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God and Satan Are Both Jerks
"God and the devil are idiots!"
Lestat, Memnoch the Devil

So, you're creating a work where the lead characters are up against The Legions of Hell. They're fighting the good fight, going up against Satan and all his demons. Of course, if they're fighting against Hell, this may lead to the question of where Heaven is. And if Heaven's fighting the fight with them, that may give them too much firepower to be interesting... or raise questions about why God, in all his wisdom, isn't doing anything else. Sometimes it's like there's a Devil but No God, but sometimes characters know for sure there's a God, and he's simply acting as a Badass Pacifist or Stupid Neutral despite the heroes fighting for him.

Then there's the other way: you write a work in which God Is Evil, and the characters Rage Against the Heavens. This leads to the question of whether or not Satan Is Good, which can be... uncomfortable.

So, here's the solution: make it so that neither side is all that helpful. In this situation, God and Satan Are Both Jerks, and neither has humanity's best interests in mind. Hell and Satan will typically be portrayed in the classical fashion, but God and Heaven will usually be portrayed as Knights Templar who don't give a crap about humanity, exulting in their own glories or focusing all their firepower on the fight against Hell with little care for civilian casualties.

The end result of this trope is usually a humanistic or existentialist work, one where mankind learns to get along without divine intervention, taking control of their own destiny.

This setting is often home to a Nay-Theist. Related to the Balance Of Good And Evil. Why God's intervention in a world that the Devil clearly has a hand in would be considered "unfair" is left as an exercise for the reader.

Jerkass Gods is the polytheistic equivalent. Compare Evil Versus Evil as well as God Is Flawed. Often a reason for getting a live round in Religious Russian Roulette.

Despite what you may think, Jesus Was Way Cool doesn't neccessarily contradict this trope. It's not unheard of for Jesus to still be a good guy even if God is being portrayed as no better than the Devil.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  
  • It could also count as Devil but No God in that the God figure is inactive and removed from the normal world, and also not particularly godlike, but Fullmetal Alchemist could be considered this. The 'Truth' entity identifies itself as God (among other things) and shows sadistic glee in inflicting ironic punishments on those who break the laws of nature and engage in human transmutation. However, the Big Bad of the series, Father, is a cruel Satan-equivalent who keeps up a father-god image, and who plots to usurp Truth. At the end of the series, Truth does a bit of dog-petting and also punishes Father in a manner that's so cruel it's kind of funny.
    • Father's punishment, FYI, is returning to where he was before Slave 23's master drew him out of the firmament into a flask, making his desperate terror of returning there an implicit Freudian Excuse.
  • In the 2011 version of Dororon Enma-kun: in the final two episodes, Heaven and Hell agree to kill off billions of humans in order to harvest their souls for "soulperglue".
  • In Devilman God is an Eldritch Abomination who wants to murder demons only because his vision of order has no place for them, while Satan wants to wipe all humans from the face of Earth so demons can rule over it. In AMON, the titular character opposes them both because, as a chaotic spirit, he is not happy with either's vision of order and God has put the world on a loop so Satan can fall in love with Akira and watch him die again and again and Satan realizes that he/she is quite insane.
  • In Slayers the Demons and their Mazoku underlings are without any doubt evil, out to destroy everything, but the Dragons, supposedly the good guys under the gods, have no qualms about committing genocide or even sacrificing their own for "peace", pushing them just as far on the jerkiness scale. And even put Up to Eleven with Darkstar Dubranidgdu who is an Omnicidal Maniac merged from both the highest good and evil of the Darkstar plane, both agreed to merge, just so they can go all out to destroy everything to end their eternal war.
  • Angel Sanctuary: God, the Angels, and the Demons are all antagonists at some point. Nobody's lovely; some are just worse than others. It's that kind of story.
  • Bastard!! Knight Templar angels as well as Always Chaotic Evil devils try to wipe out humanity, while fighting each other.

     Comic Books  
  • If Garth Ennis is writing a comic book featuring Abrahamic religion, this trope will reign supreme. Hellblazer, Preacher, The Chronicles Of Wormwood, even his short run on Ghost Rider — all portray Hell as petty and depraved and Heaven as self-centered and militant.
  • In Spawn, the rulers of both Heaven and Hell are equally cruel and evil, and neither gives a lick of spit for the ultimate fate of humanity.
    • More to the point, the beings humans know as God and Satan are simply the children of the true creator deity who has taken a back-seat to their meddling in the world, until in a joint temper tantrum they basically bring about the End Times way ahead of schedule. The Creator directly empowers Spawn who kicks ass on basically the entirety of the remnants of creation, then pushes the Reset Button but leaves God and Satan trapped in a pocket dimension thinking they've destroyed everything they created... and they choose to keep fighting anyway.
      • Remember what was said about how some works with this trope still say Jesus Was Way Cool? In Spawn, Jesus was actually the Creator incarnated as a human being, but most of his teachings have been subverted/corrupted/concealed by Christianity in order to twist humans into remaining, at least ostensibly, under God's yoke.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: God is a lazy idiot and Satan is an Affably Evil trickster who likes to give Nny a scare.
  • In Warren Ellis's Planetary there is a brief mention of some Russian scientists who discover that souls are merely electromagnetic fuel for a war between Heaven and Hell. They decide to check out on an A-Bomb, so that the EMP blast will destroy their souls.
  • In Lobo 'verse, Satan is kind of the guy you'd expect him to be. But God... he just finds Lobo's rampage through Heaven funny. When an angel politely asks him to intervene, he throws an empty can of beer at the angel and tells him to get an another one.
  • Two characters from Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol - the Red Jack and the Shadowy Mr. Evans have claimed to be respectively God and Satan. If they were right, then this trope applies, but only a little compared to God And Satan Are Both Completely Bonkers.
  • In Lucifer both God and Lucifer himself tend to be uncaring while angels are Knight Templar types who care little or nothing for humans either way and demons range from For the Evulz Card Carrying Villains to just bored and unpleasant. There are exceptions on both sides but those are the general rules.

     Film  
  • In the film version of Constantine, the major angels and demons subscribe to neutrality, but the lesser ones don't. Humanity is left to sink or swim on its own, while caught between what is effectively a supernatural Cold War.
  • In The Prophecy, rogue Angels led by the Archangel Gabriel are out to destroy humanity because humans have usurped the angels' place in God's affections, and the demons want to destroy humanity because... well... they're demons. God himself is never encountered on-screen, but the angels still loyal to him don't seem to care much about humanity, generally being content to either sit on the sidelines while humanity suffers or focus only on fighting Gabriel's angels.
  • Legion had just about the same set-up, except God was actively helping the anti-human angels for a while.
  • The Mexican movie Macario is related to the below fairy tale 'Godfather Death', but a lot of the circumstances are changed, and apparently It Was All Just A Dream.
    • The main change is that Death is fortuitously encountered by a humble farmer called Macario, who by chance lucked out on a job and was able to buy two whole chickens for himself, and decides to go deep into the forest to eat them by himself. He runs into Death without knowing who it is, and shares a chicken with it; Death grants him the same deal: if Death appears by a sick person's bed near the side, the person will recover; but if it appears near the foot of the bed, the person will die. When Macario decides to neglect this and upset Death, he is forced to visit it in a cave in the forest, where he finds every person in the world has a candle lit representing their lifespan. Macario steals his own candle to prevent Death from taking him, but trips and his life is extinguished. Turns out Death rolled time back, and Macario DID go alone into the forest, ate both chickens and died from indigestion. This is a VERY old movie in black and white, worth checking out for its trippyness.
  • The Devil's Carnival uses a Black and Gray Morality version of this trope. Lucifer's a bit of a self-righteous asshole, and his titular Carnival is pretty horrifying, but what we've seen of Heaven so far is much worse, and Lucifer's begun developing a plan to undermine Heaven's influence by redeeming those whom God won't. Humanity's still caught in the middle, though- Lucifer's not especially good at redeeming people without completely traumatizing them in the process, and while he does take extreme offense to the idea that he has anything to do with misery on Earth (declaring dead children "God's jurisdiction", for example), it's unclear how much he really wants to see humanity saved and how much is just petty revenge on the father-figure who rejected him eons ago. God himself, meanwhile, is a bitter old man who demands absolute obedience from his red-armband-sporting angels, discards anything and anyone he deems imperfect, and looks outright startled when a deceased human man is redeemed and allowed into Heaven, suggesting it's been a long time since anyone's made it there.

     Literature  
  • In the His Dark Materials trilogy, God was the first being created out of nothing and lied to all the angels that came after. He became senile and powerless over the eons, and was eventually killed by two children when they tried to release him from the prison in which Metatron was keeping him.
  • In-universe example from The Silmarillion; FŽanor and his followers absolutely detest Morgoth. However, when Morgoth murdered their King (FŽanor's father) and stole the Silmarils, the Valar did nothing to help. As a result of this, FŽanor, his sons, and their followers swear an oath that they will not rest until they and only they have retaken the Silmarils and that they will fight and kill anyone who tries to stop them, regardless of their allegiance.
  • Good Omens puts a marginally less religiously offensive spin on this trope: Satan and Metatron (the supreme angel) are both jerks that see humanity as being merely pawns in the greater war between Good and Evil, and both are quite ready to wipe out everyone on Earth when Armageddon goes down. God Himself, however, generally stays out of the picture until the ending, where it's implied that He's been manipulating both the angels and the demons and probably has Humanity's best interest in mind.
    • Aziraphale accidently possesses a televangelist who is, at the moment, talking about the Rapture, and inadvertently reveals that Heaven has no plans whatsoever to teleport the faithful to safety before the End Times - it's all collateral damage as far as the angels care.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman uses this as a Twist Ending, except with Odin and Loki instead of God and Satan. Throughout the book, the hero Shadow works for Mr. Wednesday (Odin), leader of the "old gods" (the gods of mythology), against Mr. World (Loki), leader of the "new gods" (Anthropomorphic Personifications of modern crazes like technology and the media). Turns out Odin and Loki are working together, instigating a fight between the old and new gods just to get more power for themselves. Odin gets power from war and death, and Loki gets power from chaos, so an all-out war between the gods would make them uber-powerful. Shadow manages to stop the war between the gods by explaining Odin's and Loki's true motives to the combatants. After the battle is averted, Odin's ghost fades and Loki is impaled by a branch of the World Tree.
  • Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. In And Eternity it is revealed that God has become obsessed with his own greatness and is completely unresponsive to the outside world, leaving Satan to try to corrupt the world.
    • On the other hand, Satan's only an asshole because it's his job as Incarnation of Evil, and actively works to have God replaced by someone that will run things properly.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, we're supposed to think that the gods are good and the Titans are bad, but YMMV on that, since most of the time it seems like both of them are just jerks. The Titans are overall portrayed as the worse of the two regarding humanity as disposable pawns and entertainment. The Olympians can be helpful and generally promote civilization, but like the myths are incredibly arrogant and hate being embarrassed, shown up by mortals, or putting up with things that piss them off. This leads to often taking out their frustrations on demigods or mortals.
    • This is justified by the fact that this is Greek Mythology, where the gods are notorious for being an astonishing variety of jerkasses with a notable inability to keep it in their pants.
    • The third book of the follow-up series The Heroes of Olympus is outright confirms this. The demigods show disgust that Hercules was punished for Hera inflicting him with madness and the river god Achelous admits Olympians are rarely punished for their crimes. Later, after being jerked around by the gods one too many times Percy thinks to himself that the Olympians are marginally better than the Titans and giants, but are neither good nor wise.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, the greater demon Azazel, and the greater angel Raziel are summoned at different points during City of Lost Souls, by the main characters, who desperately need a weapon that can break a demonic bond. The demon Azazel offered a solution at the price of being set free, which the good guys had to decline, while the Angel Raziel was extremely insulted at being summoned 'like a dog' by someone who did not carry 'The Mortal Instruments', and only gave the heroes the weapon they needed as opposed to killing the one who summoned him because the summoner, Simon, had a rune which would kill anyone who tried to hurt him.
  • According to Thirsty, God loves humans, and only humans. It doesn't matter if you used to be human. It doesn't matter if you desperately wish you were human. If you're a monster of any kind, you're going to burn in Hell forever. Demons, on the other hand, are exactly as sociopathic as you'd expect them to be.
  • Memnoch the Devil in The Vampire Chronicles. See the page quote above.
    • However, since all we have is Memnoch's word that all the events happened as he shows them, it could be a case of Unreliable Narrator.
  • In Simon R. Green's Nightside novels, one book has the forces of heaven and hell duking it out over the same thing, and it's clear that neither side cares in the least how much collateral damage they cause.
  • In the one of The Brothers Grimm's fairytales "Godfather Death" the protagonist's father believes this. He does not want God for a Godfather for his son, because, he gives to rich and lets the poor starve,note  nor the devil, because he is a deceiver. He then chooses Death, because he "takes the rich as well as the poor, without distinction".
    • Death was an excellent godfather, and made the boy's fortune as a doctor. But eventually the godson broke the rules, and therefore Death did not extend his life past its appointed time, as he might possibly have done if less annoyed. Even when the boy broke the rules, all that Death did was let the boy die when he should. Which would have happened if Death wasn't his Godfather anyway.
  • Wendy Alec's Chronicle of Brothers series, in which the biblical story is re-written as adventure fiction. In which Lucifer, Son of God, comes across as a spoilt petulant brat and throws Teddy in a corner in a big way, on learning that Daddy has new siblings (namely the human race) on the way. Lucifer, like any formerly only child told a baby brother is coming, throws a tantrum and runs away from Home (Heaven), taking a third of the angelic race with him. God is every bit as much a jerkass for letting him go, despite the fact that this opens up Hell as a post-mortem destination for most of humanity and virtually all the fallen angels. And for all his grandiose promises of supplanting God and Christos and whupping their divine arses, every time there is a showdown Luce inevitably gets creamed and despite his intelligence does not learn from events - there is no match, God always wins. So more arseholery on the part of Satan and fundamentally an unsatisfying read, as being Biblically-literate, we know who's writing the script and we know way in advance who wins. So God is an asshole for not managing the situation better and letting it happen; the Devil is a dick for not realising he can never win. Not, of course, that this is the divine Wendy's motivation for writing the book or the lesson she would have us learn...
  • Left Behind: Many readers who do not share the authors' exact religious views have levied this criticism. Let's not carry the subject further, thanks muchly.

     Live Action Television  
  • Supernatural has featured demons as the bad guys from the first episode, but in season 4 angels, as represented by Castiel. Problem is, God is generally hands off, and most of the higher angels are perfectly in favor of another war with Lucifer to make sure he's finally taken care of... no matter how many humans get caught in the middle. Archangel Michael is meant to be Lucifer's "good" counterpart, who is supposed to deal with him, but is just as much of a Jerk Ass. And the Apocalypse is seen by them as nothing more than sibling rivalry. In fact, human extinction is considered a positive element in some angelic circles.
    • Cas spends most of season five looking for his Father, in hopes that if directly entreated he will fix all this injustice and madness. Eventually they manage to get in contact with a being who is in contact with God. God's message is: Back off. He has no intention of helping. Castiel's answer to that is: You son of a bitch. I trusted you.
    • God himself is clearly disinterested in the genocidal plans of the angels- in fact, he explicitly says (through an intermediary) that the Apocalypse is "not his problem" (the angels themselves seem either convinced He was dead, or disillusioned that Daddy isn't ever coming back home- they are really simply lost without Him, and the Apocalypse is really the closest thing they have to God's Will). However, it is implied that the real reason God thought it wasn't His problem is that He knew Sam and Dean would win without help (and has subtly been assisting them in small ways anyway) and that He is simply a case of God Is Flawed and is actually Chuck.
    • Then there's all the gods of other religions, most of which are Jerkass Gods who don't care either way as long as it doesn't infringe on their territory.
  • Babylon 5 uses the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens equivalent, with the Shadows (Social Darwinists who regularly trick people into a Deal with the Devil) and the Vorlons (Knight Templars who regularly take the form of each culture's angel equivalent and have a history of meddling with the advanced races). They're basically locked into a millennia-old philosophy debate with one another, using the other races as pawns and proofs of their "way"'s superiority. Sheridan eventually puts them in a position where they'll either have to leave or destroy the younger races because they won't play their games any longer, and tells them to "get the hell out of our galaxy". They comply.
  • Reaper. The Devil is the obvious Jerk Ass, but all we see of God is him telling an angel to break Sam's hand so that the Devil owns both Sam and Andi's souls. However, this may also be a case of Leave The Plot Threads Hanging, as the angel in question (along with swarms of other angels) departs with a cryptic statement implying that God has some further plan in play.
  • In LOST, good and evil appear to be personified by Jacob and the Man in Black respectively. Though one turns out to be the Big Bad and the other passes power to the show's lead character in his final scene, neither has many fans among the characters by the show's end. Their mutual jerkiness is most present in their flashback / Start of Darkness episode.
  • In the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, evil is, well, evil. Its backed up by numerous Hell Gods and Lords of Evil and even the unkillable First Evil. The forces of light, on the other hand, are represented by the Powers that Be, a group of stuck up, arrogant, uncaring deities who really don't care how badly the lives of their chosen Champions happen to get, as long as said Champions toe the line, don't argue, and do each and every thing the Powers That Be order them to do, regardless of the cost to the Champion in question.

     Radio  

  • In Old Harry's Game, God is a massive jerkass who couldn't care less about humanity but has no problem with their being disproportionately punished. Satan, who is one of the protagonists, is by far the nicer of the two, but he's still a pretty big jerk and fond of torturing the damned for his amusement. That most of the aforementioned damned actually did something to deserve ending up there, whilst those who end up there by default because God sets such impossibly high standards of behaviour seem not to be too badly off, keeps Satan on the Grey side of the show's Black and Grey Morality.

     Tabletop Games  

  • The Game Master's Guide for the game In Nomine, which concerns the War between Heaven and Hell, provides a variety of options for modifying the tone of the setting; this is one of them, referred to as "Dark Low Contrast".
  • The inspiration for the above, French RPG In Nomine Satanis / Magna Veritas, has a lot of this going on (most Demon Princes and about half of the Archangels are varying shades of total asshole), although it's mostly Played for Laughs (french humor can be weird like that). Turns out the whole thing is because God actually falls under Blue and Orange Morality, and His actual goal is to make Creation ever more complex, which, as the number of competing subfactions within Heaven and Hell and of minor players in the game can attest, is going quite well.
  • Nobilis has an interesting case; the Angels of Heaven love beauty and good things — but they want to make everything fit their image of what is beautiful and right, and destroy all the things that aren't good enough for them. The Fallen of Hell, however, love everything. They'll be there for you in your darkest moments, loving you unreservedly. Just like they will for the worst the world have to offer. Which of these is better is very much up to personal interpretation.
  • In Dread and Spite, the Books of Pandemonium, it turns out that Dread's demon-slaying Disciples are working for higher demons who want to win the war of Heaven and Hell for the forces of Hell, and Spite's angel-slaying Zealots are working for angels who have rebelled against Heaven because Heaven apparently doesn't give a rat's ass about human free will. Whichever side in the Heaven vs. Hell War wins, humanity loses.
  • Demon The Fallen had a history that started as Rage Against the Heavens — when it seemed like God and her loyalists were keen to let Adam and Eve remain unenlightened animals like the rest of the beasts in Eden, Lucifer and his agents (fearing a disaster that might occur if they didn't do so) raised humans up to true sapience. God, pissed off, shattered the perfect nature of Creation and reduced it to its current fallen state. However, then the Fallen started giving in to Torment... let's just say that by the time the demons got cast into the Abyss, there were few heroes on either side.

     Video Games  

  • In roguelikes such as Angband and its many variants, if angels make an appearance, they are even tougher opponents than the demons, since angels are not, by alignment, evil. This implies the in-universe equivalent of God and Satan are both willing to kill the player — which, to be fair, is par for the course in these games anyway.
  • In Diablo, angels are expressly forbidden from directly aiding mankind. The archangel Tyrael tries to give advice, but that's about all he can do aside from taking your cash to resurrect your minions (technically falling under indirect help).
  • In Shin Megami Tensei, not only are the demons complete dicks, so are the angels. This is why Omnicidal Neutral endings tend to be considered the best.
    • Subverted though in that you DO get some genuinely helpful ones on either side. The Megami clan tends to have a lot of benevolent folks (that ARE nice to you should you meet them), Kishins are essentially honor-bound warriors, and even the Reapers and Fiends are mostly old coots looking for something new to stoke the fire. The kicker is that the moral extremes tend to have a lot more of the bad eggs than good ones. Extremes, in any point of the moral spectrum (Tyrants, Seraphs, Heralds and Fouls), are almost as a rule quite demented and tend to enforce their viewpoint a tad more more zealously than other demons.
    • Hell. Lucifer is an extremely manipulative bastard, YHVH is an utterly amoral tyrant, Philemon won't do jack in the face of the Apocalypse and abuses his position as The Powers That Be to fulfil his agenda, and Nyarlathotep is, well... fucking Nyarlathotep. No matter where you look, all extremes in the alignment axis suck. Which makes sense when you really think about it.
  • Bayonetta has this: demons are genuinely evil, and angels look pretty but are actually monstrous once you get past their gold and marble outer appearance (to say nothing of their personalities).
  • The "real" storyline of Guardian Heroes works out like this. Advance Guardian Heroes makes things even worse.
  • This happens in Kid Icarus: Uprising when Palutena became possessed by the Chaos Kin, resulting in both her and Hades trying to Kill All Humans.
  • It's a bad sign when both god and the devil are Sealed Evil in a Can. Such is the case in the Epic Battle Fantasy series. Of the two, Godcat is the bigger jerkass. While Akron is more or less only doing what it was created to do (cause detruction) having long forgotten why, Godcat is a jealous and spiteful deity who cursed her subjects to have no arms and legs merely because they became too friendly with humans.
  • Messiah: Satan is, well, evil. God cares mostly about his own safety and doesn't hesitate from leaving humanity at Satan's mercy.
  • In Valdis Story: The Abyssal City, Myrgato (Goddess of Darkness) and Alagath (Goddess of Light) are both genocidal Manipulative Bastards who routinely enslave humans and Mind Rape them into becoming Demons or Angels to fight in their Forever War. Myrgato and her Demons are at least honest about their intent to conquer the world, while Alagath's faction are uniformly Holier Than Thou Knight Templar.
  • It really, really sucks to be a human in Asura's Wrath. On one side, there's the Gohma, an army of demonic Heartless and the embodiment of the planet's fury, and on the other side, there's the Shinkoku and the Twelve Deities, who've spent 12,000 years building a superweapon to wipe out the Gohma once and for all...which is powered by human souls. Lots and lots and lots of human souls that require a whole lot of genocide to harvest. And then there's Chakravartin, who's really no better.
  • Monster Hunter plays with this. The various Elder Dragons are treated as basically gods on earth. However, being the dragons they are, they usually just do their own thing not caring about humans at best (Ceadeus, Jhen Mohran), or are actively evil to the extent of wishing to bring about the apocalypse at worst (Dire Miralis, Alatreon.)

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