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"If our society seems more nihilistic than that of previous eras, perhaps this is simply a sign of our maturity as a sentient species. As our collective consciousness expands beyond a crucial point, we are at last ready to accept life's fundamental truth: That life's only purpose is life itself."
Chairman Sheng-Ji Yang, "Essays on Mind and Matter", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Science fiction where an advanced civilization has given up religion as backward and primitive. Alternately, religion is shown as a form of control without any real moral purpose. This is usually an Author Tract. Eventually, everyone "comes around" to the author's point of view, realizing that the miracles were natural and the demons they were so afraid of never existed.

Occasionally a few small minority religions will still be around, almost always of theology that can be treated as the province of harmless fanatics. Jews and Mormons seem to be favourites, as are Magical Native Americans.

This trope has become less common over time (and subversion has become more and more common). In the Golden Age of Science Fiction, SF was much more the province of empiricists and purely secular humanists. As time has passed, however, three things have lessened this trope's prevalence; the genre moving into the mainstream, disenchantment with the "Science will save us!" mindset, and the simple notion that religion (for better, worse, or neither) is here to stay. This trope still exists, however, especially on the harder side of Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.

This is most often a literary trope, but it isn't unknown in the realms of TV and film. Or even music.

Very often followed by Alternate Calendar: since no one cares about this "Christ" person now, everyone decides to choose something significant to them as the hour zero - such as a major scientific breakthrough.

Will almost certainly be averted in a Feudal Future, which typically feature some form of Fantastic Catholicism

Compare What We Now Know to Be True.

Contrast Gravity Is Only a Theory and Science Is Wrong.

Examples of Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions include:


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 of us will follow leaders based on their ability to evoke that response rather than their ability to encourage survival. It also means that most of us would be quite willing to surrender our free will to powerful forces that don't even see us as bacteria. You can guess how that turns out.


Film

 Jeff: You talk of God?

Eros: You also think it impossible that we, too, might think of God?

    • This was added at the behest of the Baptist church which financed the picture.
  • Averted far more nicely in Enemy Mine, when Davidge remarks on the similarity between the Great Shizumat's teachings with those of Christ. Jeriba Shigan replies with "... Of course you have [heard these teachings before]. Truth is truth."
  • In Star Wars, where an Imperial Officer implies that the Force is regarded as "ancient mythology" in a pejorative sense:

 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 sorcerous 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 fortress ...

(Vader force-chokes Motti)

Darth Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.


Literature

  • Stanislaw Lem's Solaris lapsed into painfulness: the protagonist's brooding about how humanity has not improved in any way is in the immediate company of the protagonist's brooding about how humanity has outgrown any foolish notions of God. However, in Lem's Fiasco, the crew of the expedition that tries to contact with an alien race, includes a priest, who's portrayed positively. This is standard with Lem, really. He was writing in Soviet Poland, and one of his very first books was Soviet propaganda. Solaris was intended more to be about how humanity would react to meeting a very, very alien alien. Or possibly how they would take finding out that God is surprised to know we exist if you must make it symbolic. Just remember that Lem knowingly set out to use certain of the alien tropes as anvil targets...
  • 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; among others, Moses didn't exist, having been a merger of several different historical personages. Jesus did, but was just a good person who inspired people, rather than a miracle-maker.
    • Childhoods End, similar to the above example, the visitors give humans a device to see into the past. Apparently, every religion save Buddhism becomes discredited. Also, the visitors look like stereotypical devils; it turns out 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, in which 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 centre of Catholicism, but 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, however 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.
  • The advanced cultures of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy seemed to be atheist, and talked about religion as a tool of control at several points.
    • Not exactly the same as this trope on two points. Most of the main characters are supposedly atheists, and the leaders of Terminus certainly are -- but the way the Foundation's participants were chosen initially and the way their lives are structured would logically make them tend more towards rationalism, so it's not that much of a stretch. Outside Terminus, religion itself survives, even if it's used as a tool at times. But more importantly, over time Hari Seldon assumed an almost religious significance to the people of Foundation, to the point where many of them had a decidedly irrational belief in the infallibility of his predictions. Asimov himself was certainly not a religious man, and his treatment of religion is definitely from a sceptic's position, viewing it solely as a social construct with no mystical powers behind it -- but within that view, he doesn't show religion and religious thinking as actually dying out (just the opposite; he shows it as surviving and being used).
      • Even more interesting is the Second Foundation trilogy (written by modern authors) which portray the different aspects of Robot philosophy (Asimov linked his Robots of Foundation series in later books) as being akin to religions, including "Calvinists" (which for religious scholars is wonderful as these are the conservative/catholic analogues), and several other sects who have their own interpretations of the body of doctrine that is the Laws of Robotics.
    • His "Nightfall" is even more interesting. The scientists had worked out the cause of the periodic devastation and the things called "stars," and the religious fanatics were deeply offended -- and also had a much better idea than the scientists how serious the matter was.
    • In any event, Christianity is certainly long-dead by the Empire-Foundation era -- Asimov's characters frequently utter "science-y" sounding oaths like "In the name of space!" and "Great Galaxy!" where "For the love of God!" or "Jesus H. Christ!" might be used in modern English.
    • Asimov also played with religion in some of his robot stories, including one where a robot that was activated on a space station believed the station's machinery was a god, called it "the Master," and believed Earth was a religious fiction designed for the small-minded humans.
  • Iain Banks
    • In The Culture novels, the Culture looks at religion as a delusion which you should be sympathetic about.
      • This viewpoint runs into trouble in Look To Windward, where the "englightened" races are irritated and nonplussed that whether or not the Chelgrian heaven existed before, it demonstrably exists NOW.
      • Even this concept is played with in Surface Detail. Due to mind state copying technology and sophisticated virtual reality environments, it is now possible to make any number of afterlives as indistinguishable virtual reality simulations. Hell (or it's closest equivalent for each religion) is the most commonly created. It proves to be a contentious issue in galactic politics; with the Culture not taking an active role. Initially...
    • 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 they are in one. The main character of The Algebraist seems sceptical 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.
  • Averted in the Dune series, where millennia of space travel has not squashed religion, rather encouraged its growth.
  • A Case Of Conscience toys with this, which features a totally agnostic if not atheistic alien race that also live in a perfect world and society, faced against a bombed-out, nuclear-fried, and heavily Catholic Christian 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 alien world is blown up by the latter either using the wrong space telescope or due to an exorcism.
  • Inverted wholly by A Canticle for Leibowitz, wherein pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism is the only thing that keeps western civilization intact After the End, and the resurgence of secularism is what leads to a second global conflict.
    • It's also deconstructed because it's implied that post-Deluge humanity was no more religious than they were before, whether by mere ignorance or secularization.
  • Giants Star by James P. Hogan 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 Starfish Aliens which evolved inside a planet-sized supercomputer future humans built where their perceived laws of physics are completely different (basically meaning that magic and gods are perfectly normal for them, in a manner of speaking) accidentally Body Surfing to reality in human users, which drove them insane. The behaviour of the crazy Digitized Hacker-possessed people gets corrupted, eventually forming mysticism as we know it today. Oh, and all this predates the creation of the supercomputer, due to a Stable Time Loop established in the last book.
  • At the start of Hyperion religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Catholicism are still around but Catholicism is dying and only practiced by a small minority.
    • The book also includes a rather un-subtle chapter in which a Catholic priest stumbles upon a tribe of primitives who are sexless, slow-witted, and exceptionally docile. Turns out they get this way by becoming completely reliant upon the promise of an afterlife provided by parasitic creatures shaped like crosses. Yeah. This is a big Xanatos galactic sized gambit organised by Artificial Intelligences who worship a god they made themselves. The initial excitement of the priest (who is also a man of science) rapidly turns to utter horror. This is not meant as a Take That at Christianity, but is rather a deliberate perversion of its imagery.
    • By Endymion, the trope is inverted; the Catholic church has more or less dominated the entire known universe.
  • A very clever subversion occurs in Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God. When the first alien craft arrives on Earth, the explorer on board asks not to be taken to our leader but to be taken to our archeologists. Why? The alien is looking for confirmation of the existence of God in our fossil record. Much of the book is a philosophical conversation between a dying, atheist paleontologist and the spiritual, spider-like alien who has come seeking proof of God. Given the facts of the setting, the alien's case is pretty good, and it's atheism that comes off as a silly superstition.
    • Also touched on in a short story by the same author. Incontrovertible proof of God causes the Catholic church to collapse, as a God who can be proven to exist is incompatible with most theologies.
  • 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.
    • This is questionable. While in no way overtly religious, there are parallels between the institution of dragon-riding and religion. People on Pern also swear using references to dragons ("Shells," "By the Egg," etc.) and treat dragon lore as religious scripture. Holds are also expected to tithe to the Weyrs, which is exactly how churches are supported. "Silly superstition" or not, it's hard to believe that nobody who's stuck inside a cramped, darkened hold, listening in terror for Thread landing on the roof, would try praying to something dragon-related.
      • People in Real Life are expected to pay taxes to support shared services. This doesn’t make governments religious institutions. However, after a long period without thread the dragonriders certainly look like a religion.
        • During Thread-free times, dragons are usually seen as a pestilence and a drain on resources. In the beginning of the first book, people are openly contemptuous of them and say that their time is past.
    • Her 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" (Or words to that effect.)
    • When La McCaffrey is being Anvilicious, she lays it on thick with a heavy hammer. Just look at Dragonsdawn's reference to the age of wasteful, wrong and harmful religion being a Terrible Thing to humanity. Author Tract, anyone?
    • Averted in the Acorna Series, where Rafik Nadezda and his uncle Hafiz are both Muslims.
  • Averted in the Young Wizards series, where on the majority of planets there is no Masquerade and wizards are just as much a part of the fabric of society as interstellar travel. The Powers That Be are gods, and not even physical ones. Not only do they exist, but they rather reliably interfere in the works of mortals. Yes, even especially that one. The unusual interactions between normal continuity and omnipresence the Powers That Be live within make it quite possible for all myths to be true simultaneously, even the ones where the Eldest, Fairest, and Fallen is no longer will have been evil. Non-human cultures tend to have their own religions, which are either implied to be just as true, or demonstrated as true.
    • At one point, a girl who has talked to the archangel Michael and helped beat up Satan talks to a cat who holds a partly-finished spell that summons the cat gods into the mind of the cat and her allies. After which, they beat up The Serpent at the base of the Tree.
  • Averted in several science fiction novels set in the far future, such as Starship Troopers and the CoDominium series, which have references of people practicing traditional religions.
  • Averted in Steve Perry's Matador series, in which almost every protagonist subscribes to obscure Eastern Zen practices. Imagine Star Wars meets House of Flying Daggers. Christianity is still quite common, as well.
  • In a rare fantasy example, the elves of the Inheritance Cycle have also outgrown religion, mostly due to the author being on board.
    • However, the main character was slightly distrustful of the elves' atheism, in the third book, he witnesses what may be the dwarves' god crown their king. Later, he prays to same god, and his prayer gets answered, although it's never told if it was just coincidence or divine intervention.
  • Played straight by the Edenists and averted by the Kulu Kingdom in Peter F. Hamilton's (sci-fi) Nights Dawn Trilogy. They are the two biggest players and the two biggest rivals in the Confederation -- the former are all atheists and the latter staunchly Christian. However, the Edenists' philosophy and way of life lead to the closest thing to paradise as you can get, and they're also the only human civilisation able to fully resist the possessed...
    • Also, in Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, religion has for the most part been abandoned. However, in the distant sequels of the void trilogy, a massive religious pilgrimage is the source of the main conflict of the stories.
  • 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.
  • Plenty of religion to go around in the 41st century AD, according to the Honor Harrington universe. For the most part, differences of religious opinion are met with a shrug, with the notable exception of the Faithful of Masada.
    • To give it a fuller catalogue, the entire gamut exists. Everything from a Cult Colony that splintered in a religious war to a Cult Colony that is now staunchly Atheist, to planets run by a Calphiate or French Revolutionary style violent secularism.
  • Subverted in Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land. The aliens regard Christianity as primitive, bizarre, contradictory, and dub it "anti-rational", not being particularly impressed by the fanaticism and terrorism it is used to inspire. Meanwhile, they worship Minerva and/or Hera and/or Aphrodite, have fought wars over the different interpretations of their religion, debate theology (including strict monotheism versus a triune goddess), call each other heretics, and take the occasional strong moral stand based purely on their religious faith. Less of a Take That to organized religion than Humans Are Bastards.
    • Since the humans in that book are used as a not-really-masked metaphor for Arabs and other ethnicities of developing nations, it carries the Unfortunate Implications that Arabs/Palestinians are barbarians and (since the Minervans are obviously representing Zionist Jews) that Jews are arrogant nerds, leading to a conclusion that perhaps the Unfortunate Implications are not as "unfortunate" as they appear.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Small Gods a group of atheists calls gods "relics of an outmoded belief system"... until several gods manifest themselves with such things as lightning, wind, and a penguin. They only persist in denouncing a single god eventually, and that one only because he's the god of ice, it happens to be summer, and the nearest glacier is very, very far away.
    • Said atheists are the local equivalent of Greece's philosophers. They also quickly point out said god of ice has a sense of humour when somebody quips it's gotten colder.
    • And ironically, one of their listeners actually is a god, though not a very powerful one. Temporarily, at least.
  • Sort of both used and averted in the Humanx Commonwealth novels, where humans and thranx and several other species look to the United Church for guidance. It's a synthesis of the basic ethical tenets which all humanx religions share, shorn of world- or culture-specific trappings that would fall under this trope's "superstition" label. Essentially, Unitarianism's gone multispecies: they don't attempt to define or disavow a Higher Power; they just agree that if there is such a thing, this is how he/she/it/they would surely want folks to live, and if there isn't, it's still good to live that way.
  • In the Uglies series, the people of the future sarcastically refer to gods as "invisible superheroes in the sky". There are some groups that try to bring religion back, but it isn't catching on. In all, the books don't pay very much attention to this, and it's mostly a detail to help show how different society has become since our time.
  • 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", who's 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 he profited by Its death - made him suffer a crisis of faith.
  • Averted to some extent in the Vorkosigan Saga: Cordelia is a native of Beta Colony, the most stereotypically utopian, socially and technologically advanced, "futuristic" planet in the 'verse and is consistently portrayed as believing in God and this is not treated as unusual. In contrast, Barrayar, one of the more primitive and tradition-bound planets, has no mainstream concept of religion.
    • Word of God is that Cordelia is "Betan Presbyterian", and some of her Christianity has rubbed off on her son.
  • 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. (Note that this is not a case of Author Appeal, since the writer's a Christian.)
    • At the time he wrote the book, he was an Atheist.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Time Scout. Islamic terrorism is a huge problem (they're even recruiting downtimer jihadists), and the presence of an ancient priestess with mystical powers on Shangri La has caused a massive surge in the worship of Artemis. Oh, and Islam has a particular problem with the female deity of this new worship.
  • Played straight in Susan Collins' The Hunger Games. There's no mention of religion in any of the trilogy, and even the word count of religion based words is quite low.
  • Right in A Long Time Until Now by Michael Z. Williamson. Richard Dalton a member of the Marine Corp is accidentally sent back in yime to the Neolithic Age with his unit along with some other castaways from different eras. Dalton a devout Christian wastes no time quoting from scripture and believes it to be all part of some divine plan. When they are rescued by an era from the distant future he is brought before a group of researchers for an interview. His faith so far has not faltered until now as he learnable that that religion is no longer practiced and is seen only as a philosophy. When Dalton begin to preach from the Bible, his proselytizing visible disturbs them on his lack of logical and scientific basis.

Live Action TV

  • Averted in Firefly. Though Captain Reynolds is a bit of a Hollywood Atheist and doesn't like displays of religion on his ship, one of his passengers is a vaguely Protestant monk/minister, and most of the others try to be respectful of his faith, although their personal level of observance isn't made clear. Religion isn't portrayed as universally positive (as seen when River is almost burnt alive under suspicion of witchcraft) but its presence in the future is pretty much taken as a given.
    • If you watch the initial Pilot, you see Mal kissing a cross at the Battle of Serenity valley. Following that disaster, he evidently (and understandably) lost his faith.
    • Meanwhile, Inara is Buddhist, and there are minor characters that are Jewish.
  • This appears to some extent in Star Trek. Star Trek: The Original Series was the most into it, with Gene Roddenberry being a proponent of the idea; after he died, it waned. However, religion still gets scant mention among the humans in the Trek Verse, and nine out of ten alien religions turn out to be based around Sufficiently Advanced Alien cabals anyway. There are some significant subversions of the trope as well.
    • In an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, 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." Exactly whether he's claiming everyone follows a generic monotheistic religion or that everyone has just given up polytheism is unclear; probably the former, knowing the probable standards of NBC and society at the time. 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 burn just a few laurel leaves?"
    • In "Balance of Terror", at the wedding of Tomlinson and Martine, the bride genuflects before the altar in the ship's Chapel. In Kirk's opening address to the gathered celebrants, he states that they are gathered to witness the joining "in accordance with our many customs and many beliefs".
    • In another episode a very powerful energy being states that, even though she's very powerful indeed, she can't create life, because 'that is for the Maker of All Things.'
    • In "Bread and Circuses" Kirk says that the Federation represents many religious beliefs, and it's mentioned that the slaves of the Romans worship the Sun. But these Human Aliens also happen to be speaking English and actually worship "The Son".
    • In "The Ultimate Computer", the computer states that "Murder is contrary to the laws of man and God." The computer's beliefs were patterned after its creator's, a genius, albeit an emotionally unstable genius.
    • The Klingons are stated to have once had gods, but their distant ancestors killed them all off because the gods proved to be more trouble than they were worth. In spite of this, they have an underworld ruled by "Fekh'lar." One episode of The Next Generation deals with Kahless, a divine, Christ-like ancestor figure in Klingon history. There is a shrine of Klingon priests who await the return of Kahless and Worf has had spiritual visions of Kahless speaking to him in the past. Generally, their faith in Kahless is treated in a positive light.
    • 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.
    • In an episode of Voyager, Tom Paris suggests that B'lanna should go to church if she wants to explore her spirituality, instead of invoking a near-death experience to save her mother from Klingon Hell.
    • The most Anviliciously atheistic Star Trek ever got was 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.

      The crew's horror over having brought back the "evil" that is religion was almost stronger than the horror of having said religion based on them. Picard takes another local up and explains that the Federation are merely Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, not gods. The episode then goes into Author Filibuster mode; as the time humans had religions of any sort is referred to as "the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear." Afterward, an away team goes down to the planet to explain how irrational it is to believe in gods because they never show up or tell believers what they want, and that believers are left putting their faith in what other mortals tell them.
    • In "Where Silence Has Lease" Picard is asked by Data about death; interestingly his philosophical answer seems to hint that while he isn't personally religious he seems to have equal problems with a purely atheistic view.
    • Deep Space Nine is a 7 year mix of affirmations and aversion/subversions of this Trope. The Commander of the station was declared to be alien Jesus in the first episode, later finding the alien Gods to confirm it, then having visions and becoming a god himself.
  • Averted by Andromeda, a series based on some of Gene Roddenberry's notes and produced by Majel, has at least one major religion. Wayism is a fusion of pretty much every human religion, particularly Christianity and Buddhism.
  • Averted throughout Babylon 5. Although there are non-religious main characters (such as Sheridan, who is "eclectic", and Garibaldi, who is agnostic), religion is still very present in the Babylon 5 universe.
    • Ivanova is a religious Jew. At the beginning of the series she has lapsed in her practice of Judaism, but when her father dies in the first season she finds solace and closure in her once-lost faith.
    • Commander Sinclair was educated by Jesuits when he was young.
    • Doctor Franklin is a Foundationist -- a religion founded in the 22nd Century following first contact with the Centauri, which teaches that all existing religions have an essential truth (or foundation) at their core. Foundationism incorporates practices from many Earth and alien cultures, such as the Australian aboriginal "walkabout".
    • The Centauri are modeled on the late Roman Empire, with an official polytheism almost nobody still takes seriously.
    • In the third season, an entire chapter of monks shows up on the station to research other races' religions, looking for common ground; each one is a Badass Bookworm, highly respected in various prized fields such as computers, medicine and physics.
    • Given a big, fat, Anvilicious wham with "The Parliament Of Dreams", an episode devoted to the religions practiced by each of the major ambassadors, and ending with Captain Sinclair claiming that he cannot decide just one Human religion, so instead of having a single ceremony, he introduces the ambassadors to hundreds of religious leaders including a prominent atheist philosopher. They've finally figured out that their faith is about how they live, not how others live; they stand cordially in a line, waiting to shake each ambassador's hand as they are introduced.
    • In "By Any Means Necessary", Na'Toth states that she is an atheist - a huge contrast with her deeply religious (if less than law-abiding) boss, G'Kar. His response is that everyone believes in something greater than themselves, if only the blind forces chance - she sneers that chance favors the warrior. G'Kar points out that that is still a belief, albeit a highly productive one.
    • In one of the "Lost Tales", demons (NOT aliens, but acutal supernatural demons, the story makes this clear) possess a man and force him to journey to Babylon 5. Having been bound to Earth to be damned to eventual destruction when the Sun goes nova eons from now, they hope to fool a priest into exorcising them while still on the station, which would loose them on the galaxy.
    • The same priest during the story remarks on how much of its influence Catholicism has lost since mankind went to the stars. The demons tempt him to exorcise them right then and there, saying that it would give him proof enough of the reality of God to restore the Church to it's former power and status.
  • Averted in the new Battlestar Galactica Reimagined. Humanity still has religion -- some stronger than others. But not only that, the Cylons, machines created by humans whose technology is far more advanced, have their own religion, and while humans worship the pantheon of twelve gods, the Cylons are monotheists. While neither God nor the gods put in an appearance, visions and possible angels do.
    • Word of God, ironically, confirms that Head Six and Head Baltar are agents of a higher power. It does not state whether this higher power is the Cylon command or gods.
    • It was actually God, though it dislikes being called that.
  • Some could see Stargate SG-1 as one big Take That against organized religion. The titular 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 mankind 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.
    • Many other episodes also reference religion 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). While Jack is more than willing to destabilize their belief system, Daniel tells him that while the possible existence of God 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. Of course, one then has to wonder how kind this higher power could possibly be when it left things to the last minute before stepping in and let four people die in the meantime.
      • Yet in season 9 they wrapped an episode up with the characters stating that religion and the concept of God had its place, even with all the sufficiently advanced aliens running around.
    • Despite the break with ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman religions, the show makes clear exceptions in the earlier seasons for religions that are currently mainstream. The episode "Demons" features a planet of Christian-ish people where the goa'uld in question is pretending to be Satan rather than God. The episode comes across as very church-positive.
      • It even has Teal'c mentioning that he does not believe any goa'uld is capable of the "kindness expressed in your Bible."
    • Stargate Atlantis also has plenty of Take That moments against religion, like Poisoning the Well, where 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.
      • Stargate Atlantis also had one of those weird unclassifiables in the form of "Sanctuary". There, 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 God, it turns out, is actually an ascended being that takes mortal form to serve as Athar's high priestess. So while they are being deceived, they also really ARE protected and cared for by a nigh-omnipotent being.
    • 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 because they'd only ever watched the series as a Take That against religion.
    • Of course, the whole point with the Ori gets a lot of flip-flopping; 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!"
  • The Twilight Zone TOS episode "The Obsolete Man" was set in a future society where religion had been outlawed. Only one man still believed in God, and was sentenced to death for being obsolete. He was given the choice of ways to die. He chose to die by bomb on live television. The high official who sentenced him to death came to speak with him, and was informed that the door was locked. He began to panic, and shouted, "In the name of God, let me out!" The condemned man did let him out -- in the name of God. The final scene was of the official being sentenced to death... for being obsolete.
  • During Russell T. Davies' run on Doctor Who, there was little to no mention of magic or religion, and when it was it was usually proven to be science based or very vaguely described. In an interview, Davies claimed that he had banned God from the writer's room, wanting to depict a future where religion had just died out. "[R]eligion is banned on Platform One. Yes, I'm deeply atheist. If they haven't reached that point by the Year Five Billion, then I give up! When did the Doctor do that speech about believing in things that are invisible? It's Episode 5, isn't it? That's another bit of atheism chucked in. 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."
    • Averted by Steven Moffat, specifically the two-parter "The Time of Angels" and "Flesh and Stone". While the "Angels" are Starfish Aliens / Eldritch Abomination / Humanoid Abomination creatures that happen to look like the traditional idea of an angel (winged, lean, robe-wearing), they eat energy and turn to stone while being observed, with Super Speed when not. The Aversion is The Church, actually an organization of warrior-priests tasked with guarding human colonists across the galaxy. Their leader, Father Octavian, is so noble that the Doctor said it was an honor to meet him, and they never lose courage, even when surrounded by the aforementioned angels.
    • The Doctor, one of the oldest, most intelligent and best-traveled beings in the universe 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 of the existence of such a power). Based on that statement, he'd probably be better described as an agnostic rather than an atheist.
  • Farscape takes an interesting perspective on religion for a sci-fi show: though it doesn't discuss religion extraordinarily often, it does have practitioners of various alien religions among the crew, some of them quite devout. Plus, the show also demonstrates that gods and magic really do exist in their universe, some of them more visible than others - like the Builders that Moya worships. 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.


Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000 is a comprehensive and horrible aversion.
    • In Dan Abnett's novel about the Horus Heresy Horus Rising, the Emperor's cult is already in existence, and the Emperor is trying to suppress it. And when the Marines go into the countryside to put down forces, they are going up against the "anachronistic beliefs" there. (Famous Last Words.)
    • Later on, Horus himself (pre-heresy, obviously) sits down with someone who just had a face-to-face encounter with a daemon and the Astartes it had possessed and horribly mutated in the aforementioned countryside/mountain. He explains that there are "creatures" that are native to the Warp, of varying size, strength and intelligence, just as there are creatures native to the physical universe. The Warp just doesn't obey any laws of physics, as we know them, being a realm of pure psychic energy. He even concedes that terms like "sorcery", "demon" and, yes, even "gods" work to describe them, if only because the advanced, secular Imperium simply doesn't have any more accurate descriptions. The Emperor just choose to hide this truth from his people; after all, who would WANT to know and understand all that? However, Horus makes it clear that there are no gods or great daemons in the warp, and there is no real concept of "evil" that the daemons could represent or rally behind. Yeah...
    • Even the highly, highly advanced Eldar have their gods to worship. Well had for most of them, since they have almost all been killed by Chaos. But then when you regularly summon the avatar of one of your gods to help you in battle, it must help belief. The fact is, in the 40K universe the most rational and evidence based choice is religion - there are actual demons, evil gods, not-so-evil gods and magic all walking around, the alternative really is Flat Earth Atheism.
    • In fairness, the "Gods" of the Warhammer 40,000 universe are slightly different from modern day notions of Gods, in that they are extremely powerful warp entities. Horus's description of them is perfectly correct. They are not omnipotent, omniscient, nor are they creators of the universe (the universe created them) - indeed, the Chaos Gods are an example of man making God in his own image, given that they are fueled by human emotion. Atheism in the modern sense is still a perfectly rational position in the WH 40 k universe - the warp can easily be factored into an atheistic worldview (and, seriously what kind of twisted, sick deity would create the Wh40k universe?).
    • Another major example would be the relationship between the Necrons and the C'Tan. The Necrons willingly gave themselves over to the C'Tan in order to increase their own power, but were soon turned into their mindlessly loyal slaves. The upshot of this is that the C'Tan feed on souls and not belief, so they will be happy to show up and help their "followers" as long as they get some nice tasty souls in return on the battlefield.
    • The whole deal here is that 'souls' aren't so much an abstract concept, they are a genuine blob of psychic energy that exists in all living people, and 'the warp' is essentially totally composed of that form of energy. The 'Gods' are very powerful beings made out of the same psychic energy, that coagulated out random bits of similar energy (lets say that each emotion has its own frequency) until they gained consciousness. The gods can eat the souls of dead guys to get more powerful, and gods can even eat each other if they are powerful enough. It makes sense in context. But yeah, the words that are used aren't at ALL the same as how we would use them today, but they are the only easy to understand words for it. The gods don't want/need belief in the same way as a god might in reality, they want it because if you worship them you send energy to them and feed off of that. It's kinda like the Ori in Stargate SG-1 in that regard.
  • Averted in the BattleTech universe. All the major religions continue to survive and thrive in the 31st century, and some of the major governments adopt official state faiths, either on principle or as a means of social control - the Federated Suns' Church of Avalon is a splinter of Roman Catholicism formed from a miscommunication (shortly before Vatican City was burned to the ground and its occupants put before a firing squad), while the Draconis Combine revived Shinto for the commoners, and encourages Buddhism for its aristocracy. Most amusing is when the sourcebooks describe the fates of several smaller sects - the Amish establish a whole world free of unnecessary technology, Mormons (always okay with the idea that God made more than one world) expanded and thrived, Islam remains popular on Earth and is dominant on several worlds of the Combine (who joined only on the condition that they could keep their religion), Wicca's popular in the matriarchal and famously hedonistic Magistracy of Canopus, and Scientologists just up and withered away. Or was replaced by ComStar and The Word of Blake.
    • To be fair, these future "Scientologists" hold the entire universal communications network in their hands, so they didn't exactly get the short end of the stick.
      • And they have nukes. Lots of nukes. Fear the cats.
    • There's also the new religions that cropped up after humanity took to the stars (such as the aforementioned ComStar which started off as a governmental department), though most are little more than vague mysticism or cults of personality. And there's the generally-atheistic Clans who border on religious worship of their founders, even while some individual clanners manage to wedge more conventional religion into their daily life. And let's not forget Clan Goliath Scorpion, which developed a tradition of drug-induced mystic visions.
  • Cthulhu Tech contains a rather bad example. Christianity and Islam are gone. It's not really expounded upon, they're just gone.
    • Presumably the combination of sci-fi technology (and its accompanying wave of rationalism) on the one hand, and the very real and somewhat provable existence of the old ones on the other made everyone less interested in religions that have a very specific world view that excludes either of those things.
  • Fading Suns thoroughly averts this with the Urth Orthodox church holding roughly as much influence over the Known Worlds as Catholicism held over Medieval Europe.


Video Games

  • Baten Kaitos Origins twists this trope. It starts off with a fairly simple "science = evil" 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 in order to overcome what they were fighting, but then they all get sealed into the End Magnus from the first game, but 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.
  • Mass Effect has Ashley Williams suggest that she's somewhat eccentric for having religious beliefs, at least as a soldier. The player can choose whether Shepard is religious or not. All of the aliens have a religious or spiritual side to their cultures. The player can choose how Shepard views them.
    • The "Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC reveals that the human supremacist terrorist organization Cerberus assassinated the Pope in order to make way for his more militant successor, suggesting that the Catholic Church still has a significant number of adherents.
    • The other races are no different. Besides their native religions, the codex notes that some turians have adopted human religions such as Confucianism and Zen Buddhism.
  • In Deus Ex; religion is alive and well in the 2050s. Some of the Ancient Conspiracies are themselves religious or spiritual; for example, The Illuminati. The Knights Templar, influential bankers who directly descended from the original order of knights. Morgan Everett even comments that prior to the Templars' downfall, he would pray alongside other leaders in finance at the Cathedrale de Payens for the continued stability of Templar banks.
  • Deus Ex Invisible War is a Double 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 got played straight--until The Order popped up, uniting all of the old faiths into one syncretic philosophy. Later, however, it's revealed that The Order is just one of two fronts for the Illuminati, and is part of their method of controlling polar opposites of society.
  • In Dead Space, the only known religion humans have left is Unitology, which has been extremely corrupted by leaders who demand high "donations" in order to move up in rank and bastardize their founder's idols. As a result, many (even level header and nice ones) are mocked by their atheist co-workers. Of course they just happen to worship something that comes out of H.P. Lovecraft (and odds are, their beliefs are right).
  • Star Control II plays the trope to different ends. While there isn't enough contact with actual humans to tell if they're still religious or not (having the entire planet encased in an impenetrable bubble for the entire game will do that), several races are heavily religious, such as the sadistic Ilwrath, the mystical Utwig, the new-age-ish Pkunk, and the Spathi who constantly pray to not get horribly killed today. The Druuge have a literal contract with God, the VUX mention a Creator, the Supox believe that they have divine origin (but they're not arrogant about it), and the Zoq Fot Pik tell the (somewhat mocking) story of how they discovered fire, the wheel, and religion all at once.
    • While the Ilwrath's deities are eventually specifically revealed as a trick played by another race, the Utwig's sacred machine (which was given to them by another race that thought it was just junk) is implied to do at least something... and the Pkunk can apparently come back from the dead somehow, although both could just be sufficiently advanced technology. The way the Mycon talk also sort of hints at their outlook possibly being religious, but it isn't really possible to communicate with them well enough to get more information. And, of course, one of the core conflicts of the series has the overtones of a religious war.
      • And the Supox at the very least believe they were created by something. Either God or another more advanced race. The reason is that for a sentient plant base life form to come into existence randomly is so close to zero that they believe something had to have created them. Wither it's God or not depends on the individual Supox.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus visits the planet Bryyo, which is covered in the ruins of a golden age. 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 Lords of Science honked off the magic-using mystics, and there was a big magic-vs-technology war that tore the planet apart. Literally. There are bits of the planet that had to be chained to the surface. It could be said that the Lords of Science technically won, because a few of them were able to recognize the planetary damage and stabilize the planet, though it lead to them revealing their secret location, and thus being wiped out by the mystics. Without the Lords of Science, the remaining Reptilicus devolved into (magical) barbarism.
    • Averted with the Chozo who made balance between the technological and mystical aspects of their society a priority. So much so that it's almost impossible to tell where the science ends and mysticism begins in their technology.
    • The Chozo actually warned the Science lords that they needed balance between the two. They didn't agree until far too late.
  • The conflict between the University and the Believers in Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri is an example and an aversion, respectively.
    • The Human Hive seeks to invoke this trope, meanwhile: Yang's social experiment, amongst other things, seeks to eradicate belief in higher powers and replace it with an atheistic collectivism/taoism that holds human advancement and the goals of the collective as "God".
    • The game plays with this trope. The Gaians are noted to be a religious society, the Cult of Planet is obvious, both of the Progenitors smack of taking their dogma to the point of religion, and there are hints that even the University acknowledges the concept of a god.
    • Seems more like it acknowledges that it's easier to call the Sufficiently Advanced Alien a God than a giant distributed neural network that encompasses the entire planet.
      • In the backstory novella, Zakharov tells Miriam bluntly that "the atom exists; God does not", which does put an interesting spin on his description of the Voice of Planet project as "our last-ditch attempt to win humanity a reprieve from extinction at the hands of an awakening alien god". On the other hand, (1) he could be speaking metaphorically or (2) he could have changed a great deal in the centuries since he said that thing to Miriam (by the time a faction builds the Voice, it's generally at least the twenty-fourth century).
  • Averted in Supreme Commander. Aside from the obvious Church Militant faction and the resident Scary Dogmatic Aliens, the manual notes that religion is alive and well in the United Earth Federation.
    • Although played straight for the Cybrans, for whom technology and the hive mind has become the focus of their commitment.
  • 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.
  • Both played straight and averted in Starcraft universe. Background material mentions that upon taking control of Earth, the United Powers League(later becomes 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.
    • The most advanced race in the setting, the Protoss, nearly killed themselves before the religion/social structure of the Khala was established, and while it's lessened in importance with the acceptance of the Dark Templar, it's still hugely important to most of the race.
  • Heavily averted in Ground Control with the 'Order of the New Dawn'.
  • 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 however goes terribly awry.
  • Averted in Sword of the Stars, humans are said to be no more or less religious than they are now. All the other races have their own faiths (most notably the Zuul worshiping their creators).
    • The main problem for Cai Rui in the Deacon's Tale novel is that, while he's in charge of an intelligence branch of SolForce, he's also a Catholic deacon. It's not that he's religious. It's that he is part of the Church hierarchy and, thus, answers to more than one boss. Naturally, the director of SolForce is not too keen on that, particularly because of the latest conflict between him and the Pope. Additionally, Christianity is mentioned to be getting popular with the Tarka.
  • Can be inverted in the famous Star Ruler mod Galactic Armory: One Trait prevents you from using certain esoteric tech, most to do with Spatial Dynamics, with the reason that your people's religious beliefs forbid it.
  • Completely skewered in Albion. For starters, while the crew of the Toronto never mention God, a news report from Earth confirms that the Catholic Church at the very least still exists, and is being led by the pope (one called John Paul the twenty-somethingth). The Iskai and Celts living on the planet worship the Goddess Animebona who is in fact the planet itself, and is quite real and alive. Her antithesis, Animenkhna is technically the "god" of terran humans, being the embodyment of science and all. The actual God is handwaved by the natives as the unknown. Christianity is implied to be an attempt at compromise, that ended up being too irrational for the terrans and too rational for the Celts.


Web Comics

  • Averted Trope, and ridiculed in the editor's note of this Schlock Mercenary strip.
  • Inverted by Caligula of The Law of Purple; 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.
  • The punchline of this Comic Blasphemy. (Look at the title. What do you expect?)


Web Original

  • In the universe of Dominion and Duchy, a group called the Cathedrum is explicitly compared to the Catholic Church and the Vatican in particular. It is also described as being the oldest group still in existence.
  • In Orions Arm humanity just replaced them with new ones (or started worshiping the Archailects), and even then few religions have died out.


Western Animation

  • The Transformers in Beast Wars are both in the future although they've gone back to the past and robots from another planet, but they still have some vague scraps of religion. There's a lot of swearing by Primus and references to the "Covenant of Primus", which is apparently somewhat like the Bible. It's mostly setting flavour; in the finale, though, Megatron and Optimus quote snatches of the Covenant's prophecies to each other (Optimus because he's a believer; Megatron because he's a megalomaniacal narcissist and it sounds badass).
  • Parodied rather savagely in the South Park episodes "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 by equally trivial atheistic factionalism and conflict. People shout things like, "Hail science," "science dammit", and "Science H. Logic!" instead of their religious equivalents. Ultimately the episode argues that atheism can make you just as stupid as religion does.
    • Though of course this is mostly (at the time) Mrs. Garrison's fault, who after becoming the wife of Richard Dawkins made it a part of doctrine that one must not only believe that one's belief is right but be an asshole about it.
  • In an episode of Family Guy a lack of religion allows the U.S. to progress technologically by a thousand years, though the arts had stagnated for a similar amount of time.
  • Subverted in Justice League; Hawkgirl comes from an advanced alien civilization which gave up religion eons ago, but after a certain episode, she comes to believe that there is...something good...out there.
    • Though note that they gave up religion not because they stopped believing in gods, but because their god was an Eldritch Abomination who demanded their souls in sacrifice. They decided their religion wasn't worth the cost.
  • One episode of American Dad is set in 2045, with the present referred to as "when people still believed in The Bible."
  • Subverted in an episode of Batman Beyond. The kids at Terry's school think it's haunted when strange things start happening. When Terry discusses this with Bruce, this exchange happens:

 Bruce Wayne: These people believe everything they can't explain is magic.

Terry: Naturally, you don't believe in that sort of thing.

Bruce Wayne: Of course I do. I've seen it all, demons, witch boys, immortals, zombies, but this thing ... I dunno, it just feels so ... so high school.

  • Played with in Futurama. Though religion certainly exists, most of the current ones have merged into the First Amalgamated Church. The second coming of Jesus has occurred, but life continued normally, save for the destruction of all VHS tapes. Oprah-ism and Voodoo are considered mainstream, and there is a reptilian "Space Pope," who has some influence over safety filmstrips.


Real Life

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