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God Is Flawed
"Some would ask, how could a perfect God create a universe filled with so much that is evil. They have missed a greater conundrum: why would a perfect God create a universe at all?"
Sister Miriam Godwinson, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

A supreme being can be good or evil, but in either case he ought to be... supreme. Right?

However, in some works we find a god who is prejudiced and flawed. Not So Omniscient After All, maybe even a bit of a bigot. Worshippers who try to blackmail God into answering prayers (or foolishly goad God) are unlikely to get an answer... at least a favorable one.

Ironically, this might make the deity easier to relate to, and thus more sympathetic.

This trope is traditionally played on polytheistic gods, but is also getting more and more common on the monotheistic God. With Jesus, this is still usually avoided. But not always.

Compare Humans Are Flawed, God Is Inept, The Devil Is a Loser, and Stop Worshipping Me, as well as King of All Cosmos. May be due to there being Pieces of God strewn all over the cosmos.

Oh, and beware. Here be spoilers!

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

  • In Haibane Renmei Rakka fills out the blanks in a crumpled old book that is supposed to tell the origin of the world with a story of her own invention, where God makes mistakes every step of the way, but each mistake makes the world a more beautiful place than He could have predicted, and God sees them as good.
  • In Saint Young Men, the vast majority of the humour comes from seeing two divine figures (it is notable that they are Jesus and Buddha, who are both explicitly human as well as divine) constantly making mistakes, screwing up and annoying each other, although their personality flaws are relatively minor (Jesus is prone to making impulse Cosplay purchases, and tends to be quite needing of attention, wheras Buddha is something of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander with terrible body image thanks to all the fat statues). They also suffer from Power Incontinence under certain conditions (Buddha glows when he is virtuous or angry, Jesus's stigmata bleed whenever he feels persecuted, and both of them occasionally float without meaning to). Obviously, a perfect being would be able to control such embarrassing faux pas as accidentally turning all nearby water to wine whenever in a good mood.
    • For bonus points Jesus is Hydrophobic. IE afraid of water. The reason he walked on water? Because he was too scared to swim. When he tried to force himself to submerge his head under the water in a pool he wound up parting it like the Red Sea.

     Comic Books  

  • In one issue of Valhalla, Heimdall is in love with Freya. Just as she is about to let him in, he get a counterproductive fit of jealousy and basically calls her a dirty tramp. However, he quickly realize what a Jerkass he has been, and she forgives him. This is just one example among many: most of the Norse gods were flawed even in the oldest recorded myths, and Valhalla keeps and further develops this characterization.
  • When Johnny the Homicidal Maniac goes to heaven, he meets God. An obese baby in wheel chair too exhausted from creating reality to actually give a shit.
  • In Preacher, it is eventually revealed that all of the world's problems are caused by being created by a guy who grew up in total solitude (because there wasn't any universe yet!) and thus developed what could be considered a narcissistic personality disorder as well as any number of related mental problems.
  • In Lucifer, all creators are very flawed.
    • Lucifer himself neglects to construct a proper afterlife.
    • Elaine fails to keep her humans from killing each other in her name.
    • Yahweh's plan for the universe works more or less perfectly, maybe even better than he had expected - pity that all the people were a bit of an afterthought and filler in his grand design.
  • In Supergod, the concept of "God" is a flawed concept caused by a biological flaw in the evolution of mankind. Thus, trying to create Gods would have been a very very bad idea... even if you didn't weaponize them... and base them on flawed humans.

    Fan Works 

  • The three sibling gods in Yognapped. Aside from their virtual immortality that only works if one doesn't try to kill the other and boundless powers over creation, they have all of the flaws of their subjects: they experience jealousy, they have irrational fears, and they break their own rules every now and again. In fact, it's Notch's jealousy of his sister's proposed succeeding world that causes him to murder her, kickstarting the entire conflict of the series.
  • Played with in the Pony POV Series. While the Alicorns and Draconequi represent perfection in what they personify, but in all other aspects are flawed like mortals. The fact Celestia and Luna aren't perfect is a theme in the series. They've both made their own mistakes (including Nightmare Moon) and being the Perfect Day and the Perfect Night doesn't mean they're perfect ponies. When an Alicorn becomes imperfect in their own Concept, they become Nightmares.

    Film 
  • Woody Allen's films. Love And Death says it best.
    Boris: You know, if it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. I think the worst you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.
  • Over 90% of TRON: Legacy takes place in a world known as The Grid, and the major conflict is built on the characters Flynn and Clu. Flynn is the creator of the world, but Clu has ruled the world since he rebelled against Flynn. Flynn is wise and benevolent, a personality that might seem a bit out of character for those who have seen the first movie and remember him as an immature brat. At the very end, it is revealed that he was still immature and shortsighted when he created the world and Clu. This is revealed that this is the reason for why the world is in the sorry condition it is - Clu was simply carrying out the orders given to him by Flynn to the best of his ability, but Flynn who created him and his world was flawed. Thus he carried out flawed orders to the best of his flawed ability. This turned his quest for perfection into something vile, warping him into a Totalitarian Utilitarian leader of something that looks eerily familiar. At the climax of the movie, Flynn confronts Clu, and spells out just how wrong he was, admitting he was arrogant and foolish, and forgiving Clu for trying to do the impossible and creating a twisted mockery of their original goals.
    • This is an overreaching theme for TRON in general. The Master Control Program believed itself to be a deity among systems, but it was a chess program that Dillinger lost control of, and Flynn sneers at Sark that Sark's just another program.."One that should have been erased." The renegade programs view Users, like Flynn, to be gods. Of course, Flynn splashes cold water on that notion when Tron brings it up.
      Tron: If you are a User, then everything you've done so far has been according to a plan, right?
      Kevin Flynn: [laughs] Hah, you wish. Ah, you guys know what it's like, you just keep doing what it looks like you're supposed to be doing, no matter how crazy it seems.
      Tron: That's the way it is for Programs, yes.
      Kevin Flynn: I hate to disappoint you, pal, but most of the time, that's the way it is for us Users too.
      Tron: Stranger and stranger.
  • The Supreme Being in Time Bandits. (post-Monty Python film by Terry Gilliam)
  • In Bruce Almighty, God is shown to be very human, and unable to make a perfect world because he has to respect the free will of all people (though this may be a self-imposed limitation.) Having Bruce gain his powers was a way to teach him this.
  • The Last Temptation of Christ contrasts what Jesus was born to do with what he wants to do—get married and live in peace.
  • Played for light laughs in the Oh, God! movies. God (George Burns) readily admits His mistakes, such as the goofy design of ostriches and that avocado pits are too big.

    Literature 

  • The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: The Flying Spaghetti Monster caused the great flood by accident; when making pasta, the drain of the heavenly kitchen sink emptied itself straight down to earth. Oops.
  • In Blå Tornet, the world was created by a guy who one day had a really bad cold. In his fever he happened to give his angels some really bad orders. Thousands of years of tragedy later, these are still in effect. And no, this is not Played for Laughs at all. Quite the contrary, actually.
  • In an interview with J. R. R. Tolkien, regarding The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, he claimed that while Eru Illúvatar [God] is infallible, the gods (Valar) set off the chain of events by making the initial mistake of inviting the elves to Valinor "in order to protect them." Before that, evil was introduced to the universe by the fall of Melkor, a Vala who became the god of evil [Satan]. So in this case the lowercase gods (or rather, angelic semi-divine beings) are flawed while uppercase God is not.
  • The Powers That Be of the Young Wizards universe generally mean well, but because they exist out of time they can't always understand problems as seen by normal mortals, which is why they need mortal wizards helping them. To quote senior wizard Carl, "They know what the universe was like when it left the factory but we're the ones who know all the little noises it makes. And where to kick it to make them stop."
  • The Most High in Russell Kirkpatrick's Fire Of Heaven trilogy and follow-on Broken Man/Husk Trilogy — he knows it and seeks someone to replace him. He's too tired to care any more and knows that makes for a poor God.
  • In Erik Wahlström's God the title character starts out as a petulant and Jerk Ass teenager who slowly matures and learns to take some responsibility for His creation. In the end he ends up like an elderly corporate chairman a bit out of the loop, but he manages to settle his differences with Satan, and the two retire together as friends.
  • The gods on the Discworld aren't evil, but they couldn't care less about humans except that Gods Need Prayer Badly.
    • Om gets better about this after Small Gods due to Break the Haughty.
    • The general pantheon in The Last Hero notes that a god who doesn't want to end up dead, one way or another, needs to offer his followers something more than a lack of thunderbolts.
    • Not exactly a god, but the Creator (who appears in Eric) is notoriously absent-minded. Many of the Disc's lesser Anthropomorphic Personifications are likewise a bit inept and/or clueless.
  • In The Name of the Wind the story of Tehlu initially portrays him as judgmental and unwilling to help anyone who doesn't meet his standards. Sample attitude: that man beats his wife but she's sleeping around, so they deserve each other. He's taught to be more compassionate by the mother of his human incarnation.
  • In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, we see God's Final Message to His Creation: "We apologise for the inconvenience." Ironically, this is something of a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for this otherwise unknown God as well, because upon seeing them, Marvin feels good about it.
  • This trope is the conclusion of the Taker culture in Ishmael.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Supernatural, God is quite mysterious, and therefore no one really knows whether God is flawed. Those who know him best are the Angels, and the dominant faction among them are the followers of Michael who hold that God is not flawed. However, Michael's ideology is presented as wrong in many other ways, so maybe they are wrong about this. A few fallen angels, mainly hedonistic types like Gabriel, tend to have views closer to God Is Flawed. According to Metatron, he is also misogynistic.

    Music 

  • In Ebba Grön's song "Häng Gud" (Hang God), God is accused of racism, misogyny and forgetting about his loyal worshipers.
  • The Lily Allen song "Him" seems to portray God this way. Most of it is just speculation about what God might be like, but the chorus says "He's lost the will, he can't decide / He doesn't know what's right or wrong" and implies that while he doesn't like it when people kill each other in his name, there's not much he can really do about it.
  • Bad Religion deconstruct this trope (as well as the problem of evil) in their song "Better Off Dead". The lyrics are about God apologizing for creating the world so badly, but it comes across as the humans being ungrateful whiny bastards who fail to appreciate what they got.
  • The song "One of Us" by Joan Osborne (with covers by Alanis Morisette and others) portrays God as simultaneously flawed and sympathetic. (The chorus happens to think nobody "[calls him] on the phone", i.e., prays to him, except for maybe the Pope.)
  • In Blutengel's song "No God", God's biggest flaw is that he doesn't exist: "There's a god in your life, / But he is not what you need. / He can't hear you when you call. / He can't help you when you cry. / [...] / Wake up and face reality, realize there is no god. / Wake up open your eyes, / No paradise on the other side!"
    • One of the classic philosophical arguments for why God exists is that God is perfect. If God doesn't exist, then he wouldn't be perfect. Thus, God exists. This song turns this argument upside down.
  • "Don't you know there ain't no devil/There's just God when He's drunk"

    Mythology and Religion 

  • This trope has a fair amount of historical precedent. It's been theorized that much of the Jerk Ass behavior exhibited by the Greek Gods was intended partially as a rationalization for the less-than-noble traits exhibited by humans. It makes sense that if we're made in the gods' images, and we're obviously not perfect, that the gods themselves possess human flaws.
  • Norse Mythology stands out in that the very actions the gods take to save themselves tend to be those that doom everything.
  • Early portrayals of the Abrahamic God appear show Him to have quite the temper, and there exists at least one point where Moses wins an argument with God, calming Him down after the Jews disobeyed Him. The implications would be that righteous anger is not a flaw, that God wants His children to speak openly with him, etc. Jesus Christ would later call self-righteous religious leaders out for how flawed their concepts of flaws and perfections were, reminding them that the Lord, not they, sets the standards for perfect and flawed.
  • According to Gnosticism, the "god" of the Torah/Old Testament is alternatively an arrogant, malevolent Jerkass or simply a blundering, ignorant fool who believes himself to be the one true god due to his lack of knowledge of the real true God who is ultimately unknowable but manifests himself through a "divine spark" that Yahweh (or the Demiurge) unwittingly imbued his creation with, and also through certain divine messengers (Sophia, Jesus and/or Lucifer, depending on the sect of Gnosticism).

     Tabletop Games 

  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the three memeber of the Triat are supposed to be working together to keep the forces of the cosmos in balance. Unfortunately, they're either too busy struggling against each other or too indifferent to perform their tasks properly. For example, the Weaver imprisoned the Wyrm in the web of creation, the Wyrm is slowly killing Gaia in his attempt to break free, and the Wyld could care less.
  • Exalted:
    • The Unconquered Sun in theory loves humanity and wants the best for them, but he's too busy playing/addicted to the Games of Divinity to care about what happens in Creation — if he let himself pay attention he'd suffer a(nother) nervous breakdown seeing all the suffering and problems. Luna and the Five Maidens aren't paying that much more attention, either.
    • Many little gods are so petty and selfish that sometimes humans would be better off without them. With the seven Incarnae paying them no attention, the Celestial and Terrestrial Bureaucracies are corrupt and inefficient, and the Elemental Courts are out to lunch — gods who do care and try to do their jobs right are still numerous, but they're hampered and sometimes persecuted by all the ones who don't. The only place where the divine Courts still more-or-less function is where they're forced to by the agents of a despotic human theocracy led by an objectively wrong religion.
    • Then there are the Primordials, who built all this in the first place ... they started out as inhuman, incomprehensible things somewhere between Titans and Eldritch Abominations, and after being imprisoned by the gods most of them have devolved into Mad God territory. The reason the war ended is because one suffered a psychotic break to understand that other sapient creatures might have opinions. Meanwhile the two free Primordials who sided with the gods have wandered off somewhere else, and let Creation rot. The main reason Creation worked when the Primordials ran things is because they drove the gods and humans as slaves.

     Video Games  

    Webcomics 

     Web Original  

  • Several episodes of Mr Deity involve him being called out for allowing bad things that he could easily have stopped, using needlessly overcomplicated schemes for no good reason, or not thinking his plans through. He generally has some kind of non-sequitur reason why this is for the best, but none of the other characters believe him.
  • The Onion: God Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder.
  • One episode of Zinnia Jones portray God as a victim of peer pressure, with horrible consequences such as going along with barbaric cultural patterns until Jesus came along.

     Western Animation  
  • Family Guy: Makes frequent references to God being a flawed Being, and at times outright Dirty Old Man. For instance, in the former example, he once was accused of "making Rosie wrong" (a reference to Rosie O Donnell's recent announcement that she was gay). In the latter example, he's depicted as lusting after women and wanting them for sex.
  • Futurama: The Godfellas episode
    • The nebula that Bender believes is God is powerful and rational, but doesn't seem to remember its own possibly artificial origins and is highly suggestible on the matter. Also, it's initially uncertain where the Earth is in the universe. Its possible he was simply pretending to prevent unnecessary effects occurring. He explained just how difficult it is to be God-do too much and the people become dependent on you, do top little and they stop believing you. He explains the only way to do things right is make it so no one can be sure if you did anything. As he set up the ending so that they would go back and save the monks, its implied his seeming faults were merely another part of his act.
    • In that same episode Bender had a colony of tiny people living on his body. Even when he tried to be a benevolent god he screwed up so badly that they all died in the end.
  • God, the Devil and Bob shows God as omnipotent but still physically and psychologically human. He generally wants what's best for the world, but he's not afraid to take extreme measures to get what he wants. Like the time he crushed someone under a tree in order to get on a baseball team, or the several times he's considered destroying humanity if Bob doesn't complete whatever mission he's been given. He also has a few fears and doesn't seem to have any power over the Devil.


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