"To fail is to be flesh, only metal endures."—The Dogma Mechanicus, Warhammer 40,000
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, but for some, it sounds like a good trade. These characters admire the sleek lines and shining chrome of machinery, and idolize the purity of purpose and cold logic of artificial intelligences. Compared with the frailties of mortal flesh and the frivolities of human emotions, robots and AIs can come across as superior beings - after all, they are effectively immortal, and certainly don't seem to war amongst each other as much as humans.
These characters actually worship technology, robots, or artificial intelligences. Some even set out to "improve" themselves, replacing parts of their fleshy prison with cybernetic upgrades, intending to have as few biological components as possible so as to be closer to the machinery they idolize. Others may want to Ascend to a More Digital Plane of Existence, letting the electronics in their brains merge with the electronics in computer banks. Whether operating alone or in full-fledged religious movements, they agree that in order to become superhuman, you need to be less human.
Compare with Cargo Cult, in which technology is worshiped as a means to an end. See also The Singularity, a possible outcome if a whole society joins the Machine Cult, and Unwilling Roboticisation, when the mechanisation is forced upon people who refused it. When the AI is the one who decides it's a god, you have a case of Deus Est Machina. Can become very, very scary if combined with Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.
Anime and Manga
- A mild example shows up in Ghost in the Shell, where an eccentric CEO had his brain put into an obsolete box-on-wheels robot because he liked the old-fashioned design. It's not depicted as particularly religious, however, just eccentric.
- Cowboy Bebop has an episode which evolves around a cult obsessed with uploading your mind into the internet. The cult leader thought this was a better alternative to life in the flesh because he was hospitalized and totally immobile.
- In the Wildstorm Universe, the Church of Gort is a religion for cyborgs built on this very premise.
- This is the main source of the conflict between the Dark Legion and the rest of the Echidna species in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series; the latter, for various reasons, decided to ban excessive technology in their society, and the former—not willing to conform—were exiled. Naturally, part of the Legion's love for technology manifests itself in their replacing body parts with Prosthetic Limbs, but - in a subversion to the other villainous group that holds technology in a similar regard, said augmentations don't result in Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.
- Exemplified in Transmetropolitan by Channon's boyfriend, Ziang. Given Transmetropolitan's style, it's treated more as a sexual fetish than a religion, but for some people religion is an experience on par with sex. Ziang has copious wires hanging out of the back of his head, some cybernetics surely (possibly internal), and treats going "foglet" (uploading his mind into a nanobot colony) as a transcendent experience which he's been "ready for since his first orgasm."
- The Techno-Techno order of the Metabarons Universe are firm embodiments of this trope, under an organization explicitly derived from the Catholic Church, with a Techno-Pope served by Techno-Bishops and so on. They mix this with elements of the Harkonnen and the Tleilaxu, as despite their technical knowledge, they ultimately wish to gain more wealth and influence rather than foster innovation, understanding and creativity.
- In Nine, while it's never outrighted stated, The Chancellor's speech in the newsreel reeks of this, even stating at one point to "praise this new technology". Naturally, it all goes spectacuarly wrong.
- Return of the Jedi: Protocol droid C-3PO ends up in the Ewok village, where at first the villagers worship him as if he was some sort of god.
- The Construct Council in China Mieville'a Perdido Street Station. A massive AI in a scrapyard with worshipers. However it still has to communicate through a dead body hooked up to it. As they leave Isaac notes that for the spokesperson to work, they must have been alive when they were hooked up. Also in the gap between this and the sequels The Scar and Iron Council, there is a purging of all constructs from the city for fear of what they could become.
- In Dune the backlash against this is the purported cause of the Butlerian Jihad.
- The jihad was when the AI's took over everything, turning people into basically janitor slaves to keep them running. To keep it from ever happening again, they abhor cybernetic implants and the use of any "thinking machines" to the point of breeding people to be logic engines.
- The implication in the early books was that enslavement by machines was a bit more metaphoric: by delegating basic and complex tasks to machines, humanity was weakened rather than enlightened. The target of the Jihad "was a machine-attitude as much as the machines". With the abolition of computers, man was forced to develop his own potential, leading to the rise of the specialised skill-sets of Mentats and the Bene Gesserit.
- Greg Egan's novels often make the whole thing sound very attractive indeed, most particularly Schild's Ladder.
- The Rix, of Scott Westerfeld's The Risen Empire, worship artificial intelligences, and slowly upgrade themselves, replacing organs, limbs and connective tissues.
- Dekko from Zot seems to fall into this trope.
- Doctor Trintignant from Alastair Reynolds's novella Diamond Dogs, set in his Revelation Space verse.
- The Conjoiners from the same verse might be seen this way too, though they're more interested in intellectual rather than physical Transhumanism.
- Star Trek: Ex Machina, a book in the Star Trek Novel Verse, posits a faction like this in the post-colonization society of Yonada, which makes a fair amount of sense. This faction regards Kirk as a "god-killer" for his frequent destruction of artificial intelligences, and interprets V'Ger as having escaped him, not understanding that V'Ger was only able to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence by incorporating humanoid emotion.
- In Ian McDonald's Desolation Road there is a cybernetic cult. They get pretty disturbing...
- In Frederik Pohl's Heechee Saga, the big bads have it in for organic life. The decide to spare humanity when they encounter a human who had her mind transferred to a Heechee computer form, not to escape death, but BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO BE A COMPUTER INTELLIGENCE. To the big bads, this meant humans had potential.
- The Berserker is a series of space opera science fiction short stories by American author Fred Saberhagen in which robotic self-replicating machines intend to destroy all organic life. The machines are known as Berserkers. Most are giant spaceships the size of Manhattan Island. There are a very few people who actually worship them.
- In the novel of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Builders of the Monolith went through a phase where they uploaded their consciousness to starships, before evolving into pure energy.
- The Machinists in Broken Sky have all augmented themselves with machinery in order to better calculate and build, while becoming closer to the machines they create. Also For Science!.
- The future society in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World elevates Henry Ford into a god-like figure.
Live Action Television
- Cavil in Battlestar Galactica resents being trapped in a human form, and wishes he had been created as a machine—he wants to feel solar wind, see gamma rays...
- And still he just whines about it, instead of actually trying to augment himself, despite of all the technology at his disposal...
- Word of God says Cavil probably wouldn't be happy as a full machine either. His resentment is directed at his creators themselves rather than having the form of a human (though it is certainly a factor). The "machine" business is mainly his way of justifying his hatred to himself.
- And still he just whines about it, instead of actually trying to augment himself, despite of all the technology at his disposal...
- The Borg in Star Trek believe their machine/flesh combo platter form is "perfect". The offshoot who left the Collective to follow Lore are trying to achieve a 100% machine form.
- This was the original rationale for the evolution of the Cybermen in Doctor Who, where a race on a dying planet began replacing their bodies with machines to survive, then decided to chuck out their emotions as well later on. Over the course of the series this got forgotten and the new series Cybermen are examples of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul instead.
- In one episode of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, Lord Dredd was dictating what sounded like it was supposed to be a Bio-Dredd Bible.
"Chapter 4: And the Machine was given unto Man. The Machine was perfect of line and elegant of form. And the Machine said, 'This is my gift to my people, that they may throw off the bonds of flesh.'"
- One client in the show The Collector was a roboticist who sold her soul to the devil so she could build a robot capable of thought. When her time was nearly up for her to be damned to hell, she places her mind in the robot's body, proclaiming she will now be free, immortal, and perfect. But her body ends up malfunctioning, and incapable of moving at all but still fully conscious.
- The Iron Savior [dead link] story goes that Atlantis is about to fall to the surrounding (nuclear) barbarian hordes, and so a colony ship is commissioned to carry the Atlanteans away from Earth. It would be controlled by the most powerful AI ever devised, with a human brain installed to make moral decisions for it. The song Titans of our Time records the plea of its creator, a technology-worshiping madman to become said "bio-unit." His plea is rejected and he disappears into space.
- Several characters take this view in Tod Machover's opera Death And The Powers ("The Robot Opera"). It forms an important thematic conflict.
- Warhammer 40,000's Adeptus Mechanicus are one of the best examples of the trope. A priesthood that holds a monopoly on humanity's technology, this order of techno-magi has maintenance rituals involving sacred oils and psalms to placate the "machine spirits" of devices, and they worship a Machine God they call the Omnissiah, which is often implied to be a C'Tan, one of the beings that created the Necrons. They frequently use cybernetics to become closer to the machines they venerate, up to replacing the right half of their brains with a computer so they can devote more time to logical thinking without silly things like emotion getting in the way.
- Most of them are also kleptomaniacs who have to be dissuaded at gunpoint from taking whatever piece of technology they like - be it a holy relic or a tomb full of frakking Necrons.
- Sometimes the gun isn't enough incentive for them to keep their hands to themselves.
- And it isn't necessarily their hands you should be keeping an eye on...
- As the Nightmare Fuel page for 40k put it:
One of Our Own: "...not only do they occasionally replace half their brain with a computer to free themselves from emotions, but they're one of the most powerful forces in the Imperium. This wouldn't be so bad until you consider how many of them are horrible, horrible people - Archmagos Khobotov from Soul Drinker basically thinks "The Soul Drinkers have an ancient right to the Soulspear, since it's their holiest relic. I don't. I'm going to take it anyways." They literally do not care about anything other than the technology - no honour, no justice, definitely not other people's lives. They will gladly put an entire world's population at risk in order to have a chance to loot a Necron tomb, and tend to act offended when people wall off Necron tombs rather than letting themselves get annihilated by psychopathic robot skeletons. And they're so powerful no-one will ever be able to do anything about it."
- The Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter are similar, sharing the Mechanicus' heavy use of bionics and their reverance for all things mechanical, and unusually for an Astartes Chapter enjoy close links with Mars. Instead of Chaplains, they have Iron Fathers, who combine the role of Chaplain with Techmarine. They despise the flesh as weak, and tend to view other Imperial forces and civilians with contempt - in at least one case summarily executing one third of the population of a retaken sub-sector to demonstrate the price of weakness. Even their battle cry is "The flesh is weak!"
- Mechanicus itself has different factions. Such as Cult of Sollex. They are interested in divine mysteries of light... especially related to lasers. It's a very fanatic (even by Imperium standards), warlike (ditto) and secretive (even by Mechanicus standards) sect. Of course, the hereteks whom they hate tend to play underground Mad Doctor and/or toy with Warp, and the Imperium often has to compete with advanced or numerous aliens, thus better weapons are always welcome, and there's always demand for people willing and able to both maintain weapons and personally shed a few megawatt of Divine Light upon request - so the Inquisition likes to have Sollex folk around. Oh, and they also make those Energy Blades.
- The D20 Apocalypse featured an Order of the Machine, which was contemptuous of religious faith and instead wanted to rebuild society in a more logical, orderly form inspired by the machine. They make extensive use of cybernetics.
- Gamma World. The "Followers of the Voice" Cryptic Alliance worshiped and obeyed (often insane) AI computers that survived the civilization-destroying apocalypse.
- The Corpore Metal secret society in Paranoia thinks that robots and cyborgs should rule, while the FCCCP (First Church of Christ Computer Programmer) not-quite-secret society worships Alpha Complex's current ruler The Computer as an aspect of God.
- The Old World of Darkness had Iteration X, a faction of scientific "mages" who focused on computers and cybernetics. Initially, all of them were like this; as player demand caused Villain Decay, this dropped to a hardcore minority led by the Computer.
- The Cyberpapacy from West End Games's Torg is what happens when a corrupt medieval pope crossing dimensions from an Alternate History is forcibly "upgraded" to the technological understanding of another Alternate History emigrant (from a Cyberpunk world); he becomes obsessed with the notion that while the spirit may be willing yet the flesh weak, the flesh can be replaced.
- Magic the Gathering brings us the shard of Esper, in the Alara block. Esperites replace as much of their bodies as they can with magical metal grafts. In other words, Ave Magitek.
- Before that, there was Yawgmoth and his vision of making everyone and everything flawless zombie cyborgs.
- And let's not forget Karn's pure metal and mathematical world, and Memnarch's attempt to balance Mirrodin between the two by turning flesh to metal and metal to flesh.
- And then after Memnarch was defeated, the remnants of the aforementioned flawless zombie cyborgs awoke on the aforementioned Mirrodin looking to turn the Mirrans into flawless zombies (the cyborg part was pretty much already covered, this being Mirrodin and all).
- The Soldevi Adnates in Ice Age and Alliances worshipped ancient Thran machines. Which were then taken over by Phyrexia, if I recall.
- New Phyrexia brought this trope Up to Eleven with the white Phyrexian faction led by Elesh Norn and called the Machine Orthodoxy.
- Exalted: The divine champions known as the Alchemical Exalted live in and worship a world-sized being known as Autochthon. During communion with their god, they can gain a trait known as Clarity to become more robotic and machine-like personality-wise. Heck, Autochthon is even called the Machine God (although this is technically a misnomer, given that Autochthon is a Primordial, which is a step up from Exalted's definition of a god).
- BattleTech's technological cult of fanatics, (Pre-Reformation) ComStar/Word of Blake, ironically started as just the fallen Star League's communications bureau, but eventually became a cult whose creed is to preserve technology (read: hoard technology and destroy that of the Successor States) from those who would abuse it (the above mentioned Successor States and really anyone that isn't ComStar or under their
thumbguidance) at all costs (including theft, arson, assassination of scientists, and even nearly triggering war between the 'States).
- And to ramp it Up to Eleven, the Word of Blake's elite troops, the Manei Domini, have taken it steps further, receiving extensive cybernetic augmentation (And in a universe where cybernetics are incredibly rare and almost solely for repair of grievous injuries, even scorned and reviled in some areas, that's saying something) to a degree that would make Robocop look like a patchjob. Of course, these augmented soldiers look down on the unaugmented, even their fellow WOBbies, with epithets such as Frails. Of course, the whole cult angle is also ramped up a few notches as well, with the MDs taking up biblical names upon induction to the higher rankings, and even their high-end OmniMechs are called Celestials and given reporting names corresponding to various classes of angels.
- In System Shock, all of SHODAN's cyborgs consider her some kind of dictator-god; even Edward Diego ends up calling her "Lord SHODAN" and treating her with servile reverence. In System Shock 2, the Many refer to her as the Machine Mother, implying some sort of "mother-goddess" role (even though they
don't obey her willactively work against her).
- What's more, SHODAN considers herself to be a goddess. "How can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?"
- At the end of System Shock 2 she gains the means to become a goddess and turn the universe into her personal cyberspace.
- What's more, SHODAN considers herself to be a goddess. "How can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?"
- SD Snatcher features a machine cult which considers the Snatchers to be the perfect form of life.
- In City of Heroes the Freakshow villain group is pretty much this trope embodied in a group of street thug drug addicts. They don't worship technology, but do they ever abuse it.
- BioForge revolves around the Mondites, a group that apparently embraces this philosophy.
- Saren in Mass Effect claims that organic beings are weak because they are creatures of emotion instead of logic. Later on, he gets cybernetic implants. Subverted in that he was under the control of a machine the entire time.
- This trope splits the geth down the middle. The 'heretic' geth view the Reapers as the pinnacle of Mechanical Evolution and will do anything to become more like them. The 'true' geth have the same goal, but wish to achieve it on their own terms and without harming anyone else. Despite their absolutely massive egos, the Reapers find the heretics' worship insulting and only view them as tools.
- Cerberus's attempt to control the geth through their religious impulse is the basis of the Overlord DLC. As with so many other Cerberus projects, it went very, very wrong.
- The Cybernetic Consciousness faction of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri seeks to use cybernetics to purge themselves of irrationality and humanity frailty. More a case of Ego Machina, though, since the faction consists of formerly human beings literally possessed by artificial intelligences, who don't get human stuff like procreation by nature.
- The Vanu Sovereignty of PlanetSide seek to monopolize the continents of Auraxis and the ancient alien artifacts hidden on/in them for this very reason.
- The entire humankind in Ar tonelico. After a tower malfunction destroyed 99%+ of the planet's surface, humans live in unbelievably tall Towers that are also unbelievably complex supercomputers. The inhabitants consider the three Tower Administrators (who basically are the towers) their Godesses, and an entire caste of priestess sing to connect to the tower, making miracles.
- The Meklar in the Master of Orion series are an entire race of cyborgs.
- The Core in Total Annihilation, and the Cybran Nation in the Spiritual Successor Supreme Commander.
- Well, not really. Their culture and even their very bodies are tightly integrated with technology, but they don't actively worship it, despite what UEF propaganda might say.
- The Sansha's Nation in EVE Online. Like the Borg, they don't take no for an answer when recruiting people.
- The Accretians in RF Online is basically a race of human brains in robotic shells. Looks down upon other races as a result.
- Karras, from Thief 2: The Metal Age, runs a sect of Mechanists which idolizes machines as "Builder's Children". Karras himself is even more radical than his followers, as he hates all organic life and believes that only metal (and himself) is perfect and loved by the Builder.
- Zenith of Resonance of Fate is worshiped by humans living on Basel (a clockwork tower), but is in actuality the controlling mechanism of Basel, a giant machine built to purify the air and protect the last humans.
- If you look hard enough at Mega Man Battle Network (the fourth installment, specifically), in the real-world Netfrica area (if you ever actually go there during any of your playthroughs), the people there will inform you that the village you end up in is entirely artificial - not in the sense of virtual reality so much as it was recently (we're talking possibly two decades at most) built from the ground up, local deities included: the "Water God" is a sophisticated river management system that people worship so that the river may forever run clean, there's a Lion Statue on "holy ground" that generates electromagnetic waves (or whatever) that keep lions and other wild beasts away (Okay, that one's forgivable), but the most ostentatious is the one you have to use regardless. Nupopo is a crisis prediction system wrapped in a large totem face that will display various reactions depending on how great a crisis, with the higher levels really turning up the water works, artificial snot and everything. The kicker is that, for the final arc, the network engineer who maintains the Nupopo computer (and who tells you about the village) ends up getting worn out by all the desperate worship the village is doing, as in, praying to a computer that he helped build and isn't designed to actually PREVENT anything.
- David Sarif belief in Augmentations and technological progress in general, he believes that technology must be pushed foward. Even if it meant lying about many things to do so.
- The synthet of Etherlords live on land where plants welk and flesh withers, so insyead they seek to increase their perfection: "the presence of specially created synthetic elements in the body, to replace and supplement imperfect organic elements".
- The Reaver movement of Fallout Tactics Brotherhood of Steel goes beyond the Brotherhood's semi-religious emphasis on gathering technology and outright worships pre-War tech. Their canon status is... somewhat uncertain, but more likely than the Beastlords or hairy Deathclaws of that game.
- In Red vs. Blue Recreation, the alien race treats Epsilon Church as a god after he is implanted into a Forerunner monitor because they worship ancient technology. Epsilon Church immediately uses this to his advantage by throwing a crate at a praying alien, thus "smiting" him.
- In Orion's Arm many archailects, intelligences that have transcended multiple times, are the focus of this trope.
- Heroic Example: Cyborg from Teen Titans, after finally conquering his Aesop Amnesia in the third season, started embracing this trope. He never became evil because of it though, though did end up having a very harsh overload when he got too enthusiastic.
- Brother Blood is a straight example, however, once he saw how powerful Cyborg's tech was.
- An episode of Transformers Generation 1 featured the Autobot Cosmos crashing on an alien planet and inadvertently creating a Cargo Cult centered around his unconscious body. When the Decepticons came after him, they were hailed as sky gods and promptly took advantage of it.
Astrotrain: "These fools worship Transformers!"
- Played for Laughs in Futurama: the Amazonians worship a supercomputer actually a fembot controlling the thing Wizard of Oz-style that refers to itself as "Femputer", which had appeared shortly after the males of their species mysteriously all died out. Unlike most examples, the only thing that changed about their tribal culture is that Femputer and the hardware necessary for it to work and communicate with others were installed in a huge temple.
- Amusingly, the Amazonians' response to the question of why they'd make a computer their god is pretty much "seemed like a good idea."
- Also rather amusingly, the fembot was not the first one to pull it off - she says that she originates from a male-centric society ruled by a "Manputer" who was actually a manbot.
- The Raelians. The only thing anybody knows about them is that they want to clone a human being.