For some, the truth is hard to see. Dystopian settings allow storytellers to strip away the fluff in our lives and put the worst parts of society on display — with nothing to cover up the bullsh*t. The futures in these works often show us that the more things change, the more they stay the same, with the most negative aspects of society only magnified.
One common source of futuristic dystopian oppression is religion. Genre works based in dystopian futures show us just how lethal religion can be when used to gain and inflict control, something that is no secret given the examples we see in our real-life past and present. Films like The Book of Eli and Babylon A.D. are just two of a large group of genre movies that use the practice of religions as a highly coveted form of control.
The Hughes Brothers’ Book of Eli , starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis, takes place in a world decimated by a nuclear war some 30 years ago. Washington’s character, Eli, finds himself in a ramshackle town run by a warlord named Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman. Things, of course, hit the fan soon as Eli arrives because Carnegie has been searching for the book Eli has in his possession: the Bible.
The Book of Eli presents Carnegie’s mad lust for this book as a direct reflection of how others have gone about using the Bible to carry out their agendas. Every single day, someone is interpreting the Bible to justify their beliefs and actions towards others. Carnegie is fully cognizant of how the Bible can be used to give hope to the hopeless and uses that to manipulate them for his benefit. It's the way he leans into this control that makes Carnegie such a dangerous character in a world that is already a struggle to survive in.
In director Mathieu Kassovitz’s film, the world is on the cusp of total chaos. A religious group, the Noelites, does the absolute most to try and capitalize on the state of the world. They go as far as manufacturing their own miracles, one of them being in the form of a young woman, Aurora, who is supposed to be their version of the Virgin Mary. The Noelites place a computer chip in Aurora while she is still a fetus so that she may appear to possess knowledge beyond any normal human, and program her to become pregnant at a certain time so that they may present her as their virgin birth.
Both the worlds of The Book of Eli and Babylon A.D. are dystopian futures with either a nonexistent government or governments that are extremely minimal in power, with control entirely sought through the use of religion. This isn't new. Church and state really aren’t all that separate today. When religion is used as a way to covet power in these dystopian futures, it's a reminder of how dangerous it can be when control is more sought than peace.