of this.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, which takes place about 20,000 years in the future, humanity has settled thousands of worlds. Some of the worlds view religion in this manner, especially on the planet Tranai, which is ruled by "humane communism". Some other worlds are ruled by theocracies, such as the Holy Archonate on Murphy, which is recovering from a comet strike. The eponymous captain believes theocracy is part of an ever-changing cycle of "democratic" governments; only an enlightened monarchy can avoid it.
  • Jean Delumeau narrates in his Sin and Fear: The Emergence of the Western Guilt Culture, 13th-18th Centuries that this trope was one of the objectives of the Inquisition. There were several regulations against practices that were considered superstitious, like usage of amulets and anything magic-related, so much that, in trope terms, they were enforcing that Religion Is NOT Magic.
  • In Theta, religions still exist, but "theist" is used in contexts that imply it's as uncommon then as atheism is now. Knowing that most sapient peoples in the galaxy were created by the perfectly mortal and probably extinct "Ancients" likely helped.
  • In George R. R. Martin's short story "The Way of Cross and Dragon", a thousand years in the future humanity has spread to countless planets. However, at least a sixth of them are still Christian, the biggest church has brought back the Inquisition (although more as a PR mechanism than a torture campaign), and the protagonist Inquisitor discovers a group that has figured out that there's no God, but still sets up sham religions because most people can't handle the truth.
  • The Sartan and Patryns from The Death Gate Cycle are races so powerful that most people consider them demigods, including themselves. Both will vigorously deny that any being or force more powerful than themselves could exist or have an impact on the world (the first book's appendix indicates that the Sartan are essentially Deist, believing a creator god exists but has no impact on the present world; the Patryns have no gods whatsoever, though they revere their leader Lord Xar as a sort of messiah) and consider active belief in such to be a "silly superstition" at best and heresy at worst. However, as the series progresses it becomes apparent that actual divine powers do exist, culminating in the appearance of the Serpents, a timeless race of semi-divine and deeply malevolent beings, as well as their benevolent counterparts. The last book essentially confirms that some sort of "higher power" is very real; exactly what the higher power is, though, is left ambiguous.
  • An interesting subversion in the Yggdrasil trilogy, where the political thinkers behind the colonies made all religion contraband, so religious people had to stay on Earth. Fast forward several hundreds of years, and the colonists have several religions of their own (one deifying Helen Bjorg, who may or may not have been a Mad Scientist), while those who stayed behind remain Christians or Muslims (possibly others, but we don't see them). The Earth-colony trade is largely handled by the Christian Anhelos (Culture Chop Suey of sarmatian Poland and colonial Spain and/or Portugal who like coffee a lot). So no, despite what they thought, humanity has not outgrown silly superstitions.
  • Codex Alera has an interesting example. The Alerans treat several of the practices of their Roman ancestors with scorn, to the point that some people think the Romans couldn't have done them to begin with because they are just so self-evidently ludicrous. These customs include worshipping gods, attempting to predict the future by studying animal entrails, shaping stone and metal without magic, and building complex machines. Of course, the setting also has a number of Genius Loci who are easily as powerful as the Olympian gods (and a lot more visible in everyday life), so it's not that surprising that religion fell out of fashion.
  • Played with in The Dinosaur Lords. The recent trend in Nuevaropa is to be agnostic, with young nobility openly proclaiming that they highly doubt the existence of the Creators. On the other hand, their parents, who are still the ones with power, are often devout, and the prologue shows that there's some truth to their faith.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: A large faction of the Maesters have actually been trying to enforce this trope by attempting to discredit magic wherever they can. Unfortunately for them, magic is no mere superstition: dragons are coming back, prophecies are coming true, wargs and seers do exist, sorceresses can assassinate at long distances, and that fabled Zombie Apocalypse and The Fair Folk who kicked it off are in fact very real and aiming for a repeat performance. And all because of their efforts, the Maesters have just left the entire continent woefully unprepared for their invasion by making everybody believe that the undead snow fairies are just a myth. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!.
  • Go, Mutants! is set in an Alternate History where religion has gotten a lot less popular after people found out that aliens exist.
  • Subverted with the Neanderthals in The Neanderthal Parallax books, who never had a concept of an afterlife or gods to begin with due to different brain structures (though played straight with the finale of the trilogy, when a magnetic pole reversal affects humans' minds by first stimulating then later eliminating paranormal, mystical or religious beliefs. With them gone, peace breaks out in the Middle East, among other improvements).
  • Alien in a Small Town claims that many humans had naturally assumed that First Contact with aliens would settle the matter, with the aliens being so much more advanced that they would have a final answer for us. On the contrary, it turns out that the aliens themselves have a wide variety of religious and philosophical schools, including agnostics and atheists.
    "So nobody on Earth got their philosophy of life particularly validated or invalidated by the visitors from the stars. Many humans felt cheated by this."
  • Robert J. Sawyer inverts this with the aliens in Calculating God, who are more technologically advanced than humanity but firmly believe in a creator on the basis of scientific evidence. It's the atheist human protagonist who slowly has to adjust and accept it.
  • Discussed Trope in C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity; being someone who was raised as a Christian, became an atheist in college, and then regained faith, he believes the attitude to be a form of "chronological snobbery", and the idea that the ancients discovered some profound truths and we would be wise to learn from them is a recurring theme in many of his other works.
  • In military science fiction Victoria, the technologically advanced Lady Land Azania is an example, supporting secularism and considering Christianity a regressive cult that oppresses women. Their main enemy, the Northern Confederation, soundly averts this, being a reactionary and borderline theocratic state.
  • In C.T. Phipps' Space Opera series Lucifer's Star, the opposite is true and humanity has become more religious over time. This is stated due to the fact science has proven many bizarre and strange things about physics as well as the existence of Sufficiently Advanced races. Religions may still be wrong (and are often used as a form of social control by the setting's many dictatorships) but show no sign of going away any time soon.
  • Averted in the Imperial Radch series, where the Radchaai empire is tremendously advanced and openly devout. Its (massive) military names all its spaceships after deities and has daily religious observances, and the Radch religion adopts the local gods of conquered peoples into its pantheon to smoothe their assimilation.
  • Downplayed in The Four Horsemen Universe. In the Short Story "Angels and Aliens" by Jon R. Osborne, religion is far from dead, but organized religion is doing poorly: the protagonist is a Catholic priest who joins the Berzerkers mercenary company as a chaplain to find that much of the membership are neo-pagans (everything from Asatrus to Wiccans).
  • Zigzagged in the Arrivals from the Dark series and its spin-off series Trevelyan's Mission. The main series starts in the late 21st century, and this trope is decidedly averted there, with radical Islam and the related terrorism being rampant and the main reason for the creation of a unified Space Navy by the dominant global powers. Following the Alien Invasion, cults spring up, believing that the aliens were humanity's intended saviors and even those believing they were descended from those same aliens. The spin-off series takes place in the 29th century, and it's stated that, while a good number of humans still believe in various faiths, organized religion is pretty much gone due to the predominant view that a person's faith is a deeply personal thing that doesn't require a priest or a minister. Also averted with some alien races, such as the Kni'lina, who are at the same technological level of development as humanity, but one of their two main factions deeply believes in a prophet-like figure and treats him as divine. The other faction is highly pragmatic, but still views that figure with respect.
  • Downplayed in The Lost Fleet, where most religious beliefs have been supplanted by ancestor worship. In fact, every warship has a chapel located deep inside it, in the most protected part of the ship. Geary ends his every message with, "To the honor of our ancestors," which is apparently some sort of traditional formality that is rarely observed in modern times. The Syndicate Worlds play the trope a bit straighter; it's mentioned in passing in the first of The Lost Stars spinoff series that observance of the same ancestor-worship practices seen in the Alliance are officially frowned upon (probably because nobody could figure out how to exploit them for money or power) but not actually outlawed.
    • The prequel series The Genesis Fleet shows the beginnings of this belief as a cult that springs up in the recently-settled frontier colonies, as the settlers start looking back at Old Earth with a measure of nostalgia.
  • Being a staunch secular humanist almost to the point of being The Last DJ for logical positivism, it should come as no surprise that Greg Egan frequently uses this trope in his writings. When it is averted, this is still a sign that the believer isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, or is using it as a cover for his emotional issues, or else just wants to control others:
    • Religion doesn’t really come up much in the near-future setting of Permutation City, and after the heroes upload their minds to a virtual world their new society is wholly atheistic, and the climax features First Contact with a race of perfectly rational and peaceful aliens who never developed religion. They aren’t epistemologically flawless though, because their limited understanding of the “natural” world means they do not understand that their universe is a simulation, and so mock the heroes’ claim of being from a different world that won’t suffer heat death. This causes the destruction of the virtual universe. At the very end, the female lead hypothesizes that God’s existence is just as impossible as a triangle with four sides.
    • The Orthogonal trilogy is in a world with different laws of physics, and features as an inevitability that advanced societies abandon religion for scientific inquiry.
    • Religion still exists millennia from now in “Oceanic”, but only because civilization collapsed and settlers of the planet were cut off from galactic civilization. It is strongly implied that the resurgence of religion brought back misogyny and war.
    • In every story which takes place after The Singularity, religion is no longer practiced because everyone knows advanced physics as thoroughly as modern people know basic arithmetic.
    • Perhaps the most Anvilicious is “The Planck Dive”, which has a subplot which is an extended Take That! to the theories of Joseph Campbell. The character who prattles on about mythic archetypes is a pompous boor who repeatedly disrespects the scientific team and cares nothing for their explanations, and is convinced that the crew are Hollywood Atheists who need to be freed from their empty lives of Measuring the Marigolds. His ignorance is so annoying that one character in exasperation says that mythic archetypes only appear to be universal because oral stories are inevitably simplified to the Lowest Common Denominator in the retelling, and anybody who composes such a story on purpose is completely missing the point of storytelling.
  • In Space Viking by H. Beam Piper, religion as such isn't used by many of the space-faring human societies, and those that do, such as the Gilgameshers, are considered rather odd. The current stellar calendar dates from the beginning of the "Atomic Era", mid-twentieth century. (Whether they date from the first atomic explosion at Alamogordo or the bomb dropped on Hiroshima isn't specified.) On Gram, New Year's is specified as a day when gifts are given and received, apparently having taken up Christmas' role.
  • The Celendrial Empire from Dark Shores is militantly atheist and views people who still pray to gods as "pagans". This is offense that is punished by death.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation (1951):
    • "The Mayors": Mayor Salvor Hardin's Scam Religion is an inverted example; he turns science into a religion of complicated rituals in order to make it palatable to the conquered Four Kingdoms. It's later used (increasingly unsuccessfully) to try and convert new systems to the Foundation's rule, and more or less abandoned after "The Merchant Princes".
    • "The Merchant Princes": The religion created by Salvor Hardin (in "The Mayors") to make Foundation technology palatable to the Four Kingdoms has been ridiculously unsuccessful at converting new systems to the Foundation's rule. Master Trader Hober Mallow realizes that the time for rule by religion is over and now it is time for rule by capitalism.
  • E E Doc Smith’s Skylark Series has an early SF aversion before this trope ever got off the ground: the heroes make First Contact with the Kondalian civilization, which is slightly more advanced than Earth, but will still has a state-sanctioned religion, though it has a mythologized take on evolutionary theory. The idea is supposed to be that Kondal has been a technologically advanced society for so long that its religion has come to incorporate scientific facts, which is still a unique approach even today. However, this is ultimately not very important and the sequels written after SF pulp magazines came into being have no other religious aliens.
  • Christian Magicians are rare in The Magicians trilogy.
  • A Long Time Until Now: It's mentioned that religions still exist in the future era, but pretty much all adherents treat their holy texts as symbolic or metaphorical, and don't truly believe in the supernatural.
  • The Witchkings in The Arts of Dark and Light were anti-religious as well as Above Good and Evil. Generally, their philosophy is presented as a mixture of amoral scientific positivism and Nietzschean transcendance, which in practice ends up as Transhumanism. During their reign, they tried to destroy The Church completely, though this ultimately failed.
  • Semiosis: Invoked by the humans who first colonize the planet Pax; they consider religion an "Earthly irrationality" and deliberately avoid teaching their descendants about it.
  • The Trees of Pride: Deconstructed by Doctor Brown in his Motive Rant.
    Doctor Brown: In other words, the peasants were right. But if I put it that way, somebody will cry: ‘But do you believe it was supernatural then?’ In fact, that’s what you’ll all say; and that’s exactly what I complain of. I fancy hundreds of men have been left dead and diseases left undiscovered, by this suspicion of superstition, this stupid fear of fear. Unless you see daylight through the forest of facts from the first, you won’t venture into the wood at all. Unless we can promise you beforehand that there shall be what you call a natural explanation, to save your precious dignity from miracles, you won’t even hear the beginning of the plain tale. Suppose there isn’t a natural explanation! Suppose there is, and we never find it! Suppose I haven’t a notion whether there is or not! What the devil has that to do with you, or with me in dealing with the facts I do know?

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • While this appears to some extent in the sequel series, due to series creator Gene Roddenberry being a proponent of the idea, the Original Series directly averted this trope at its inception, due to a strong focus on multiculturalism. In fact, Kirk's Enterprise canonically has an interfaith chapel: It appears in the wedding ceremony (which Kirk, like a 20th Century naval captain, gets to officiate) in "Balance of Terror." It is also mentioned on the list of sets in the Original Series's 1960's writer's guide, and is shown in the official Blueprints of the U.S.S. Enterprise.note  The wedding ceremony includes the phrase, "in accordance with our laws and many beliefs."
    • In one episode, Kirk tells Apollo (or at least a being who claims to be Apollo) the following: "Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate."note  Kirk also reveals a more spiritual side at the end of the episode when he tells Bones, "They gave us so much... would it have hurt us to gather just a few laurel leaves?"
    • One of the many Planet of Hats that Kirk et. al. visited was a rather Roman Empire-based one, where a former Starfleet captain acts as the First Citizen. They also met a small group of people that were a mix of La Résistance and worshipers of "the Sun". After the fact, Uhura reveals she'd monitored their radio broadcasts and discovered they were talking not of the Sun in the sky, but the Son of God.
    • In "The Ultimate Computer," the fact that Federation computer expert Dr. Daystrom — and, consequently, the sentient computer he has built — believed in Godnote  becomes a plot point. Kirk makes the computer realize that in committing murder, it has committed a terrible sin. Out of remorse, it self-destructs.
    • In "Day of the Dove", Kirk tells Kang, "Go to the Devil!" Kang replies, "We [Klingons] have no Devil... but we are very familiar with the habits of yours." Cue use of torture. Years later, the Next Generation then introduced a figure in Klingon religion named Fek'lhr in "The Devil's Due", who is described as their "Devil". However, he's really more akin to Cerberus from Classical Mythology, being a warden of their Hell.
    • The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" has Spock (disguised as a distant cousin) claim to his father Sarek that he is visiting the Vulcan city of ShiKahr to honor their family's gods.
    • The Next Generation episode "Rightful Heir" deals with Kahless, the revered founder of the Klingon Empire and ancestor figure in Klingon history. There is a shrine of Klingon priests who await the return of Kahless — and who create a clone of him to "stabilize" the empire (to their advantage); however, once the clone learns his real nature, he turns out to be an honest sort who tries to fulfill his position as sort-of-but-not-really Kahless honorably (think less "second coming" and more "heir to his legacy"). Generally, the different Trek series treat the Klingons' faith in Kahless in a positive light.
    • Of all the Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation was by far the most overt about it, with Picard explicitly invoking this trope in speeches in "Encounter At Farpoint" and "Who Watches the Watchers?" Not coincidentally it was when Roddenberry fully controlled things.
      • The most Anviliciously atheistic Star Trek ever got was in the third season TNG episode "Who Watches the Watchers". A group of Federation scientists are using holographic technology to watch a primitive Vulcanoid culture that has apparently abandoned religion. The Federation equipment breaks down, revealing their existence and "magical powers" to the locals, one of whom declares they must be gods and tries to restart the Old Time Religions. Picard takes the leader up and explains to her that the Federation are merely Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, not gods. The episode then goes into Author Filibuster mode, referring to humanity's religious era as "the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear." Afterwards, an away team goes down to the planet to explain how irrational it is to believe in gods, saying that they never show up or tell believers what they want, and that believers are left putting their faith in what other mortals tell them.
      • Then again, in "Where Silence Has Lease", Data asks Picard about death. Picard gives a philosophical answer which shows that although he's not explicitly religious, and doesn't believe in a traditional Heaven, he also rejects the idea that death is the end, believing there must be something more, even if people may not have any idea of its exact nature. The way he speaks about the cosmic order of the universe indicates he may be at least deist or pantheist.
    • In "Déjà Q", Q has been turned into a human and sarcastically contemplates becoming a missionary. Data states that such a line of work would be admirable, implying that there are still humans who view religion positively.
    • Deep Space Nine is a seven-year mix of affirmations and denials of this trope. The station's commander was declared an alien Jesus in the first episode, later found alien gods to confirm it, then started having visions and became a god himself. Overall the series takes a balanced view: while several episodes (mostly dealing with recurring character Winn Adami) decry the abuse of religion as a political tool or an excuse to discriminate against others, the show as a whole doesn't condemn the practice of religion itself. Part of what makes it confusing is that the Prophets can back up everything their believers say about them; the first season finale had a dispute on whether they were technically gods or not fizzle out when everybody realized they were arguing over semantics and all agreed on the key points.
    • Then there's the Klingons, whose mythology in this series says that the ancient Klingons killed their gods. The details vary: Worf says "They were more trouble than they were worth" when queried, while Lady Sirella relates a story of how the gods were killed by the heartbeats of the first Klingon couple when they met (the tale is part of the traditional Klingon marriage rite).
    • In the DS9 episode "Penumbra," after Sisko proposes to Kasidy Yates, she mentions her mother would want them to be married by a minister.
    • Star Trek: Voyager's Commander Chakotay is the most visibly religious human protagonist in the entire franchise (even if the religion he practices is a poorly researched mishmash of Native American and New Age ideas), and the other characters are consistently very respectful of his beliefs. Notably, his is the only real voice of spiritual consolation to Neelix after Neelix suffers a Crisis of Faith in his alien religion in "Mortal Coil."
    • "Mortal Coil" is one of the most thoughtful explorations of the idea in the franchise, albeit a very dark one. After Neelix has been medically declared dead, Seven of Nine is able to revive him via phlebotinum. Neelix suffers a Crisis of Faith in his alien religion because he did not catch any glimpse of the afterlife. Chakotay tries to reassure him and lets him use a gizmo to go on a vision quest into his own psyche, but this only upsets him more, despite Chakotay's insistance that he may be misinterpreting what he saw. Neelix finally finds the strength to keep going after speaking with little Naomi Wildman, but still ends the episode emotionally wounded and full of more questions than answers.
    • In "Hunters," Tuvok receives a message from his family on Vulcan. His wife assures him they are praying for his safe return. At a temple.
    • In "Dagger of the Mind", and in Star Trek: Generations, it is shown that they still celebrate Christmas and actually call it that, instead of the current contemporary habit of "Holiday Season". They don't, however, celebrate it with our modern commercial strain. It seems to consist instead of parties among friends.
    • In one episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, Phlox mentions that while on Earth, he sampled a number of Earth religions, visiting a Buddhist monastery and attending mass in St. Peter's Square. When asked about his own beliefs, Archer states that he prefers to keep an open mind. The episode "Cold Front" involves the crew playing host to a group of alien religious pilgrims, who are portrayed in a positive light. However, a later episode, "The Chosen Realm" deals with an alien race who worship the creators of the Delphic Expanse. Having examined the inside of one of the anomaly-creating spheres and discovering nothing more than extremely advanced technology, the crew of the Enterprise are understandably skeptical about this religion, but the episode is more about religious extremism than religion itself (the episode ends with the Enterprise finding the alien homeworld in ruins). However, the reveal that the two religious groups differ only in how many days it took to create the Delphic Expanse makes others see the conflict as ridiculous.
  • Some could see Stargate SG-1 as one big Take That! against organized religion. The eponymous team spends at least half of the plot convincing primitive groups that their gods are fake and should forget about them, even the ones with the characteristics of actual gods: they are, after all, merely sufficiently advanced aliens posing as gods, either snaky parasites out to exploit humans or well-meaning Little Gray Guys trying to help.
    • With the Ori, things are more blurry: they actually qualify as gods according to one Real Life religion and would do so in most fantasy series, but writer intent evidently considers them false gods as well. After a few episodes of dealing with ridiculously headstrong groups, the team basically settles on "Just because they're powerful enough to claim godhood, doesn't mean you should actually worship them!"
    • Many other episodes reference religion directly in subtle or not so subtle ways, like "The Sentinel", where the Latonans refuse to evacuate in the face of an alien invasion, constantly referencing their "highest law".
    • Things were handled a little differently in "Red Sky". A planet is doomed and the people refuse to leave as they think their death is the will of the gods (specifically the Asgard, although they don't know who they are specifically). While Jack is more than willing to destabilize their belief system, Daniel tells him that while the possible existence of their gods is not important, the belief is. At the end of the episode, the resolution is deliberately left unclear. It may be that the Asgard fixed the problem, but Daniel wonders if it's possible that a higher power did intervene.
    • "Icon" featured an incident similar to the aforementioned TNG "Who Watches the Watchers". The arrival of SG-1 on the planet Tegalus causes a Goa'uld-worshiping extremist faction to gain in popularity, eventually starting a civil war that aggravates a cold war. Difference is, the SGC views it as a purely military/political problem that's keeping them from rescuing Daniel, who was trapped on Tegalus by the war.
    • Slightly different from the norm, the episode "Demons" features a planet of Christian-ish people where the Goa'uld in question is pretending to be Satan rather than God, with Unas as his demons, but despite Teal'c mentioning that he does not believe any Goa'uld is capable of the "kindness expressed in your Bible", the plot goes largely as standard. The villagers are firmly in The Dung Ages and still practice trepanning, the priest is a pompous jackass who exploits their fear to keep his power, and they refuse to accept SG-1's help, imprisoning them and putting Teal'c through deadly "witch trials" (though they went for the more historically accurate Drown The Witch instead of Burn the Witch!). A villager in the end even stands up to the Unas with only his faith to protect him, declaring that "My God is with me, always." In the end, the one villager who believed SG-1 killed the Unas, and they no longer believe it's a demon.
    • Interestingly, one episode linked Buddhism to an alien philosophy about seeking Ascension. As Ascension was later confirmed to be a very real thing, this actually gave Buddhism some credence.
    • Stargate Atlantis has plenty of Take That! moments against religion:
      • In "Poisoning the Well", the scientific search for a Wraith immunity drug has become a religion, with libraries of knowledge as a church analogue and a famous scientist's lab notes are a sort of holy text. The real clincher is the population's eagerness to take the unsafe product, even when they know exactly how unsafe it is.
      • In "Sanctuary", they find an incredibly primitive world untouched by the Wraith, whose inhabitants lead idyllic lives, all of which they attribute to their goddess, Athar. Said goddess, it turns out, is actually an ascended being that takes mortal form to serve as Athar's high priestess. McKay is a definite Jerkass over it, and gets some flak over it. Chaya however isn't bothered by it at all. When Sheppard apologizes for McKay's behaviour, she points out that McKay is simply acting according to his beliefs, making him no different from her people who act according to theirs.
      • Subverted in "The Tower". A local is hesitant to take McKay to some caverns saying it isn't safe. McKay states that he doesn't care about their "primitive taboos" and says the caves are safe, only for the local to say it's the very real danger of earthquakes that make the caves unsafe.
    • Stargate Universe features a religious character whose faith was a plot point and treated positively. Many fans on the official forum cried They Changed It, Now It Sucks!.
    • The morality of the god or gods in question and the situation seems to be the most important thing. The various teams don't really go out of their way to dissuade the belief of a given population Sufficently Advanced Aliens are gods if they are benevolent such as with the Asgard and the belief is harmless. However, if like with the Ori and Goa'uld the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens are posing as gods in order to exploit the populace and/or the belief causes the people to do harmful things like in Icon and Red Sky above they try to shake them out of it. Whether "gods" deserve reverence and worship is a strong theme of the franchise.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): "The Obsolete Man" was set in a future society where religion had been outlawed. Only one man still believed in God, and he was sentenced to death for being obsolete. He was allowed to choose how he died; he chose to be bombed on live television. The high official who sentenced him to death came to his cell to speak with him, only for the door to lock behind him. He panicked and shouted, "In the name of God, let me out!" The condemned man did — in the name of God. In the final scene, the official is sentenced to death for being obsolete.
  • Doctor Who has a big case of Depending on the Writer in regards to this trope. The setting as a whole is inconsistent; sometimes religion is prominent even in "advanced" societies, other times it's absent, obsolete, or discredited. The Doctor himself, one of the oldest, most intelligent, and best-traveled beings in the universe, has never been portrayed as religious himself; he's just as inconsistent, sometimes being respectful of religions and their leaders and other times dismissing them. Many plots from the original series involved the Doctor saving people from worshiping a dangerous "god" who turns out to be advanced technology, a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, or an Eldritch Abomination.
    • The Doctor shows particular respect to Buddhism in "The Abominable Snowman"; he bows to the wisdom of a Buddhist priest, returns to them a sacred item, and uses Buddhist prayer to help Victoria resist the Great Intelligence. The Expanded Universe book Eye of Heaven has the Fourth Doctor recount the unshown adventure leading up to "The Abominable Snowman", claiming that his life had been saved by Buddhist faith healing performed on him by the priest, and using "Buddhist wisdom" to put himself into a "healing coma" that allowed him to recover from being shot through the heart.
    • In "Planet of the Spiders", the eponymous villains worship the Great One as a sort of God Empress and use their religion to exploit and brutalize the enslaved humans on their planet. By contrast, the Third Doctor engages in Buddhist philosophy again, and a fellow Time Lord (believed by many fans to be a previously mentioned monk who mentored the Doctor in his youth) is living on Earth as a Buddhist priest.
    • The Fourth Doctor period is the most visible user of the trope; he frequently mocked mysticism and magic of all sorts, and his tenure featured the highest proportion of "the Doctor fights religion" plots. His companion Leela was even designed to contrast her savagery and superstition against the Doctor's pacifism and scientific knowledge, with their first scene in "The Robots of Death" having the Doctor explicitly tell Leela that magic doesn't exist. Leela had already begun to question her original faith in "The Face of Evil"; in her first scene in the series she's taunting her own high priest, shouting "Liar! There is no Xoannon!!"
      • On the other hand, the story arcs featuring the White and Black Guardians — who, at least metaphorically, clearly represented God and the Devil and weren't at all subtle about it — began during the 4th Doctor years and continued into the 5th Doctor's era.
    • Implied in "The Ark in Space", where Vira, a far future human with quite an alien mindset, immediately explains to the Doctor and his companions that the Ark leader's nickname Noah was taken from "mythology", as if expecting them not to know.
    • The Fifth Doctor episode "Kinda" is, again, full of Buddhist symbolism.
    • This was enforced in the first four seasons of the reboot series, which had little to no mention of magic or religion. Showrunner Russell T Davies was a staunch atheist, found it utterly implausible for the Doctor or any of his advanced alien cohorts to be religious, and declared, "That's what I believe, so that's what you're going to get. Tough, really. To get rid of those so-called agendas, you've got to get rid of me." (The heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" in "Gridlock" notwithstanding, apparently.)
    • Davies was followed by Steven Moffat, who threw both sides of religion back into the mix. The Big Bads of series 5 and 6 were an intergalactic religious order who manipulate people through post-hypnotic commands, and religion and the military became practically the same thing in the future. Series 7 reveals that the previous Big Bads, though, were a splinter faction from what's essentially Space Catholicism; while he may not agree with her order's tenets, the Doctor is good friends with Tasha Lem, Mother Superious of the the Church of the Papal Mainframe.
    • The Tenth Doctor more or less says in "The Satan Pit" that he doesn't believe in God or any sort of higher power, or at least he's never run across anything to convince him that such a power exists. Given that he's run into various super-powerful "god"-like beings, such as Sutekh, Fenric, and the White and Black Guardians, that's quite a statement.
    • One of the Doctor's nicknames in the reboot era is "the lonely god". There's nobody on his level anymore, not even the other Time Lords, much less anything higher that he recognizes. The responsibility of it wears him down.
    • The Twelfth Doctor is actually open to the idea of an afterlife (and mentions he always meant to take a look), but he finds the version presented in "Dark Water" to be absolutely ludicrous. He's right; it's a ploy by Missy to freak out the world's rich and powerful for the purposes of creating an army of the dead. She did end up creating a virtual afterlife in the process, though.
    • The Thirteenth Doctor is shown to be very respectful of religions, even participating in a few minor but important prayers. The Doctor is mentioned in something called "the Book of Celebrants," and she apologizes for her ignorance when she mistook some time-traveling priests for murderers (they show up whenever someone dies alone to pray with them).
  • Farscape takes an interesting perspective on religion for a sci-fi show. Although it doesn't discuss religion extraordinarily often, several crew members practice various alien religions, and some of them are quite devout. The show also demonstrates that gods and magic really do exist in their universe, some more than others. The Peacekeepers, on the other hand, play this trope straight, with an entire episode, "Prayer", devoted to Aeryn recounting the ancient legend of a Sebacean goddess (implying that they no longer believe in gods in the present day) and praying to her for rescue; for added desperation points, Aeryn notes that the reason this particular goddess doesn't have any followers anymore is because she killed them all on a whim.
  • A sketch on The Kids in the Hall featured a futuristic society that celebrated Bellini Day, in which the characters referred to a time period where mankind was so stupid they actually believed in someone named God.
  • Babylon 5
    • Creator J. Michael Straczynski, an atheist himself, deliberately avoided this trope in the series (in contrast with Star Trek), with all the major species having beliefs of various kinds and strengths, and a mix of believers and non-believers. The straightest example is probably Lorien, who says his people have lived so long they simply had no more use for such things. In "The Lost Tales", mention is made of how religion has been declining since humanity went to space and made contact with other races, but it still has a considerable presence in Earth-influenced space and among the alien races. The Catholic Church is alive and well; over the course of the series Babylon 5 becomes home to a small but thriving Dominican community who mostly concern themselves with comparative religious studies. Babylon 5 is also chosen to host an ecumenical conference at one point (involving Catholics, a Baptist church complete with gospel choir and a delegation from the Church of Elvis). In a Bad Future orders of monks also preserve humans' knowledge after nuclear war wipes out civilization, much like monasteries did during the Dark Ages. Humanity's main distinction is just how many extant religions there are; in an event where all the ambassadors were displaying their cultures' dominant faiths, the Human exhibition was just a long line of people who all had different beliefs.
    • Among the human main characters: Sinclair is a Catholic, and was instructed by Jesuits as an adolescent. Ivanova is originally a lapsed Jew, but reconnects with her faith in the first season. Franklin is a Foundationist, a syncretic future religion which holds that all the galaxy's existing faiths reflect some part of a greater truth (rather like real-life Unitarian Universalists). Garibaldi is agnostic but was raised Catholic. Zack Allen's religion is unknown, but he believes in Heaven. Sheridan doesn't follow an organised religion, describing his beliefs as "eclectic". To further muddle things, Sheridan himself becomes something of a messianic figure after coming back from the dead.
    • Among the aliens:
      • Narns like G'Kar follow the teachings of a variety of gurus. G'Kar is a follower of G'Quan, and apparently has some prominence among them. He is shown reading religious texts, leading ceremonies and, at one point, writing a religious text of his own.
      • Londo makes several references to various Centauri deities, including some dead Emperors. He owns several statuettes of various deities, and while he doesn't seem to be overly religious he pays at least lip service to his people's gods.
      • Delenn and Lennier are prominent members of the Minbari Religious caste, though Minbari religion makes little outright reference to gods and seems more focused on personal enlightenment. That said, they do revere a sort of messianic figure in their history named Valen, and often swear in Valen's name, which is really interesting once we learn that Valen is Delenn's friend and former B5 station commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, a human sent back in time a thousand years to lead the Minbari in their time of need.
      • There is also a random Pak'ma'ra who makes reference to a religious text to explain why Pak'ma'ra eat carrion but refuse seafood.
    • The portrayals aren't always positive; the deeply religious Markab race die out in their entirety because they cling to their beliefs rather than embracing science, and a young alien boy is killed by his parents in season 1, because they believe a simple surgical procedure (to remove a pulmonary cyst that is slowly choking him to death) has turned their child into a soulless monster.
  • In Red Dwarf the only one of the main characters who shows the slightest religious belief is the robot hard-wired to believe in Silicon Heaven. Though Rimmer mentions that his parents were "Seventh Day Hoppists" (their Bible had a typo) and implies that their religious lunacy is responsible for his Jerkass Hollywood Atheist tendencies.
    • The Cat's species developed a religion worshiping Lister, who wasn't particularly happy about the wars they had in his name. Though the Cat himself proclaims that he doesn't believe any of that stuff.
    • In one episode a newscast announces that the Bible's dedication page and "work of fiction" disclaimer was discovered.
    • Christianity is disproved again in the episode, Lemons. Rimmer says his mother belonged to a religious sect that believed Jesus and Judas were identical twin brothers, with Judas pretending to be a resurrected Jesus after Jesus died. Time travel confirms this to be true.
    • Lemons also implies that people in the future see Christianity as a bad thing due to all the wars it started. The only reason the dwarfers don't use time travel to stop it is that there would be no Wallace & Gromit Christmas specials if there was no Christianity. A time travelling Jesus also comes to the same conclusion about Christianity starting wars after reading through a future encyclopedia.
  • The Orville: Seth MacFarlane has never made it a secret about how he views religion (see Family Guy below). Add the show's Star Trek flavor of humanism, and it's no shock that this trope is heavily in play.
    • Discussed in regards to the Krill, as unlike most advanced civilizations, they have increased in religiosity rather than decreasing. Their religion teaches that other species are soulless abominations lacking in true intelligence and sentience, more akin to animals than people, going so far as to use captive humans as sacrifices. Later they explain that species have been observed as having two reactions to finding other life and going into space. One is becoming humble, and no longer thinking they were the center of the universe. The other is doubling down, becoming very xenophobic. Obviously the Krill did that. Ed mentions before they were more peaceful, and it's possible also had a more passive interpretation of their religion.
    • Seems to be the way for society in general as by the 29th century, where "You can go to hell" is a complete non sequitur.
    • The Chief Engineer still exclaims "Oh my God" after a crewmember is badly hurt. Alara also uses this phrase, and she is an alien. Of course, for most even now that's just an expression.
    • The society influenced by Kelly during its Bronze Age eventually grows out of religious fundamentalism and embraces reason.
    • Humans appear to no longer have believers in astrology, as when dealing with the Regorians (with a belief system that's entirely based on it) some must have the basic concept explained. They also hope that, due to their efforts, the Regorians will outgrow their belief too (which is basically the religion there).
    • However in the episode "If the Stars Should Appear" Ed says “Hi, I'm Captain Ed Mercer of the Jehovah's Witnesses.” As a joke. Even though it’s a joke it could imply that the Witnesses still exist so humanity might not have completely outgrown religion. It's likely however that he was just referencing the past for the joke.
  • Used to portray the future dystopia of Blake's 7. In "Pressure Point", Blake has to explain to Gan what a church is as "The Federation had them all destroyed at the beginning of the New Calendar." While the Clonemasters have pseudo-religous trappings, they are a creation of the Federation used to keep control of their forbidden knowledge. In "Cygnus Alpha", the cult leaders use a phony religion to keep their society united on a penal planet with limited resources. Other than these examples however the trope is played straight, as we don't see anyone turning to religious belief to cope with their existence in a Crapsack World. Neither does the Federation use a state religion as a tool of power, which they'd certainly do if religious beliefs had any currency among the population.
  • Brave New World: Mond and the Director muse that John is in (silent) prayer over his mother's body, and it's made clear they're among only a few New Londoners who still even know what this means. To drive home the point, Mond comments that "there was once a thing called 'God'", confirming they no longer have this belief..

    Tabletop Games 
  • Utterly inverted and even defied in Infinity. Not only is religion still around in the future, but it might be more important to humanity than it is now. Of course, the religions of Earth have greatly reformed.
    • Haqqislam is following a version of Islam that embraces progress with numerous Christian and Jewish minorities living in its realms. Jerusalem is still a holy site for the Abrahamic faiths.
    • The nation Panoceania is influenced by the Vatican and can field advanced futuristic crusaders.
    • Yu Jing had the Chinese Communist Party decided to embrace forms of East Asian spirituality in its expansion.
    • Even minor religions like the Druze are still around and their forces are still influenced by their religion.
  • In CthulhuTech, Christianity and Islam are gone; it's not really expounded upon, they're just gone. Presumably, the very real and somewhat provable existence of the old ones made everyone less interested in religions that have a very specific world view that excludes them.
  • Warhammer 40,000 mostly averts this, with Church Militants and Religions Of Evil popping up everywhere, but it still has a few examples:
    • The Tau seem to exhibit divine worship of their Ethereals, but that is more obeisance to their leaders than religion; they otherwise have no belief in anything "magical" or "supernatural", including the very real daemons and other things that inhabit the warp. As a race with no psychers and whose souls barely touch the warp, in practical terms thinking of daemons as just another hostile alien race is true enough for practical purposes. They are by far the most socially and technologically progressive faction in the setting, which admittedly isn't saying much.
    • The Eldar believe in the existence of their gods and invoke the power of one (Khaine) on a semi-regular basis, but they don't worship them; they mostly just use them for Oh My Gods!. This is because all but three of their gods were eaten by a Chaos god, and there is no real point to much of their religion anymore (except for Cegorach the Laughing God, but only the Harlequins worship him).
    • The Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind tried to invoke this, creating a society of Flat Earth Atheists because he thought it would starve the Chaos gods (which was not only unlikely to work, as the Chaos Gods don't need worship, but backfired because while people were channeling their emotions to those religions, they were denying them to the Chaos Gods). Being 40K, it failed miserably and made everything worse. Ironically, he himself ended up being worshiped by the humans of the Imperium.
      • Amusingly enough, when he destroyed the last vaguely-Abrahamic church on Terra (in the short story The Last Church) the priest explained exactly why this would happen.
  • In Eclipse Phase, many religions didn't survive the Fall and the exodus via Brain Uploading from earth, but new faiths arose to fill in the gaps. The most common is Neo-Buddhism, Buddhism combined with Transhumanism, where uploading is seen as a form of reincarnation and the emphasis is on lessening suffering rather than escaping it. Oddly, Islam was able to adapt to uploading, but the other Abrahamic faiths largely couldn't. The Catholic church is also still influential in the Jovian Junta, with its large population that managed to escape Earth in their original bodies.
  • Zig-zagged in New World of Darkness, where becoming one of the supernatural races may or may not result in a weakening of old religious beliefs.
  • Actively averted in BattleTech. All five Successor States have active and vibrant religions and religious traditions. Alongside Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and the other mainstream real life faiths, many, many new in-universe faiths have cropped up from the benignnote  to the esoteric note . Notable amongst the religions in the setting is ComStar which was a constructed religion intent originally on preserving the technological knowledge of the Inner Sphere from the coming Succession Wars. Unfortunately, the faith's founders realized and feared, but were powerless to stop the eventual corruption of that ideal into the Word of Blake. All in all, religion is presented fairly even-handedly for a science fiction setting note .
    • Zig-zagged where it comes to the Clans. They are officially atheistic, though even that is not an absolute. All of the Clans have some sort of reverence, sometimes bordering on worship, for Alexander and Nicholas Kerensky, and Clans Coyote, Cloud Cobra, Goliath Scorpion and Nova Cat all have some sort of spirituality aspect to their practices. Further, the Clans, even the more hard-edged atheist ones, are not shown to be morally or intellectually superior to the Inner Sphere.


    Video Games 
  • Baten Kaitos Origins twists this trope. It starts off with a fairly simple Science Is Bad message, but then it turns out that in the distant past people became practically addicted to the supernatural, and so a bunch of siblings in the past decided to try and stop them from being turned into pure magical essence by making a Deal with the Devil to gain even more supernatural powers, but then they all get sealed into the End Magnus from the first game. Then it turns out that the process that gave Sagi the supernatural power of one of the siblings was a scientific one, but he then uses that power to save the world. While getting a boost from the spirits of the dead siblings, no less. In short, rejecting the supernatural and focusing on science — or vice versa — is a Very Bad Thing, and the best way to live is with both in tandem with each other.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War is a subversion. According to its backstory, the aftermath of Deus Ex led to The Collapse, in which most people had their faith shaken to the point this trope almost did abandon religion. Then The Order popped up, uniting all of the old faiths into one syncretic philosophy. Later, however, it's revealed that The Order is just a front for The Illuminati, and it's part of their method of controlling polar opposites of society.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus visits the planet Bryyo, which is covered in the ruins of a golden age, the history of which wavers between And Man Grew Proud and this trope. The Reptilicus people there originally had magical powers, then some of them learned how to use technology, and they decided that this was cooler than "primitive" magic. The Chozo warned the Reptilicus not to abandon their religious traditions, instead suggesting that they should embrace them along with their technological progress, as the Chozo themselves had done. Instead, the Lords of Science honked off the magic-using mystics, and there was a big magic-vs-technology war that tore the planet apart. Literally. The Lords of Science won (at first) because by salvaging the planet (more or less), they could prove that their side was better, but this led to the mystics finding their secret location and wiping them out. Without the Lords of Science, the remaining Reptilicus devolved into magical barbarism.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri:
    • The Lord's Believers faction averts this trope very, very strongly.
    • The University of Planet faction is the ideological antithesis of the Lord's Believers game mechanic-wise, but the faction leader Prokhor Zakharov is especially into this trope, as a number of quotes from him for technological advances reveal. According to the prequel short stories, he and Miriam Godwinson (the Lord's Believers faction leader) do not get along well, even back on the UNS Unity.
      • It is important to note that as you get further into the game, Sister Miriam's quotes get less and less focused on religion and more on the human condition in a world rapidly approaching The Singularity, and Zakharov's become less and less focused on science and gain a spritual dimension with more than a hint of Deus Est Machina. Zakharov also isn't shy about describing the Planetmind as an "embryonic deity", since there is more than enough empirical evidence to prove it.
    • The Human Hive faction explicitly seeks to invoke this trope. Its faction leader Shen-ji Yang's social experiment, among other things, as he seeks to eradicate belief in higher powers and replace it with an atheistic police state. This is his explicit agenda in-game. However, his writings draw heavily on East Asian religious tradition, and his end goals have a frightening number of parallels to both the attainment of Nirvana and the Ascent to Transcendence.
    • The Peacekeepers and Data Angels see religion as a relic of the brutal old days of Earth, and they encourage people to put it aside in the name of freedom and social progress. That said, both can take up the "Fundamentalist" social value if they choose, which implies some interesting religious concepts for them.
    • Aside from the Lord's Believers, Gaia's Stepdaughters are noted to be a religious society focused on coexisting with nature, the Cult of Planet is obvious, and both of the Progenitor factions smack of taking their dogma to the point of religion.
  • Largely averted in Alpha Centauri's Spiritual Successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth:
    • The Indian-flavoured Kavithan Protectorate was formed when Raj Thakur managed to keep the various ethnic and religious minorities of the Subcontinent together through the Great Mistake, and his daughter Kavitha has kept them together for 200 years after, or so they claim.
    • Russian Orthodox priests are seen blessing the Slavic Federation colony ship in the intro movie. Also, apparently, there's a New Vatican, and Nikola Tesla has been sainted.
    • Islam is also apparently alive and well, if the new Al Falah faction in Rising Tide is any indication. Probably reinforced by their faction arriving on a Generation Ship.
    • Discovery quotes show that many religions, mythologies and folk tales got updated for a colony on an alien world. The Uncle Nevercloned myths are colonial Oral Traditions in a similar manner to the American stories of Paul Bunyan and John Henry.
    • Many of the Affinities adopt a religious flavour. Supremacy colonies develop a religious reverence for machines and cybernetics, with a strong Catholic flavour. Harmony colonies develop a sort of alien-centred animism in a similar fashion to Shintoism or traditional African and Native American beliefs. One Purity-focused wonder has your culture creating a New Terran Myth.
  • Pandora: First Contact, the other Spiritual Successor to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri:
    • The Divine Ascension is a social media-based religion, founded by Lady Lilith Vermillion (formerly a hooker named Lily Maroon) as a scam to collect blackmail material on her followers. She is eventually shot in the head but survives, although it's implied there's been some brain damage, resulting in her buying into her own religion. Naturally, by the time the Noxium Corporation starts openly selling Alcubierre Drive-powered colony ships, Divine Ascension is one of the few powers who can afford one.
    • To a lesser extent, Terra Salvum, a faction arising from an Animal Wrongs Group. Unlike all other factions, they steal ship plans and build their own, foregoing cryogenics in favor of a Generation Ship. By the time they arrive to Pandora, the kids who have grown up aboard have been firmly indoctrinated into the belief that the other factions mean the planet harm. They also rely on Oral Tradition to tell their stories.
  • Star Ocean 1 has Ronixis, who claims that humanity has moved beyond religion. However, finding himself in the backwards world of Roak, and confronted with the existence of magic, which he'd hitherto never believed existed, he finds himself re-examining his views. The sequels make clear that magic is nothing more than advanced science, however. The third game even simultaneously proves that God exists and provides a scientific explanation for the big jerk.
  • In StarCraft, background material mentions that upon taking control of Earth, the United Powers League (later the United Earth Directorate) promoted state atheism, banning or co-opting all religions and exiling or killing those who didn't adhere (alongside political prisoners, cyber-deviants and other undesirables) in an effort to stamp out the things that have divided the human society. As a result, the territories of the UPL/UED are non-religious, while the Koprulu Sector is teeming with religious groups, ranging from mainstream Christianity to Crystal Dragon Jesus and to even stranger Cults and movements.
  • In BioShock, Andrew Ryan considers religion an obsolete and harmful superstition "people of tomorrow" should have no need for. He strives to eradicate religion in his Objectivist utopia and declares that smuggling religious texts to Rapture is a crime punishable by death. The experiment goes terribly awry.
  • The X-Universe's religious leanings are described in the X-Encyclopedia. About half the Argon consider themselves "spiritual" but don't believe in any particular deity, while most of the rest are atheists. But since they believe in tolerance, the Argon place no stigma on being religious. The Boron have no organized religion and no omnipotent or creator deities, but some believe that after death they will live on in the presence cloud of the Ancients. Averted with the theocratic Paranids, whose religion permeates every aspect of their lives. The Split are the straightest example, viewing their old religions as primitive superstition. No word on the Teladi or Terrans.
  • In backstory of Homeworld, the Kharakians near-entirely abandoned religion after generations of religious wars devastated their already small population, part of a unification of the planet's disparate tribes that placed reason and scientific understanding above all else. Religions still existed to some extent, but their few serious adherents were considered delusional at best and dangerous fanatics at worst. That is, until Kharak was bombed into oblivion; afterwards the survivors experienced a slight resurgence of religious belief, such as the members of Kiith Somtaaw (formerly a minor religious faction before they turned to mining full-time) in Cataclysm.
    • The prequel Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak reveals why they have this reputation; the descendants of one of the two main religious factions secretly built their forces for centuries and made a nearly successful attempt to conquer the world and destroy what little temperate land still existed on the planet. Then the descendants of the other side snapped during the war and tried to form a third faction. It turns out that the main elements are actually true, although mistakenly ascribed to a god rather than a rival star empire.
  • Mass Effect has Loads and Loads of Races, which naturally all have different opinions on the subject:
    • Humans as a whole still follow lots of religions, but space-faring humans to a lesser degree. Ashley implies that she's seen as eccentric for having a religious belief.
    • The hanar worship the very real (though long-extinct) Protheans.
    • The Drell are deeply religious. Thane Krios mentions several Drell gods, including Amonkira, Lord of Hunters, and Arashu, Goddess of Motherhood and Protection. If his son is saved in the second game, he undergoes a Heel–Faith Turn in the third game to become a priest.
    • The most popular asari religion is revealed to be entirely based upon contact with Protheans by their primitive ancestors, heavily implying that ancient religions may be the direct result of alien contact, misconstrued or misremembered by the populations they affected.
    • The turians believe in a form of pantheistic animism, but they're open to experimentation; some turians have been shown adopting Earth religions that mesh well with their worldview, including Zen Buddhism and Confucianism.
    • The quarians don’t believe in gods, but they believe in souls and hold their ancestors in a reverence which sometimes enters into ancestor worship (or was implied to have happened in the past). They in turn are held in near-religious reverence by the robotic Geth race they created, which is made fairly awkward by the way their mutual history includes multiple attempts to wipe each other out (originally triggered by a Geth asking "Does this unit have a soul?") A splinter Geth faction worship the Reapers instead, as a pinnacle of machine existence; the Reapers (who suffer species-wide denial that they are machines) find this insulting.
    • Like the quarians, the krogan also have a form of ancestor worship. They also believe in a place they call the void where the souls of dead krogan go.
    • The salarian religion is said to be similar to Hinduism. It has a "wheel of life" perspective, where the dead are reincarnated to fix the flaws of their previous lives and become better people.
    • Javik implies that the Protheans themselves practiced this trope, though he also mentions that this view was reconsidered after encountering the Reapers. It must be noted that he's an Unreliable Narrator; he grew up in the Prothean Empire after the Reapers had invaded, and he's also, well, Javik.
    • Shepard him/herself can either confirm or deny any religious leanings, or simply note:
    Shepard: Everyone has the right to believe what they want. Says so on the Alliance charter... only in fancier words.
  • Inverted in the FreeSpace game mod Blue Planet. A major part of the story is that mysticism and spirituality are creeping back into society, and there exists at least one Sufficiently Advanced Alien race that is heavily spiritual (or at least, expresses themselves in a spiritual manner). The title of the campaign's first release, "Age of Aquarius", references this: it refers to an age in which, realizing that neither religion alone or science alone has all the answers, people turn to a fusion of the two to reach true understanding.
  • Used but mostly averted in Startopia. An entire race, the Zedem monks, have converted to the same religion, and only two of the game's nine races don't pop into a temple occasionally. The only exceptions are the hedonistic sirens and the scientific Turakken.
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, this is what Walhart wants the world to be like; he advocates the idea of a militaristic and atheistic new world order under his rule to bring an end to war and strife. During their Support conversations, the Player Character admits that while Walhart might be onto something, his world would be no better than a tyranny populated by forcibly-indoctrinated servants who've all been bulled into submission. In response, Walhart agrees — reasoning that, because he lost to the Avatar, he must clearly be in the right. The Hero Chrom also acknowledges Walhart's vision but rejects it on similar grounds, resolving to unite all peoples of all faiths (or lack thereof) by touching their hearts rather than forcing them to bend the knee.
  • This is how Actraiser ends. By defeating the local God of Evil, the Master has ensured that humanity can stand on its own without his help. The last scene depicts a statue of the Master crumbling to dust.
  • Played with in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt:
    • The Nilfgaardian Empire believes gods aren't real. They use this as a license to rape, pillage, and loot temples. Given the supernatural weirdness that goes on in The Witcher world, it probably makes them Hollywood Atheists. They're also hypocrites, because they have their own religion based around God-Emperor worship; suggesting that the Northern pantheon is primitive and backwards is more Cultural Posturing.
    • One sidequest has you running around the swamps of Velen, fixing wayshrines to an ancient crone goddess which have been toppled over. The culprits? A bunch of students from the local university, led by a rather unhinged philosopher who decries religion as a tool of fear and control, even giving Karl Marx's infamous "opium for the masses" line as he explains his actions. Given the witch-hunting craze currently sweeping Novigrad with the help of the Church of the Eternal Fire, he may be right.
  • In Stellaris it generally depends on an empire's chosen ethos on the Materialist-Spiritualist axis, and the strength of those two factions within the empire note . How exactly the Materialsts view the Shroud, the various Extradimensional Beings, the Covenants and the Psionic techs is uncertain. As of Apocalypse, there's also the Great Khan, who, when asked why they don't speak of their people's former religious beliefs, pretty much replies with this (though he promises not to enforce state atheism upon his satraps).
  • Warframe: The game takes place in a Feudal Future where most of humanity's early history has been completely forgotten. Most of the factions have their own religions, which they act as though they are far superior to those silly superstitions everyone else holds.
    • The Orokin Empire referenced ancient myths in the names they gave to their devices, but otherwise made no show of worship. Not much is known for sure, since they are long dead by the time of the game. If anything, they insisted on acting like hedonistic gods themselves.
    • The Grineer spit upon all other religions and traditions as primitive, but they worship the "Twin Queens," a pair of sisters who receive the unconditional love and devotion of all Grineer. For quite a while it's unclear if the Twin Queens are still alive, but it turns out that they are, making them God Empresses.
    • The Corpus worship the Void and the Profit. The Void is an Eldritch Location that is semi-personified as a sort of devil figure, while the Profit is the idea that the only important thing is making money, and those who make more money are morally superior to others. The Profit appears to have been invented by the Orokin in order to control the Corpus.
    • The primitive Ostron tribes of Earth worship the Unum, a powerful intelligence who resides in the Orokin tower in Cetus. What exactly the Unum is remains unclear, but her power is very real, and she prevents any violence in Cetus.
  • Averted in The Outer Worlds. The conflict between science and religeon has been solved, with Intelligent Design considered a scientific fact, and the idea that life, the universe, and everything "just happened one day" and the universe itself can bring order from chaos is considered heresy (it even has a name: Philosophism). People even swear by the Laws of Physics. The local religion, Scientism, is very firmly in the "Opiate of the Masses" camp, however, teaching corporate spew such as "Work fortifies the spirit" and that people will have the exact same job they did in life in heaven. The basic tenants are that The Architect (God) created the universe, automated everything with the Law(s of physics), and sat back to watch it gonote . It seems to be a heavily mutated form of Christianity with some Taoism, Confucian Philosophy, and megacorporate cargo cultism in it.
  • Half-Life 2 zigzags this trope. The Combine is a bunch of Scary Dogmatic Aliens who passed The Singularity a long time ago, if they have any form of religion it is unknown. On the other hand Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx mention God and prayer from time to time. Then there's Father Grigori who may or may not be an ordained Orthodox minister, but certainly acts the part. Oh, and there's the Headcrab Zombies who scream to God for help.

    Web Comics 
  • Awkward Zombie: In one comic where several characters are having a heated debate over their religious differences, Fox — the only one from a Science Fiction space age setting rather than a High Fantasy world — drops in to mock the whole concept of religion. Then Palutena walks in...
    Fox: Oh, you primitive cultures and your god-worship. How quaint.
  • The Law of Purple: Inverted by Caligula; instead of an advanced culture that once had religion but derides it as worthless now, there was almost never any organized religion to speak of and parts of the population are only now discovering it. However, most Caligulians view religious groups as nothing more than cults and consider them highly abnormal.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • In an editor's note (which averts the trope) in Reverend Theo's first appearance, comic author Howard Tayler stated that it's not religion that's "foolishly optimistic" — it's this trope, since it assumes that there will come a time when every possible doubt, question, insecurity and uncertainty about life, humanity and the universe will be definitely answered and addressed by scientific progress.
    • Comes up again much later, when the entire galaxy has gained near-perfect immortality, and they discover an immortal who was still suffering psychological damage due to his warrior culture from ten million years ago.
      Bunni: Are we putting stuff in our brains that will come back to crazy us up in a jillonty years?
      Theo: Probably. That's why I choose to worship a god who helps people change.
      Bunni: What if religion is one of those things?
      Theo: Hoookay... it's time for less God, and more chocolate.
  • In Quantum Vibe, all the characters we see swear by famous scientists and blaspheme by bureaucracy; at first, religion seems not even to have survived as an eccentricity or a memory. It turns out there's a reason for that, and also that the Jews, Christians, and Muslims at least the ones who have survived banded together to form a new order known as The Children of Armageddon.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger: Inverted. Christian churches make the occasional background appearances, and then in the "Probability Bomb" arc, it's revealed (with the author's characteristic subtlety) that atheism is the silly superstition that's been all but universally outgrown.
  • The alien Nemesites in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! appear to have some kind of religion involving a figure named Gaxnarp, complete with holidays, but we are not given any details about it (earlier strips have them sometimes exclaim "Sweet Mothra!" (they're a race of butterfly people, after all), but it's treated as a joke).

    Web Original 
  • Subverted in Babe Ruth: Man-Tank Gladiator. The priest writing the story mentions regards old religions (from what we'd call The Present Day) as outdated superstitions, but he believes his religion is absolute truth.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Magicracy of Alent believes only in the power of man, having forsaken the gods who they see as cruel, enslaving beings.
    Berandas: Don't you understand? We are the gods' unwanted children. We are the castoffs, the forgotten. And instead of following some doomsday cult, believing ourselves lost and hopeless like the Grey Cult, or clinging to some decayed bloodline like the Crimson Coalition, we will stand and fight for humanity! The gods don't like our choice of allies, our rising technology? They can burn for all I care, they have never helped us.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2273 is a Super Soldier from an Alternate Universe where Atheism is Russia's official religion, though he found peace with Christianity in the Broken Masquerade canon.
  • In Teen Lit Wasteland, Scott Dunkelman, the founder of the Scientific State of California (a pastiche of Chicago from Divergent), created the union system, or "Enlightened Science", as a way of helping humanity as a whole do this, believing that ancient superstitions like religion, ethnicity, and tribalism, and the identity politics that they fueled, had torn humanity apart and caused the Collapse. Enlightened Science instead became a religion itself, increasingly detached from actual science in favor of Dunkelman's own fixations, a melange of Silicon Valley techno-utopianism, nerd culture, Eastern religions, and pop psychology.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied rather savagely in the South Park two-part episode "Go, God, Go" and "Go, God, Go Part XII". Cartman awakens in a Hollywood Atheist future where atheism has replaced religion. Religious factionalism and conflict have been replaced with various equally fanatical atheist factionalism and conflict. People shout things like "Hail science!", "science dammit", and "Science H. Logic!" instead of their religious equivalents. Ultimately, the episode is about how atheists are just as susceptible to stupidity as the followers of any religion. Especially since the whole reason the atheists split off into several factions and started fighting each other in the first place was because they couldn't agree on what name to call themselves.
    • After the past is fixed (mainly by splitting Richard Dawkins from the awful Ms. Garrison), the Future is fixed - but they're now at war over resources. The various Spiritual Leaders are also much more pleasant to talk to than the shouty secular authority figures, as well (the Sea Otter king is replaced by a soft-spoken and amiable prophet in the new timeline).
  • Shows by Seth MacFarlane have used this trope as a Take That! toward religion.note 
    • In the Family Guy episode, “Road to The Multiverse”, Brian and Stewie visit a parallel universe where a lack of Christianity allows the U.S. to progress technologically by a thousand years, though the arts had stagnated for a similar amount of time.
    • Similarly, one episode of American Dad! is set in 2045, with the present referred to as "when people still believed in The Bible."
    • Seth has zig-zagged on this. In the Family Guy episode "I Dream of Jesus", Jesus has come to Earth and spends time with the Griffin family. There's also American Dad!, where Stan Smith is a devout Christian and there's the episode "Rapture's Delight", where the Rapture occurs.
      • That Brian continues to be an atheist in the face of God and Jesus obviously existing in-universe, to the point of Peter having met God (who was jinxing the Patriots) face to face, and the whole family having dined with Jesus and seen him perform a miracle (making Lois's boobs considerably larger and turning the kids' drinks into milkshakes), is occasionally lampshaded by Stewie.
  • In Justice League, Hawkgirl comes from an advanced alien civilization which gave up religion eons ago (because their god was an Eldritch Abomination who demanded their souls in sacrifice), but after a certain episode she comes to believe that there is… something good… out there.

    Real Life 
  • It was first attempted in revolutionary France.
    • Since the Catholic Church was widely corrupt before the Revolution and the largest landowner in France, a clash between them and Revolutionary forces was inevitable, beginning with the Civic Constitution of Clergynote  and persisting with Dechristianization, which sought to replace and convert Catholic iconography with non-religious ideas which ultimately resulted in vandalism of churches, monasteries and graveyards. Cemeteries were defaced with "Death is an Eternal Sleep", priests and nuns were targeted and censured and often guillotined, and popular Republican movements such as the Cult of Reason, preaching the perfection of humanity through reason, and replaced busts of Jesus with busts of revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, while the statue of the Roman goddess Liberty was installed in the Notre Dame.note  Maximilien Robespierre opposed Dechristianization, but since the Catholic Church was involved in the counter-revolution, he compromised by replacing the Cult of Reason with the Cult of the Supreme Being, hoping to win over religious sentiments by transmuting it to deist Republicanism. His Festival of the Supreme Being was a huge popular success but a political suicide, and with his downfall it ended. Ten years later Napoleon Bonaparte brought back the Church to its prior position via his concordat after becoming Emperor.
    • You can see some of the influence of the anticlerical forces in The Song of Bernadette. This took place in 1858, and the French Emperor is shown declaring that an atheist is "the most stupid thing a sovereign could be", but the church is still plenty worried about anti-Catholic officials and journalists who try to use Bernadette's visions to stir up public antagonism toward the Church.
  • Karl Marx himself disagreed with this trope. He castigated atheist activists of Germany, such as the Young Hegelians, for focusing exclusively on religion as the main problem of contemporary society and the key stumbling block of progress. Marx regarded income inequality as the key reason why religion had appeal, and he noted that it continued in many capitalist and developed nations such as the United States. The famous quote of his usually neglects the sentence which follows: The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. i.e. as poverty and income inequality reduces, religious belief will likewise decline and religion is just one part of the general ideology of state capitalism. A fine print that communist nations neglected. The idea may have some merit, since wealthier countries have grown less religious over time, although that may not be the cause (or just one among many).
    • Though, it could be argued that the income inequality-religion dynamic is due to a "Whistling past the graveyard" effect that wealth produces. In short: the more wealthy you are, the more said wealth provides a kind of buffer between yourself and the vast existential questions/dread that plague the human condition. Those who on the other hand do not have the buffering effect of wealth turn to religion instead. Tellingly, in developed countries, many people are not necessarily irreligious in terms of not believing in God/other, but in the sense that they do not even think about religion at all or at least only a little bit (putting them closer to agnostics or apatheists instead). This is not incompatible with the above as one factor in religious decline.
  • Of course communist nations tried to invoke this in a very repressive manner. In practice, Communist nations often found themselves having to appeal to some form of traditional symbolism and usually compromised by creating a Cult of Personality revolving around leaders made into something akin to saints and prophets.
    • The Soviet Union tried multiple times to invoke this trope through anti-religious campaigns which included propaganda, secular education, and mass executions.
    • Vladimir Lenin for his part promoted atheism in education and privately but he struck a balance by mostly targeting the Orthodox Church which was seen, not without cause, as oppressive to minority religions in the Russian Empire and highly reactionary. Lenin enacted laws helping or respecting Jews, Muslims and Old Believers while he persecuted the Orthodox Church. This reversed under Stalin who initially targeted all religions, including minority beliefs, and during World War II he halted the persecution of the Orthodox Church and allowed it to revive in a big way after the war, until Khruschev mounted a fresh anti-religious campaign. After him it was mostly relaxed once more.
  • The current status of this trope varies around the world. In many Western countries, the religiosity of younger generations is declining; irreligion of some kind is now the second-largest "religious" affiliation in the United States; poorer countries, by contrast, see a decline of atheism in the future. Given that fog clouds the future, it remains to be seen whether this plays out.


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