Artistic License – Religion
aka: You Fail Religious Studies Forever
A last supper I commissioned from you and a last supper I want. With twelve disciples and one Christ. Michelangelo:
! Now will you please tell me what in God's name possessed you to paint this with three
Christs in it?! Michelangelo:
It works, mate. Pope:
Yeah! It looks great! The fat one balances the two skinny ones. Pope:
There was only one
I know that, we all know that. What about a bit of artistic license?
Religion makes for great motifs and imagery in fiction and art, but it's also a varied and complex topic. This means that creators often take liberties, either to serve the story or due to lack of research. This may range from ignoring minor details of doctrine to broadly ignoring basic beliefs. The degree of variation often relates to how closely related a creator's culture is to the specific religion; the lesser the relation, the greater the liberties taken.
See also Hijacked by Jesus
, Sadly Mythtaken
, Symbology Research Failure
, Hollywood Voodoo
, Christianity Is Catholic
and Nuns Are Mikos
If you really want to know about the religions, why, look no further than our Useful Notes
While we can understand your love for a show, please refrain from making justifying edits
based on your personal theories
. That's what the discussion pages are for. Also be aware of the No True Scotsman
Fallacy; a lot of things in religion are open to (mis)interpretation, and for every alternate theory, there's bound to be some group that takes it deadly seriously
. This is more about claiming such-and-such a belief is mainstream, or explicitly stated in a certain religion's scriptures or equivalent thereof, when it's not.
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- In Mexico, there is a common PSA for a children's illness organization depicting the Littlest Cancer Patient as an angel. The text translates to English roughly as, "We want no more angels in Heaven; we need them down here." This is already a serious failure to understand Catholic and Christian dogma, but coupled with Mexico's overwhelmingly large Catholic majority, it's truly odd. It's probably supposed to mean "we don't want dead kids, we want them to live" and they are using angel in the "cute" sense, and while there is a rank in the hierarchy of angels, called "Powers", which are made up of human souls who were "made perfect by their righteousness" they're technically not angels, just drafted human souls. Also, the apocryphal "Book of Enoch" and many of the earliest Kabbalist writings believed the angel Metatron is actually the Prophet Enoch transformed, while Sandalphon is the Prophet Elijah. Belief that equates dead children with angels is actually quite widespread folk theology in Catholic countries - and the PSA is not presumably primarily aimed at trained theologians.
- "Kosher style" food. Kosher is simply anything prepared in compliance to Kashrut (dietary laws) on how to prepare and combine food, not a style of food. One can have Kosher Japanese or Chinese food, for example. This also follows for the similar Muslim concept of halal-meaning "permissible" and "fit" versus treif or haram-"torn" and "forbidden." In addition, during Passover there’s ‘Kosher for Passover’, meaning it’s fit for eating during Passover, during which Jews are not allowed to eat anything with leavened grain in it (so no bread, pasta, or beer), as well as nothing with legumes for Ashkenazi Jews.
Anime and Manga
- Chuck Austen on Roman Catholicism in the X-Men comics.
- The villains in the story plan to get Nightcrawler, a devil-looking mutant, installed as the pope then at a crucial time have his image inducer fail revealing him to be the Antichrist while distributing communion wafers that when activated will cause people to dissolve, simulating the Rapture, which will cause all the Catholic Church to declare war on all the mutants, wiping out the mutants, breaking the Catholic Church, destroying Western Civilization, and causing all the former Catholics to join their church. This plan is either insanely stupid or surprisingly brilliant. It's insanely stupid because the villains were a small, breakaway faction of Catholicism with likely very little note actual power in the papal elections and therefore could not get Nightcrawler elected as pope, would require everyone in the Church to assume he is the Antichrist, and not, say, someone who replaced the pope, have these communion hosts note distributed far and wide and not have anyone discover them, have Catholics spontaneously adopt the Rapture (as this is not part of Catholic Dogma, but originated in Protestantismnote ), and that this will cause the collapse of Western Civilization even though large swaths of Western Civilization don't practice Catholicism, that all the Catholics will spontaneously lose their faith including the more secular and non-practicing ones, and that all these ex-Catholics will join their church, rather than the hundreds of other faiths out there. The reason why it's potentially brilliant, is that it reflects how cynically accurate the reactions of the Marvel human population would be, and that having the Rapture really would cause problems because it would overturn a lot of previous dogma. If only they mentioned the latter bit.
- Also, the Rapture described in the story is what's referred to as a pre-tribulation Rapture, in which the Rapture is followed by a period of war, famine, death, etc. before Christ returns. In order for this plan to work, the villains in this story would need the resources to simulate both the tribulation and Christ's return to maintain believability. They obviously don't have these resources because then they could just kill the mutants directly instead of making the scheme to begin with, and it would require doing a rather large case of blasphemy by faking the return of Jesus Christ..
- Exploding Communion hosts. If they weren't shy about committing grave sacrilege on a mass scale (those nano-whoosie-whatsits they were going to seed the hosts with would have made them invalid matter and therefore very sacrilegious to use as Eucharist), somehow, it seems they'd have been sanguine about blasphemy as well.
- Also, the antichrist Nightcrawler was supposed to be mistaken for was from the pop culture version of a particular interpretation of Revelation - an interpretation, needless to say, not held by Catholicism in general, which considers that part of the book to be thinly-veiled criticism of the Roman Empire.
- So, in other words, their whole plan relied on the false assumption that Christianity Is Catholic.
- Linkara also point out (in these reviews  ) that Chuck Austen got some of the Bible quotes he used in that story wrong and he even misspelled the word revelation! It's safe to assume he didn't do too much research.
- And, just to pile on, Austen couldn't even get how the Sacrament of Holy Orders (otherwise known as ordination) works right — it's actually a laborious four-to-eight-year process that involves going to seminary, leaving no time for any super-hero derring do. And, no, the excuse that the Church of Humanity was shining Nightcrawler on or fooling him holds no water — he knew enough real priests to know how it works, and the info on the ordination process is public knowledge.
- The Chick Tracts often do this to any religious ideology besides Jack Chick's own version of Christian fundamentalism (which is rather extreme, even for normal fundamentalism). When he does his research, it is usually from unreliable or discredited sources — sometimes even his own version of Christian fundamentalism. As a result, not everyone is convinced his works aren't an elaborate parody. It helps that he is so cryptic a person that absolutely nothing is known about him. Wikipedia even suggest that "Jack Chick" might have been the "pen name for an unnamed author or authors". Examples of Artistic License - Religious Studies from Chick Tracts include:
- Azrael, in spades, the second series even more so than the first. A particularly egregious example is the 2011 Bat Family Crossover Judgement on Gotham. In this crossover, Azrael (Michael Lane) teams with the Crusader, a superpowered psychotic, in order to destroy Gotham City, which they perceive as a modern day Sodom/Gomorrah (It's later revealed that they were manipulated into doing this by Ra's Al-Ghul, who apparently likes to play with Dominoes). In accordance to The Bible story on the topic, however, they decide to instead first see if there is one righteous soul in the city. So, naturally, they decide to test Batman (Dick Grayson), Catwoman (Selina Kyle) and Red Robin (Tim Drake). If they find one righteous soul, they'll spare the city. Aaaaaaaandd here's where it fails. In the original Sodom and Gomorrah story, God agreed with Abraham to not destroy the cities for the sake of ten righteous people. This then begs the question of why Azrael and the Crusader didn't just take a poll of the local Christian churches. We the readers are then expected to believe that 1.) The biggest "sin" that the Sword of Sin (a sword that when plunged into a person's body reveals to both the victim and the wielder the sins of the victim) could dredge up from Dick Grayson was not helping some random guy from the circus when he was a kid, as opposed to, say, fornication, lying, lustful thoughts, use of profanity etc. 2.) We are further expected to believe that Azrael and the Crusader sincerely think that they can find an individual without sin, which, according to The Bible, yes, The Bible, is impossible with the sole exception of Jesus Christ. 3.) In relation to point 2, we are then expected to believe that Tim Drake, who, as good a guy as he is, has lied, thought lustful thoughts, and used profane language, is "sinless." We are also expected to believe that Tim is pretentious enough to even think he has no sins, which he does think, according to his opening monologue. 4.) We are then expected to believe that Selina Kyle, Catwoman, would fail the "sinless" test solely because she wouldn't kill her sister "in the name of God", as opposed to her history of stealing, fornication, etc., this test completely violating every rule of Christianity. The reason it's so ridiculous is that the entire premise of this crossover relies on Azrael and Crusader, the former being a staunch Catholic from boyhood, being completely ignorant of the Bible's most basic principles, to the point that Catwoman knows more about Christianity than they do ("God and God alone can judge").
- The Mighty Thor is ripe with artistic license from Horny Vikings to changing the genders of certain characters in Norse Mythology (i.e. Laufey is Loki's mother in the lore) to all out Hijacked by Jesus (with Loki being a blatant antagonist). Marvel's adaptation of Thor and the mythology is a hot topic in many Heathen circles, though that isn't to say that everyone is going to be upset with it.
- The concept of Plenary Indulgence is portrayed completely wrong. Multiple characters who should know better (angels and a cardinal) describe it as a clean slate, and the forgiveness and removal of all sins. It is not. Plenary Indulgence is the removal of the need for temporal punishments of sins that have already been forgiven. It does not remove nor wipe out a person's sins. One might argue that Bartleby and Loki failing to understand the concept properly is part of the joke. Also, Metatron calls himself a "seraphim" and reveals two wings. The singular of "seraphim" is "seraph," and they have six wings.
- The film states that angels can't have sex when the Bible says they fathered children.
- This is actually correct. The Bible speaks of 'sons of God' [which may of may not be a class of supernatural beings different from 'divine messengers'], not 'angels'. In the Catholic doctrine all angelic beings are sexless.
- Accordingly, the Grigori (what Ben Affleck's character was) were a choir of Angels discussed in the Apocrypha, which is considered non-canonical by Catholicism. Moreover, in Catholicism (and several other denominations of Christianity), they follow the understanding of Angels under Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, in which case they A.) lack the sensitive powers inherent in animal and human souls and because of that B.) lack bodies. The only way the Angels/Demons are able to be at a location in any sort of temporal means would be to possess a temporal host. Other than that, position in space and time is utterly irrelevant to them. Grigori were the exception, but again, not viewed as Canon by the Catholic Church (and they had gender, and sired children. This was one of the reasons behind the great flood, to get rid of them).
- Interestingly, a lot of the film's plot runs on the fact that Azrael, through Bartleby and Loki, is intentionally exploiting loopholes and using everyone's beliefs against them. The Cardinal is using the concept of Plenary Indulgences wrong, the whole "God is infallible" idea being proved incorrect has no basis in any official teachings, and half the stated rules and consequences happened (in-universe at least) centuries after the Bible began to be written. It's a humungous Batman Gambit running on nobody being 100% in the know about what was and wasn't possible, with the only omnipotent being in existence (God his-/herself) being stuck in a coma. It's entirely possible that Azrael's entire plan would have turned into a big pile of nothing anyway, with God just being mildly miffed that Bartleby and Loki were schucking God's edicts again, but having some sympathy once Loki actually got the chance to realize his wrongdoings and repent.
- The B-movie Lost Souls starring Winona Ryder. The filmmakers have admitted to making up the Bible verse that is central to the plot. One of the main characters is seemingly doomed to be possessed by demons because he hasn't been baptized. No one thinks to just baptize him and end the issue. Apparently the director and writer thought Catholics can only be baptized as infants.
- Not to mention that baptism doesn't do jack to the possibility of being possessed. Its function is to prevent from being condemned due to the Original Sin and to allow a person to receive other sacraments. It should also be noted that in extraordinary circumstances (as in when a person is likely to die unbaptised and there is no priest around), baptism can also be performed by a lay Catholic.
- Likewise, Quentin Tarantino admitted to making up most of Ezekiel 25:17. Only the last part of Jules Winnfield's diatribe is (almost) the real verse, i.e.; "And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them."
"Stigmata" does not know, or care, about the theology involved, and thus becomes peculiarly heretical by confusing the effects of being possessed by Jesus and by Beelzebub."
- It also features a desperate conspiracy by the Catholic Church to cover up the existence of the newly-rediscovered Gospel of Thomas, which would apparently destroy the entire institution of religion if discovered. However, it was actually discovered in 1945, and published (and translated) shortly after with no opposition whatsoever.
- Although the Gospel of Thomas discovered in 1945 was written in Coptic Egyptian while in the movie the language was Aramaic and not the gospel of Thomas but rather the gospel of Jesus himself supposedly saying that he was everywhere and that formal church hierarchies were unnecessary and even illegitimate.
- In Keeping The Faith there is a scene where people in a synagogue are shown seated during kol nidrei, which would not happen in real life. This is not the only inaccuracy in the movie, but it's definitely the most egregious example.
- Constantine borrows symbols and names from Christianity, but that's where the similarities end.
- A major plot point in the film is that, according to Catholic doctrine, people who commit suicide always go to Hell. This has not been the case since 1997, when the Church decided that people who were mentally ill were not entirely responsible for their actions if they chose to take their own life. At least one of the suicides in the film was committed by a mental patient. Constantine's suicide is more complicated, since suicide is only an unforgivable sin because you can't repent for it before you die. Constantine is brought back to life, so he can repent. However, as Constantine died and saw hell, he has already been condemned in the eyes of God. Also, as the concept of brain death has become better understood, there's been serious debate in the Catholic community as to whether or not a person can commit suicide, and repent in the few seconds before the brain shuts down.
- Although it is explicitly stated that Constantine's suicide was an act of martyrdom and thus was not sinful in essence.
- When Constantine mentions the "Spear of Destiny" and says "Jesus wasn't killed by crucifixion," the Catholic he's responding to replies with "I know, he was killed by a spear. I paid attention in Sunday School, you know." Except in the Bible, Jesus was killed by crucifixion, and a spear was only used to poke his corpse to demonstrate he was already dead. There are people who think that Jesus was "really" killed by the spear, but those tend to be people who claim the Biblical account is wrong. No one would be able to teach the theory from the Bible, certainly not in Sunday School.
- "If you believe in God, you must believe in the Devil..." proclaims the trailer for The Last Exorcism. No, you don't. If this works at all, it is the other way.
- Mrs. Carmody in the film adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist was described as crazy within the film, but anyone vaguely familiar with Christian scripture or theology should have been able to make a pretty convincing argument against her, on her own terms. While the main characters criticize Mrs. Carmody's ravings that it's the Rapture (and that human sacrifice is required to appease God), at one point a tough biker-guy volunteers to go on an expedition outside: his parting shot was that for the record, he did believe in God, but thought Carmody was a lunatic. This contrast was all-too-brief, because this man was killed shortly afterwards.
- In Priest (1994, dir. Antonia Bird) a major part of the plot involves a girl confessing that her father sexually abuses her, and the priest's (who also happens to be gay, just for the zeitgeist) subsequent attempts to protect her without breaking the Seal of the Confessional. This is incorrect according to the Canon Law of the Roman Church, but is commonly misunderstood (even by priests!): the seal applies only to confessed sins. The girl was not confessing a sin (her father raped her), and the priest was therefore not bound by the seal. Later, the father himself comes along to "confess" (actually to gloat). This is likewise not bound by the seal, as it applies only to genuine confessions - the father was gloating, not confessing, and was therefore not entitled to protection.
- Part of the massive backlash at Roland Emmerich's 2012 was how it perpetuated the belief of many Real Life Christians (and others) who have tried to connect the end date of the Mayan calendar with their own belief of Judgement Day. The Mayans never equated the end of their calendar with the end of the world. After all, the Georgian calendar "ends" on December 31st, and no one interprets that as the end of the world. Mayan mythology had nothing resembling an apocalypse, ignoring the inherent absurdity of Christians looking to a non-Judeo-Christian source for their eschatology.
- Played for Laughs in the poker tournament movie The Grand, where Larry Schwartzman shows up to a table wearing a hijab and claiming to have converted to "Muslam". This was a scare tactic against "Sob Story" Barry Blausteen, an expert at psyching out his opponents who happened to be Jewish.
- Jesus is shown nailed to the cross through his palms in The Passion of the Christ, although historians and theologians long ago discovered that nails were really driven through the wrists of the condemned (the flesh of the hand could not support that much weight and would tear away). Director Mel Gibson specifically invoked his artistic license here, though, stating that he was well aware of this, but decided the power of popular imagery trumped accuracy in this case.
- In End of Days a priest claims that the 666 in Revelation actually means 999, and therefore the end of the millennium, since in dreams and visions writing and numbers may appear as mirror images or upside-down. Even if we agree to that, there is the problem that there is no way the writer of Revelation could have known about Arabic numerals, and if he did, at the time their visual appearance had not been developed to a point where 6 and 9 resemble each other that closely. Revelation explicitly says "six hundred and sixty six", not "666"; and in Greek numerals that would be χξς, which doesn't look like anything upside down. This isn't even going into the possibility that the Mark of the Beast is actually six hundred and sixteen.
- The Mummy: Anyone else wondering why the Jewish God is bothering to reenact the ten plagues of Egypt (out of order, no less), for the sake of an Egyptian curse?
- Exodus 7:22 says that 'Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts' (after the waters of Nile changed to blood). Imhotep in the movie is an accomplished priest/magician.
- The Apocalypse film series shares many of the problems with Left Behind, which it was derived from. For instance, in the third film one character states that all Christians believe in the Rapture. This has more to do with their narrow definition of Christians (i.e. only people who believe as they do exactly). So people who don't believe in the Rapture are not Christians, according to them.
- Help! is sometimes erroneously taken to be an example of this trope, because it features the goddess Kaili which is "obviously" a misspelling of Kali. However, according to the DVD commentary, this was done deliberately to avoid Unfortunate Implications; they wanted a goddess who sounded like Kali without actually being her.
- In It's a Wonderful Life Clarence the angel was once human. Humans are not angels, and do not turn into them. Humans turn into saints, who are apparently conflated with angels because they both have haloes in popular art.
- The main conflict in the Hugo-winning science fiction novel A Case of Conscience by James Blish depends entirely on the "fact" that the Catholic church rejects evolution. In fact, the Catholic Church (in the 1940s) said the theory and religion are not mutually exclusive and that the church has no problem with the theory. Compared to certain Protestant sects Catholicism has taken a very moderate stance of the controversy - they were originally neutral on the subject but later came down in favor of it (in fact, English Protestants both supported and rallied against the theory in more or less equal measure). The church made no official pronouncement about the subject at all until Pius XII adopted a neutral attitude. This is more a case of Theology Marches On than a pure example of this trope, but the central character is a Catholic priest who is freaked out by the existence of an alien species that appear to be without sin yet have never known Christianity: in Real Life, the Vatican issued a statement to the effect that it was definitely possible humanity would find such a species out there in the universe, and the idea of sinless aliens actually works within Catholic theology since they would not share Adam's curse. (Wait, would that mean that humanity's hat is sin?!)
- Or, you know, Gregor Mendel? That guy with peas who figured out the theory of genetics and was also an Augustinian friar.
- The claim that the Catholic Church/the Pope opposes evolution is still used today. Especially egregious considering that evolution is part of the Catholic catechism.
- Some Protestant churches do oppose evolution. And Christianity Is Catholic, right?
- Additionally, while the Church accepts evolution, individual laity or clergy may not. This is no surprise.
- It's a pretty minor example, but in American Gods, there are a couple of examples of Neil Gaiman basing his presentation of a god on Victorian-era interpretations of Slavic Mythology instead of the original. One example is the idea of Bielbog being the "good god" brother of the "dark god" Czernobog. Modern evidence is that the former didn't actually exist in Slavic tradition. Probably justified as Bielbog is an alternate personality of Czernobog in Gaiman himself admitting that he had sparse evidence of Slavic Mythology and so had to use artistic license. There's also the issue that Loki is given some association with fire. This is the result of a bad etymology, most likely originating from the story where Loki ends up in a contest against Logi who is the personification of fire, and probably a bit of association of him with Lucifer. This one, as with the previous example could also be attributed to things becoming true if people believe in this universe. Which means that they're representations of the originals brought by Slavic immigrants to America. Many of whom would have immigrated in the 19th/early 20th centuries. Presumably, the original Slavic gods are still in Eastern Europe. The book makes it clear that America can clone or reincarnate gods while the originals are still in their home countries.
- An in-universe case of religious studies failure occurs within the book. Mr. Wednesday asks a random woman, who identifies as pagan, about Easter- and she responds that she doesn't follow that Christian crap, indicating she knows squat about paganism.
- Which again shows another Religious Studies failure, because there never was a pagan Goddess called Easter, Easter was a fake made up by Bede. However, when Neo-paganism was formed, this wasn't known yet so Easter isn't a pagan goddess, but still venerated as a goddess in some neo-pagan denominations.
- And in fact, there's some evidence that Easter was a case of reverse Hijacked by Jesus: a Christian holiday that became paganized due to its close proximity in the calendar to an actual pagan festival, that of the vernal equinox, and the spread of Christianity by the Roman Empire.
- There're some in-universe examples in Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton.
- In The Blue Cross, a Master of Disguise criminal poses as a Catholic priest; but he makes the grave mistake of talking religion with Father Brown. He then attacks reason, which is, as Father Brown says, bad theology; that, among other things, helps Father Brown to uncover the disguised criminal.
- In The Vampire of the Village, there's an Anglican parson, whose behavior is a strange mix of High-Churchman and Low-Churchman traits. Which helps Father Brown to deduce that he is just posing as a clergyman; but, due to ignorance in religious matters, he plays a Theme Park version of a parson.
- Then there's The God of the Gongs, in which Chesterton randomly decides that there's a form of Voodoo that involves Human Sacrifice (and all the casual racism in that story). People from non-Abrahamic religions didn't get much respect in those stories.
- The preface to The Wisdom Of Father Brown gives an explicit disclaimer that the "native rituals and customs" in various stories are made up for plot purposes. He cannot be blamed for not doing "research" he did not claim to be doing on things he did not claim are true. It still does not come off well though, as it's a common misconception about Voodoo which he contributed to by making up this literary version.
- Then there is his novel The Man Who Was Thursday, where an anarchist relates that he tried disguising himself as a bishop, but when he entered the drawing room shouting "Down! Down! Presumptuous human reason!" people somehow figured out that he was an impostor, since it seems real bishops don't act like that.
- In the Stephen Bury terrorism thriller The Cobweb, we encounter a Kosher butcher who's working on a Saturday afternoon. Aha! No kosher butcher would work on the Sabbath! Is he an impostor? An agent for the terrorists? ...nope. His Sabbath-desecration is not noticed, then or later, in the book. Maybe he's just a bad religious Jew? Who knows.
- John J. Miller's Wild Cards novel Death Draws Five is an over-the-top plot with various Sinister Ministers and Knight Templars, which depends entirely on the fact that he did not research what Christians of ANY denomination actually believe concerning the Second Coming.
- Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth has a woman pull her daughter out of school because the mother believes fossils are fakes, and home schools Mary to teach her creation instead of evolution. What this outright ignores is that modern creationism does not reject that fossils exist, it merely rejects the belief that millions of years are required for them to form, citing some modern examples (like 70-year-old petrified teddy bears found in a cave) to justify belief that a rapid global flood could do just as much damage in a year-and-a-half. But Fundamentalists being who they are and lacking a central authority, there probably are some who believe that fossils were made by Satan.
- Left Behind is very accurate in its portrayal of a very specific flavor of pre-millenial dispensationalists the writers belong to. (Even if it is weird to see the formerly non-believing protagonists talk and behave like long-term believers instantly upon converting.) Everyone else (from Catholics, Jews and Atheists right up to competing premillenials) gets the shaft, badly.
- In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the people of Eatonville claim at one point that any romantic speech has to reference Isaac meeting Rebecca at the well. Rebecca met Isaac's family servant (usually said to be Eleazer) at the well, and Isaac and Rebecca's son Jacob met his future wife Rachel at a well, but Isaac and Rebecca's first meeting did not involve a well. Possibly this was meant to show the townspeople as being uninformed, as they're generally not the smartest bunch.
- In His Dark Materials, the climax of the trilogy hinges on a second Fall of humanity, in which it's prophesied that Lyra "will disobey" and thus become a "second Eve" (from The Bible). What she actually does is fall in love and make out with Will. She may have had sex, but even Word of God on the subject is "maybe, maybe not," sometimes slanted more toward the not. The issue is that if you leave out the sex between unmarried teenagers, there's nothing in her actions that The Bible considers sin or "disobeying" at all. Even that may not be a sin, since it's supposed to happen prior to another Fall-Adam and Eve are implied to have had sex before eating the fruit.
- And then, of course, there is the statement that Catholicism has literally stood in the way of every single scientific and technological advance in history and that these advances had to be 'snatched' from them at every turn. Never mind the fact that the actual first book of the series revolved around some nasty scientific experiments conducted for the Church, meaning that statement isn't even accurate in universe, the truth is that the real-life Church has been funding science since before it was actually called science, and still does. The long story is here under science, but the short version is that they own at least two scientific institutes - the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the extremely venerable Vatican Observatory and fund many more. The idea that they have ever opposed, or even disliked, science is a total myth. These are the guys who accepted evolution as soon as they had deemed there was sufficient evidence to support it (this was in about 1942).
- The Power of Five: Horowitz takes a few liberties with the belief system of the Incas, several Native American myths, some Ancient Chinese legends and even the theology syllabus of Roman universities in order to work the cosmology of the series into them. Also, in a more nitpicky example, he claims that the five-pointed star symbol of the Gatekeepers has "nothing to do with Christianity", which isn't strictly true - a few examples of early Christian artwork do use a similar five-pointed star as a symbol of Christ. It would still be a bit odd to find it carved on a secret door in the Vatican, but it wouldn't be as unbelievable as the book implies. The Incan tumi given to Richard is described as having a sharp point. Tumis do not have points; the blade is semicircular.
- In the epilogue to Burning Water, Mercedes Lackey admits she changed several elements of Aztec Mythology to fit story needs.
- The author of A Wolf In The Soul admits in his introduction to creating some highly speculative aspects of Jewish mysticism that may not be in any way accurate.
Live Action TV
- On the QI panel game (you know, the one that centres its entire premise around dispelling common misconceptions), Steven Fry gleefully stated as outright fact (in the Christmas special, no less) that the biblical account of Jesus was based on the Mithraic Mystery Cult. Quite apart from the fact that we know almost nothing about them (well they were a mystery cult), a lot of what we do know contradicts many of the claims made on the show (and by many others besides the QI researchers). Sorry QI, but you fail history and religious studies forever. This plays into a lot of common arguments that much of Christianity's stories are based upon common aspects of Pagan mythology. While it is possible to draw comparisons between the book of Genesis and other religious texts, it is generally false to claim that aspects Christianity are based on earlier religions and folk-lore. See Artistic License – Traditional Christianity for more details.
- Charmed and its portrayal of Wicca can certainly qualify, such as stating the Wiccan Rede to be "no personal gain" rather than "harm none" and completely disregarding Wicca's theology involving a Goddess and God, instead focusing on a completely made up cosmology involving beings such as the Elders and Whitelighters. It's more like watered-down Christianity than anything else.
- Most of the actual Wiccans who turn up on the show are made to look silly. And the dialogue keeps using "Wiccan" as just a synonym for "witch". The "witches" in CHARMED mythology have little resemblance to either legendary witches or contemporary crafters. One can use "low" magic without adhering to the Gardnerian construct of a "Wiccan" religion, and one can accept the religion without being an initiated "witch".
- A particularly bad case was the episode about the warlock/deacon, which only made sense by claiming that ordination as a priest would somehow confer additional "protection" against evil magic. . . especially as deacons are already in Holy Orders.
- The (allegedly) Wiccan ancestor in question was from Salem at the time of the witch trials, which makes this an explicit example of the very common misconception that Wicca is (a) an ancient religion, and (b) just the "polite" term for any sort of European paganism other than Norse or Greco-Roman. And she was burned in Salem. Anyone who frequents TV Tropes knows the drill: convicted witches were hanged in Salem, not burned (one man was pressed to death for refusing to plead to the charges).
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- The show portrayed Wicca as a way to get magick powers rather than as a religion; lampshaded when Willow ran into a realistic Wicca coven in college and was annoyed with it by the lack of spell casting. Same word, two completely different meanings.
Buffy: No actual witches in your witch group?
Willow: No, bunch of wanna-blessed-be's. You know, nowadays every girl with a Henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the Dark Ones.
- An early episode also featured a group of vampires celebrating the feast of S:t Vigeous, Patron Saint of vampires. One wonders how a saint dedicated to demonic predators was canonised in the first place, but presumably it's just their name for him, or maybe vampires have their own religion, including saints?
- Any time Supernatural goes near religion. People have complained about the way Christianity and everything associated with it is being presented, but it's always had a bad track record with religion. Check out any episode where they talk about the old pagan gods; They Fail Religious Studies Forever by making it seem that there was apparently only one religion ever before Christianity hit the scene. The show just uses the term 'Pagan God' for any "god" of an old polytheistic religion. They specifically say the Trickster exists in Norse and Egyptian mythology, and that the Vanír were Norse gods, too.
- Lampshaded when Sam corrects a girl in the pilot, after she says that the pentacle is a symbol of Satanism.
- Try to find any mention of "66 of 666 seals" in Revelation.
- They had Castiel scold the boys for believing that the Antichrist will be the son of Satan. "Your Bible gets more wrong than it does right," he explains. Except... the Bible never describes the Devil having any children. You'd think an angel would know better (however, it was a popular piece of Christian folklore that the Devil fathered children with human women, but not official doctrine, which is likely where this idea comes from).
- Samhain, that demon in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester". Samhain is actually the Celtic Sabbath that falls on Halloween, and it's pronounced SOW-EHN, not SAM-HANE. Please, if you're going to insult every Celtic witch out there, at least do it right, and it becomes even more obvious when you realize that "Samhain" is also the Irish word for "November", so it wouldn't exactly be difficult to check the pronunciation...
- A similar mispronunciation with the ghost of Halloween in The Real Ghostbusters, although that may possibly be deliberate.
- According to Supernatural, if an angel falls from grace they become human, but according to Christian theology if an angel falls from grace then they become a demon. Hence the term "fallen angel". This is probably down to a certain film in which an angel falls in love with a woman and becomes human by, er, jumping from a building.
- Particularly egregious when Sam, in order to create purified blood, confesses one particular sin (as he sees it) in an empty confessional booth. Reconciliation (the sacrament) involves going to an actual priest, reciting a specific prayer, confessing all sins, and doing some sort of penance, none of which Sam does. It's implied that he does something similar to prayer, which, while very nice, isn't the same thing as reconciliation.
- Defying Gravity has an episode in which Paula, a devout Catholic, proclaims the discovery of aliens as a sign of the upcoming Rapture. As stated above, the Rapture is not Catholic doctrine. Possibly justified, however, if she has just picked up on pop cultural Protestant beliefs. Plus, it's in the future.
- The X-Files
- The worst example was probably the laughably bad portrayal of Judaism in "Kaddish", but attempts to portray Agent Scully's Catholicism or any other forms of Christianity tended to run headlong into the writers' total lack of research.
- And Voodoo, and Wicca, and their conflation of Satanism and (Aleister Crowley's) Thelema, which had nothing to do with real-world Satanism or Thelema.
- A more specific example: in the episode "3", a character writes "John 52:54" on a wall, and Mulder is immediately able to bring the verse to mind. Problem is, it's actually "John 6:52-54" he's thinking of, and "John 52:54" doesn't exist.
- The Doctor Who serial "The Daemons" implied that Beltane was a night for evil spirits, when it in fact was a day for purification, transition, and fertility rituals.
- The first episode written by Kathy Reichs had "Wiccans" who were all-female, descended from the Salem "witches," and who stole corpses and used bat bones in their ceremonies. Even though the corpse stealer was portrayed as a blasphemer that did curses for hire and was feared and pitied by the less deliberately psychotic Wiccans, the rest still fails.
- It also claimed (through Sweets) that the pentagram is an Ancient Wiccan Symbol signifying solidarity and sisterhood. Sumer, Pythagoras, and Agrippa would like to have a word with you. The symbol has not only been used by pagans, but also Christians before its modern use by Satanist groups tainted it for them.
- In episode 10 of the 5th season, Daisy repeatedly claims that it was more likely that Jesus was born in March than December, and that early Christians celebrated his birth in that month. It's long been debated when Jesus was born, for both month and year (or, in some cases, whether or not there even was a historical Jesus), but no evidence is offered that early Christians celebrated it in March. On the contrary, all evidence suggests they celebrated it in December (as for whether or not that was when he was actually born, see Artistic License – Traditional Christianity) and his conception in March (Feast of the Annunciation).
- In the third season of Veronica Mars, Piz starts ranting on his radio show about how even though he is a Catholic school boy, the concept of Purgatory completely baffles him. He then goes on to completely incorrectly explain it as the place for people not good enough for Heaven (a common misconception among non-Catholics and Catholics alike, so maybe this is Truth in Television?). Purgatory is the place of purification for souls on their way to Heaven in which the temporal effects of their sins are cleansed.
- Then there's that episode of LOST where Mr. Eko tells Claire that the dove that appeared after Jesus' baptism signified that John had cleansed Jesus of his sins. Actually, being the Son of God, Jesus was sinless, and the Dove was another way that God claimed Jesus as his son. This can partially be explained by Eko not being a real priest, but actually a drug runner who caused the death of his brother (who was an actual priest) then became a "priest" to atone for this. Guess he didn't have much time to learn theology... This may also be a belief in the heterodox idea of Adoptionism which again shows he is not a real Catholic priest.
- In one episode of Psych a priest, who's supposed to be an experienced exorcist, immediately jumps to the conclusion that a girl was possessed because she had been having mood swings. He later then shows up to perform an exorcism on another girl without even taking any steps to find out if she was really possessed (i.e. sending her to a doctor or a psychologist, or even just interviewing her himself). Sadly, this can be Truth in Television if we're talking about clergy from some of the flakier Charismatic or Fundamentalist Protestant sects, some of whom will do exorcisms at the drop of a hat. But a Roman Catholic priest? Either he's a little loopy himself and/or acting without any official authority, in which case he'd get in big trouble with both secular and ecclesiastical authorities. This very same thing happens in an episode of CSI. The team investigates a girl's death during an exorcism. The church performing the exorcism turns out to be made entirely of the exorcist and a handful of followers.
- On the TV miniseries Roots, the people in Kunta Kinte's village are shown to be Muslim, and the women of the village walk around topless. The problem is that if the women were Muslim, they would certainly not be topless in public. The only specific command in the Qur'an about female modesty is that they must cover their breasts (it's probably Fanservice). They could be less-observant Muslims (actually fairly common for West African Muslim peoples far from the region's great cities).
- In the Mysterious Ways episode "29," a man sees the number 29 drawn by a toy pendulum during an earthquake and believes the apocalypse will occur on the 29th of the month, as the number 29 is always associated with disaster. Among the reasons he gives is "Many people believe Christ died at 29." Not only is Christ's death the opposite of a disaster, in Christian theology, but no one, or close to it, believes Christ died at 29.note The most common age suggested is 30 or 33. Miranda's reaction (an annoyed "'Many people'?") possibly suggests that the error is the character's, not the writers'.
- There's also an in-universe case in the series finale "Something Fishy," in which fish rain from the sky onto a small town. One of the town's residents tries to explain the spiritual significance, but mixes up Bible stories as he does so, leading to tales of God punishing Pharaoh for not believing Noah (followed by Noah escaping the Parting of the Red Sea in his ark) and "mana from Heaven sent to the Israelites in the belly of the whale."
- The portrayal of Wicca on the episode 'Red Rum' of The Mentalist was a source of much outrage to actual Wiccans and Neo-Pagans. In their eyes, the "Wiccan priestess" on the show was pretentious, irresponsible, and utterly immoral. It goes without saying that while every religion abhors murder, using magic (considered a sacred gift from the God and Goddess) to murder someone is beyond blasphemy. The characters consider the religion of Wicca and the practice of witchcraft as interchangeable (though this mistake is made in real life too) and have very dismissive opinions on it. Rigsby even goes so far as calling it an "alternative lifestyle like Star Trek or yoga". While it could be seen that the "priestess" was an attention-seeking girl with no understanding of the faith she claimed to follow, viewers were not shown any contrast to this image, which is essential in portraying something that most viewers know little to nothing about.
- An episode of Unsolved Mysteries claimed that a mortar and pestle are used in "Satanic rituals." Maybe, but it's more commonly used in gourmet cooking to grind spices and herbs, herbalism to mill herbs, compounding pharmacy to custom-create drugs, recreational pharmacy to mill "herbs," and millions of other uses. And the investigator immediately jumped to "Satanism."
- Criminal Minds
- The episode "Minimal Loss" deals with a hostage situation involving an isolated, self-sustaining religious commune that is similar to the real incidents at Waco and others, states the group had begun as libertarians, before turning religious-because, of course, "Libertarians aren't religious." Uh, no-many libertarians are, though granted, the movement itself is not religious. While a group could go from being libertarian to authoritarian regardless of having religious beliefs or not, the scenario the episode lays out seems pretty unlikely, to shift from libertarian community to apocalyptic cult.
- In another episode, "Perennials," the suspect believes himself to be the reincarnation of a serial killer who died the day he was born, in the same hospital, and is killing the people he believes are reincarnations of the dead killer's victims, placing fly larvae by their bodies in the belief that it will make their souls be reborn into these instead of humans, so ending the cycle. Morgan states that "See, a fundamental tenet of reincarnation is that you can come back in any life form, not just human." Wrong-in some reincarnation beliefs, such as Hindus', this is true-others like the Druze, though, believe people are only reborn in human bodies, not animals. They also differ on whether people can be reborn into different sexes than they had before.
- Stephen Colbert plays this for laughs on The Colbert Report. Although his character is (like him) a Catholic, the brand of Christianity he seems to follow appears to have more in common with the kind of apocalyptic Evangelical Protestantism that the right-wing pundits he parodies follow. This is evidenced by the fact that he keeps referring to the Rapture as though he believes it, when in fact it is most emphatically not Catholic doctrine. One suspects that this is an intentional joke for people who know their Catholic doctrine — which Colbert certainly does, seeing as he teaches Catholic Sunday School and is quite well-educated more generally.
- Invoked and Played for Laughs in Monty Python's the Last Supper sketch, in which Michelangelo invokes artistic license in his defense after painting a Last Supper with 28 disciples, a kangaroo and three Christs. The commissioner (the pope) is altogether less than pleased.
- In Hell on Wheels, Mormon Aaron Hatch says Bohannon has damned his daughter Naomi to Outer Darkness for eternity because they had extramarital sex (and she got pregnant). However, Mormon doctrine is that only those who have first accepted the Holy Ghost and then denied it will go to Outer Darkness, which you'd expect he would know. See "Plan of Salvation" on the Mormonism page. Then there's the whole business with Bohannon marrying the Mormon girl. Mormon wedding ceremonies are not open to non-believers. The ceremony that the Swede presides over doesn't resemble a Mormon sealing in any case, but still, a Mormon bishop (even a fake one like the Swede) would not preside over the marriage of a Mormon girl to an outsider.
- Only LDS sealings are strictly between members and closed to outsiders. Bishops and other Church officers are quite capable of performing civil marriages with any mix of member and non-member (though whether or not this was true in the time the series takes place may be another story).
- Frasier: Very many in the Bar Mitzvah episode: the fact that the service ends after Frederick finishes reading his haftara (there is a whole other prayer service that follows); the fact that a dinner is apparently served then (this service is in the morning); Martin taking photos in a synagogue on the Sabbath (even in a Conservative synagogue he would be asked to stop).
- The Good Wife: In a rather awkward and contrived manner, with Zack's (ex-)girlfriend Nisa. Initially it's only her skin color that's a topic of debate (because of the possible repercussions for Peter's campaign), but later she is mentioned to be the daughter of a Hamas-sympathizing Muslim cleric, which basically rolls three separate unlikely scenarios into one. A Muslim girl not wearing a scarf? Progressively more unlikely the more conservative the family gets. A Muslim girl allowed to have a boyfriend before marriage? Progressively more unlikely the more conservative the family gets. A Muslim girl allowed to have a nonbeliever as a boyfriend? Unlikely even for moderately Muslim families. All of the above at once, with the father in question being the aforementioned Hamas-sympathizing cleric? You must be joking, even if the boyfriend is the son of the Cook County State's Attorney (and later Illinois Governor).
- In USA For Africa's '"We Are The World,", a who's who of popular musicians sing about ending world hunger and the like. At one point they sing, "As God has shown us by turning stones to bread; that we all must lend a helping hand". They apparently confused the temptation of Jesus, in which Satan tries to convince Jesus to turn stone to bread and end his fast, with Exodus, in which God causes nourishing manna to fall from the sky to feed the Israelites, or with the Miracle of Loaves and Fishes, in which Jesus asked one follower to share his lunch with over five thousand others, and they ended up with twelve baskets of leftovers, proving that a little kindness goes a long way.
- "Psalm 69" by Ministry opens with a priest telling his congregation, "Open your prayer guides to the Book of Revelation, Psalm 69." There are no psalms in the Book of Revelation. Those would be found in the Book of Psalms.
- Bally's classic Fireball pits the player against the Fire Gods — Odin and Wotan.
Tabletop Roleplaying Games
- Almost anything in the World of Darkness series, New World of Darkness or Old World of Darkness, is likely to run up against this, although the new system is far better at just inventing new fake religions for characters than trying to ham-handedly wedge actual religion into the games. The Long Night is a good example of one of these made up religions.
- Warhammer 40,000 mostly averts this, as the single dominant religion involves a Physical God on whose very existence humanity depends, but a great many of its elements come from highly flanderized church rites. It's when the fanon starts referring to the Inquisition as "Catholic Space Nazis" that this trope is attained. Other religions are either for aliens or consist mostly of killing others to prove your faith and receive gifts from your patron god.
- In Man of La Mancha, the comic musical number "I'm Only Thinking of Him," starring Alonso Quijana's niece, housekeeper, and local priest, is usually staged with the priest sitting in the middle of a confessional booth between the two women. While that's funny and convenient for a briefer song, Catholic confessionals are one-on-one. Something about privacy.
- The Last Resurrection portrays Jesus (the game's final boss) as being personally responsible for crusades, inquisitions, witch-burnings and Nazism; during the ending sequence the heroes conclude that world peace will not be achieved until all religions are abolished.....I don't think I need to explain in anymore detail why this belongs here.
- Ōkami portrays Amaterasu as a goddess in the form of a wolf, when her sacred animals were ravens and crows, and occasionally horses. While it arguably draws inspiration from Ainu wolf worship, it can't really be justifiable because a) it's like depicting Odin as boar because boars were relevant in Norse Mythology, and b) not all other kami are depicted as wolves. Amaterasu is a wolf because of a pun. Wolf is written as ookami, which can also mean "great god".
- Modern Wiccans (or those who claim to be) are skewered in this strip from Something Positive, though Davan fails to point out that no one was burned at Salem. This is a fairly accurate (if slightly exaggerated) depiction of what some Wiccans refer to as "fluffy bunnies" — people (usually teens) who think that all they need to be a real Wiccan is to read a few books on it and buy a few supplies. Outrageously, patently false past lives are not unheard of among fluffies, either.
- Played for Laughs in LagTV's Let's Play of Minecraft, where Jeff (Maximus Black) uses a Black Jesus avatar and makes statements about Christianity that are completely outlandish. This is made even funnier by two facts: Jeff makes mistakes about even the most basic aspects of Christianity that even non-Christians tend to absorb through Pop-Cultural Osmosis, meaning the only possible explanation is willful ignorance, and his partner Adam (NovaWar) actually is religious and calls Jeff out on his mistakes all the time. Such classic examples include calling the Last Supper "the Big Feast" and claiming that the Virgin Mary wasn't a virgin after he met her; when Adam points out that Mary was Jesus' mother, Jeff quickly says "I meant the Virgin Larry", explaining that he Experimented in College. Adam also expresses mild surprise when Jeff manages to recite the prayer "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" correctly.
- The Simpsons
- One episode had Flanders do some home television, reenacting Cain's murder of Abel. Then his kids asked how there came into being more humans when Cain and Abel were the only two humans (followed by asking whether or not Cain and Abel had children with each other). Flanders has a snide remark with the implication that the kids shouldn't be reading too much into it (an indication he doesn't really know). However, The Bible makes it clear that Adam and Eve later had other children so they weren't the only two humans; the first one was named Seth. Cain is also explicitly stated to have had a wife while in the Land of Nod/Walking the Earth.note While where they came from isn't made clear, this trope is in effect because Flanders's kids asked if Cain and Abel had sex with each other and produced children that way, and Flanders never corrected them.
- In another episode, "Lisa the Skeptic", somebody digs up what appears to be an angel's skeleton. Lisa, as the title would suggest, is the only person to suspect it's fake. All of the other people in town, including Reverend Lovejoy, criticize her for lack of faith. Except that, according to Christian tradition, angels do not have physical bodies and cannot die. Therefore even those who believe in angels, especially the minister and the deeply religious Mr. Flanders, should have called it out as a fake from the beginning.
- When Homer and Bart convert to Catholicism in "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star", Marge is given a glimpse of Catholic Heaven (with Mariachi, Pinatas, spaghetti dinners, Irish pubs, Riverdance, and drunken fist fighting) and Protestant Heaven (portrayed as a boring country club with badminton and croquet, and everyone talking in vaguely East Coast accents). At one point it's revealed that Jesus himself has been hanging out in Catholic Heaven a lot, leading one of the Protestants to cluck, "He's gone native" - which would suggest that Jesus is a Protestant, despite living 1,500 years before Protestantism existed. What makes this really absurd is that Jesus was neither Catholic nor Protestant: he was Jewish. However this was done intentionally for laughs.
- In the American Dad! episode "Rapture's Delight," Stan expects the Rapture despite being an Episcopalian. The whole episode follows the Rule of Funny by overdramatizing even the already overdramatized ideas perpetuated by things such as the Left Behind books. A lot of stuff doesn't match up with even the most rudimentary aspects of Rapture belief.
- It strange that this one church Stan happens to go to apparently has the power to ban people from ALL of Christianity including different forms, branches, and sects of Christianity. Which isn't even remotely possible.
- In fact the whole episode falls in this categories (seriously you can have a drinking game with the number of examples this one episode provides). For example, why would the weapons needed to kill the Antichrist be at the Vatican, when the Antichrist isn't even Catholic doctrine? Another example would be that Stan was not allowed to enter the Vatican because he is no longer a Christian. Yeah that's right, non-Christians are not allowed to enter this Catholic building when in real life anyone can enter the Vatican, even in restricted areas, so long as you buy a ticket. Also, the Bible never talks about Satan having children (though it's been a popular folk idea). And to top it all off, at the end we see the Antichrist sporting the upside down cross, even though it's not really a Satanic symbol (I know most people don't know this, but one would assume that the Antichrist of all people would know). In fact, an inverted cross is the symbol of the pope, after the legend in which St. Peter (traditionally viewed as the first pope) was crucified upside down so his death would not resemble Christ's. It even appears on the Papal throne. It's even been taken by anti-Catholic Christians to be a sign that the Pope is the Antichrist, making this doubly ironic. This also raises the question why would the Vatican even care if a Protestant (a person from a completely different branch of Christianity) is banned from there.
- South Park
- Played for laughs in the "Jewbilee" episode. Judaism is portrayed as the worship of Moses, who takes the form of the Master Control Program from TRON and has an obsession with children's arts and crafts. Haman, from the Book of Esther, is portrayed as a demonic creature that is worshiped by the denomination of Anti-Semitic Jews. Since Matt Stone is half-Jewish, it's obvious this all falls under the Rule of Funny.
- In "Cartmanland", Kyle's parents try to restore his faith in God by reading him the story of Job, but stop at the point where Job is stricken with boils, declaring that to be where the story basically ends. The account of Job actually ends with Job gaining a new family and twice the amount of wealth he had lost (unsurprisingly, Kyle's faith is not restored).
- The episode "Probably" featured everyone going to Hell except for Mormons. Mormons believe that only the truly wicked go to Hell (called "Outer Darkness") and not because they were not Mormon. However, in the South Park universe, hell is only bad if you were a bad person, otherwise it's not that bad. The Mormons go to heaven so they don't ruin hell for everyone else. Saddam's going to Heaven (with the Mormons) is actually depicted as punishment.
- In the end of the "Cartoon Wars" arc, the Muslims terrorists produce their own animated film to get back at the Family Guy episode. The film depicts Jesus, along with many Americans crapping incessantly on each other. In reality, Muslims have no contempt for Jesus. In fact Jesus is known as one of the most important prophets, just not the savior. Though they could just be making fun of American's worship of him.
- Family Guy
- The show does not seem to know the difference between the defined Catholic dogma of purgatory and the theory of limbo. Apparently their justification for Peter's stereotypes about Jews in the "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" episode was that much of what Peter knows about his own Catholic faith is stereotypes.
- The writers are obviously a pretty big fan of Rule of Funny and generally just doesn't care, but his use of Jewish symbols is, unsurprisingly, way off the mark. In at least a couple episodes of Family Guy he shows Jews wearing prayer shawls at the wrong times (either outside of prayer, or at nighttime services when they are not worn), and on The Cleveland Show at one point, in a fantasy cutaway, it shows Cleveland reciting Kol Nidre, the Aramaic annulment of vows that begins Yom Kippur, by reading it from a Torah scroll. It is a legal declaration, not a Biblical passage, and is certainly not found in the Torah (it's not even in the same language).
- In the episode "Friends of Peter G.", Brian makes a passing comment about how people "were fine for thousands of years without religion," leading to a Cutaway Gag with a few peaceful BC-era characters suddenly begin killing each other at the announcement of Jesus' birth. One doesn't need to do much research to understand why that one's wrong.
Just to go into detail for those who don't know how this joke fails on a number of different levels. First the joke implies that there were no religions before Christianity (a.k.a. the BC period) which is clearly false; one doesn't even need to know too much about history to figure that one out. Second the joke also implies that where was no war or violence before the creation of Christianity which is also not true. For proof of all this just look in every history book ever made! So one could see this joke not only fails when it comes to religion but also fails when it comes to history to the point where even rule of funny doesn't change the fact that it's clearly wrong. Whether this clear lack of research was intentionally (for some reason) or not is arguable-either way that also doesn't change the fact that it is utterly wrong.
- In the episode "The Road to the Multiverse" Stewie and Brian traveled to a universe where Christianity never existed. The world is considerably more advanced than our world. Their justification for this was if Christianity was gone there would be no "Dark Ages". That’s right the fall of the Roman empire, the Bubonic Plague, and the raids by the Great Heathen Army (aka the Great Danish Army) and other nations had nothing to do with it. It was all Christianity's fault! Let's ignore the fact that all of the information we have from that time came from those Christian churches, and that they were the closest thing to schools they had at that time. Yeah the Crusader wars were terrible, but the information we got from those wars allowed the early Western society to bring themselves back up to speed with the rest of the world (believe it or not the early Western society was in pretty bad shape after the Bubonic Plague, and the raids by the Great Heathen Army). The Crusades were not, originally, as much of a religious conflict as their reputation implies. Not to say Christianity was completely blameless, but to say that Christianity alone caused the Dark Ages is just plan wrong. Not to mention, as the "Friends of Peter G" example above points out, there were OTHER faiths before Christanity, so one of them would have taken it's place or a new one would have come into existence.
- Done satirically in The Boondocks. Uber-naïve Jasmine DuBois not only believes that Christmas is a celebration of Santa Claus, but that he is the central figure that all of Christianity revolves around.
- Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost had a character identify as one-sixteenth Wiccan, which would make sense if Wicca doubled as an ethnic identity like Judaism, but it doesn't. They also push the age of Wicca back at least to the Salem witch trials, whereas in fact it dates from the 20th century (so to be one-sixteenth Wiccan, which would take five generations, is only barely possible even if you involve a lot of squick). In the finale, this means (and somehow it's Daphne who just intuitively knows this, and not the one-sixteenth Wiccan herself) that she can cast magic, defeating the evil Witch. Oh yes, in this movie, Wiccans are good, and Witches are evil, doesn't everybody know that?
- The Real Ghostbusters: The ghost of Halloween, Samhain, has his name pronounced "Sam-hain" rather than the proper Gaelic pronunciation "Sah-wain" and in fact has nothing in common with the original pagan holiday other than, perhaps, the death of the year. This may be a case of Sadly Mythtaken (i.e. a pagan holiday being demonized for a Christian audience) except that the imagery (jack-o'-lantern head) and overall personality (Dark Is Evil) have more in common with the modern-day conception of Halloween as a dark, scary, sinister holiday (when it isn't all about parties and candy) than its ancient much-debated roots which are lost in the mists of time. So the mispronunciation and lack of connection to the original holiday may be intentional--because this is the ghost of what people have come to associate with Halloween, rather than its original meaning.
- Seen in Class of the Titans when the ancient Greek gods help the seven human heroes celebrate Christmas.