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God Is Dead
"Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him."
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism 125 ("The Madman")

In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth. Whether it took six days or six billion years for Him (or It, or Her, or Them, you know) to complete the Creation, there's nobody to give the award plaque to. Why not, you ask? Because, somewhere along the way, God croaked. Went belly up. Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Answered the last prayer. Played the last game of skee-ball. Named the last prophet. He is an Ex-God!!

This is going a step beyond Have You Seen My God?; they've called off the search and alerted the next of kin. The Council of Angels is now running around trying to figure out who's in charge.

Of course, the subject of Nietzsche's pronouncement is one of the most serious debates in the academic world.note 

This trope can occur in either a monotheistic or a polytheistic setting; of course, the ramifications of a God dying vary in severity, depending on if there are many Gods or just one.

Some people may be interested in trying to find the corpse or Pieces of God. Compare Götterdämmerung and Death of the Old Gods, which is the general end of the age of Gods, and Kill the God, wherein a (usually mortal) character destroys a God. Expect a certain amount of surprise should they succeed. Also compare Evil Stole My Faith, which is about a character's belief that there was no God to begin with; they don't necessarily have to be correct.

Can be spoofed in certain contexts by having God say: "Nietzsche is dead."

Not to be confused with Shinigami or The Grim Reaper, which are divine manifestations of the death principle (God Is Death).


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Soul Eater, there were eight "powerful warriors" eight hundred years ago, only one of which is widely worshiped by sendible people: The Grim Reaper. In chapter 110, he dies, giving temporary control of his kingdom to Excalibur until his second son returns. Also, another one of these eight was Asura, who, being the Big Bad, will probably also die. Those who worship him will probably also have this feeling.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, the universe is ruled in a hierarchy; Kais each rule over a quarter of a galaxy, and the Supreme Kais each rule over a quarter of the universe, with the Grand Supreme Kai ruling over them. Sounds impressive, until you realise that King Kai (The ruler of the North quadrant of the Milky Way) is not even as strong as the first set of villains, and even the Supreme Kai is surpassed in strength by all 3 of the main heroes at the point where we first see him. As such, there are no less than 5 'gods' killed in the course of the series; King Kai by Cell's self-destruction, and North, South, West and Grand Supreme Kai by Majin Buu. Although given that the Kais live in the afterlife to begin with, for some of them dying just means a halo appears over their head. On the other hand, being absorbed into Buu is a rather more permanent death.
  • Angel Sanctuary: The very first sentence: God Is Dead. He's not actually dead until the very end. He's just been absent from Heaven for so long that a lot of the angels think he's dead. He turns out to be kind of an evil dick, so it's not a big loss when he gets killed.
  • Volume 48 of Bleach is entitled God Is Dead.
  • Yukko in Nichijou uses this exact phrase, in English, after Mai hits her on the head with a book. This is followed by a dramatic camera angle change to focus on the (possibly reincarnated) wooden Buddha statue on the desk in front of her, and the narrator exclaims "Kami ga shinda" accompanied by a lightning strike in the background.
  • This happens with High School D×D where the protagonists find out that Micheal's the one running heaven.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion: Homura's familiars cheerfully announce at one point that Gott ist Tot. Interestingly, they hedge closer to what Nietzsche actually intended to say, in that there is no such thing as moral absolutism and thus one should live as an Übermensch. While Homura doesn't kill the Goddess, she does usurp the Law of the Cycle out of necessity, and no, she doesn't feel good about it.

    Comicbooks 
  • Ruins, a Marvel Comics graphic novel, shows a newspaper headline with a photo of Galactus' corpse and the headline reading: "God Found Dead In Space".
  • The Millennium story for The Authority was about a creature who created the Earth and is explicitly described as the closest thing there is to God. This creature was the being that had physically collected the matter that the Earth is formed of and placed it into orbit around the sun, but its plan was to return someday and use the Earth as a home; the evolution of life was a completely unplanned event that stemmed from a freak asteroid collision billions of years ago. The creature, as large as the moon and of comparable power, planned to de-terraform the planet back to its original state before taking up residence, unconcerned with the extinction of humanity since we are less than microorganisms compared to it. It was killed by Jenny Sparks in a Heroic Sacrifice (as the Spirit Of The 20th Century, her time was up anyway — until she was resurrected as Jenny Quantum). The creature qualifies for this trope. Jenny does not.
  • At the end of Preacher, God meets his end at the hands of the Saint of Killers.

    Films 
  • Only temporary, but Dogma makes killing God (or at least, Her current mortal guise, an old man on life support) crucial to the plot.
  • When Bower confronts Payton/Gallo in Pandorum, he asserts that God died along with the rest of humanity, and that there is nobody left to judge their actions as the concepts of right and wrong and good and evil have ceased to exist.

    Literature 
  • In Towing Jehovah by James Morrow, God's corpse is found in the Atlantic Ocean. The Vatican is ordered to bury it in an Arctic iceberg, while pissed-off atheists want to destroy it, as even a dead God is proof that they were wrong all along. In the next book of the trilogy, God gets posthumously put on trial for crimes against humanity. Well, Not Quite Posthumous, as it turns out. At the end of the second, though, He gets Killed Off for Real. The third novel is about how a visible reminder of God's death — a giant skull in geosynchronous orbit — affects Western civilization.
  • God (aka "The Authority") died in The Amber Spyglass. In the His Dark Materials verse, God was simply the first and most powerful angel. By the time Lyra and Will show up, he is senile and tortured by his eternal life. They simply let him out of his protective enclosure and he is freed, but he's too fragile to live in the world from sheer age, so he disintegrates from a slight breeze. Oh, the vicious irony.
  • Discworld:
    • In Monstrous Regiment, the Borogravian god Nuggan died some time ago. Since gods live or die based on their worshippers' belief. It is revealed that Nuggan died because everyone came to believe in his numerous abominations more than Nuggan himself.
    • In Small Gods, the Great God Om narrowly avoids this fate.
  • Our Friends From Frolix 8, by Phillip K. Dick:
    "God is dead," Nick said. "They found his carcass in 2019. Floating out in space near Alpha."
    "They found the remains of an organism advanced several thousand times over what we are," Charley said. "And it evidently could create habitable worlds and populate them with living organisms, derived from itself. But that doesn't prove it was God."
  • In Gods Debris, God killed Himself, resulting in the Big Bang.
  • Robert Rankin's Waiting for Godalming: God is shot dead in an alleyway. Later subverted, when it is revealed that God's death was faked as part of a massive insurance scam.
  • In the book IT, by Stephen King, the Turtle created the universe (because of a stomach ache). Later, it's revealed that the Turtle died in the thirty-year time gap of the novel.
  • In a Woody Allen short story, existential detective Kaiser Lupowitz is hired to find God; and becomes chief suspect when His body is found.
  • In Clay by David Almond, upon going insane, Stephen Rose claims that God is dead, and died sometime in the 60's.
  • In The Egyptian, the Cretan God (really a kind of sea monster) is dead. The priest keeps killing the human sacrifices to keep people from noticing this.
  • Karl Edward Wagner's Kane is based on Cain from The Bible. Kane was one of the first humans, created by a mad god. In the story At First Just Ghostly, Kane claims to have later killed this god.
  • In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Proctor invokes this trope when accused of witchcraft. "I say... I say... God is dead! A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud - God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!"
  • At the end of The Way of Kings, Dalinar receives a "prerecorded" vision from the Almighty, the setting's god. in which He reveals that He is actually dead, having been killed by a God of Evil named Odium at some point prior to the beginning of the book. This also has some crossover with God Is Evil, since Odium is now the world's de facto God.
    • Except Cultivation, the third of Roshar's shard gods, is still around (although we haven't met her yet), and since the setting is actually part of the Cosmere, all the other shard gods are still running around on other worlds (apart from the ones Odium has Splintered, like Aona and Skai). Plus, it would be more accurate to say Tanavast, the man who became Honor, is dead, as Honor's power is still out there and it is possible another person may take up his shard. Got all that?
    • As far as Vorinism, Roshar's dominant religion, is concerned, the trope is in full force, since Honor/The Almight is/was their only recognized god.
  • Similar to The Way of Kings, in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the benevolent god Preservation is actually brain-dead, reduced to a barely sapient entity by Ruin, and finally dies halfway through the third book in the series. The main goal of that series is to finish off Ruin in turn. On the other hand, as of The Alloy of Law, Harmony, once known as Sazed, is alive and active.
  • In Clive Barker's Imajica, God is killed by his own fire when the restoration of the eponymous circle causes it to boomerang through the dominions.
  • The Ballad of the White Horse has the Norse king Guthrum sing:
    "There comes no noise but weeping
    Out of the ancient sky,
    And a tear is in the tiniest flower
    Because the gods must die."
  • An unspoken premise in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (the novel on which Apocalypse Now was based). Kurtz has convinced the Africans he has enslaved that he is a god, and by extension that the white race in general is divine. But when the protagonist finally finds him, Kurtz is already dying...

    Live-Action TV 
  • A The Kids in the Hall sketch centers around this. "God is dead…and here is the body to prove it." ...and what was most surprising was how short He was...
  • In season 5 of Supernatural, the Archangel Raphael informed Castiel that the reason Cas cannot find God is because He is dead. However, it's implied in the season 5 finale that Chuck is God, and therefore God is not, in fact, dead. Death does reveal that God will eventually die at the end of time by his hand.
  • Possibly the case in The Lost Room. Some say that the Event that created the Objects was the death of God.
  • Stated by Anthony Jr. in season 2 of The Sopranos, as part of his briefly becoming a Straw Nihilist.
  • The Second Coming ends up as this.

    Music 
  • Heavy Metal - Too many songs to count.
  • Nine Inch Nails - as listed in the page quote.
  • Elton John, "Levon":
    When the New York Times said God is dead
    And the war's begun
  • One of the most famous songs by Italian band I Nomadi ("The Nomads") is titled just that. Except, in this case, "God is dead" is meant as a metaphor, with God standing for near damn every value and ideal. The last part of the song subverts it though, because as long as there's "a newborn hope", as the song itself puts it, "if God dies, it's just for three days, and then he's born again".

    Mythology, Religion and Folklore 
  • In Norse Mythology, most of the important and well-known gods, such as Thor, Loki, Frey, and Odin end up dying permanently in the final battle of Ragnarok. Interestingly, when the Scandinavians began to accept Christianity, they actually merged Norse mythology with Christian ideas, by stating that Ragnarok had actually taken place already, and that it was a "prequel" to Christianity — that Adam and Eve were the only survivors of Ragnarok.
  • In Miami homeless children's street culture, it is sometimes believed that God is dead, the implications are usually worse though. Digger based an in-universe myth on this.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Friedrich Nietzsche is not the Trope Namer. Long before him The Bible had passages assuring its readers that God in fact, was not dead. Nietzsche's dialog had little to do with theology anyway. Rather that blind faith people had for religious authority shifted to the barbarous brotherhoods we call political movements, the National Socialist German Worker's Party in particular.
  • In Christianity, Jesus was dead for three days. He got better, though.
  • Quite logically downplayed in Egyptian Mythology. Osiris is a dead god – and god of the dead.
  • According to Greek Historian Plutarch; Pan from Greek Mythology died; his death was told to a traveling sailor.
  • Certain theological theories deriving from Deism, Pantheism, and most prominently Pandeism hold our Universe to be the physical remains of an essentially "dead" deity.

    News Media 
  • The April 8, 1966 cover of Time read, "Is God Dead?" The accompanying article described a movement known as "theothanatology" (in other words, the study of God's death).
    • Deconstructed by Martin Luther King Jr.: "Some are even saying that God is dead. The thing that bothers me about it is that they didn’t give me full information, because at least I would have wanted to attend God’s funeral. And today I want to ask, who was the coroner that pronounced him dead? I want to raise a question, how long had he been sick? I want to know whether he had a heart attack or died of chronic cancer."
    • In Rosemarys Baby, the title character peruses the issue in a doctor's waiting room.
    • Three years later another Time cover asked, "Is God Coming Back to Life?"
  • "The Theistic God is Dead - A Casualty of Terrorism." An article by John Shelby Spong, a liberal theologian and a former Episcopalian bishop.

     Poetry 

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Demon The Fallen, Lucifer murders a monk for even suggesting that God, who has, to this point, been missing in action, may have really died to save the earth: The Sundering was not God's punishment for rebel angels breaking Her commandment of not revealing themselves to humanity, it was God sacrificing Herself by catching the world as it fell due to the violation of some cosmic law. The suggestion would haunt Lucifer until the End of Days.
  • In Planescape, dead gods are a part of the setting, their corpses floating in the Astral Plane. There's even a high-level adventure entitled "Dead Gods". Also, the Lady of Pain killed the god Aoskar for daring to set up shop in Sigil; this is one of the greatest demonstrations of why you really don't mess with her.
    • She didn't attack him when he merely came there and has a portfolio that covered her portals. She killed him when his followers started to talk about her as his aspect aloud and some of her servants became his worshippers. Not only does she flay people with her gaze even for attempting to worship her as a deity in her own right, but in Planescape, the "aspect" part alone sometimes causes problems to the target (e.g. Bast didn't make it through).
    • The Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting has a tendency to kill off some gods and introduce new ones every time a new edition of the game rules is released.
    • And then there are resurrection attempts. In Finder's Bane, for one.
  • In Kult, God is dead, and the Devil is the only one who wants him back. Also, god is dying retroactively, being dead further and further back in history. It's mostly a good thing (as far as anything can be good in this Crapsack World).
  • In Warhammer 40,000, all but three members of the Eldar pantheon were killed with the birth of the Chaos God Slaanesh. The God Emperor of Mankind is a far more complicated case - despite his power, he fiercely denied his divinity, but after being mortally wounded during the Horus Heresy books, he was placed on the Golden Throne and kept in a psychically-active vegetative state, leaving his followers to proclaim him a deity. If ten millennia of worship has elevated him to proper godhood, this trope will probably soon apply due to the recently-discovered irreparable malfunctions in the Golden Throne.note 
  • In Exalted, this can (depending on your ST's preference for where to take the story) happen in the Endgame chapter of Return of the Scarlet Emperor with Infernal Exalted, possibly backed up by demons or even Abyssals, breaking into the Jade Pleasure Dome through a long-forgotten 'back door' and assassinating the Unconquered Sun, who lacked his usual invulnerability because he was addicted to the Games of Divinity. The Ebon Dragon never expected the massive power boost every Solar Exalt in Creation got when their patron Incarnae was killed.
  • The very first sentence in the main Pathfinder campaign setting book is "Just over a century ago, the god of humanity died."
  • In contrast, in the Iron Kingdoms setting, the elves are the ones with the dead gods; specifically, six of their eight gods have died after the pantheon moved into the mortal world, and the remaining two aren't doing so well either. The really bad news is that the death of their gods would likely lead to the elves going extinct, and they've already started being born without souls. One of the factions in Warmachine, the Retribution of Scyrah (Scyrah being one of the surviving gods) thinks human magic is killing their gods, and so has set out to kill all human mages.

    Videogames 
  • The Baldur's Gate series is essentially the posthumous Batman Gambit of the god Bhaal, who foresaw his own death and arranged to be resurrected. Things usually don't work out quite perfectly for him. There's a side quest in the 2nd game in the temple of a different dead god who has since stopped being dead.
  • Grandia II has the revelation that Granas, the God of Light, died fighting Valmar the Devil of Darkness long ago. Turns out they were both just Sufficiently Advanced Aliens though. And despite the Church of Granas referring to their conflict as the "War Between Good and Evil" (and claiming that Granas won, of course), it would be more accurately called the War Between Order and Chaos.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer features a dead god in an important role.
  • The creation myth told by the cultists in Silent Hill ends with God dying.
  • One of the possible final bosses in Guardian Heroes is "The Creator". When you beat him, he admits that he was just toying with humanity all along, and now that he's dying, humans are free to choose their own destiny.
  • The entire premise of the God of War series is about the protagonist going on a quest to essentially kill all of the Greek gods, and he's already taken down Ares and Athena. At the end of 3, every God Kratos encountered is dead, with the exceptions of Artemis and Aphrodite.
  • Implied in Tears to Tiara. The Council of Angels are the ones running the show and, without supervision, have gone a little overboard on the whole Heaven on Earth thing. Watos (the supreme creator deity) hasn't been seen since existence started. Probably seen as less offensive than an actual evil God when we already have a good Satan.
  • In the Zul'drak region of World of Warcraft, the Drakkari trolls native to the region have been killing their gods and stealing their powers in a desperate bid to protect themselves from the Scourge. Your character can go through a quest chain in which you try to save the gods or, failing that, Mercy Kill them or help them avenge themselves on their killers.
  • The whole Shin Megami Tensei series. You have gods. You get to fight gods. YHVH is effectively immortal, however, even though he is temporarily killed in SMT II. As long as there is even one human who believes in a higher power, God will exist.
  • In the Left 4 Dead campaign 'Dead Air', some of the graffiti on the walls says 'GOD IS DEAD'. Occasionally, Zoey can be heard saying, "Oh no, the zombies killed God!" when passing by this message.
  • The majority of the Aedra of The Elder Scrolls universe invested so much of their essence into the Mundus that they became mortal and died. Earthbones, the laws of reality which bind mortals, are magical restraints created from their deaths. In all, only eight remain alive and they're halfway to dead themselves.
  • The Creator Deity-slash-Eldritch Abomination Ormagoden from the Creation Myth in Brütal Legend chose to self-terminate rather than have his fire extinguished by the First Ones' dirt, destroying the ancient world and creating the Age of Metal from his own body in process.
  • In The Reconstruction, Tezkhra is. (You have to bring him Back from the Dead.) Subverted in that he isn't actually a god, he's a sufficiently advanced alien, and just as killable as anyone else.
  • In Mass Effect Cerberus agents find the corpse of a Reaper who they estimate had been rendered non-operational 37 million years ago. As they investigate it they begin to become indoctrinated by the Reaper, despite it being dead, and their minds start melding together as shown by them sharing memories that only logically they should know which is a side effect of the Reaper's hive mind. After a while everyone goes crazy and the only survivor makes an Apocalyptic Log talking about the Reapers as if they were Gods and that even a dead god (in this case the dead Reaper they found) can dream. In his own words he talks about how a true god, not the white-bearded old man with magic powers told about in mythology, is a verb, a force of nature that warps reality just by existing it doesn't have to desire affecting things around it for it to do so. In this case he wishes that they had never found God.
  • In Lunar: Eternal Blue, it's revealed about halfway through the game that the Goddess Althena, who you've been seeking out to save Lunar from the Dark God Zophar, has been dead for a thousand years. Althena's younger sister Lucia does not take this well.
  • The first two Diablo games never mention any sort of God, but the third finally reveals that back in the dawn of time, Anu, the god of Order and Good, battled it out with his antithesis Tathamet, the god of Evil and Chaos, a battle that would claim both their lives. Anu's remains became the High Heavens and would give birth to the angels. Tathamet's remains would become the Burning Hells, which would spawn the demons, and the Seven Great Evils which would menace the Diablo universe rose from each of Tathamet's seven heads.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, all four gods are killed in the end by the Returners. Fiend/Doom. Demon/Poltergeist. Goddess. Kefka. They are all dead. Fortunately.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: Etro, Goddess of Death, is dead, and now there is no one to take care of the souls of the deceased.

    Webcomics 
  • Digger uses TWO versions of this: firstly, “The good man” a Jesus analogue, is widely believed to have been attacked by jealous mortals and wounded, so his mother helps him to travel over the sea, swearing to one day come back. However, many refugee children living in the city at the centre of this cult believe that the world is so cruel that he MUST have died, murdered by his mother who went mad with envy when he said he was leaving, and she now roams the under-city as a vengeful goddesses. Due to the universe’s Clap Your Hands If You Believe, both of these stories are true. As mentioned above, this is based on a Real Life version of Catholicism that sprung up amongst Miami’s street children. The Digger universe also has a dead god kept on life-support against his will, so that whilst he lives, so does the daemon possessing him.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons, YISUN created the universe by committing holy suicide out of divine boredom in his infinite existence.

    Web Originals 
  • In The Salvation War Satan's already dead via anti-ship missile to the face, Jesus appears to have been nuked, and Yahweh's been killed by Michael-Lan.
  • Played for laughs in the Team StarKid production Starship, set in the distant future. Tootsie Noodles mentions early on that there is empirical proof that science killed Godnote . Anytime the word God is used, dead precedes it.
    Junior: Thank dead God I caught you!
  • In the world of Tales From My D&D Campaign, the true gods are very nearly immortal, and will eventually recover from almost any force, even the power of their fellow gods. However, there exists a technique or spell known as "The Death Equation" which can truly and permanently destroy a god. This technique has been used only thrice in the histories of eternity. Luckily, each use raises the amount of power The Death Equation requires exponentially, rendering its use risky.


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