Does reading science fiction predispose people to atheism?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

My friend ECM thinks that science fiction that people read when they are younger causes them to believe that the religion is anti-science and that the progress of science always disproves religion. The stories they read colors their views of science and religion for life, before they ever get to assessing evidence. And that’s why when we produce evidence for them in debates, they will believe in speculations rather than go where the evidence leads. So they believe that maybe unobservable aliens caused the origin of life, and that maybe the untestable multiverse theory explains the fine-tuning of cosmological constants, and that maybe this universe has existed eternally despite the well-supported Big Bang theory which shows that the universe began to exist. Maybe, maybe, maybe. They seem to think that untestable speculations are “good enough” to refute observational evidence – and maybe it’s because of all the science fiction that they’ve read.

Here’s an article in the American Spectator that talks a bit about it.


A magazine I frequently write for (not this one) recently published a review of a book of essays advocating atheism. The reviewer pointed out with some enthusiasm that a large number of the contributors were science-fiction writers.

This left me somewhat nonplussed. I publish a good deal of science fiction myself, I have also read quite a lot of it, and I am quite unable to see why writing it should be held to particularly qualify anyone to answer the question of whether or not there is a God.

[…]Historically the contribution of the Catholic Church to astronomy was massive and unequalled. Without it astronomy might very well never have grown out of astrology at all. Cathedrals in Bologna, Florence, Paris, Rome and elsewhere were designed in the 17th and 18th centuries to function as solar observatories. Kepler was assisted by a number of Jesuit astronomers, including Father Paul Guldin and Father Zucchi, and by Giovanni Cassini, who had studied under Jesuits. Cassini and Jesuit colleagues were eventually able to confirm Kepler’s theory on the Earth having an elliptical orbit. J.L. Heilbron of the University of California has written:

The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions.

Science fiction is, by definition, fiction, that is, it deals with things which are the product of a writer’s imagination and are not literally true. In any event, what is and what is not science fiction is hard to define. Simply to say it is about science is meaningless, and while some science-fiction writers are qualified scientists, many are not. Probably even fewer are trained theologians.

Science fiction makes the mysteries of the universe seem easy to an atheist. Everything can be easily explained with fictional future discoveries. Their speculations about aliens, global warming and eternal universes are believed without evidence because atheists want and need to believe in those speculations. In the world of science fiction, the fictional characters can be “moral” and “intelligent” without having to bring God or the evidence for God into the picture. That’s very attractive to an atheist who wants the feeling of being intelligent and moral without having to weight actual scientific evidence or ground their moral values and behavior rationally. The science fiction myths are what atheists want to believe. It’s a placebo at the worldview level. They don’t want cosmic microwave background radiation – they want warp drives. They don’t want WMAP satellite confirmation of nucleosynthesis – they want holodecks.

Why do people become atheists?

My theory is mainly that atheists adopt atheism because they want pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, without any restraints or guilt. They want to believe that sex without commitment has no consequences, especially a consequence like God judging them for it. Another contributing factor may be that atheists want to be thought of as smart by “the right people” – to sort of blindly accept whatever the “smart people” accept without really searching out reasons or dissenting views. They do this so that they are able to look down at some other group of people so they can feel better about themselves and be part of the right group – without actually having to weigh the evidence on both sides. And lastly, atheism may also be caused by weak fathers or abandoning fathers. But I think that ECM’s science fiction theory has merit, as well. I think that all four of these factors help to explain why atheists believe in a discredited worldview in the teeth of scientific progress.

I wonder if my readers would take some time out to investigate whether their atheist friends have been influenced by reading science fiction and whether they still read it.

28 thoughts on “Does reading science fiction predispose people to atheism?”

  1. I’m not sure if the science fiction I read growing up contributed to my atheism or not, but I am pretty sure that reading my older brother’s Tom Swift, Jr novels were a part of my desire to become an engineer. (And, I was the jock kid, not the brainy one, in the family.)

    One of my fave things to do now – forgive me, WK – is to see how the atheist anti-religionist Gene Roddenberry smuggled concepts of God (surely unwittingly) into his Star Trek Original Series episodes. For example, when the Enterprise spanks a Romulan or Klingon vessel, there is never any issue or regret whatsoever regarding the objective morality for doing so. Also, in the City on the Edge of Forever, there are issues of objective morality and God’s relationship to time woven throughout that episode. It is just interesting to me that Roddenberry could not technically hold fast to his worldview – it was still mostly (objective) good versus evil there. Of course, there are also many times where his atheism / anti-religionism shows through.


    1. Oh, I was given a whole bunch of Tom Swift and Hardy Boys books from a neighbor when I was a kid, and they seemed to be fine. I mostly read the Hardy Boys, not the Tom Swift though. Flying lab? Sounded far-fetched to me.


          1. The Prime Directive would certainly have evolutionary naturalism as a foundation – which means that moral relativism cannot be far behind. Of course, I had MR hammered home by my Mom – and abortion on demand too. She is strangely quiet on the latter issue right now. :-)


          2. I always thought that the Prime Directive was there to help SciFi fans could believe that there were other civilizations out in space despite the lack of evidence. The PD meant they were watching us but not making contact yet because we weren’t evolved enough.


          3. Prime directive? If there is such a thing then the “aliens” are doing a terrible job. Because many atheists claim / believe in visitations. Government conspiracies. UFO sightings.If the aliens are SO advanced, they could easily escape detection by us. And they ALWAYS assume that the aliens are peaceful and would never want to harm us ‘lower life forms’

            Again, they are applying ‘morality’ to something that cannot be understood or even proven. Speculate, speculate, speculate…..

            The Word says that God created the heavens and EVERYTHING in it. That could include other life forms….but Christ only came once!


    2. Remember when Kirk said to Apollo, “Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.”


  2. James Herrick makes the case that science fiction actually prepares people to be more readily accepting of all sorts of religions and mythologies. This case can be found in “Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs”.

    For the record, I enjoy science fiction, but I don’t think it leads people to atheism. In fact, atheist Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” is one of my favorite pieces of science fiction and it brings up a host of questions. Science fiction, can, like music and movies, be a vehicle for atheist author’s to peddle their atheism (via dialogue, etc.) which could definitely have an affect on readers.


  3. I dont read science fiction but i watch it. It makes me wonder what else is out there in the world and are the myths and legends of our ancestors based on some sort of truth that just has been distorted through the ages.


  4. Also science fiction for most is a way like most story telling to tell people about as worldgonecrazy stated in his post about good versus evil.

    Many comics,sci fi,horro, supernatural etc all at some point use monsters,heroes etc to explain mankind and our issues such as morality, good vs evil,god, political oppression, revolution etc.


    1. Good point, ChildofRa – I was BIG on Comic books too! And I always saw them through the lens of (objective) good versus evil, like the Tom Swift, Jr books, who used scientific advancements to combat evil.


  5. I find this so much garbage that Sci-Fi leads to Atheism. If you listen to the logic and the mystical natures of Star Wars, it’s more hindu philosophy than anything (everything is part of the force and universe -and quite irrational i.e.: “Only the Sith deal in absolutes!” But remember Yoda saying Do or Do not, there is no try? Sounds absolute to me… lol-)
    Star Trek was anything but natural (i.e.: Q, Diana Troy having telepathic abilities – meaning mind and body dualism-) and really looking at how Starfleet function was very very utopian communist.

    L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology… Case and point.

    I haven’t read them but didn’t C.S. Lewis write a sci-fi series?


    1. Yes, Lewis was into mythology and middle ages and the sort. But, he used his fiction – the Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe, e.g., as a means for expressing Christian theology.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, i didn’t get that until the scene where Lucy asked Aslan if she would ever see him again and he replies that in her world he is known as another name. The movie was pretty good, I haven’t read the book series though


  6. In the end, it’s all about where you put your hope. For theists, hope should reside in relationship to God. For atheists, all sorts of substitutes exist. For the science fiction inclined, I think they end up putting their hope in technology, the evolution of man, and a future in the stars. Even recognizing that it’s fiction, it ends up being a pseduo-form of hope that even they recognize is not real, but from which they can derive comfort.


  7. I write science fiction from a Christian world-view. I do this for a number of reasons, but mainly it is to counter the sheer bulk of secular science-fiction which holds a strong anti-theist world-view. I personally love the possibilities presented by science-fiction and have never felt my faith compromised by asking big questions. It can be tough because I get opposition from both sides, but I have had some very positive feedback.

    Personally, I think that people of a certain disposition are drawn to certain things. Atheists can get very angry when they discover that a science-fiction book has been written from a Christian world-view. It doesn’t matter that the science is solid or the story standard sci-fi fare, they just get upset. I think this is because one of the reasons they like science-fiction is because they expect to read something in which God does not exist, or is an object of ridicule, thereby reinforcing their world-view and allowing them to play in their comfort zone. I am always happy to try to disappoint them in this regard.


  8. I could not disagree with this more. I consumed Science Fiction like candy when was growing up. Read as much Issac Asimov as I could get my hands on. And it isn’t JUST fiction. SF requires more engagement of the mind than many other forms of fiction. The best SF is based in some part on realistic ideas, or changing basic assumptions and exploring the difference.

    And the net result of this? In the hands of a thoughtful adolescent, SF can help us think BETTER about the world. It exercises our mind muscles so that we can more productively mentally engage the world around us. It doesn’t offer easy answers or lazy ways to logic away God. It wrestles with those questions, and many times the flaws and limitations of atheist thinking can be exposed just easy easily as promoted.

    As Christians, we need not fear the challenges of being exposed to ideas or wrestling with these questions. The determining factor of who becomes a Christian is not exposure to SF, but the work of the Holy Spirit. But as a Christian, I am far more equipped to discuss these issues with Atheists because I’ve read them and I’ve wrestled with the questions myself.

    I read “The Last Question” by Asimov when I was a teenager. It bothered me then as not consistent with my world view. I didn’t like it at all. I revisited it recently, and I understood better the Atheist mind wrestling with putting the universe together. Now I don’t feel offended by it, but rather an appreciation for the work he did to try and piece together the world around him, but also the yearning even he had to explain our purpose. To find it. Understanding THAT drive is a good place for me to start when talking about MY world view, that our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

    The best SF really isn’t about aliens, warp speed, or other marvelous ideas, but about humans: what drives them, what they need, and what their purpose is. It can highlight these things by changing the context somewhat, and that provides for interesting discussions. But as always, Christ has the answers to these questions in any context, and a Christian processing SF will always see that. It’s a lens we can’t, and wouldn’t want to avoid.

    I would never discourage my children from reading SF or try to protect them. I want them to expand their minds, to be challenged, and wrestle with the kinds of things that SF explores. Because I have confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit that all of this can be processed in a Christian World view, and at least SF helps children learn how to think and ask questions, unlike much other fiction.

    As Christians, we need to be wary of appearing afraid of thinking, or afraid of being challenged. We should be able to ask questions about he cosmos, process other people’s thoughts, and trust God will help us see through the lies while embracing the truth. Because if we avoid engaging, we are handing the keys to the Atheists and letting them drive, and that isn’t a good outcome for anyone.


  9. This is an interesting subject. I totally agree that as Christians we should not in any way be afraid of science fiction. But if people aren’t exposed to the Christian message, it may give support to the Atheist “anything can happen” mentality.


  10. As others have pointed out, it really depends on the author. Another Christian SciFi author that is fairly popular is Orson Scott Card(Author of Ender’s Game). His work does a lot examination of Good and Evil, and he does not have to smuggle in another worldview to do it.


  11. A lot of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction dealt with the question God. In 1949 his short story ‘The Man’ is about a rocket crew landing on Mars only to miss Christ by moments…stealing their thunder of their ‘historic’ mission.

    The question of faith pondered in many of his science-fiction sort stories and the hope of the eternal.

    Though I do agree that a lot of science fiction basically erases God out of the picture


  12. I grew up on golden age sci-fi. I did not grow up religious and sci-fi never really affected my religion or really lack of it, one way or another. That said I would like to suggest that a lot of sci-fi authors actually might not be atheists. I mean how many of them go around publishing their views on faith matters? I will tell you where I am coming from.

    ~ Taking one step backwards …

    Not too long ago I wondered about atheist fiction in general – how it obtains. And – maybe my research was incomplete, but it seemed to me that historically there have not been very many atheist writers of fiction. I mean E.M. Forster was one. But the vast majority were not. Even the likes of James Joyce and Thomas Hardy whom I once thought were atheists have not been so. Joyce was an agnostic and Hardy some kind of pantheist. Voltaire’s faith status is also debatable. So – why so few atheist writers? It might just have to do with historical circumstances, yet…

    Yet I wonder if there is something else and this has to do with certain literary elements we use when writing fiction. These are devices like allegory, symbolism, (recurring) motifs, even themes and so on. Take for example, symbolism. Good stories utilize symbolism. The green light in The Great Gatsby is not just about the green light, but about Gatsby’s hopes and aspirations.

    However given an atheist worldview/reading, the green light is just the green light and nothing more. If you are an atheist prof, then you should dock your students a letter grade for suggesting that the green light is symbolic of Gatsby’s hopes. One other – Atheist writer Mark Twain’s Mississippi river in Huck Finn is symbolic of freedom and more. But how can that be. It is just a river and nothing more. Its just water. A set of molecules banging away. Nothing more. (Finn, btw has been a treasure chest of sermon illustrations for some pastors.)

    Like so with other literary devices. I mean look even in Seinfeld, we have things connecting and interconnecting coincidentally in the storyline. If we stop to think about it, these interconnections only make sense if we have a providential undercurrents running behind the scenes.

    When we find these literary devices being used by atheists, its is on pain of being inconsistent with their worldview. So perhaps thats why we do not see too many atheist writers historically. And so perhaps thats why we should also not assume that very many sci-fi authors are atheists unless of course they explicitly say so.


  13. Science Fiction doesn’t predispose anyone to Atheism any more than Westerns predispose people to becoming cowboys.

    I disagree with the notion that people become atheists simply because they want sex. There are scads of different reasons people choose atheism. Some may want guilt-free hedonism, like you say, others may have been raised atheist, some may have had really bad experiences in whatever religion they were brought up in, and have decided to chuck the whole concept, others may have made an intellectual decision that there isn’t a God. There’s no *one* cause for everyone. People are individuals.


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