While speaking to Polygon about creating Starfield’s original world, Pagliarulo pointed to religion as one of the lore’s starting points. Beyond the main quest line, Pagliarulo discussed the theological impacts of space exploration with game director Todd Howard and art director Istvan Pely. “We talked a lot about religion, and we ended up making up two religions for the game,” Pagliarulo explained. There is the Sanctum Universum, which believes God made space travel possible for people to be closer to Him, and the Enlightened, an “atheist church.”
How Starfield uses religion
“And so we would have a lot of talks on our own journeys, our own theology. You know, what is out there?” Pagliarulo continued. The conversation partly centered around acclaimed sci-fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar for their “sort of heady sci-fi concepts.” However, the team treaded carefully to avoid offending people. Shane Liesegang, one of the writers on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, advised and wrote on the Sanctum Universum through his perspective as a Jesuit priest in training.
The emphasis on religion in Starfield even caused Pagliarulo to reevaluate his own perspective during the course of making the game. “I’ve flip-flopped from agnostic to atheist probably five times in the course of making this game,” he said. “That’s why both views are represented in the game.” For its part, Starfield doesn’t offer a definitive answer, leaving it up to interpretation — much like the films that inspired it.
“Players have gotten other things before, the science, the exploration, meeting the alien race that wants to invade,” he said. “Those are all great. I love all those things. But we wanted to know if we could tackle a bit of a larger story in a game, something that one of these great movies accomplished.”