Arthur C Clarke’s last story: A world without religion in 2500 A.D.

Arthur C Clarke

It’s now three months since Sir Arthur C Clarke abandoned his 91st orbit around the Sun and headed back to the stars. We who knew and worked closely with him are still getting used to living in the post-Clarke world.

That Sir Arthur changed our world beyond recognition – by inventing the communication satellite and through his visionary writings – has been acknowledged far and wide. In the days and weeks following his demise, his views on the Next World have also attracted considerable attention.

Sir Arthur was a life-long disbeliever: he was against all forms of organised religion, and considered religion to be the worst form of ‘mind virus’.

As he said: “One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn’t require religion at all. It’s this: “Don’t do unto anybody else what you wouldn’t like to be done to you.” It seems to me that that’s all there is to it.”

Read interview God, Science, and Delusion: A Chat With Arthur C. Clarke in Free Inquiry magazine

I have just recalled that in his last published story, he envisioned a world without religions by the year 2500. He offered this in a futuristic piece titled The View From 2500 A.D., published in in November 2007, as part of a special online edition on the future.

Sir Arthur described the development of reliable psychological probes, using which any suspected individual could be ‘painlessly and accurately interrogated, by being asked to answer a series of questions’. While its original purpose is to keep the world safe from criminals and terrorists, the “Psi-probe” soon proves to be useful on another front: to weed out religious fanaticism which is a greater threat to humanity.

In his own words:

“One outcome of this–the greatest psychological survey in the whole of history–was to demonstrate conclusively that the chief danger to civilization was not merely religious extremism but religions themselves. This was summed up in a famous saying: ‘All Religions were invented by the Devil to conceal God from Mankind.’

“Billions of words of pious garbage spoken by statesmen, clerics and politicians down the ages were either hypocritical nonsense or, if sincere, the babbling of lunatics. The new insights enabled by the Psi-probe helped humans finally recognize organized religions as the most malevolent mind virus that had ever infected human minds.

“Now that the Psi-probe allows us to link millions of minds together electronically, it has been suggested that something like a ‘supermind’ might be attempted. There is a danger that this will erase the individuality of its components, and whether this is a good or a bad thing has been the subject of endless debate. There are those who think that such a merging would be a blessing–perhaps the only way to reach a true Utopia.”

Read the full story: The View from 2500 A.D. by Arthur C Clarke

Arthur C Clarke

Read Arthur C Clarke’s well known quotes on religion

Arthur C Clarke and Marconi: Waiting for the Ultimate Phone Call

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

8 thoughts on “Arthur C Clarke’s last story: A world without religion in 2500 A.D.”

  1. hi,
    just seen your blog and read some stories. your piece on Sir Clarke is simply superb. Its easily give us the impression that during Clarke life, you were very close to him. Its unfortunate that Sir Arthur Clarke demise was not properly reported in Indian media, particularly in television.

    By the way, I am the same Brajesh, who met you in November 2003 in Chiangmai during Helpage workshop. Please send me your contact nos. I m still with STAR News, based at Ahmedabad, serving as Bureau Chief-Gujarat.

  2. I’ve just come across another Clarke quote on religion that I’d forgotten about. I can’t recall exactly when he said it, but it was definitely when he was in his 80s, when he decided that he had nothing to lose even if the worst case scenario of a fatwa were to be unleashed on him…

    “Finally, I would like to assure my many Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim friends that I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind (and often, as Western medical science now reluctantly admits, to your physical well-being). Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.”


  3. When we cpnsider that all or most of the world’s religions are mutually exclusive and mutually dismissive of each other, we find it one of the most divisive factors ever invented by humans.

    Here’s an interesting extract from a really funny piece I came across recently. This was part of a student answer to the question: “Is hell exothermic or endothermic? Support your answer with proof.”

    “Let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, then you will go to hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and souls go to hell.”


  4. Sandra,
    Thanks for sharing this interesting insight — Sir Arthur would have enjoyed the impeccable reasoning you cite, as well as the overall joke. Non-believers and humanists have been dissecting the notion of Hell for a long time.

    In fact, he is one of 10,000+ subjects and people listed in the rather interestingly named ‘Who’s Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists (New York: Barricade Books, 2000, 1,248 pages, $125.00).

    The introduction of the book, which cited its thesis, included the following:
    * Hell is a theological invention.
    * There are no people in Hell.
    * There have never been any people in Hell.
    * Hell is solely an idea, a fantasy, an idea that has made some people’s life a hell.
    * We make our heaven now. We make our hell now.

    The book’s contents have now been placed online in a wiki, which means the news of Hell’s inhabitants can be updated more easily. See:

  5. Religion has always been the construct of the under-developed mind. Clarke saw that and recognised that, one day, we would transcend the trappings of myth and embrace morality for its own rewards, rather than brownie points for the mythological next life. He leaves a big hole in the world!

  6. Non-Religiousness would be the religion of the future in the scientific age. But everybody in the world is expecting peace and serenity into their lives. How can people console the world in a gentle way? Whatever teaching or doctrine can achieve that goal, it would become the religion of the future. It could probably be science, sexuality, love, smart phone, face book, internet, music, films, drugs, war, terrorism and etc. However, I strongly recommend that Buddhism and Buddhist meditation (that can be understood beyond the religious perceptions and boundaries) can achieve that goal with metta (loving kindness)without harming any thing in the world. It depends on realization.

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