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A Science Fiction subgenre that borrows the aesthetics, symbolism and terminology of religion, the occult, and New Age conspiracy theories. It's used for the sake of the plot and/or for Rule of Cool, with little or no relation to actual religion or magic.

The subgenre is particularly popular with anime, manga, Eastern RPG, and the like, probably for much the same reasons as the Creepy Crosses trope exists.

Not to be confused with Cargo Cult or Machine Worship (where the characters are so ignorant that they believe technology is magic and treat it accordingly), Magic from Technology (where technology is disguised as magic), or Magitek (where the "technology" is actually magic that appears outwardly similar to technology).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist involves an extradimensional portal known as the Gate of Truth, which is emblazoned with the Arber Sephirotheca and implied to house God itself, though Christianity itself is implied to be a dead religion due to the proliferation of Alchemy allowing anyone to perform seeming miracles.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), the Gate of Truth is visually changed to resemble the classic sculpture "The Gates of Hell" (which means it is now made of writhing human figures and inhabited by demonic creatures).
  • Genesis of Aquarion has antagonists called Shadow Angels who live in Atlantis (which is located in Antarctica) and feed captured humans to their "Tree of Life."
  • One of the main characters of NEEDLESS is a lecherous clone of an expy of Jesus named Adam Blade, who opposes the 666 Organization alongside his companion Eve.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the title mecha are named after Eve from the Bible, and the antagonists are Eldritch Abominations named after angels from Hebrew folklore (but they are not actual angels). Other oddities include a supercomputer named MAGI, an alien artifact named the Lance of Longinus, and the implication that the Bible was actually an alien technical manual (making Christianity in-universe an example of Cargo Cult). In End of Evangelion, a group of aerial Evas form a diagram of the Sephirot in the sky using Instant Runes.
  • RahXephon has the lost continent of Mu as the main antagonist, and Rah Xephon was an attempt to create an artificial god.

  • City of No End by Nathan Karnes, set in a Feudal Future, recreates medieval Catholicism as the religion of Ascensionism. However, Ascensionism is actually atheist, rationalist, and materialist for the most part — it's a form of enshrined transhumanism whose whole appeal is trying to maximize salvation by Brain Uploading as many human minds as possible into an Artificial Afterlife. The only major resistance to Ascensionism is the traditional paganism of the Depths, which is a Machine Worship Cargo Cult devoted to maintaining the life-support systems of the City, fueled by the belief that the pipes and machinery are possessed by spirits.
  • Rim by Alexander Besher has some of your standard cyberpunk trappings, such as a big popular virtual world and independent contractors, but the whole thing is inundated with New Age Retro Hippie stuff, borrowed metaphysical concepts and symbolism, and at least one case of a businessman reincarnating into a pink monkey so that the protagonist can slay an indestructible super-zombie in cyberspace who represents corruption. Think Snow Crash on too much pot and too many liberal arts degrees.
  • The short story A Word For Heathens by Peter Watts invokes this. It's set in a theocratic dystopia where the Doom Troops of the Corrupt Church that rules everything have had devices surgically implanted in their brains that cause them to be in a constant state of religious righteousness; in other words, they constantly feel as if they are the hand of God, doing God's will. Since the story is narrated in the first person perspective, everything that happens is described in religious ways.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Although the characters had a lot of Greek names, the original Battlestar Galactica borrowed heavily from Mormonism, and some of it thinly veiled, at that (The Mormon God hails from a planet called Kolob, the Colonials originated from a planet called Kobol; the LDS church is presided over by a President and a quorum of 12 Apostles, the Galacticans by a Commander and a quorum of 12 Colonial tribal elders, etc.). Hardly surprising, as series creator Glen Larson was a member of the LDS church and drew on what he knew.
    • The imagery of the reimagined series, however, was far more akin to ancient Greek theology, even showing them having household idols named after the Greek gods and goddesses. In contrast, the Cylons had adopted a mystical, almost Judeo-Christian view of a "one true God." (Well, most of them. Some of them were atheists; the model Ones - the "Cavil" model - especially seemed to lean that way). Baltar was changed from the Darth Vader expy of the original series to an atheist who became a sort of prophet/messiah, spreading the word of the Cylon God (who seems to (1) be real but (2) hate being called "God" and (3) not really have much of a problem with people worshiping other gods) to the humans.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 has demons from hell and medieval inquisitors as some of its factions, borrowing heavily from Christian theology (especially Catholicism).

    Video Games 
  • Xenogears has technology and characters with names like Deus (an artificial god) and Abel (a past life of the main character).
  • Xenosaga follows the same formula, with antagonists called Gnosis (incorporeal creatures that turn their victims into salt) and characters with names like Nephilim (a mysterious girl who characters see in visions) and Albedo (an Artificial Human).

    Web Original