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In the future, long after our current society has crumbled into nothing, mankind survives. They have been reduced to tribal beings, clinging to the last throes of survival. But all is not lost for humanity, for this tribe has discovered the God of the new world. He shall lead their tribe out of the darkness. He shall bring humanity back to what it once was. Hey... wait... is that Abraham Lincoln they're worshipping?
Yes, after all records of society were erased, the poor, confused tribal humans of the future stumbled upon The Constant of their predecessors. It may have been a monument, or it may have been a pop culture icon of the past. But in their confused state, the poor tribesmen have mistaken it for an image of the gods, and have begun worshipping it in kind.
It should be noted that this is a separate trope from Cargo Cult, though the two can overlap. A Cargo Cult is when an object is interpreted as a sign of the gods or a god itself. All Hail the Great God Mickey is similar, but occurs After the End, when the remnants of a past society are mistaken for a sign of the gods. Due to cultural drift, this trope may also be found attached to Days of Future Past.
- First Comics, a comic company back in the 80s was fond of this. In both Grimjack and Nexus there are references to a "St. Elvis".
- At one point in Enemy Mine, Davidge quotes Mickey Mouse, and the alien Jeriba Shigan assumes the cartoon character is actually a "great Earthman teacher," which Davidge does not correct. This leads to a hilarious bit during a later argument, when Jerry thinks he's deeply insulting Davidge's beliefs by calling Mickey Mouse "one big, stupid DOPE!"
- In Battlefield Earth, the few surviving humans believed that advertising statues left from before the Psychlo's invasion of Earth were gods that had been turned into stone as punishment for falling in love with mortal women.
Tribesman: [On a bunch of mall manequins] Look at these poor bastards, though. They really, really angered the gods!
Nostalgia Critic: [waving his fingers] Over here you'll see the statue of the mouse god named "Mickey"!
- Also Lampshaded by Riff Trax, as Kevin notes that while the Egyptians left the pyramids, the Incans left behind Machu Picchu, America left behind the giant fiberglass bunny on the 6th green of the local Putt-Putt.
- In the book, the bald eagle on the Great Seal of the United States (as seen on coins, belt buckles, etc.) draws the same reverence.
- In Waterworld, Deacon, the leader of the Smokers, every so often mentions "Old Saint Joe" with the same reverence as some sort of deity: Near the end of the movie it's revealed that the Smokers' base is the remains of the Exxon Valdez and "Old Saint Joe" is a portrait of the ship's disgraced captain, Joseph Hazelwood.
- The kids in Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome are waiting for Captain Walker (a la John Frum) and believe things like records and radios are magical, even if they don't know how to use them.
- The humans in Beneath the Planet of the Apes worship a hydrogen bomb left over from before the war that killed most of the humans.
- In Mick Ferren's Armageddon Crazy, one religion that has managed to remain independent of the fundamentalist Christian government are the Elvi, worshipers of Elvis Presley.
- In the Dark Tower series, Roland's world has "moved on", and in some places remnants of the old technology are used as icons of worship, such as an Aamco gas pump.
- In Earth Abides, one character knew that the ruins of the cities and bridges were built by people called "the Americans". He then wondered if the land and skies were built by the older Americans depicted on coins.
- In Gathering Blue, a group of survivors worshipped a cross recovered from a Christian church. They did not know what Christianity actually was composed of before the apocalypse, but they did know that the cross had some importance.
- Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series includes this classic example: "...Mickey and Pluto, the animal-headed gods of lost America."
- Theres also a good one in Fever Crumb, where she encounters "...celebrants in robes and pointed hats whirling and clapping and chanting the name of some old-world prophet, 'Hari, Hari! Hari Potter!'”
- Motel of the Mysteries is an illustrated gag "archeological report" on relics found in a long-ago hotel room, as written up by future archeologists with a very Future Imperfect understanding of our era. One of their ongoing debates is about which "ancient altar" was the more revered: the television or the toilet.
- In the short story By The Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benét, the protagonist visits the sacred and forbidden ruins of New York City (which his tribe believes to be the former home of the gods) and prays to a statue of George Washington.
- Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has its future dystopian society view Henry T. Ford as a God-like figure (to the point where Ford's name is used in phrases where "God" would have been used originally). It's because he invented the system of production lines that they use to produce everything (including children).
- In issues of psychology, however, they refer to "Freud." However, they're apparently believed to have been the same person.
- In the H. Beam Piper short story "Return," which takes place after a nuclear war, a pair of explorers discover a tribe whose religion is based on the Sherlock Holmes stories.
- From 1939 to 1941, Nelson S. Bond wrote a series of science fiction shorts about Meg, a priestess who rebels against her tribe. A typical story, "Magic City", describes the journey from the land of Jinnia (in the country of Tizathy: at one point Meg actually recites an ancient magical incantation that begins with the line, "My country, Tizathy") to the far-off city of Noork, to slay Death who dwells in a temple called Slukes. When Meg's companion points out that the temple is clearly marked STLUKES, she assures him that the "t" is silent.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs The Moon Men aftter being conquered by the eponymous moon aliens the American flag becomes an object of worship to the rebellious underground.
- In a series of short sci-fi stories collected under the novel heading Mallworld the humans that live in space (the titular Mallworld) are shown worshiping such things as Saint Betty Crocker and Elvis.
- In the Clark Ashton Smith short story of the same name, an archaeologist in the distant future lectures his audience on the religious fanaticism and mass human sacrifices of the ancient and barbaric cult of "The Great God Awto".
- In an original Star Trek the Original Series episode on a world where nuclear war destroyed civilization and the survivors descendants are divided into Yangs (Yanks) and Coms (Communists) the Yangs worship the Constitution.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Kings became a gang of Elvis Impersonators. After finding a school filled with memorabilia, instructions on how to act like him, and a metric ton of hair gel, they figured it must be a place of worship, and that they'd keep his memory alive. They're not wrong, per se...
- Without even knowing his name - in all that memorabilia, nothing readable or functional explicitly said what the name of the person being emulated was, just that he was 'The King' (thus "The King's School of Impersonation").
- That's not the first time Fallout has misconstrued pre-war information as some kind of religion. In the Fallout 3 DLC "The Pitt", your reward for finding all 100 ingots in the steelyard is a suit of power armor. While it resembles Ashur's own suit, Everett mentions that some of the local tribals fashioned this power armor to resemble their "gods". Although the colors are faded, the armor is clearly decked out in the black and yellow colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ashur's own armor has an identical color scheme, so it's possible he's simply exploiting local superstitions to appear as a "god".
- Reverend Theo Forbius, resident Chaplain for Tagon's Toughs in Schlock Mercenary, refers to 'The Gospel of Uncle Benjamin' when confronted with the quote "With great power comes great responsibility" and Greyskull's Power as part of an exorcism rite (the first time was in a dream sequence, but the second was a direct reference of his own).
- The lemonade cult of Romantically Apocalyptic.
- In Nineteen Eighty Three Doomsday, a minority of people in the Republic of Lincoln seem to worship Abraham Lincoln as a deity. However normal circumstances that bring this about are subverted: the cult seemed to have formed because "the people are desperate for any piece of old America, no matter how small."
- This trope is often cited by archaeologists to discourage their colleagues from jumping to conclusions about the meanings or uses of artifacts and buildings -- for example, the archaeologists of 10,000 years in the future might see the Statue of Liberty as a sun/fire goddess because of the torch she holds and the "rays" coming from her head.
- There is an African American Church of St. John Coltrane
- This website.
- The church of Spongebob Squarepants and the church of Google.