Churchgoing Villain
A person who is evil and religious but not evil because they are religious.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-05-28 23:54:36 sponsor: Dragonmouth (last reply: 2013-03-02 13:20:37)

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This is a character who goes to church on Sunday but commits immoral acts every other day of the week. This is a person who follows the rituals of religion but performs acts that are clearly against that religion.

One reason a writer might create a Churchgoing Villain is to examine religious hypocrisy. The character often views religion as a set of rituals that he follows out of habit. He rarely applies the teachings of his religion to his everyday life and generally does not think deeply enough to see how irreconcilable his faith and his actions are.

Sometimes the Churchgoing Villain may be portrayed more sympathetically. The image of a human being trying and failing to resist his sinful nature resonates with Christian teachings, which makes this version of the trope more common in Western fiction.

This trope does not include religious extremists. Religious extremists do evil because of their religious beliefs. Churchgoing Villains are religious but their evil acts are not connected to their beliefs in any way. It also does not include people who are members of a Religion of Evil.

Finally, this might be done simply for the sake of realism as a vast majority of the human race belongs to some religion.

As most of the human race belongs to some religion, this is of course Truth in Television. That said, No Real Life Examples, Please!.

See also: Straight Edge Evil, Family Values Villain, Punch Clock Villain, and Raised Catholic.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In the Lupin III movies ''Castle of Cagliostro'', one of the Count's henchmen is moved to cross himself when he sees a Catholic church official arriving.

Comic Book

Film
  • The Corleones and other crime families in ''The Godfather'' were pretty devout Catholics, and ruthless racketeers.
  • Frank Lucas in ''American Gangster''. He's a drug dealer, gangster, and murderer but takes his mother to church every Sunday.
  • The gangster villains in ''The Boondock Saints'', who are Catholic and disgusted at the murder of a priest.
  • Mr. Rooney, the villain of ''Road to Perdition''. He's a gangster but frequently prays in church and realizes that he will not go to Heaven.
  • Moses from ''Beyond Reanimator'', a religious prisoner who nonetheless succumbs to his cannibalistic urges from time to time.
  • Lt. Kendrick in A Few Good Men.
  • Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, or for that matter most of the characters, in one way or another, such as Bill's Irish Catholic underlings who stab Amsterdam in the back.
  • John Doe in Se7en.
  • Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption.
  • In Nuns On The Run Charlie is a practicing Catholic. Not sure how "evil" that is though; he's a low-level mook in a criminal organization.
  • Predators: Cuchillo and Mombasa are both seen praying at different points in the movie, but the former is a Mexican cartel enforcer and the latter a Death Squad officer in the RUF.
  • Robert Hanssen in Breach

Literature

Live Action TV
  • Eco and Sayyid in LOST are kind of the Anti-Hero version of this, especially if Sayyid were actually any good at torturing.
  • In the TV show OZ, most of the Christian gang is this, especially William Cudney and Timmy Kirk. One is a vindictive child murderer, the other is a complete monster and ex-Irish gangster.

Mythology and Religion

Tabletop Games
  • In the Eberron campaign setting of D&D there's no requirement for clerics to match their deity's alignment. The Church of the Silver Flame in particular has a problem with corruption.

Video Games
  • The mafiosi of FX2. They were finding stolen religious artifacts with the intent of giving them back to the church.

Visual Novels
  • Kirei Kotomine from Fate/stay night, who gets bonus points by actually being an ordained priest, he's not a villain per se, but he is quite and evil person who actually delights in the suffering of others (down to the point that he's also The Gadfly), it doesn't help that the church actually trained him to become a Church Militant exorcist

Western Animation
  • Frollo in ''The Hunchback of Notre Dame''. A religious official, he is still governed by his lusts, hatred, prejudice, and revenge and driven to attempted kidnapping and murder. In the original story he is also an alchemist and sorcerer.

Other
  • In the Robin Hood mythos one of the bad guys is an abbot.
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