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Acceptable Religious Targets
"People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs."
Brad Reddekopp

A subset of Acceptable Targets. This section refers to people whose beliefs are, well, apparently corny. Ultimately, there is absolutely no form or collection of beliefs that is not parodied somewhere. The lack of spiritual beliefs is equally exposed to ridicule. Specific examples follow, but we could probably just go with "everybody" and stop right here.

Examples:

The ultra-religious

There are rarely quietly devout religious believers on American television. Every person openly acknowledged as religious bears some psychological resemblance to the worst, most fundamentalist, most vicious examples of that religion. Every Muslim, to some extent, secretly admires Osama bin Laden; every Christian is a violently homophobic closet Jerry Falwell or Jack Chick... and let's not even talk about the moronic stereotyping that Jews and Hindus have been forced to endure. In short, characters who treat their religion as something other than stamp-collecting or sport fandom tend to behave as if they got rabies. Of course, the occasional Very Special Episode will go against the grain of this acceptable target, punishing characters within the show who jump to similar conclusions.

Comic Books
  • Intentionally subverted in the Norwegian comic strip Kollektivet with the acknowledged Muslim Mounir, whose non-fundamentalism (and his clashes with the racist ignoramuses he bumps into all the time) is the source of much humor. Not so much with his extended family, who are all ultra-religious Osama-supporting crazies, though.
  • Played straight in the Infinity Crusade crossover. Heroes who were devout religious believers were recruited by the Goddess, an Enemy Without of Warlock, for a crusade to conquer the universe. Interestingly, it didn't matter what that belief was in; Roman Catholic characters, Thor's friend who had his powers, and Hercules himself all fell under the Goddess's control. People with mildly theistic beliefs were unaffected.

Fanfic

Film
  • Paul has two characters who are Christians. They are depicted as crazy, dumb, and violent. One of them deconverts due to the title alien's abilities, as if only something completely in the realm of science fiction could ever make these people rational.
  • In Detroit Rock City, every Christian character is portrayed as a bad person. One is a bible-thumping, emotionally abusive mother. Another is the headmaster at a religious school who steals from the donation box. The last is a perverted priest who tries to get people to tell steamy sex stories during confession.

Literature
  • In the cozy mystery AuntDimity and the Village Witch, a famous botanical artist moves to the village but conceals her identity for a time to avoid the members of a New Age cult that regards her as a guru. The artist herself deplores the idea: "'Me? A great spiritual guide?' She gave a short, unhappy laugh, 'I can't even find my tea cups!'" Of course, the subterfuge fails and the Bowenists arrive, including one young woman who calls herself "Daffodil Deeproots". Their leader is a wealthy faux hippie who proves to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive whose company engages in mountaintop removal mining.
  • In Stephen King's Carrie, Carrie's mother Margaret is The Fundamentalist, and part of the reason for Carrie's snap is the abuse she is put through by Margaret in the name of faith. King makes it clear, however, that not all people of faith are batshit insane, and that Margaret's beliefs and behavior actually have more to do with her abusive husband.

Live-Action TV
  • The Canadian series Little Mosque on the Prairie takes a much more nuanced view of religion, with the Muslim and Christian characters ranging from the quietly devout to the cynical. The lead character is a successful lawyer who decided to give up the career and become an imam, for instance, who has often has to deal with the obnoxiously intolerant Babar who is essentially an Islamic Archie Bunker. The imam also goes to see movies with the Anglican reverend. "I don't want to miss one minute of Halle Berry."
  • Averted to some degree in Firefly by Shepherd Book, one of the few characters in a Joss Whedon series to be (apparently) Christian and not gratuitously evil. Joss also made a point of avoiding this trope with Riley from Buffy, whose religious belief was mentioned exactly once, and in passing at that.
    • Also in Firefly, the first scene with Mal in the episode "Serenity" shows him kissing a cross necklace. While he lost his faith at that point, it is a representation of (arguably) the main hero of the series as having been religious at some point.
      • Mal's loss of faith in his religion is even portrayed as a negative thing, part of his apparent emotional trauma from the war, and a major theme of the movie is the importance of faith in some sort of ideal.
      Shepherd Book: When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I'm talking about God?
  • The Chaser's War On Everything, after doing a segment on Australian fundamentalist group Catch The Fire Ministries, had a skit featuring an irate viewer complaining about them making fun of Christians, providing the quote at the top of the page. They then did a segment satirizing the Israeli army. This was followed by the same irate viewer saying "I bet you're too gutless to go the Muslims". Cue a segment on Middle Eastern TV. "What about the Hindus?" They "outsourced the show to India". At the end of the episode, they had the same irate viewer complaining that they hadn't made fun of Jedi.
  • This tends to show through in how people will focus on a few certain episodes of Touched by an Angel, singling out those that come closest to being ultraconservative to try and make them representative of the show as a whole. This ignores the many episodes that fly in the face of this perception, including one where the angels very clearly, and in no uncertain terms, informed a gay man dying of AIDS that God loved him unreservedly, was not in any way punishing him, and that he had led a wonderful life with many things to be proud of, without a single whiff of "love the sinner but not the sin".
  • Angela on the American version of The Office is described as a very religious person who is serious about her convictions. She is also very judgmental, condescending, and cheated on her fiance, Andy, with co-worker Dwight. So add "hypocrite" to that list.
    • Also fits with the Everybody Has Lots of Sex trope in that the person who disapproves of others' promiscuity (or in Angela's case, even mild flirting and use of "whorish" colors) will turn out to be a hypocrite.
  • Deconstructed in the British comedy Four Lions, which pokes fun at a group of five Muslim suicide bombers who can't quite decide what to blow up. However, most of the Lions aren't actually that religious. Omar, for example, is shown to have a pretty liberal relationship with his wife, who doesn't even wear hijab except at work. One is so out of touch with his own religion that he learns about it from a children's book called "Camel Goes To The Mosque". It's heavily implied the Lions are glory-seekers rather than actual believers. The only true fundamentalist amongst their numbers is Barry, the white, working-class Muslim convert. Because of this, the person eventually blamed for the terrorist incident is Omar's brother, who is highly fundamentalist (he has a harem and refuses to enter the same room as a woman) but peace-loving, nonviolent, and completely harmless-in fact, he's shown trying to persuade Omar that his plan is forbidden by Islam.
  • Guess what folks? We have an entire show coming out devoted to making fun of Christians!

Webcomics
  • Played straight and averted in Something Positive, of all places. The main character's father (Fred) is a quiet man with deep, earnest religious beliefs, but otherwise acts like a normal (if senile) old man. The straight run of the trope came in during a later segment centered around Fred going to a haunted house, which turned out to be run by a bunch of radical Christians showing the horrors of sin and refusing to let people go who wouldn't accept Christ, among other things, complete with a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer on the first page - they're called Hell Houses, and also fit under this trope. When the police became involved and broke the whole thing up, several people who had sat down to protest the haunted house commented negatively about Christians, causing Fred to protest. When the people expressed surprise that Fred wasn't talking down to them for not being Christian themselves, his response was to go home quietly and pray with a tear rolling down his eye. Meanwhile, his now-dead wife, Faye, was as close to a living saint as the comic will ever get.
    • Religion is actually a fairly common topic in S*P. Cousins Branwen and Mike are from a Catholic family, both their mothers being offensive traditional Catholics, in the way that only old religious people can be. Mike's mom frequently says things like "No being gay under my roof!", and "Don't you bring a Protestant girl here!" Literally the first thing Branwen's mom does when meeting her then-boyfriend, main character Davan, for the first time is attempt to bully him into converting to Catholicism. Kim was originally Wiccan, but lost interest after the leader of her coven went control freak, assigning homework, trying to get them to proselytize, even trying to excommunicate someone from all of Wicca. Then, of course, there is the Scarf Girl, a little girl who repeats bigoted things her parents say, such as "Black people are dark because their skin is stained with the sins of their ancestors". Needless to say, Randy Milholland is not even remotely concerned about offending people.
    • Davan himself, though, saves his ire only for those that latch onto a belief to "be different", while having full respect for those that actually give their religious choice the depth of thought and consideration it deserves, saying as much to Kim when she dragged him to visit Salem. Well, that and he's partially Distracted by the Sexy with her.

Web Original
  • Religious extremists of all faiths are seen as a bad thing in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. Even when they are supposedly good-guys, they tend to be Knights Templar more than they are straight white-hatted heroes.
  • The Reverend Darren England, in the Whateley Universe. He's a fire-and-brimstone preacher, and a hard-line Christian. He's actively trying to get a couple of the protagonists (up to hiring an assassin) because he sees them as threats to all humanity. Okay, he could be right on one of those calls. On the other hand, he also has a long history of working with superhero groups.
    • But averted elsewhere, as at least two of the main protagonists (Loophole and Phase) are devout Christians, with Phase struggling with his beliefs because of the Break the Haughty he has gone through. They even had a talk about their religious beliefs in the middle of one of the stories.
  • On Honorable Hogwarts, there's a Meta example... Reverend Noah Howerton, who is not actually a reverend, but a wizard himself and bent on world domination by killing all other wizards, uses the religious fervor of the Muggle populace in the US to his advantage, and turns pretty much every Christian in Texas into his own personal army. This allows not just the guy in charge of the Christians in-universe — who views them as morons / tools to be disposed of after they're no longer useful — but also the guy writing that character to disparage religious fundamentalists.
  • The less topic-specific and well-moderated a particular subsection of Internet is, the more likely you are to get a response on the lines of: "Oh yeah? But at least I do not believe in centuries-years-old fairy tales like a dumbass, dumbass."
  • Most of the religious adherents discussed in Matt Santoro's video, The 10 CRAZIEST Religions in the World!, such as Jediism and The Church of Euthanasia.
  • Mr Repzion often criticizes radical theists, such as the radical Muslim who beheaded a journalist.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons's Ned Flanders may zigzag this trope. While starting as a fairly positive (if somewhat naive) example, Flanders is the Trope Namer for Flanderization and, as a result, now seems to have a lot of negative or controversial aspects of religion hoisted onto his character if the writers want to take a few shots at religious beliefs. For example, supporting creationism, opposing same-sex marriage, and being intolerant of others' beliefs have all been topics involving poor Ned at some point. Part of this is a case of Writer on Board and changing views over the show's 20+ year run.
  • Princess Clara of Drawn Together is an extremely devout Christian, and arguably gets the least sympathetic portrayal of anyone on the show. She is typically portrayed as closed-minded and intolerant, which often crosses the line into "unnecessarily spiteful and hateful". She is generally cast as the villain whenever the show needs one. In the first season, she was portrayed as simply ignorant and merely parroting beliefs that her racist father had taught her. It wasn't until the second season that Flanderization set in and she became a true fundamentalist bigot.

Real Life

Jews

In varying degrees in varying cultures. Open anti-Semitism is obviously no longer acceptable in much of the Western world, although it is still prevalent in much of the Middle East and in other places. It should be noted that Jews are often Acceptable Ethnic Targets, and are often represented as Hasids with big beards, peyes, and huge noses.

Live-Action TV
  • British TV comedy So Haunt Me was a pretty typical BBC sitcom of middle-class manners, about middle-class professional parents with the statutory 2.4 children moving into a new house in a smart suburb of north London. So far, so BBC Light Entertainment. But the North London suburb is somewhere in the Golders Green/Finchley area. (Which instantly paints a picture to British people: Golders Green is synonymous with British Judaism). Sure enough, the house is haunted. By Yetta Goldberg, its previous owner. Who stands there impassively as a Christian exorcism is conducted, remarking "Oi vey, have you got the wrong ghost". Over the three series, Yetta becomes Jewish Mother from Beyond The Grave to her adopted goyim family.

Real Life
  • Common stereotypes (at least in North America): nerds, whiners, bleeding-heart left-wingers, bloodthirsty Zionist warmongerers, scheming neoconservatives, Deadpan Snarkers. One particularly self-perpetuating one is that they are overly sensitive, and can't take any criticism without screaming "Anti-Semite!"
    • Any actual Jew will probably fall victim to several of these at the same time, including the ones that contradict each other. The same person can be a bleeding-heart to a Southerner and a blood-drinking Zionazi to a San Franciscan.
    • Of course, one mustn't assume that North Americans who hold these stereotypes are actually expressing disapproval. After all, one man's nerd is the other man's Teen Genius, and one man's bloodthirsty Zionist warmonger is another's Badass Israeli.
    • The "religion card" aspect has become more and more of an issue as of late thanks to increasingly common criticism of Israel's less-than-stellar human rights track record, as it has become a very difficult-to-approach topic due to a tendency to lump any criticism of Israel in with garden-variety anti-Semitism, as well as shooting down the opinion any actual Jews who display anti-Israel sentiment as being the ramblings of "self-hating Jews".
  • Within Judaism, Conservative Jews often get flack from both sides: Orthodox Jews (see above) for not being strict enough, and Reform and Reconstructionist Jews for being too wishy-washy.
    • This is because "Conservative Judaism" covers the broad range between Orthodox and Reform, and is literally defined as being all the varying degrees between the two.
  • A stereotype that has a tendency to come up semi-frequently is having a Jewish character be marked as Jewish because they always wear a yarmulke. Only fairly Orthodox Jews actually bother to wear them outside of religious services.

Western Animation
  • In The Simpsons, Artie Ziff comes close to this, and there's lots of fun with Krusty's religion.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews:

The ones about Jews are sort of true by a bizarre self-reinforcement effect. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews spend a lot of time and money telling all the other Jews that the only proper expression of Jewish culture, history, or heritage is an Orthodox lifestyle. So devout Jews tend to stay quiet around Gentiles and then turn annoyingly preachy around other members of their own faith.
  • Occasionally references will be made to Orthodox Jews having sex through a hole in a sheet. Orthodox Jews have no problems with sex or nudity...so long as it's happening between husbands and wives. The sheets that people are supposedly having sex through are actually a form of tallis (or prayer shawl) that is designed to be worn under one's clothes for religious reasons.

Comedy

Followers of the Kabbalah:

Blame Madonna. 'Nough said.

Hinduism:

Possibly has something to do with it resembling pagan polytheism that was utterly displaced by Christianity in the West in Europe, Africa (along with Islam), and much of America. The fact that many polytheistic societies, such as India, were conquered by empires in Christendom gives SOME Christians a cultural compulsion to look down on Hinduism as something silly and bizarre that 'went out of date' thousands of years ago like Europe's pre-Christian traditions. It certainly doesn't help that their pantheon is populated by countless avatars (that's physical manifestations of gods, not blue-striped monkey aliens or masters of all the elements!) that resemble unusual animals and various grotesque multi-armed beings. The close association with the 1960s counterculture (thank you, George Harrison) is also a liability. And then there's sati. Hoo boy.

Film
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which the "good" hindus worship Shiva and the "bad" hindus follow Kali, who is represented as a evil Satan-like Goddess. Apparently someone forgot to tell Spielberg that Kali was Shiva's wife, and the Punisher of Evil.

Live-Action TV
  • In Outsourced, many members of the main cast are Hindu and it's never depicted in a negative light outside of a few prudish ideals.
  • Raj Koothrapali in The Big Bang Theory is an Indian Hindu. While he is allowed moments to defend his religion, against snide cracks by Howard, or Sheldon's presumption that he knows the specifics of Hinduism well enough to correct Raj, he is often taken to task for simultaneously believing cows are sacred whilst having no problems with eating beefsteaks and burgers. Raj also confidently believes that the more time he spends putting up with Sheldon in this life, in the next, karma will reward him by allowing him to be reborn as a well-hung billionaire with wings.
  • British sketch-show Goodness Gracious Me is presented as sketches on Asian life performed by British-Asian comedians. Hinduism comes in for its share of mordant observation, but like much Jewish humour, this is acceptable as it comes from "within the family" in the form of comedians Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Seaal.
    • The successor show The Kumars At Number Fifty-Two takes British-Indian Hindu family life a step further.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • In The Simpsons, Apu constantly references (and jokes about) his Hindu faith, but is also a fully fleshed-out character, with various beliefs and habits outside his religion.
    "Please do not offer my god a peanut."
  • An episode of South Park has a gentle (at least for South Park) parody of various religious figures as superheroes, and Krishna (a Hindu deity) steals the show as a nearly nude guy with periwinkle-blue skin who can change himself into various animals.

Buddhists:

An example, in The Dresden Files, one skeptic, meeting the main (Wizard) character for the first time, asks him if he's "One of those Zen nutjobs". May be Truth in Television — Buddhism has different values on discussing religion with other people, which would preclude a lot of the superficial evidence of being overly devout.

Film
  • Otto, from A Fish Called Wanda, also claims to be Buddhist... although he's probably a sect of one within the religion proper...
    • He's also at least partially just an idiot putting on airs, since it's revealed in a confrontation with his girlfriend that he doesn't actually appear to really understand or even know a lot of the philosophy he claims to practice.
      Wanda: The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself."

Live-Action TV
  • Inara in Firefly... Or do space Buddhist hookers not count?
    • Then again, her Buddhism is informed at best and gets mocked on the one occasion it's brought up ("Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocket, and...").
  • Edina in Absolutely Fabulous, although what is being sent up is not Buddhism itself, but the self-absorbed, content-free version of Buddhism often associated in the media with Buddhists in the West.
  • Pierce Hawthorne on Community believes himself to be a "Born-Again Buddhist". He's actually in a vague, Church of Happyology cult.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Sometimes, Buddhism is portrayed as very peaceful and more like a philosophy, when, in fact, it can (and has) been fanatical when it wants to be — look at Japanese and Chinese warrior monks in history, for example, and Japanese Buddhism's coercion and involvement in the massacre of Japanese Christians in the 1600s. There's also this whole worldwide cult of respect for the Dalai Lama, despite the fact that the feudal theocracy he briefly reigned over included legal slavery and the mutilation/blinding of serfs who abandoned their lords' lands; how much more desirable this would be than Communist China is an open question.
  • Westerners who adopt Buddhism are often portrayed as trendy, shallow, credulous yuppies who swill $7 coffee drinks and call their therapist to reschedule while they drive their Volvos to yoga class.
    • Additionally, Westerners only convert to Zen or maybe Tibetan Buddhism; Souka Gakkai International does not, apparently, exist.
    • It doesn't help that many such people take up yoga (which is actually Hindu, not Buddhist) only for the physical benefits it bestows, rather than the spiritual ones.
      • On the other hand, just because you take up boxing doesn't mean you intend to get into fights or become a ranked professional, it just might be the way you most enjoy working out.
      • From well-known Hindus who object (e.g., Aseem Shukla), the criticisms usually deal with appropriation of religious activities to serve secular (or even New Age) purposes, and is probably more comparable to certain well-known Christians' criticism of the secularization of Christmas. Ironically, Shukla claimed that yoga is divorced enough from Hinduism in the western culture that many yoga enthusiasts don't even know it is Hindu.

Catholics:

Following the revelation that parts of the Church hierarchy were complicit in covering up child abuse by their own priests, a growing trend has been to depict most or all Catholic priests as being child abusers and pedophiles. There is some spillover in this regard into other Christian denominations too, due to Christianity is Catholic. Catholicism is also commonly portrayed as the ultimate in fundamentalism and hypocrisy, as a group of people who judge others despite being evil and cruel. Catholic girls are portrayed as easy and slutty but judgmental. Catholics have been portrayed as enemies of science ever since they put Galileo under house arrest (the church didn't officially apologize for the Galileo affair until 1990.note ) Catholics aren't supposed to use birth control, and stereotypical Catholics have enormous families, presumably because they're too dumb to simply stop having sex when they already have more children than they can feed. However, North American lay Catholics get more of a pass now since the Vatican's frustration at the vast majority casually defying its directives on things like birth control and divorce is well-known. The Catholic priesthood is portrayed as shifty and distrustful of secular authorities, as demonstrated by their preferred method of punishing offending clergy: packing them up and moving them to a new diocese where they can commit the same crimes all over again. Catholics were once portrayed as unpatriotic traitors whose only loyalties were to the Pope, but this has become a Dead Horse Trope in the Western world such as with US President John F. Kennedy. John Paul II helped soften the Pope's image, and even non-Catholics tend to think of modern Popes as basically nice guys, though Pope John Paul's successor Benedict XIV's resemblance to a certain Dark Lord of the Sith hasn't helped. However, his successor (after Benedict's resignation/retirement, the first one since 1415) has been lauded for his comparatively progressive style, particularly when it comes to discussing faith and religion with non-Catholics and, indeed, non-Christians.

Comedy
  • Jim Gaffigan often jokes about his Catholic roots.
    (From a different special): I'm actually one of six kids, Catholic. You ever notice people from big Catholic families, they always throw in that "Catholic" after the number? "Six kids, Catholic. Six kids, Catholic." Like if you didn't hear the "Catholic" part, you'd think, "Six kids? His mother really liked sex! ...Oh, she was Catholic? Okay."

Comic Books
  • Chick Tracts portray Catholics and, in fact, most people, negatively. In fact Chick seems to have a beef with Catholicism to the point where communists and Muslims are portrayed as basically dupes of the Catholic church.
    • In fact, he portrays Muhammed as getting the idea to start Islam from his wife (a Catholic, according to Chick), and Marx being an agent of the Jesuits who used him to start the international communist movement (Lenin is also portrayed this way). Never mind that Catholics have not gotten along well with communists or Muslims historically, leaving the reasons for them doing this a mystery.

Film
  • Cardinal Glick from Dogma is shown to be rude, shallow, and pretty cynical. Appropriately enough, he was played by the late George Carlin. Bethany spends the beginning of the movie feeling rather PO'd towards Catholicism in general (since she thinks that God's a bit of a jerk for letting her life get so screwy) and the actual divine beings are all shown to be foulmouthed and a bit nutty, but the ultimate point made is that the religion itself isn't bad, just that some people interpret it badly.
  • Bishop Lilliman from V for Vendetta. Though technically Anglican, he still falls under the pedophilia of the Catholic priests. Every Sunday, he hires an underage girl, has her brought to the cathedral, and does... things.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life has a whole showstopping musical number criticizing the Catholic prohibition on birth control ("Every Sperm is Sacred". A Catholic father explains to his huge crowd of children why Catholics are so excessively fruitful and, consequently, why he has to sell them as medical experiments. A Greek Chorus Protestant couple looks on and takes pride in their right to buy French ticklers. Their right to, not that they actually do so.

Live-Action TV
  • There was a period a few years ago when seemingly every crime show on television had a pedophile priest, in response to the real-life scandals. It still often comes up today, though it's usually averted in some fashion. i.e., Detective Mike Logan from Law & Order was molested by a Catholic priest as a child, and the case in which this was revealed has said priest as the culprit.
  • In The X-Files, Scully seems to have got through okay, though this may be because A) she's a main character and B) she wasn't particularly devout until much later in the series.
  • Bones's Seeley Booth is Catholic, though the most that has been made of his faith is his and Brennan's frequent arguments about the validity of faith and belief vs. science and rationality. One such argument included Booth's memorable indignant outburst: "Jesus was not a zombie!"
    • One episode played with the pedo priest aspect with a young, handsome priest who spent considerable time with the boys of his congregation, even teaching them Greco-Roman Wrestling. Turns out, he's just a very extroverted young priest who knows that he can get the boys more involved in church if they can learn something fun, like wrestling. The murderer turns out to be a woman who works at the church who suspected him (and the priest he replaced) of being a child molester. She poisoned the previous priest, and was slowly doing the same to the new guy.

Music
  • Long-lasting singer Sir Cliff Richard is a rarity in the music business-a clean-living and generally likable believing Christian who really does appear to practice what he preaches, and who is regarded as an all-round nice guy. This does not stop him being the target of sarcastic jokes about his faith, and ill-founded speculation as to why he has never married and there is little sign of a Lady Richard.

Radio
  • Manic comedy series The Burkiss Way once speculated Irish singing family The Nolan Sisters (a smallish Irish Catholic family-six sisters) would never have been allowed to happen had the Papacy been more liberal in its outlook.

Web Original

Mormons:

Need a joke about polygamy (of the polygyny form, of course)? Then they're your target, see also "Religious practitioners of polygamy" below. Other stereotypes are that the women are all Stepford Wives, they all have 15 kids, 100% of the population of Utah is Mormon, and they are unusually happy all the time. They also are known for not drinking tea, coffee, or alcohol, something considered unthinkable by many. Like African-Americans, it's claimed that Mormons give their children absurd made-up names. They have what (depending on your point of view) can be called a colorful history of race relations, though they've fixed this. Most damningly, they put vegetables in Jell-O.
  • Then there are the stories about Mormons that range from missionaries scouring the globe for women to kidnap to being mistaken for the Amish.
    • On Mormons allegedly "scouring the globe for women to kidnap and imprison as sex slaves in their temples", the only reported case went in entirely the opposite direction and gave everyone in Britain (and beyond) a huge laugh. The Joyce McKinney story is here: Mormon in manacles case
    • They also get the similar eye-rolling as Jehovah's Witnesses get, for knocking on your door every weekend and trying to preach.
  • A splinter group (FLDS) still openly practice polygamy. Mainstream LDS are their most prominent detractors.
  • And they have holy underwear!

Comedy
  • Any joke about Mormons will probably involve the belief many have that Indians are Jews. (Technically: that the Amerindians are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israelnote .)
    • Which at least one of them is, according to one scene in Blazing Saddles.

Literature
  • The entire second half of A Study In Scarlet is a completely different story explaining why the culprit murdered his two victims. It's basically a hundred, hundred-fifty pages or so of a group of Mormons during the Utah migration tormenting a man named John Ferrier and his daughter Lucy (in the traditional British "Mormons are sexual deviant kidnappers" way) who they saved from dehydration in the desert.
    • Arthur Conan-Doyle later met some real-life Mormons who were none too pleased with this description, unsurprisingly, and went on to portray them positively in his future works.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series of novels, the Mormons are basically stand-ins for Islamic terrorists, right down to the suicide bombings. Unlike in real history, they remain staunchly polygamist, even after attaining Statehood, though they try to hide the fact by claiming their other wives are "cousins" and other such Blatant Lies. Pretty much any time America goes to war in the series, the Mormons secede from the Union, and rename themselves Deseret. As a result, a big part of every war involves pounding Salt Lake City back into submission, which creates harsh feelings on both sides.

Live-Action TV
  • The TLC show The Sister Wives is a notable aversion, being about a polygamist family of fundamentalist Mormons (Apostolic United Brethren Church, specifically) and portraying them as a relatively normal family that happens to have multiple moms and a lot of kids. However, the trope is arguably being played straight in that since the show's airing one wife has lost her job, the husband is having difficulties in his, and they are under investigation for polygamy (only the first marriage is legal, the rest are symbolic, but could still be considered common-law marriages), a third-degree felony that could send the husband to prison for 20 years and each wife for 5.
    • It would be an interesting piece of doublethink to consider them common-law marriages, when a) common-law marriages are only considered valid in Utah under certain circumstances which don't seem to exist here, and b) the fact that he's still married to Wife #1 means that all subsequent marriages are null and void legally speaking anyway, and the subsequent "wives" are fully aware of this. Bigamy is generally treated as a specific type of fraud, and everyone involved here appears to know exactly what's going on.
  • The Cold Case episode "Creatures of the Night" features a Mormon Serial Killer who hears voices and strangles people to death after seeing "God's light" shining on them. We also see his aunt, who first tells him to listen to the voices (thinking he's a prophet), then concludes that he's actually hearing Satan.

Theatre

Western Animation
  • A Zig-Zagging Trope on South Park. The episode "All About Mormons" has a Mormon family move in town, and while the majority of the episode is spent portraying them as ridiculously nice and pointing out Plot Holes in the story of Joseph Smith, it does a 180 at the end by pointing out that the Mormon family is actually happy and functional, traits that most of the other South Park families lack.

Real Life
  • Some Mormons also have a little chuckle at their own expense. Their "dullness" (spike the punch with Mountain Dew!) and bizarre cuisine (green Jello with carrots) are staples of nearly every Mormon-made Mormon comedy for Mormons.
  • Every once in a while, you will hear someone poking fun at them because "their religion's name is longer than their dogma."note  This is mostly done in an affectionate way, though.
  • The whole Utahn-baby-names has a basis in reality.

Atheists:

Even though it's not a religion, there are many atheists who assert their belief "There is no God" in the same manner a religious person does and feel just as offended if stated otherwise. It's hard to find a happy, well-adjusted, or optimistic individual on (American) television who is an openly avowed atheist. Not appearing to practice or even mention religion at all is fine for everyone, but it's generally only characters with a fair degree of cynicism and bitterness who can state outright that they don't believe there is a God, or even that they severely doubt God exists. Perhaps this is due to the fact that one of the most prominent real-life atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, was also known for her abrasive personality. In fact, it is notable that very few TV atheists are portrayed as having come to this conclusion by dispassionate consideration of the evidence but, much more likely, they have some tragedy in their past, such as a Cynicism Catalyst. As a corollary, such characters often reverse or at least re-examine these views after something good happens to them (often in a Very Special Episode or a Do They Know It's Christmas Time?), even if nothing in the episode suggested a supernatural influence. See, for example, House on House, Mal on Firefly, or the film Signs. Less prevalent in Europe, where non-religious people make up for a sizable portion of the population. See also Hollywood Atheist.
  • It doesn't help that the Vocal Minority often come off as being antitheists — holding that not only does God not exist, but that it would be rather awful if it was true, for a variety of reasons, such as Him being an "eternal supervising parent," or holding that mainstream religious conceptions of God are immoral — i.e., it is held that the God who ordered the genocide of the Amalekites (to pick an extreme example), if He existed, would not be a worthy or moral steward of the universe. Anti-theism in this sense is generally deployed by most atheists as a rebuttal to the argument that religion is exceptionally comforting in a way that atheism cannot be. However, some atheists extend this into an opposition to the idea of God(s) or organized religion in general.
  • Especially in the United States, the mentality of the Cold War created an association between atheism and totalitarian communism. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, the atheism-is-one-step-away-from-communism view persists for some on the right and you may hear right-wing pundits holding up the regimes of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong as examples of what will supposedly happen if society embraces atheism.

Anime and Manga
  • Possible aversion in Karin, in that vampires are immune to crosses because "{They're} pretty much atheists".

Literature
  • Sanya in the The Dresden Files places a spin on this trope. He's charismatic and well-adjusted, unlike the majority of fictional atheists. However, in an epic feat of rationalization, he manages to be both an agnostic atheist and a Holy Knight, standing against the forces of evil with a sword given to him by the archangel Michael that contains one of the nails that fixed Jesus to the Cross. He explains to Harry, "I have met many strange and mighty things since I took up the sword. If one called them 'aliens' instead of 'angels,' it would only mean that I was working in concert with powerful beings, not necessarily the literal forces of Heaven, or a literal Creator. A philosophical fine point, true, but I am not prepared to abandon it. What we do is worthy, without ever bringing questions of faith, religion, or God into the discussion."

Live-Action TV
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Saving Grace. The show is about an occasionally bitter atheist in the slow process of being "saved" by an actual angel with Special Powers, and as of season two is dating another atheist, but gets treated awfully well by the TV show. The main character may be bitter, but the boyfriend is openly avowed and rather happy and well-adjusted without being bitter or having a dark past to drive him to it.
  • Science Fiction series are often exceptions, since many were written by atheists, and may go so far as to posit a future where mankind "no longer needs gods".
    • A slightly subtler version of this is Garibaldi on Babylon 5, whom we only learn is an agnostic at the end of the first season, when someone else mentions it. His character, an Italian teetotaling semi-Boisterous Bruiser, is more stereotypically Catholic.
    • In Firefly, Malcolm Reynolds hints at being an atheist, especially around Shepherd Book, and his past indicates that this is because of the war.
      • Serenity seems to imply that Mal is more of a nihilist-after the war, he didn't just lose faith in his religion, but also in the idea of fighting for a moral cause. One theme of the movie is his regaining a bit of idealism and deciding to risk his life for what's right.
    • See also No Such Thing as Space Jesus.
    • And even the Christian writers tend not to interject God himself into the equation, not just because the sci-fi demographic is composed of godless heathen bastards, but because it just gets in the way of multicolored shooty things and wondering what's on the other side of a wormhole... and going in anyway (also, it would be kind of awkward if they stumbled across Heaven). If a character is religious, he will instead spout relevant Biblical verse, or a quote by a medieval Catholic priest of some notoriety (which also serves as a "we haven't changed so much since then" kind of reminder to both the remainder of the cast and possibly the reader as well).
  • Klinger from M*A*S*H along with other characters, where many of the cast had subverted "There are no atheists in foxholes" for the sake of war-weary cynicism (though, in one of the places where it's specifically mentioned, it's because it's noted Klinger is bowing his head in prayer after a touching event, and he claims he's given his agnosticism up for Lent). It's worth noting that agnosticism is not the same as atheism, although they're compatible.
  • Bones's Dr. Temperance Brennan is probably one of the most well-treated atheists on television. She frequently states her rationale for why she doesn't believe in a God in a calm manner-unsurprising, considering she's an anthropologist above all else-and nothing has ever been made of her being "wrong". She and her Catholic FBI partner get into frequent arguments over her atheism, but over the seasons, he's come to mostly tease her affectionately over it.
    • The arguments usually aren't "over Brennan's atheism", though... they're usually started because she'll occasionally come close to picking a fight with him over some aspect of his belief. This stands in contrast to how she's shown to not only be knowledgeable but openly respectful of pretty much every religion but the Jesus-as-savior ones. She tones it down later as she seems to realize she's antagonizing Booth for no particular reason, and it's entirely possible that there's a Freudian Excuse for why she has issues with Catholicism.
  • Austin James, the Insufferable Genius hero of the 1988 series Probe, was an avowed atheist who came to his belief (or lack thereof) through reason and deliberation. Or, as he put it:
    Austin James: "I read the Bible from cover to cover. Several different versions, in fact. And after some careful thought, I came to the conclusion that I simply couldn't put stock in an all-powerful deity who was that self-inconsistent."
    • It is important to note that Probe was created by science fiction legend Isaac Asimov, who once gave the very same reason for his own views on religion.
  • Maddie Hayes of Moonlighting is an atheist who is one of the main characters of the show and is generally treated as an excellent human being, with no negative background regarding religion, making her an aversion of this.
  • Glee has some strange variations of the Hollywood Atheist, playing it straight and subverting it at the same time. On one hand, it's sort of played straight with Sue Sylvester, the bitter Jerkass villain, who apparently doesn't believe in God because her mentally ill sister was mocked and treated unfairly as a kid. On the other hand, Kurt, a more positive character, seems to be an atheist because of the way Christians have demonized gays, yet he uses logical arguments for his atheism.
  • Averted (for comic effect) in Irish/British comedy series Father Ted where Catholic priest Father Dougal seems to not actually believe in God-he says things like (about "Heaven and Hell and everlasting life and all that type of thing") "You're not meant to take it seriously, Ted!" His reasons for not believing may not be very logical or based on careful thought (he's really not very good at that sort of thing), but at least he's not bitter or a villain of any kind. In an odd twist of the trope, he's basically the Ralph Wiggum of the show.
  • Britta Perry of Community is an atheist. Her objections to religion are treated as being part of her overall Soapbox Sadie shtick. For the most part, Britta's atheism only comes up when she's interacting with Shirley, in which case both will be portrayed as obnoxiously self-righteous.

Western Animation

  • Family Guy (after it got renewed) is an incredibly easy target on this very website. A specific example would be the episode "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven", which in no uncertain terms claimed that discrimination against atheists is bad but discrimination against anybody who believes in God(s) is good.
  • One episode of Metalocalypse included the Church of Atheism being picketed by Agnostics. Toki and Skwisgar's nihilism is occasionally poked at through the series as well.
    • ...Church of Atheism?!?
      • "Oh, God, whom we do not believe in, let us all not pray for you whom does not exist in any rational realm..."
      • It should be noted that atheism and nihilism are two different things, although they're compatible.
    Nathan: What the hell kind of Church is this?
    Pickles: This is the Church of the, uh, Atheists.
    Nathan: What's an atheist?
    Pickles: Oh, you know, someone who doesn't believe in, er... God.
    Nathan: Oh, you mean like Skwisgaar and Toki?
    Skwisgaar: No! We are nihilists! We don't believes in anythings.
    Nathan: But can't a Nihilist, you know, like, not believe in God too?
    Skwisgaar: Ahhhh... well... I don't know...
    • On the other hand, it should be noted that Skwisgaar and Toki, being Swedish and Norwegian, respectively, also invoke the Norse Gods often despite being self-proclaimed 'nihilists'. Hell, Skwisgaar believes in Valhalla.
    Skwisgaar: What in the fucking names of Odin?!
  • South Park, as you'd expect, takes this to the logical extreme with a future where everyone is an atheist that treats science like a god ("Science damn you!"), and war with each other over "The most logical answer to the great question" What should we call our atheist organization?. And otters. Richard Dawkins also features, where while he was treated better than other parodies, he still took offense...at his accent.
    • Their conflict was basically South Park lampooning the notion that "Without religion, there wouldn't be war!" Yes, there would-it'd just be waged for different reasons.

Scientologists

  • Works often make fun of it without naming it, which is why the Church of Happyology trope exists.
    • There's a reason for that, of course... that reason being lawyers. Lots and lots of lawyers.
    • Though some still manage to stick in a blatant Xenu reference without being sued into oblivion.
  • And these days, by extension, Tom Cruise. Most notably on Superhero Movie.
  • Perhaps the best part is that the founder of the Church of Scientology has publicly stated that he did so as a joke.
  • There are Scientologists who hold the religion's beliefs, but are opposed to the church and its founder's actions. These people are called Freezoners.

Live-Action TV
  • Dinosaurs had a subtle jab at this as well, with "L. Mother Hubbard" advertising his book "Dino-Netics: The Science of Selling Books". Nice little two-fer for comparing L. Ron to a fairy-tale teller, and the idea that he only wrote the book to SELL the book.
  • In the second episode of Californication, Hank is talking to a woman whose husband just left her for another man. Hank sympathetically says, "Well, it could be worse. He could have left you for a Scientologist." The woman then says, "I'm a Scientologist."

Webcomics

Web Original
  • Type "chanology" on Google, and you'll see how and why the entire Internet 4chan Anonymous is currently at war against the Church of Scientology!
  • Not to mention the Anonymous protests at L. Ron Hubbard's birthday, almost single-handedly bringing Anon into the public eye, although they tend to be taken too seriously by newsgroups.
  • This hilarious Animutation, although obviously played "for the lulz", was taken seriously by none other than Tom Cruise himself. So the animutation now has a legal disclaimer.
  • The parody game Supreme Deities Jesus Dressup! not only features a caricature of the supposed "galactic emperor" Xenu, but also features the logo of Scientology on his robe. This is alongside outfits that allow you to dress up Jesus as Satan, various pagan deities, Jim Jones, and Cthulhu.

Western Animation
  • South Park might have had the best laugh possible about Scientology-they simply animated what the Scientologist beliefs are-that is, that the evil intergalactic space overlord Xenu placed a bunch of space rebels into spaceships that looked like McDonell-Douglas DC-8 jetliners, dumped them in volcanoes on Earth in the prehistoric past, killed them all with nuclear weapons, and that the ghosts of these dead space rebels are the cause of everything bad that ever happens to us. Oh, and humans are really space-gods, but these ghosts infesting us are causing us to be mortal. They even had a huge sign flash on screen during this segment-This is what Scientologists actually believe.
    • However, the story of Xenu (also known as the "Wall of Fire" or "Incident II"), while no doubt a part of the Scientology belief system, does not make up the entire crux of Scientology. It's like saying one of the Bible stories is the entire basis of Christian belief, despite other numerous sources. Still, there's quite a lot of solid evidence that the foundation seeks just to milk potential believers for their money, rather than genuine belief.
      • It does form the entire basis for the auditing process, which is one of Scientology's most sacred and most common rituals, and explains where "evil thoughts" come from. It may not be the "entire crux" of Scientology, but it is a major part of it, much like, say, Exodus (and the 10 Commandments contained therein) is a major part of Judaism and Christianity. The really screwed up part of it, though, is that, despite it being such a large part of Scientology's belief system, the average Scientologist doesn't find out about it until they've already invested years upon years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the religion.
    • Their earlier episode, "Super Best Friends" featured the David Blain-based religion "Blaintology" that existed to sell his book and get non-profit status. So many things that are so similar to The Religion Which Shall Not Be Named.
  • Futurama: in the year 3000 Trekkies became an organized religion, described in one gag as "The sci-fi religion that doesn't take away all your money". I wonder what they were referring to...

Satanists.

Although really, Anton Szandor LaVey kinda selected the trappings of his religion specifically to piss off the Muggles, so you get what you ask for.
  • It should, however, be mentioned that actual Satanism, and Satanism the way it is portrayed in popular media, are wildly different things.
    • In an extension of the above, Satanists who aren't LaVeyans. There are three main denominations of Satanism. LaVeyan as mentioned above, the Temple of Set, and Luciferianism (either theistic or atheistic). None of us act like the fictional Satanists, and almost all of us loathe the very few fake ones who do, for obvious reasons.
    • As a carnie showman, Anton La Vey was all about codifying Hollywood Satanism. Whole sections of his books are dedicated to exaggerating and exploiting stereotypes. To him, this didn't make one less 'real' a Satanist, since it's predicated on extreme cynicism of human nature.
  • The word Satan was Hebrew for 'the enemy', and is not to be confused with Devil Worship; so Satanism is the following of a non-Abrahamic religion in God.
    • Correction: HaShatan means "The Adversary," and it is not clear whether this refers to an Adversary of God or an Adversary of Mankind who works for God.
    • Further correction: HaShatan is, within the context of Judaism, a delightful fellow who works in G-d's court. His name means "The Accuser" and he basically has two jobs: being a judge who tries to prove the accused's guilt, and tempting men away from G-d to see how strong their convictions are.
    • Conglomeration: All of these things are true. Satan in the old testament and Jewish belief went from a word that was used to describe someone (anyone) as an "adversary" of some sort. It also can mean "accuser", so in later texts the word was used as a generic title for angels of YHVH's court who at that time happened to be accusing someone of something and provoking YHVH to test them. Much later, shortly before Jesus and Christianity came about, the Jews required that YHVH have a powerful enemy to explain why he had been unable to save them from foreign dominion yet, it was then that they decided that the angels described as "the satan" were a single character, and that Satan was a proper name, and found that previous scriptures that appear to be referring to something entirely different were actually describing Satan's banishment and fall from heaven, thus setting him up as a great power against YHVH.

Fanfic

Music

Religious Practitioners of Polygamy:

If a religion in the United States practices or advocates polygamy (or rather, polygyny), expect everyone in the media to immediately assume that they are perverts. Recently, due to some Real Life convictions of one leader of a polygamist religion, it is also assumed that any religion that advocates polygamy also forces young girls to "marry" old men.
  • There's a little bit of Truth in Television about it: in a lot of places where polygamy is or was practiced, you pretty much have to be rich in order to be able to feed, clothe, and house more than one set of wife + kid(s), and considering how long it can take to make enough money, you're likely going to be notably older than your second/third wife.
    • It is a bitter fact that polygamy tends to turn women into valuable commodities and collectables. It's also hard on young men trying to start a family since said commodity is monopolized by older and more powerful men.
      • Aside of Straw Feminism, polygamy tends to bring about the Mars Needs Women problem: no society manages it unless the number of polygamous marriages is very small, the young men are eliminated before they can marry, or women are imported into the society. Rudyard Kipling, deeply despising demonization, put jabs at both issues (among others) in One View of the Question.

Neopagans and Followers of New Age beliefs:

Portrayed as the most unsympathetic of Cloudcuckoolanders, with a huge side order of Granola Girl, unable to finish a sentence without mentioning crystals, auras, star signs, vibrations, past lives, and/or spirit guides. Also note that the media — and apparently this article — lumps Neopagans, such as Wiccans, in with "New Agers." (When it doesn't portray them as having made a pact with Satan, that is.)
  • Another fun stereotype is the "I'll hex/magically cause suffering to/curse you if you cross me" one. Rule of three, anyone?
    • It's unfortunate, the number of Wiccans who think that the rule of three is not an entirely Wiccan invention, and that most other Neopagans believe in it.
      • The rule of three isn't even a belief universally held by all Wiccans, and even among the ones who do, it's not always interpreted the way most new agers/non-traditional Wiccans interpret it.
  • Perhaps because New Age = The Force - The Dark Side.
  • Alternatively, they'll be ruthless con artists cynically manipulating people into buying All-Natural Snake Oil through a veneer of self-righteous airy-fairy drivel. That's in part because of the unfortunate number of prominent ones who actually are.
  • Inversely, Norse and Germanic neopagans (sometimes called Astruar), also known as Heathens, are often assumed to be white supremacists or neo-Nazis, because of their use of Germanic symbolism which has been historically appropriated — much to their dismay and disgust — by such groups. It doesn't help that there is a vocal racist minority among the Heathen community, which the rest earnestly attempt to distance themselves from.
    • This may be broadened to other varieties of reconstructory Neo-Paganism. As it, at its core, is supposed to bring back what roughly speaking was old national religions, its appeal to various kinds of supremacist and nationalist types is not surprising. On the upside, the less negative stereotype just assumes this kind of neopagans to be friendly Born in the Wrong Century types, fond of historical reenactment as it allows them to live in the past with no-one finding it weird (not that it'd stop them).
  • Wiccans are also fairly uniformly portrayed as completely ignorant of the history of their own belief system, to the point of thinking Wicca was practiced in Salem, Massachusetts.

Live-Action TV
  • One time on Buffy, a group of religious (as against spellcasting) group of Neopagans Willow meets in college are portrayed as idiots who have no idea what they're talking about. Willow and Tara, who simply alter the fabric of reality with no religious connotations at all, are portrayed as far wiser. This type is known as the College Pagan, the Fluffy Bunny, or the Shirley MacLeaner among the pagan community. Also, Willow did invoke various gods and goddesses, so there were definitely religious connotations with her spellcasting.
    • This becomes a Brick Joke when, in the last season, Willow visits them again, and it turns out that they actually have become a real spell casting group; oddly enough, they still do the weekly bake sale.
  • An episode of Burke's Law had a bunch of self-proclaimed witches dressed up as Glinda the Good and holding the cheesiest ritual ever. The hippie/pagan household I was living in at the time cracked up because we all knew people like that.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons in "Rednecks and Boomsticks" didn't even seem to know how to parody the Wiccan coven of teenage girls Lisa stumbles across. One minute they're the epitome of stereotypical airhead teenybopper fluffy bunnies, the next they're portrayed as mysterious and ethereal beings of intimidating power (instead of, y'know, just acting like NORMAL teenagers who just happen to be pagan) - until, of course the angry mob of townsfolk who thought they had the power to make everyone go temporarily blind found out it was just moonshine in the water supply.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Bobby makes friends with a group of Neo-Pagans. The leader turns out to be a Basement-Dweller in his 20s.

The Amish

As well as other Anabaptists (Mennonites, Hutterites, Baptist Brethren, Plain Quakers, and others), not because they are often considered worthy of scorn but simply because, as they isolate themselves from popular culture and modern technology, including television and the internet, and so are not in a position to become aware of any slights made against them. Because of said isolation and their old-fashioned lifestyles, many mock them as being backward and simple, though only, of course, in forms of media they do not read.
  • Amish have a lot of other problems that are more or less ignored: the practice of shunning or genetic difficulties (such as six fingered dwarves) because of the founder effect; markedly higher levels of child sexual abuse, and excessive inbreeding due to failures to use exogamy, even with Amish of other villages. It's also notable that Amish are not entirely Luddites, only that new technology has to be approved first to make sure it does not interfere with religion.
    • Due to the way that the church hierarchy functions, where the actual line between "interference" is drawn varies from community to community. For example, in some areas, an Amish home may utilize an electric generator, batteries, propane, kerosene-powered refrigerators, or thermal solar collectors. It should be kept in mind that pretty much no Amish sect views technology as inherently evil.
    • The Amish are more or less only against technology that does not have primarily work-related purposes. Hence, a truck to bring the harvest to your local wholesaler might be alright, but a nice comfy Volvo station wagon just to ferry your family to church is not so alright. Which is not so bad, after all...
    • Craig Ferguson often says that the only group you can make fun of on TV is the Amish. The reason he gives is that they don't watch late night TV.
    • Some Mennonite groups believe in the core tenet that people shouldn't "yoke themselves to unbelievers" and therefore are okay with solar panels and other modern things, as long as they needn't buy them from factories and can stay "off the grid" while using them.

Film
  • Kingpin is built around this trope, too.

Live-Action TV
  • One of the victims in 1000 Ways to Die is a young man named Jebediah, a Nave Newcomer going through the Rumspringa coming of age rites. The dude happens to go out for it in Halloween for it and is roped into going to a Halloween party, since people think he's only disguised as an Amish. Poor Jebediah then gets piss drunk... and dies of alcohol poisoning, since he was born without the enzyme that allows the liver to process alcohol
  • An episode of Cold Case is centered on an Amish family whose eldest daughter was killed.
  • Judging Amy has a case in which an Amish girl gets pregnant by an outsider, then the dad sues for sole custody.
  • The crime drama Banshee takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania Amish country. The main antagonist is the local crime lord Kai Proctor who comes from the local Amish community but has been shunned by them for years due to his criminal lifestyle. Despite this he still shows many aspects of his Amish upbringing including the way he dresses and talks. He also takes it very badly when some rednecks harass and insult the local Amish. He clearly still deeply respects the Amish beliefs and lifestyle while having rejected them in his own life.
  • Played with on an episode of Bones, where one of the Amish boys out on his Rumspringa is found dead due to a burglary-gone-wrong, and who was torn about going back to his community due to his love of, and skill with, playing piano. His parents decide to watch a video of one of his performances with his roommates on a DVD-player at the end of the episode.

Literature
  • Iain Banks's book Whit fits the trope.

Music
  • Weird Al's song and music video "Amish Paradise," a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise". The facts presented in the song are in fact technically correct, though naturally presented in humorous fashion.
    • Further lampshaded on a segment of ALtv, where Al, after the video played, declared: "If I offended any Amish people out there, I just want to say... you're not supposed to be watching TV! What are you doing?... Get back to work!"

Radio
  • The Bob & Tom Show featured a band called The Electric Amish, who sing Amish-themed parodies of classic rock songs (such as Barn to be Wild, Give Me Three Pigs, Proud Gretta, and Black Bonnet Girls). They also tell terrible Amish jokes in between verses and take frequent shots at Mennonites. The incompatibility of a batch of Amish guys forming a rock group is frequently Lampshaded by them not knowing that they're on air or telling each other to hide from the local parson. The general idea is that they're basically everyman type characters who happen to be Amish, but there are definitely jokes at the culture's expense.

Western Animation
  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory sent Dexter to what he thought was a summer camp at a high-tech farm, but turned out to be an Amish farm run by a very morose and boring family whose idea of fun was churning butter. Sent into withdrawal by the lack of science, Dexter built a potato-powered lamp, and the family accused him of being a witch and tried to have him tarred and feathered.

Muslims

The followers of Islam suffer tons of this. Because of September 11th (before 9/11, too, but less frequent), a common portrayal of a Muslim male is that of a religious fanatic and sexist who wants nothing more than to spit on the American flag, cover up his wife (or wives), and chant threats in some Middle Eastern language (that is, if he's not making himself and everything around him go boom). Also, they're all brown-skinned Arabs (or, occasionally, black Africans). So, if you're a white Muslim—a convert, or an Albanian or Bosnian, for example, or perhaps an Arab or Turk of partial Caucasian or Eastern European descent (there are a lot of those)—you officially do not exist. In recent times, there's been a big backlash against this, as numerous examples below attest.

Comedy
  • Perhaps an edited Jeff Foxworthy bit will help illustrate:
    "...the thing is, southerners Muslims are as smart (peaceful, tolerant, etc.) as anybody else in this country, our only problem is we just can't keep the most ignorant amongst us off the television."
  • Russell Peters also has a good one:
    "The ones you see on the news are the rednecks, that's why their Arabic is so bad! I'm pretty sure they show nothing but Springer in the Middle East, and there's a guy going "Look at them, they're stupid! He's fucking his own cousin!"
  • Jeff Dunham's Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Besides the name and accent, he calls God Allah, wears a turban, and is constantly threatening to kill people. The implication is that he died in a suicide bombing.
  • At one point in one of his stand-up shows, Dara O'Briain — an outspoken atheist — mentions being challenged by Christians who accuse him of being too "scared" to make jokes about Muslims where he'll happily make jokes about Christianity. To which he replies:
    "There's two reasons why I don't make jokes about Muslims. One: I don't know a single fuckin' thing about Muslims. And two: neither do you."
    • As an example, he mentions that he could make a perfect Muslim joke which would fall flat since most of the audience to his gigs wouldn't get it, and mentions something about a golden horse that comes over a hill once a year delivering cake to children as an off-the-cuff example. He then apologises to any Muslim members of the audience, who are presumably at that point wondering what on earth he's talking about with this golden horse nonsense.
  • Iranian-born stand-up comic Shazia Mirza opens her act with
    Hello, my name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's licence.
    • She also riffs on the experience of visiting the United States. At first, US security was all over a dark attractive woman with a British accent and couldn't get enough of her. Until she gave them her Iranian passport.

Literature
  • Pretty much anything by John Ringo and his sometime partner Tom Kratman although Ringo has modified his portrayal slightly in more recent works.
  • Played straight with the fundamentalist faction in Robert Ferrigno's Assassin trilogy but averted with the moderate and modern factions. Interestingly the most positive portrayals of devout Muslims are all women. Also interestingly no mention is made of the real life Sunni/Shiite divide.

Live-Action TV
  • Sayid Jarrah on LOST is mostly an exception — while he is a very flawed person, he's no more screwed up than the rest of the characters and generally portrayed sympathetically.
  • Lie to Me had an episode related to radical Muslim bombings, and the characters were treated in a highly sympathetic manner. In the end, it turned out to be the cousin of one of the victims who was planting bombs in the money collecting tins carried by the young members of the church, which horrified the rest of the community. They discussed quite frankly the fact that people distrusted the Muslim community, even though the majority of them, even the most conservative ones, were appalled at what happened and mourning the loss of two of their young members that were killed while carrying the bombs without knowing it. It contrasted the government's view of the 'bombers' with the view of people who were able to see and interpret the facial expressions of all the people involved.
  • JAG: Fanatic and outright anti-American Muslims with hostile intentions were always legitimate villains on this show. However, Muslims who did not express an open anti-American sentiment were portrayed very favorably.
  • Sitcom Citizen Khan followed the life of a Pakistani immigrant in Birmingham and his British-born family. It humanised British Muslims through the device of a family patriarch who was depicted as being every bit a Jerk Ass as any native white citizen. Mr Khan was xenophobic, pompous, and pretty much an Asian Alf Garnett - he found it hard to believe a white Brit could be a proper Muslim, for instance, and looked down on Muslims who weren't Pakistani. What saved him was a streak of well-hidden human decency and a loveable bumbling ineptitude about anything he did.

Western Animation
  • Subverted with Comedy Central. South Park thought that the censorship of Muhammed would be an acceptable target. They were wrong. Comedy Central censored them hard. Recently, they've become a much less acceptable target. Yet inverted in making a statement on the violent reaction to the Mohammed cartoons. And subverted in that South Park's depictions of Mohammed (their first was in the "Super Best Friends" episode, which got through unscathed) are neutral at worst, with the censored one even getting an In-Universe comment of "He was just standing there like a normal guy". And it's worth noting that a big reason Comedy Central censored the "Cartoon Wars" version was the receipt of death-threats from extremist Muslim groups before it even aired.
  • Oran Najir, one of the heroes of Broken Saints, is a devoutly Muslim terrorist/freedom fighter from Baghdad, Iraq, whose fundamentalist Qu'ran-spouting father is named Osama. Sound a bit much? Check this: The series (and therefore the character) began before 9/11, and ended shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. As a matter of fact, the character and his story was written in response to the behavior of the U.S. towards Iraq in between the Gulf Wars, especially in the 1990s. The significance of Osama's name is unknown, because he is never named in the series, and so the timing is difficult to tell.
    • As for Oran's actual characterization, he is actually depicted as a man whose religious beliefs are shown in conflict with his violent behavior. The series charts his journey to overcome his crisis of faith, and indeed, later on, his faith actually helps strengthen him in battle.

Hare Krishnas

Well known for chanting or singing the Hare Krishna "song", or as it is more properly known, Maha (meaning greatest) Mantra, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKCON as it is most commonly known is a visible target. Mainly due to misunderstanding about practices or a lack of knowledge of why they "sing the same song" the movement stems from the Vedic culture of ancient India and practices its most visible activity of singing and dancing in the street following the instructions of religious scripture that the fundamental religious process of the age is to congregationally chant the holy names of Krishna (the Maha Mantra or Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) and by so doing become "Krishna conscious" or "God conscious," literally conscious of who god is and what he is up to (Krishna is a name for God, hes the blue guy with the flute).

A lot of the original negative stereotyping came from their reputation for aggressive soliciting of donations, especially at airports-similar to the Jehovah's Witnesses stereotype below. When soliciting was banned in American airports, this became a Dead Horse Trope.

Most commonly stereotyped as bald headed white guys in orange robes, it is a worthy note that these are the monastics, and most practitioners of Krishna consciousness are actually married and generally have 2.5 children, etc.

Some countries recognize the Hare Krishnas as a sub sect of Hinduisim, or of Vedic culture. It Is widely accepted that even though considered a New Religious Movement, their practices date back many thousands of years, some say predating the bible. Their practice of mantra meditation (also congregational chanting) is also proven to be an effective meditation technique with innumerable benefits.

They are vegetarians and generally love to feed people, so they cant be all bad... probably why that Zombie in Dawn of the dead didn't eat anyone (see below). Oh and FYI Russell Brand the British Comedian is good friends with a Hare Krishna Guru.

Film
  • A part in Airplane! has two Hare Krishnas who, ironically, get bugged by two Jehovah's Witnesses on the way into the airport. They seem to be fairly normal people.
  • A Hare Krishna even shows up as a zombie in the original Dawn of the Dead. He stares at one of the lead characters but stops short of trying to eat him, possibly due to his vegetarian beliefs.
  • Averted in National Lampoon's Class Reunion, where a member of the class shows up dressed like one of these, yet acts exactly like any other old classmate you might run into at a reunion.

Live-Action TV
  • When Paul Kinsey comes off the bus in Season 5 of Mad Men, he is a Hare Krishna; the portrayal is ambiguous, but one gets the distinct feeling that it's yet another pathetic phase he's going into (he had always come off as rather the poseur).

Newspaper Comics

Video Games
  • They also show up in Grand Theft Auto II. As one of the factions you can work for. About as serious as their depiction of the insane, The Mafia, The Mafiya, the Yakuza...
    • They can typically be found at the start of a level in the first game. It's well worth the police going after you for grabbing a car, running down the whole line of Krishnas, and bagging a huge bonus. GOURANGA!!!!!
  • The Airport section of the unlicensed NES game Spiritual Warfare featured pamphlet-toting Hare Krishnas as enemies. You converted them to Christianity by throwing pears at them, by the way.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Generally used as the punchline of something or other, much like the Krishnas. Everyone knows of them, but no one knows anything about them. The only thing that seems to be widely known about JW's, in fact, is that everybody hates them, and so it's okay to pick on them.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses have no secret beliefs, and are more than happy to talk about them; if you actually want to know what they believe, it's not that difficult to find out. In fact, the jokes are more often about trying to get them to keep their beliefs secret when they come knocking.
  • What is known about them is pretty funny to some. They stay politically neutral. They preach door to door. Some find this harassing. They don't celebrate birthdays or Christmas due to its origins. They also don't accept blood transfusions due to them following a Bible text that says to abstain from blood.
    • The general idea of the Witnesses is to live by Biblical values considered by them to be of divine origin, and to discuss with others how these values can benefit everyone, hence the name. By personal experience, these conversations touch upon different topics, from history, science, moral values, philosophy, political science, literary analysis, current events, family life, and the Bible. The Bible touches on all these topics (e.g.: Job, Daniel, Matthew).
    • Harassment is what it seems like if you go out of your way to avoid talking to them, because they keep coming back until they get a hold of you. If you actually speak to them and ask them not to come back, they put you on a list of people to stay away from. The rest of that is all true.
  • "Everyone knows of them, but no one knows anything about them." Theologically, they are a lot like many other conservative Christian groups (what most people would call "fundamentalist"), except for a couple of doctrinal points. (1) They do not believe Jesus is God; instead, they believe that he is the first and greatest being God created, a version of Christianity called "Arianism" after the 4th-century theologian Arius, who argued this position against the Trinitarian position of Athanasius. However, this is not a small doctrinal distinction, since it involves rejecting what most Christians consider to be the core teaching of Christianity. (2) They do not believe in the standard Heaven-and-Hell Christian afterlife system. Instead, they believe the dead simply cease to exist. The good will eventually be resurrected, bodily, in a paradisiacal new world. The evil just remain deleted.

Agnostics, Deists, and Religiously apathetic

Seen as wishy-washy fence-sitters by religious folk and atheists alike. There are approximately as many kinds of agnosticism as there are Christian sects, but the majority of them fall into one of two groups: "strong" agnosticism, which holds that the existence of God is inherently unknowable and is either not worth trying to prove or not worth caring about; and "weak" agnosticism, which holds that the question of God's existence hasn't been answered, but still may be.
  • Or, for that matter, presenting any (or all) as a middle ground between theism and atheism.
  • There's further irony in realizing that agnosticism and belief are not actually mutually exclusive (you might not know the answer but you can still believe in it anyway). This frequently leads self-identifying agnostics and atheists/theists to attack each other, not realizing for the longest time (or at all) that they are both on the same side of the argument, just identifying under different groups.
  • It's common for newly deconverted people to refer to themselves as agnostic, when what they really mean is atheist (remember, atheist literally means anyone who doesn't believe in gods, not just those who actively believe they don't exist). However, there's a certain breed of agnostic who claim that they're better than theists and atheists because they don't hold any unsubstantiated belief. Atheists tend to really hate people with this confusion, as the majority of atheists simply disbelieve through lack of evidence, and even the ones who actually do think no gods exist do not hold this as an absolute belief, but merely the most likely scenario. Any agnostic who continues on in this vein moves from 'person confused by the terminology' to Acceptable Target.
    • It's not that one side is wrong, it's that philosophers and laypeople have different definitions for "atheism." Philosophers have very specific words for various beliefs. If you're a skeptic (you have not been convinced by any theistic argument, therefore don't assume there is a god) or an agnostic (you believe that the idea of a god is so abstract that we'll never prove or disprove it), you simply say that. The word "atheist" is reserved for discussing the claim that there is no god, and terms like "agnostic atheist" or "skeptical atheist" are contradictory. The idea that an atheist is anyone who doesn't actively believe in a god is the more common, less precise definition used by those who haven't studied the subject. Since the average atheist is usually just a person who happens to not hold that belief rather than someone out to argue it, and the few hardcore atheists unfortunately tend to see theology as a non-subject, none of them know the specific terminology and use the more common definitions. Thus those on both sides of the argument appear to not know their terminology and say of the other "what an ignorant poser, he doesn't even know what he's talking about."
      • It's not just "philosophers and laypeople" who have different definitions. Philosophers and philosophers have plenty of competing definitions as well. Anyone who claims to have nailed down the "philosophers" definition of ANYTHING is probably trying to sell you something.
    • More than that: for many, it's a conscious choice to use a term that may not be technically correct, due to an explicit desire not to be identified with strong atheists, or people who insist all of the nonreligious should be called "atheists".
    • Atheism is generally accepted as a statement of belief. Atheists don't hold a belief in any gods. Agnosticism is a statement of knowledge. Agnostics don't know whether there are any gods. There are plenty of people who don't know for sure whether gods exist (it being difficult to disprove beings generally defined as able to hide from anyone trying to find them) and don't believe a deity exists.
  • It's also possible for people to (mis?)use "agnostic" to mean "spiritual but unconverted": the idea of thinking there's something out there, but not knowing what, and not including the subtext of "knowing is impossible".
  • Deists (those who believe in at least one, usually non-interfering god) often get it pretty bad from all sides. Atheists consider them silly for the same reasons they do any other theist and members of other more organized religions scorn them for refusing to commit to any god.
    • Nowadays, at least. Atheists sometimes "grandfather in" Deists who lived in earlier times on the theory that atheism was not an intellectually viable option before science could even begin to offer plausible mechanistic explanations for the existence of life, the universe, and everything.

Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy
  • Paul F. Tompkins has a bit about his own attempts to figure out his faith.
    "I don't want to say that I'm 'spiritual', because the word spiritual to me always makes me think of people who say things like, 'Well, yes, I have a concept of God, but it's not some old man with a long white beard who sits on a cloud.' Well, that's no one's concept of God, you condescending dick."

Live-Action TV
  • In Community, the group explain their religious beliefs. When Jeff outs himself as agnostic, everyone jeers at him for it, and Pierce labels agnosticism as "the lazy man's atheism."

Western Animation
  • Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an agnostic, as evidenced in one of her song numbers, and is portrayed as being more humble and loving than Frollo or other self-serving, more devout Christians.
    • Romany religious beliefs are far from codified and often include a measure of syncreticism with regional gaje, when they haven't just converted. What things are common include a great variety of ways for things to become spiritually polluted and a god/satan-like set of major supernatural powers. So there weren't a lot of useful ways to bring in gypsy traditions, and every chance a real Parisian gypsy could have this vaguely agnostic approach to the god of Abraham.
  • In Family Guy, Brian initially seemed to be a deist but as the series wore on (especially after it was Un-Canceled) he was Flanderized into a particularly arrogant atheist. Especially since he's actually met Jesus, and witnessed a pair of miracles performed at Peter's request.

Unitarian Universalism:

Unitarians, though a relatively small religious group, tend to get poked fun of primarily for "believing nothing" and "questioning everything". This is a gross over-simplification of the modern Unitarian avoidance of dogma and strict religious rules that other religions have. Of course, a large portion of its adherents are wealthy/white/gay/hippy-ish/all of the above anyways, so there are a number of Acceptable Targets to shoot at. It also helps that Unitarians tend to laugh louder than anyone at the jokes. It doesn't help that few people know what the heck a Unitarian is, even though it was a prominent Christian sect of the 19th Century (and three Presidents were counted as members). Psst: Unitarian Universalism is a merging of two churches. Unitarianism is the belief in a unified Christian God rather than a Trinity: Universalism is that every person will be saved.

Despite the comparatively laid-back nature of the religion, Unitarians can attract some genuine rancor-either from other Christians accusing Christian Unitarians of not being real Christians, or Atheists assuming that Christian Unitarians share the same beliefs and attitudes of any other Christians. Many Unitarians aren't Christians (no dogma, remember) and some are even atheists.

Comedy
  • A joke at some Unitarian churches: "Why are Unitarians so bad at singing? Because we're always reading ahead to see if we agree with the lyrics."
  • A good example of the anti-dogma jokes: "For Unitarians, "tradition" is how you did it last year. "Firmly established tradition" is when it holds on for two years. After three years, it's "The way we've always done it.""
  • Another joke:
    What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness?
    Someone who knocks on your door, but doesn't know why
  • A columnist for SFgate wrote an essay detailing the Unitarian Jihad. Filled with jokes about how everything gets decided by committee vote, it was quickly picked up by Unitarians themselves who created sites like the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator.
  • Q: How do you know you've pissed off a Unitarian? A: There's a burning question mark in your yard.
  • Q:Why are there no UU's in Heaven? A: They were given a choice between going to Heaven and going to a discussion group about the existence of Heaven.
  • Members of the United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination, joke that UCC actually stands for "Unitarians Considering Christ."

Live-Action TV
  • On one episode of M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter calls the head of chaplains at the Pentagon to lobby for Father Mulcahey to get a promotion. After the call goes through, Colonel Potter says "He answers his own phone, must be a Unitarian."
  • A stage manager character on The Colbert Report is a UU. The show poked fun at the character's agnosticism and his celebration of multiple holidays in a bit that a Unitarian Universalist website called "humorously accurate."

Real Life
  • Jim David Adkisson went after a Unitarian church specifically because he was looking for liberal targets.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons
    • At the church ice cream social, Reverend Lovejoy asks Lisa if she wants to try the new "Unitarian flavor ice cream". She gets handed an empty bowl and says "But there's nothing there." and the Reverend responds with a smug "Exactly."
    • Another joke is when Bart goes over to Rod and Todd Flanders and plays the only video game they have where you shoot Bibles at cavemen and other heretics to convert them. It leads to this joke, Bart: "Aw man I missed!" Todd: "Nah, you just winged him. Now he's a Unitarian."

Episcopalians and The Church Of England:

Often seen as ineffectual "anything goes" types who will completely contradict their own dogma whenever its convenient. That's if people still aren't cracking jokes about Henry VIII. In America, WASP jokes will do.

Interestingly, Henry VIII's official declaration of the Church of England was, while of course related to divorce, a final move in a several-century game of poaching control of national churches from one another by popes and kings. Strictly speaking, since the old Roman church withered to nothing in the Dark Ages and the pope at Rome only started recentralizing after the institution general was healthy again, the pope poached first. Medieval kings of England had control over things like appointing bishops, and never quite felt they'd lost the right.

Comedy
  • Robin Williams on his own Episcopal faith:
    I'm an Episcopalian. That's like Catholic Lite. All the ritual, half the guilt!
  • Eddie Izzard has his brilliant Church of England monologue, as well.
    • I choose death! Wait! No! Cake!

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons shows an Episcopal church with vibrating pews.

Mainline Protestants

Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists (if they're not feuding), and their splinter groups are often times depicted as bland and interchangeable, assuming they're not The Fundamentalist. Expect tiny churches, beige decor, lots of small town gossip, big zany hats and rehashing of generic WASP stereotypes. African American churches are considered somewhat exempt because of their role in the civil rights movement, but they might still be chewed out on some of the more contentious issues (homophobia, gossip, phony faith healing, etc..) ; expect a loud, joyous, clapping choir, a flamboyant preacher, audience participation so involved people are fainting in the aisles... and even bigger, zanier hats.
  • In case of Southern Baptists, see Deep South. Hyper-conservative (albeit not to the same extent as the Amish), fire-and-brimstone, and generally still acting like the Civil War and civil rights movement never happened (which is kind of unfair, since many evangelical Christian groups - including some in the South - were instrumental in helping to get slavery gradually abolished). On the other hand, they're usually also portrayed as intensely involved in and committed to the community - the entire population of an American South town going to the same church on Sunday, from the mayor to the dog catcher, is Truth in Television in parts of the South.
  • Christian teens are commonly the antagonists in a lot of teen programs (Saved, Easy A) or have to give up their beliefs to become a "better" person (Glee, Secret Life).
  • Commonly, kids in abstinence groups are portrayed as judgmental hypocrites; this possibly is meant to be critical of having opinions on sexually active peers, or criticizing the demonization of contraception, but usually comes off as being "abstinent is directly wrong," and that you are either stupid or selfish for not "doing it," and the advantages abstinence has over contraception (it's cheaper, has no side effects, and has more probability to work) are rarely brought up. However, most main female characters usually will be a virgin and proud of it, but never for religious reasons.
  • There's sometimes the belief in countries with a Catholic majority, like in Latin America for example, that all Protestant denominations, especially within the United States, are comprised of slightly backwards people who are usually very overdramatic and willing to dish out all their money to televangelists in exchange for salvation.

Film
  • In Vampire in Brooklyn, Max manages to take the form of a flamboyant black preacher and convince an entire congregation to start singing "evil is good."

Live-Action TV
  • Shirley from Community sometimes enforces her beliefs on the rest of the group and even tries to force them to celebrate Christmas. Generally, she's one of the sweetest and most down-to-Earth characters, though.

Music
  • Cynically invoked by Genesis song "Jesus, He knows me".

Radio

Theatre
  • An obscure stage musical called Crowns is entirely centered around Black church ladies and their flamboyant hats.

Western Animation
  • In King of the Hill, Bobby Hill has to go see the reverend because Hank can't remember exactly what Methodists are supposed to believe.
  • "The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism"
    • "She of Little Faith" has this exchange.
    Bart: Still looking for a new faith?
    Lisa: Yep.
    Bart: Hey, how about one of those religions where you eat a human heart?
    Lisa: No.
    Bart: How about Methodist?
    Lisa: (Emphatically) No!

Voudosiants

Often goes beyond "LOL" and well into "EEEEEEEEEEK!". Practitioners of voudon and other Yoruba-derived faiths, such as Santeria, Candomble, and Obeah, are often portrayed as magical and mystical at best. At worst, they're portrayed as murderous, morbid, and practitioners of necromancy and dark magics the likes of which would make Voldemort soil his robes. See Hollywood Voodoo for details.

Cults

Basically portrayed as brainwashing organizations, whose followers view their religious leader as a Messiah, and obey him without question. They're almost cut off from the outside world, believing in only in what their leader says. Some of the time they result in mass suicide.

The standard cult leader is the guy who is at the top of the cult hierarchy, whose rule is unquestioned, he will talk about that he is right all the time, and has all the answers to everyone's problem. But behind closed doors he secretly uses his authority to get his way with everyone in his cult, regardless of age or gender. Or he could be a Straw Hypocrite who actually doesn't believe anything his cult does, and is only doing it as a means to scam peoples money.
  • In some countries, this is the very definition of the local word for "cult".
  • The academic term is "New Religious Movement" as the term "cult" is inherently pejorative.
    • This is a fairly recent development. "Cult" was for a couple of centuries before that a perfectly acceptable word meaning, essentially, "worship" or "a particular form of worship." It's only starting from about the 1920s that it acquired the implication that the particular form of worship in question was particularly weird.

Video Games
  • Carpainter's Happy-Happyist cutl in EarthBound, devoted to painting everything in the world blue and which kidnapped a girl from a nearby town to use as a religious figure. In this case, it's literally brainwashing courtesy of the Mani-Mani Statue.

TV Ministries

TV ministers in fiction are pretty much universally portrayed as being big haired, overweight, obnoxious, materialistic, loudmouthed southerners who are corrupt as corrupt can be. They're in it more for the money than they are for the saving of souls. Their sermons are almost always accompanied by pleading with their followers to send in more money, or to commercials that allow their flock to purchase such "holy relics" as a set of "Last Supper Steak Knives", each engraved with the face of one of the apostles, or a set of "Mary and Joseph salt and pepper shakers" and the like.

  • Oddly averted in Good Omens, where one of the people Aziraphale possesses after getting his body destroyed and having to make his way back to England is Marvin O. Bagman, an American country singer turned TV preacher. Even though he hawks records of his album Jesus is My Buddy every four minutes on his show "Marvin's Hour of Power", and Bagman is described as an almost picture-perfect stereotype (with a show consisting of "four three-minute songs from the LP, twenty minutes of Hellfire, and five minutes of healing people" with "the remaining twenty-three minutes [...] spent alternately cajoling, pleading, threatening, begging, and occasionally simply asking for money"), he's also said to sincerely believe in God, and to spend most of the money he makes on what he believes to be God's work.
  • This got lampooned in God, the Devil and Bob in the very first episode, where Bob pitches an idea for a call-in show where people talk about the impact of God in their lives. The televangelist loves the idea... until he finds out there'd be no money in it, and tosses Bob out of the studio. This also helped turn off some viewers who would otherwise have enjoyed the show, making it Too Good to Last.

Transhumanists

While not a religion in the traditional sense, transhumanists are often a target of both religious and non-religious communities. The religious believe them to be messing with God's creation or trying to play God, and the nonreligious often accuse them of either wishful thinking or interfering with natural evolution.

Anything religious in general

Is there a god? What is the purpose of life? What is life after death? etc. Whatever you think, someone will always find a way/reason to hate/bash/spoof it.


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