Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.
— Mother Teresa
A character with a religious belief, whether it be fervent
, or never mentioned before or since
, loses it
and spends a Story Arc
as an unbeliever until learning a valuable lesson
about faith. More Anviliciously
, a Hollywood Atheist Long-Lost Uncle Aesop
may be introduced, just to be enlightened
and then never heard from again.
The Reset Button
will often be in full effect - after all, in mainstream American media (where this trope is most common) God Is the Status Quo
and the Moral Guardians
might kick up a fuss if the option of losing ones faith for good
were presented as a valid decision. Naturally, Values Dissonance
abounds for viewers who consider atheism a valid outlook to live by.
Of course, suffering a period of painful doubt is completely Truth in Television
for people with a strong faith in any cause. Sometimes it's a painful transition that ultimately leads into a new outlook, and sometimes it's a period of existential angst leading to developing a deeper and more nuanced faith because of the experience. This is not the place to debate these issues.
A more angry reaction may include Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter
or Rage Against the Heavens
. The character will most likely become either a Hollywood Atheist
, losing all will to live or respect for morality, or a Nay-Theist
, accepting that God exists but refusing to worship him.
When the conversion comes complete with a readjustment of the moral compass, see Heel-Faith Turn
and Faith Heel Turn
Songs on this subject
often sound like Breakup Songs
, the flipside of God-Is-Love Songs
Not to be confused with Have You Seen My God?
, where the divinity in question really is
MIA. Compare Religious Russian Roulette
, where the character lets their belief in God ride on their request for a miracle.
- In the Forgotten Realms comics, the elven cleric Vartan refuses to worship his god Labelas—even to access desperately-needed healing powers—after an arc in which Labelas possesses Vartan's body and torments his friends. Labelas shows up later and tries to make amends; Vartan accepts the gesture, and a later short story shows him returning to Labelas' service.
- While House himself gets a pass for being a misanthropic Jerkass, a wayward priest patient finds his faith again after seeing the fantastic series of coincidences that line up to save his life.
- In the Scrubs episode "My Own Personal Jesus", Turk loses his faith in a just God after a hopeless Christmas Eve in the emergency room, but regains it after he finds a missing pregnant woman by intuition and helps her give birth. (Interestingly, Turk is the only character in the episode who professes strong religious beliefs in the first place, and the other major characters seem to look down on him for this.)
- In the Quantum Leap episode "Leap of Faith", Sam leaps into a priest, and Al is uncomfortable with the whole thing. He reveals that he left the church as a child, after prayer failed to save his father from dying of cancer, and swore never to have anything to do with God again. However, he resorts to praying to God again when it looks like Sam's life is in danger.
- An episode of Dead Like Me included a drunken priest whose faith is restored by Daisy revealing herself to be a Reaper.
- This is an ongoing issue for Scully of The X-Files. She was raised as a devout Catholic and already had a few issues reconciling her work as a scientist with her faith. When she joins the X-Files and paranormal events and aliens get thrown in, she struggles to strike a balance.
- Combat Hospital explores this one pretty thoroughly through an army chaplain who undergoes a crisis of faith as she serves in Afghanistan and sees the brutality of war up close and personal.
- An All in the Family episode has Edith undergo one of these after Mike and a family friend are mugged on Christmas Eve, with the friend subsequently dying. Ironically, it's Mike who convinces her to reconsider.
- A recurring problem for Adam Smallbone on Rev. According to his wife, it happens at least once a year. One particularly bad crisis sends him into a deep depression, lashing out at several people around him.
- On one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Neelix experiences a deep crisis of faith after dying, and being revived 18 hours later, without having experienced the afterlife his faith promised. After trying to come to terms with it, he tries teleporting himself into space to die, convinced that there really is nothing after death, but Chakotay manages to talk him out of it. The episode ends without giving a firm answer about his beliefs one way or another.
- Drop the Dead Donkey has it both ways. In order to impress Japanese investors and Sir Royston, a debate between an atheist sociologist and a Catholic bishop is planned. Unfortunately, before it can go ahead, the TV news screens a piece of footage from the Middle East. The bishop is distressed in the inhumanity of it all, particularly when focusing on civilians caught up in the middle of violence, and loses his faith. However, the sociologist sees the same woman and same child and gains faith from seeing human survival against the odds and concludes the world must be in the hands of a divine being. The debate is, naturally enough, cancelled.
- Brutaka from BIONICLE performed a brief but notable Face-Heel Turn when he lost his faith in the Great Spirit Mata Nui. Little did he know that Mata Nui's actually a very Physical God, who hasn't shown any sign of himself due to being in a coma. He later realizes that being a villain stands against all the other things he believed in, and the rest of the story portrays him as a mostly positive character.
- In the play Doubt, Sister Aloysis experiences a crisis of faith after seeing the abuses of trust and privilege in the church. It's not a major plot arc but is significant because the character is a nun.
- In the webcomic It's Walky!, a distraught Joyce, unable to reconcile her Fundamentalist beliefs with the events of her life shouts out at the heavens, then in a fit of inspiration (or insanity, or both) takes up the Power Booster Rod and goes out to seek out God for answers... or rather, the nearest equivalent, the immortal being known as The Traveler (AKA The Cheese), who is completely dumbfounded that she would think he could give her an answer.
- The Simpsons has had a couple. For example, in "Homer The Heretic", Homer decides going to church is too much effort, and starts his own religion. Then his house catches fire, and he's rescued by Ned Flanders and a multi-faith volunteer fire brigade.
Reverend Lovejoy: Homer, God didn't burn your house down. But he was working in the hearts of your friends and neighbours, be they Christian [gestures to Flanders], Jew [gestures to Krusty], or [pauses] ...miscellaneous!
Apu: Hindu! There are seven hundred million of us!
Reverend Lovejoy: Aw, that's super!
- Ned Flanders himself has a brief crisis of faith when his house is destroyed by a tornado (in a clear homage to the Book of Job, mentioned above) and then again with the death of his wife Maude.
- South Park: Kyle loses his belief in God after Cartman gets a million dollar inheritance and buys his own theme park, while Kyle gets diagnosed with hemorrhoids. His faith is restored when he sees Cartman lose all his money, which Stan interprets was The Plan by God to punish Cartman the whole time.
- Another episode has all the Catholics in South Park (which is pretty much everybody) declare themselves Hollywood Atheists due to the Pedophile Priest controversy. They wind up reverting back after Priest Maxi makes a televised speech to the church hierarchy about not letting unnecessary bureaucracy and corrupt rules get in the way of religion's core message.
- Inverted in Justice League, "The Terror Beyond", with Hawkgirl questioning her own Naytheism. She's genuinely surprised to learn that Wonder Woman gets stronger by asking the gods for aid, and admits at the end that she doesn't understand why a teammate (who believed in an afterlife) was able to Go Out with a Smile. The episode ends with this subplot deliberately left hanging.
- One episode of Daria has Quinn take a sudden interest in stories of angels, and she becomes convinced she has her own guardian angel when she happens to move just in time to avoid a dangerous accident. The problem is she comes to believe her angel will help her with everything, and becomes convinced that he's "abandoned" her when she embarrasses herself at a party. Daria puts aside her own feelings about the matter and helps Quinn decide she should only trust her angel for "big" issues.