Iain M Banks' Universe

The Culture itself represents an elegant absorption of, and therefore displacement of, one whole department of religious yearning. It offers, in effect, a completely secular version of heaven. With its sentient ships as omniscient as any pantheon of gods, and a lot more obliging and benign, and its vision of human nature uncramped from disease and hunger and oppression, and its rationalised equivalent to transcendence, it gives its inhabitants (and you as you read the books) all the pie in the sky they could possibly want; but transformed by being made wholly material, by being brought within the reach of human aspiration.

Francis Spufford, Iain M Banks’ Universe