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"What does God need with a starship?"
"You found me out... I'm not really a god...I'm *cough* *cough* just an ordinary... Eternal, omniscient, superintelligent being."
The Sun God, Futurama: The Game

Sufficiently Advanced Aliens are very common in sci-fi, and they will often claim to be actual deities. In some cases, they'll be actual, historically worshipped deities like Apollo or Thor.

Unless under some sort of mind control or from a "primitive" culture, the heroes will never treat a Sufficiently Advanced Alien as a deity, or even consider the possibility that they might just be right. Some Earthlings might fall for the "alien", but they will be shown to be weak-minded to be taken in by these "gods".

For something like the Goa'uld, alien parasites whose "miracles" are born from technological prowess, this is reasonable enough, but for beings like the Q or the Ori or various Eldritch Abominations in fiction, who have immense, unexplainable powers that genuinely seem god-like in nature, it stretches (dis)belief. The only reason they should be considered "just" powerful aliens seems to be "they came from Outer Space", which doesn't really make all that much sense if you think about it - if there is a deity who created everything, and you could physically meet them, why should a divine encounter only happen on Earth? Other views on why such entities are considered aliens instead is also due to the prevalence of Clarke's Third Law and its corollaries in science fiction and real life science, and because the words "god" and "magic" brings up connotations of worship and superstition.

The page quote comes from Star Trek V the Final Frontier, and demonstrates a (possibly unconscious) problem with this trope: characters are automatically going to disbelieve if the self-proclaimed deity runs against their view of what God is or should be. Sure, the Judeo-Christian God would have no need for a starship, but Helios had a chariot and Ra had a barge (and The Bible does describe God as possessing a chariot made of angels)... The entity is momentarily believed (if not by Kirk) because it pretends to be the God of monotheism. Had he said he was Quetzalcoatl, one suspects our heroes would have been a little more disbelieving.

See also Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Arbitrary Skepticism, and Ancient Astronauts. Not to be confused with If Jesus, Then Aliens which in some ways is almost the reverse. No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus is how Jesus will continue to be worshiped and not suspected of being anything other than the son of God even if an alien superhero named Josys from the planet Beaven is running around doing everything he can do and more.

Examples of No Such Thing as Space Jesus include:


Comicbooks

  • In an issue of Fantastic Four, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Walt Disney goes mad and believes himself a Messiah. To solve the problem of overpopulation he plans to use the Human Torch to reignite the Earth's core thus expanding the landmass. He dies just as he's about to push the big button. Afterwards his assistants claim the idea would never work. Queried why they were doing it, they admit they were programmed to obey him. The point being, they know the messiah stuff is rubbish but they can only do what they're told.
  • Averted with the gods of Olympus and Asgard in the Marvel Universe Elseworld Earth X. They effectively are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens - albeit ones from another dimension rather than from outer space - but they're referred to as gods anyway. They aren't technically deceiving anyone -- they have assumed the mantle of gods so long they believe themselves to be -- but they aren't, technically, gods.
    • They're still powered, or at least * extremely* affected, by belief, unlike their main Marvel Universe counterparts.
    • And the Eternals were godlike superpowered immortals who were also once worshipped as gods -- in fact in their original series they were said to have inspired the myths and legends that led to belief in gods, but once they became Canon Immigrants in the mainstream Marvel Universe this was retconned into having been mistaken for already-existing gods.
    • The Marvel Universe generally averts his. The higher up the cosmic scale you go, the more blurred the distinction becomes, and the most powerful cosmic entities - such as Eternity and Death - are apt to show up in both magic and space-based stories, notably Doctor Strange and the Silver Surfer. They effectively are both supremely powerful magical beings and Sufficiently Advanced cosmic entities.
    • While the Marvel Universe doesn't have Space Jesus, it does have Space Devils. Marvel has evil extra dimensional entities such as Mephisto who resemble demons and who come from Alternate Universes resembling Hell. They are said to be inspiration for stories of devils and occasionally claim to be the Biblical Devil, but they are notorious liars. A few of them even use the name Satan.
    • Mainstream Marvel verse has several canonical gods, including the Judeo-Christian one. He is seemingly the most powerful, but the least active. The Celestials, The Eternals, and sometimes the Asgardians fall a tier below. In Earth X, the "Asgardians," are shaped by other's view of them. Their powers correspond with the Norse god Odin told them they were, and Loki exploits this (in a heroic fashion!).
  • Averted by the graphic novel Creature Tech. Dr. Michael Ong, courtesy of his alien symbiote, teleports to a planet where he witnesses the death of an alien-symbiote Jesus. This is what finally causes him to convert.


Film

 Eros: It is because of men like you that all must die! No use of the mind God gave you!

Jeff: You talk of God!?

Eros: Is it so hard to believe that we might also think of God?

  • Inverted in the anti-Mormonism film The God Makers, which has an odd animation describing how Mormons believe God and His followers come from a planet called Kolob. This, like much of the information in the film, is a bit of Did Not Do the Research; while initially the Kolob belief was part of Mormon doctrine, it's since fallen out of favor with modern Mormons, who have since revamped most of the teachings associated with it without the extraterrestrial connotations, and any talk of the doctrine in its original form is done purely as quaint non-religious speculation.
  • In Star Wars, Han Solo's Arbitrary Skepticism about The Force. (That is, he denies the existence of it to one of the galaxy's most famous Jedi Masters who is teaching his pupil how to use it, right in front of him.)
    • He wasn't skeptical of its existence so much as the idea that it was a controlling force that set his fate. Thus, this trope. (Well, technically he was also skeptical about it being _useful_, at least in context of the fact that he had a functional plasma pistol and his own awesome starship.)
  • In The Avengers, as Captain America prepares to dive into a battle involving Thor and Loki:

 Black Widow: These guys are from legend. They're basically gods.

Captain America: There's only one God, ma'am. And I'm pretty sure He doesn't dress like that.


Joke

  • Computer scientists build the world's most powerful computer, far more powerful than any previous computer. They ask it, "Is their a God?". The computer hesitates for a moment and then replies, "Now there is."


Literature

  • By the end of Gentry Lee's Rendezvous With Rama series of novels, it's heavily implied that the eponymous ship, and the other ships like it, were constructed by God - the God - for the purpose of conducting an intergalactic survey of His creations. Much of the conflict in the later novels arises from the way the characters behave in the light of this revelation.
    • Just to clarify, God made very little of the Rama survey ships or the system behind them. Rather, according to the robots behind the 'survey', moments after the very, very first big bang (the Rama series assumes the theory of big bang > snapback > big bang > snapback, etc ), a tiny nanite factory of sorts was created, with instructions to create the necessary infrastructure to, and to go about, watching and taking note of any civilisation making steps toward Utopian society. Every recurring 'big bang', the process begins anew, the eventual goal being to find the key pattern to creating a true, eternal Utopia-- without violating free will by just making Utopia and rendering the whole affair pointless. The only source of this information is, importantly, according to the robots, who themselves make certain to point out they were just programmed with this knowledge, and can't exactly give any real proof besides the scale of their operation and its goals.
    • Interestingly, in the original novel actually written by Arthur C. Clarke, one of the characters is a member of a church that believes Jesus really was an alien or at least from outer space. Although his belief is never confirmed or denied by the Rama spacecraft. In the end he's just a competent crewman with a strange personal belief.
  • In Ray Bradbury's short story "The Man," there is such a thing as Space Jesus! You just missed him, though; he left planet yesterday. Good luck finding him.
    • His body may have left, but his spirit's still in the Temple. It always is, right?
    • And in "The Fire Balloons" (from The Martian Chronicles) two ministers try to make a Space Jesus representation to some aliens, but it turns out that they've had their Jesus Analogue and are well aware of The Faith.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey Series, the builders of the Monoliths appear to have ascended to Godhood by the start of the series; went on to convert Dave Bowman into this semblance of Godhood.
  • Averted in the Cthulhu Mythos. While the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods are "merely" immensely powerful extradimensional entities, they are often referred as gods and worshipped by various cults. After all, what else do you call something like Yog-Sothoth, who is eternal, omniscient and pretty much all-powerful, not to mention completely unbound by our 4-dimensional universe?
    • Especially when you consider that Cthulhu is effectively the space pope (with his fellow Deep Ones being the clergy), preparing our (world?/universe?/Dimension?/Time?/Reality?) for the Great Old ones (who ARE gods, or at least godlike).
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, followers of Great Prophet Zarquon (a Jesus-like being who promised to return) are mocked by a stand-up comedian at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Zarquon then proceeds to show up, apologize for being late...and then disappear when the Universe ends.
    • Let's not forget Thor's cameo in Milliway's, and then the characters all go to freaking ASGARD in And Another Thing.
    • Also, there's the babel fish, which are such obvious proof of God that he can't possibly exist, and God's last message to all creation, written in huge flaming letters: We Apologize For the Inconvenience.
  • Toyed with in Book of the New Sun where God is real, but it seems quite clear that he is a sufficiently advanced alien from an alternate dimension manipulating humanity from afar. This does not stop any Urth religions from worshipping this alien as God.
  • CS Lewis generally averts this, most notably in The Space Trilogy, which is pretty much about Space Jesus.
  • Minshus is actually a central premise of Stationery Voyagers. He oversees all things dealing with the Muellex, one of the most frequent sources of Applied Phlebotinum in the series.
  • The possibility of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens is briefly discussed in The God Delusion. The conclusion reached is that even if such beings were to exist, they would necessarily postdate the Universe as a whole and would ultimately have a natural origin, as such they do not meet the definition of gods used by the book[1]


Live-Action TV

  • One of the most common plotlines in Star Trek. Apollo, Satan(!) and Quetzalcoatl have all been 'explained' away as Sufficiently Advanced Aliens as have a number of fictional alien gods. Oh, and Q once claimed to be "the" God. (He was probably kidding.)
    • The Q are an interesting case because, by most measures, they are gods. In fact there are plenty of deities that have been (or are currently) worshipped by real world religions who seem to be several orders of magnitude less powerful than the Q. Even if they started off mortal, they hit A God Am I status a long time ago
    • Averted by Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko begins with the usual Federation attitude towards the Prophets, but gradually changes towards a more mystical, even devout view of them; note how he ceases to call them "Wormhole Aliens" in favour of "Prophets", the Bajoran religious term.
      • The non-changelings of the Dominion seem to have little problem believing in Space Jesus, as they know the Founders are an alien race, yet still consider them gods.
    • A slight variation in Star Trek Voyager, where Chakotay meets the "sky spirits" of his (non-specific) Native American beliefs. While it is confirmed that they had direct interaction and cultural exchange with his native ancestors leading to their mythology, they do not particularly claim to be Gods.
      • "Code of Honor" from ST:TNG's first season could give it a run for its money.
    • In the episode "Tapestry", Captain Picard "dies" and encounters Q:

 Picard: Q, what is going on?

Q: I told you. You're dead, this is the afterlife, and I'm God.

Picard: [laughs scornfully] You are not God!

Q: Blasphemy! You're lucky I don't cast you out, or smite you, or something. The bottom line is, your life ended about five minutes ago under the inept ministrations of Dr. Beverly Crusher.

Picard: No, I am not dead. Because I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you. The universe is not so badly designed.

    • Before his departure, the Klingon prophet Kahless pointed to a star and said that would be where he would someday return. After they developed interstellar travel, Klingons went to that star and built temples on a habitable planet in that system to wait for his return. Worf was there fasting and praying when he showed up. And then he turned out to be a clone.
    • But then a priest asks "How do you know this is not how the prophecy was to be fulfilled?" Well, how DO you?
  • The First Ones from Babylon 5 - notably the Vorlons who have engaged in some very specifically religious meddlings in the affairs of several species, and Lorien - who had been a patron to their millennia old culture.
    • Both invoked and averted: This is the central theme of the first story in the tales from Babylon5 dvd movie, which revolves around a man on Babylon 5 who is apparently possessed by a demon. The priest brought in to deal with the situation gives a long speech about how churches are emptying because people haven't found God in the heavens (apparently people in the future think extremely literally and expect to find some old bearded guy in white robe floating around the crab nebula, while ignoring any kind of significant religious experience down on boring old terra firma). While the possibility that the "demon" is an alien is raised early on, the ending leaves it open and even seems to lean towards the supernatural. Either way this is the creature behind the legend.
    • Earlier episodes included a new religion that believes "God" is to big a concept for any one tradition to grasp, and a group of monks seeking to learn every name and view of God across the various species.
    • The Minbari religion gets a mention for apparently having no supernatural beliefs whatsoever; this may be related to their special relationship with the Vorlons. Note that there is such a thing as a Soul in Babylon 5, which can be extracted with a machine and imprisoned in small orbs. The Minbari (and others) don't just believe in reincarnation, they can actually measure it.
      • One of the themes in Babylon 5 is that it really doesn't matter if God exists or not, faith and religion will continue to be important to people, no matter what.
  • Almost the whole point of Stargate SG-1, with the Asgard being especially bizarre (it is difficult to imagine anyone less like the "real" Thor than the Stargate version, although, to be fair, he did use a holographic persona when keeping up the Masquerade). Note that the Ori are ascended mortals, which would be more than enough to qualify them as gods in several Fantasy settings and more than one real-world religion; however, one of the major running themes in the show is that merely being immortal, omnipotent, and omniscient does not a god make, nor does it automatically entitle one to being worshipped. Even though the Ori and the Ancients also gain power (somehow?) from being worshipped. It's extremely difficult to imagine a being any more godlike then the ascended beings in Stargate, but there you go.
    • The fact that it's later shown that ascended are neither omnipotent (technology can kill them) nor omniscient (it's possible to hide from their observation with the same) takes some of the "godly" aura off them. In fact the Ori are in the end totally destroyed with what amounts to an Anti-Ascended WMD. If we could kill god with an A-Bomb we might rightly question his "godhood" as well.
    • Various villains call out to this trope on how their enemies keep insisting that they are not gods, but otherwise fail to mention anything on "what makes someone a god?", thereby leaving a hole that the only reason they aren't gods being that someone says so.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played with in in the episode "The Satan Pit", where the Doctor finds Satan chained up on the edge of a black hole. The episode never clarifies if it's just a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, actually Satan, or a Sufficiently Advanced Alien that inspired legends of Satan, but all theories are put forward by different characters.
    • In another episode, "Pyramids of Mars", the Monster of the Week is Sutekh, whose personality and history heavily resembles the same god from Egyptian mythology and possesses very god-like powers (said by the Doctor to be "near-limitless"). Again, it is not clarified whether this is another alien encounter or something completely different. Sutekh is specifically said to be an Osirian, and that he was imprisoned on Mars by the leadership of his planet.
    • Played straight in many episodes, however, where the local religious fanatics would be worshipping something that would later turn out to be either advanced alien technology or some kind of native animal; see The Curse Of Peladon, The Face Of Evil, etc.
    • Beings from the Pre-Universe or Post-Universe tend to have immeasurable and inexplicable powers due to operating by their Laws of Physics rather than those of the current Universe. However, by the same token they also tend to have at least one inane shortcoming that allows them to be defeated.


Video Games

  • In Starcraft, the Xel'naga are an ancient alien race that created both the Protoss and the Zerg and they are shown to be very, very powerful, so much so that the Protoss worship them as gods.
    • However, most gods aren't slaughtered by their creations, that's the Mad Scientist's job.
  • Very awkwardly averted by the Naaru of World of Warcraft. They don't particularly say they are deities (or say anything since they speak though wind chimes in your brain), just extremely holy. There isn't a single NPC that speaks ill of them, even though part of their life cycle is a black hole that devours souls. Epileptic Trees surround them to the effect of this trope, but the issue is brushed under the rug as they were barely featured in the following expansion.


Western Animation

  • Averted in (of all places) Futurama. Bender almost at once calls the sentient nebula he encounters God. He comes close to this trope when he says that God wouldn't use binary code, but he realizes that a space probe which "collided with God" would. It is not exactly confirmed, but it is heavily implied the nebula is indeed Him.
    • It should be said that while there is no mention of Space Jesus, there is a Space Pope.
      • There is mention of robot Jesus though.
        • The robot Jews believe that He was built, and that He was a well-programmed robot, but they don't believe He was the robot Messiah.
      • And a zombie Jesus, possibly connected to His second coming "in 2148".
        • Didn't that erase most of the VHS tapes?
    • This is probably a mixture of Star Trek V the Final Frontier (as above) and The Changeling, an Original Series episode in which a robot probe collides with something and becomes sentient. (Although in The Changeling, the probe decides Kirk is God!)
      • And to Star Trek the Motion Picture, in which an alien-altered probe becomes a god by the end of the film. And Kirk claims to be it's "God".
      • In both cases the word was 'creator', not 'god'. The probe in "The Changeling" had him confused with a guy named Roykirk that built it, while in the second he was simply telling the probe that humans originally built it.
        • The Motion Picture had definite religion (we all create god in our own image), but in The Changeling Kirk decides Nomad thinks he's its mother.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series rehashes this trope in episode 22, "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth", in which a winged alien, Kukulkan, which had served as a patron to humans millennia earlier, returns to trade Anvilicious rhetoric with Kirk. At the episode's end, Spock mentions that the alien had visited Vulcan, too, and "left much wiser".


Real Life

  • Both the Voyager 1 photo of Earth commonly known as the Pale Blue Dot and the vastness of the universe in general are popular arguments against theists who claim the universe was fine-tuned to produce humans, but the fact that the universe is vast and we are so small doesn't really bother theists who believe that God's children reside on other worlds as well. The two examples that comes to mind are Islam and Mormonism, and Catholicism has entertained the question more then once.
    • Baha'i doctrine is explicit that there is life on other planets. In fact, its "faith versus science" conflict here is that it seems to say there is life on every planet.
      • That could actually be correct. Even things like bacteria count as life.
      • It's still highly improbable that every planet would have even life in microbe stages. Some certainly, many, possibly, all, no chance.
      • Similarly, Vatican spokesmen have stated that to dismiss the existence of anything without reason is to doubt the creative power of God, meaning it's technically sinful, even blasphemous (using the technical definition of that term) not to believe in the possibility of aliens.
    • Mormonism believes that there is sentient life on other worlds, and they are all (more or less) Human Aliens, and that Jesus Christ is their Messiah too. And while Jesus lived on Earth, the throne of God is nearest to Kolob.

Notes

  1. "There exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us"
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