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Acceptable Religious Targets

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"People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs."
Brad Reddekopp

A subset of Acceptable Targets. This section refers to people whose beliefs are, well, apparently corny. Ultimately, there is absolutely no form or collection of beliefs that is not parodied somewhere. The lack of spiritual beliefs is also exposed to ridicule, as is spiritual neutrality (eg; agnosticism). Specific forms examples follow, but we could probably just go with "everybody" and stop right here.


Bear in mind, this site deals with tropes, and some of the historical-cultural context for why those tropes exist, and how they operate in given works. This is by nature a critical trope, and it is YMMV for a reason. It's not meant in any way to demonize/attack/excuse one religion or idea any better, and overall the aim is to present a small summary Warts and All.


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Abrahamic religions


In the Anglosphere's modern history (as well as the Internet's), Christianity is arguably the most mocked religion in mainstream media.note  It's a big target, and thus an easy target. The basic truth is that Christianity, in all its sects, is the world's major and leading religion, it is the dominant religious tradition in the Western nations and Western nations have a disproportionate hold on the global media, so Christianity's perceived negatives at times get over-represented or exaggerated. Likewise, Christianity did not become the world's leading religion by accident. As Pope John Paul II himself noted in a 2000 prayer seeking forgiveness for the dark parts of Church history: Christians have often denied the Gospel; yielding to a mentality of power, they have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions: be patient and merciful towards us, and grant us your forgiveness! A lot of these actions were criticized even by Christians in the past, and there are parts of Church history that most modern Christians, regardless of the sect, are not proud of. Christianity being a large diverse religion has also been involved in several questionable policies and events over the centuries (such as The Spanish Inquisition). It is often criticized among other religious groups for its missionary activities, wars it has waged among various sects, and persecuting other religions (which is not exclusive to Christianity, but gets attention due to Christianity's promincence).

In Eastern nations, in former colonies, Christianity may be a minority, but on account of missionary activities, it has greatly impacted the education and cultural life of the elites, which has nonetheless kept Christian tradition and its roles, positive and negative, in public memory. The political and cultural revolutions on behalf of freedom of speech in France, England, the United States, Italy, Germany, and other countries has rested on the separation of the Church and State, and this has led to Christianity in the position of the Designated Villain in many anti-censorship fights in the Western World, which thanks to colonialism and imperialism, has made this Pop-Cultural Osmosis for the entire world. Christianity was perceived and resented for being Moral Guardians on account of its historical association with censorship (the Vatican Index, Galileo, Darwin), its lack of permissiveness, and its anti-LGBT policies. A lot of this is true for all religions. (For instance, general prudishness, censorship, and homophobia exist even among Buddhists, and even the Roman pagans were pretty uptight about specific issues.) Since Christianity has been historically the religion with the greatest political and historical clout, and since those fights were ultimately won, this tends to get associated with Christianity to the point that such aggressive and controversial actions have been used to smear all Christians by association, at times even long (e.g. centuries) after the Christians involved in said controversies died (though this has also happened to people of all religions).

Christianity has at times been criticized by other Christians, such as Graham Greene, for failing to live up to the teachings of the faith. The Anglican Priest, Fr. Charles Kingsley even echoed Karl Marx when he noted, "We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable's hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order".note  Satire and criticism of Christianity in non-Christian media often (but not always) separates Jesus from the actions of various Christian sects. As such, the defining criticism of Christianity is often Hypocrisy,note ; while obviously not exclusive to Christianity, or to religion in general, it's nevertheless a strong charge and criticism to a faith missionary in origin that keeps asserting it is the one true faith and often promises a better life for its flock.


The Catholic Church has a checkered history and it gets satirized more often because it is the biggest and oldest church and certainly the world's oldest institution, one of the few organizations in Europe that was formed in The Roman Empire. Within Europe, the Church is still regularly mocked, though there the criticism is political, citing the Church's involvement in politics and its opposition to republican and leftist revolutions, and it is still mocked to death in most Western European countries such as France and Spain (the latter of which still has the ghost of the very Catholic Franco dictatorship on it s back). Likewise, they aren't all that popular even in Italy, what with the Italian drug mafia giving them regularly big enough sums of money to lead locals to say that the mafia is a Catholic charity and that their actions are so noble that they will receive heaven, something they only started to contradict as of 2013, when Pope Francis excommunicated the Mafia.

Within America, anti-Catholicism has had an old and at times dubious history, and for a long time, Catholics especially from immigrant countries like Ireland and Italy endured some amount of persecution from the largely WASP American mainstream. The election of John F. Kennedy was seen as the point where Catholics were embraced by the white mainstream. This was tarnished however by the revelation that parts of the Church hierarchy were complicit in covering up child abuse by their own priests, and a growing trend has been to depict most or all Catholic priests as being child abusers and pedophiles. Catholicism is also commonly portrayed as the ultimate in fundamentalismnote  and hypocrisy, as a group of people who judge others despite being evil and cruel. Catholic girls are portrayed as easy and slutty but judgmental and bitchy. Catholics have been portrayed as enemies of science ever since they put Galileo under house arrest (the church didn't officially apologize for the Galileo affair until 1990.note  Catholics aren't supposed to use birth control, and stereotypical Catholics have enormous families, presumably because they're too dumb to simply stop having sex when they already have more children than they can feed (and this brings up supposed sexual hypocrisy, of course).

However, North American lay Catholics get more of a pass now since the Vatican's frustration at the vast majority casually defying its directives on things like birth control and divorce is well-known. John Paul II helped soften the Pope's image in United States, mostly because he was tough on Communism, and even non-Catholics tend to think of modern Popes as basically nice guys, though Pope John Paul's successor Benedict XVI's interesting German background, previous religious occupation and resemblance to a certain Dark Lord of the Sith hasn't helped. However, his successor (after Benedict's resignation/retirement, the first one since 1415) has been lauded for his comparatively progressive style yet not falling into the traps of hypocrisy or compromise, particularly when it comes to discussing faith and religion with non-Catholics and, indeed, non-Christians.

One common mistake with Catholicism is a case of Christianity Is Catholic. The heavy ritualization and rich saint folklore of the Church often make it more artistically appealing than other religious sects and as such in popular culture and general conversations, the Catholic Church is often accused of actions that are more specifically the actions of other sects, mostly because the latter are perhaps visually dry. For instance, witch burning was a largely Protestant affair, and it took place in predominantly Protestant nations. Catholics further point out that unlike the English Protestants who forbade women from acting in the Elizabethan Stage, it was Catholic countries like Spain and France that allowed and welcomed women into the performing arts, and that it was only when Charles II, exiled in France, returned to England (and who on his deathbed converted to Catholicism), that women were allowed to act on the British stage. Likewise, the Catholic Church has accepted and supported Charles Darwin and evolution and has never voiced any significant criticism and political opposition against it. It has also denounced Creationism, even though some lay Catholics have adopted it. Indeed, Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics and one of the two pillars of the modern evolutionary synthesis, was a Catholic friar himself.


  • Jim Gaffigan often jokes about his Catholic roots.
    (From a different special): I'm actually one of six kids, Catholic. You ever notice people from big Catholic families, they always throw in that "Catholic" after the number? "Six kids, Catholic. Six kids, Catholic." Like if you didn't hear the "Catholic" part, you'd think, "Six kids? His mother really liked sex! ...Oh, she was Catholic? Okay."

Comic Books

  • Chick Tracts portray Catholics and, in fact, most people, negatively. In fact Chick seems to have a beef with Catholicism to the point where communists and Muslims are portrayed as basically dupes of the Catholic church. In fact, he portrays Muhammed as getting the idea to start Islam from his wife (a Catholic, according to Chick), and Marx being an agent of the Jesuits who used him to start the international communist movement (Lenin is also portrayed this way). Never mind that Catholics have not gotten along well with communists or Muslims historically, leaving the reasons for them doing this a mystery.


  • Cardinal Glick from Dogma is shown to be rude, shallow, and pretty cynical. Appropriately enough, he was played by the late George Carlin, who was raised Catholic and quite critical towards the religion. Bethany spends the beginning of the movie feeling rather PO'd towards Catholicism in general (since she thinks that God's a bit of a jerk for letting her life get so screwy) and the actual divine beings are all shown to be foulmouthed and a bit nutty, but the ultimate point made is that the religion itself isn't bad, just that some people interpret it badly.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life has a whole showstopping musical number criticizing the Catholic prohibition on birth control ("Every Sperm is Sacred"). A Catholic father explains to his huge crowd of children why Catholics are so excessively fruitful and, consequently, why he has to sell them as medical experiments. A Greek Chorus Protestant couple looks on and takes pride in their right to buy French ticklers. Their right to, not that they actually do so.
    Harry Blackitt: Look at them, bloody Catholics, filling the bloody world up with bloody people they can't afford to bloody feed!
    Mrs. Blackitt: What are we dear?
    Harry Blackitt: Protestant, and fiercely proud of it!
    Mrs. Blackitt: Hmm. Well, why do they have so many children?
    Harry Blackitt: Because... every time they have sexual intercourse, they have to have a baby.
    Mrs. Blackitt: But it's the same with us, Harry.
    Harry Blackitt: What do you mean?
    Mrs. Blackitt: Well, I mean, we've got two children, and we've had sexual intercourse twice.

Live-Action TV

  • There was a period a few years ago when seemingly every crime show on television had a pedophile priest, in response to the real-life scandals. It still often comes up today, though it's usually averted in some fashion. E.g., Detective Mike Logan from Law & Order was molested by a Catholic priest as a child, and the case in which this was revealed has said priest as the culprit.
  • In The X-Files, Scully seems to have got through okay, though this may be because A) she's a main character and B) she wasn't particularly devout until much later in the series (seeing supernatural things possible helped revive it).
  • Bones:
    • Seeley Booth is Catholic, though the most that has been made of his faith is his and Brennan's frequent arguments about the validity of faith and belief vs. science and rationality. One such argument included Booth's memorable indignant outburst: "Jesus was not a zombie!"
    • One episode played with the pedo priest aspect with a young, handsome priest who spent considerable time with the boys of his congregation, even teaching them Greco-Roman Wrestling. Turns out, he's just a very extroverted young priest who knows that he can get the boys more involved in church if they can learn something fun, like wrestling. The murderer turns out to be a woman who works at the church who suspected him (and the priest he replaced) of being a child molester. She poisoned the previous priest, and was slowly doing the same to the new guy.


  • Long-lasting singer Sir Cliff Richard is a rarity in the music business-a clean-living and generally likable believing Christian who really does appear to practice what he preaches, and who is regarded as an all-round nice guy. This does not stop him being the target of sarcastic jokes about his faith, and ill-founded speculation as to why he has never married and there is little sign of a Lady Richard (though he has been involved with several women over the years).


  • Manic comedy series The Burkiss Way once speculated Irish singing family The Nolan Sisters (a smallish Irish Catholic family-six sisters) would never have been allowed to happen had the Papacy been more liberal in its outlook.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Castlevania (2017): The Archbishop, Bishop and the priests under him are all depicted as extremely corrupt, arrogant and cruel, though there is one Good Shepherd who seems to exist just so that the characters can have a source of holy water. It should be noted that this isn't even historically accurate, given that it's set in Transylvania, which should be Eastern Orthodox.

Eastern/Oriental Orthodoxies:

There are two versions of Christian Orthodoxy. (The first was Eastern Orthodoxy, which accepts Seven Councils up to the Council of Chalcedonian prior to 1054 while most of Oriental Orthodoxy accepts Three Councils up to the Council of Ephesus, with each of them having different theology from the others.)

Eastern Orthodoxy is like a more radical brother of Roman Catholicism in a historical sense due to connections they had as part of Chalcedonian Christianity until their Great Schismnote  caused them to permanently split and still is to this day and considered as an ethnoreligion for most all Eastern Europeans like Greeks or Russians.note 

The appearance for their spiritual leaders and clergy is like normal Catholic priests/nuns except for the major differences that men have the option to grow beards and the regular priests wear all black except for sometimes having a chef-like white hat with the Orthodox cross in the center to present the high power of the denomination. Their Patriarchs look like the Pope but have a more with Byzantine-style attire or others have their own depending on the culture, such as Russian Patriarch having almost a Russian style, and for women/nuns they look largely unchanged from Catholic nun except their habits are pure black with the Orthodox cross on their forehead.

Oriental Orthodoxy is a completely foreign denomination for Westerners. It's only known as the Copts, Armenians, West Middle Easterners, a small portion of Indians and Ethiopians religion. Their holy leaders have similar dress to Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism except their hats have weird designs that resemble inflated cakes and they don't share the same beliefs with mainstream Western Christian and a couple Eastern Christian denominations.note 



  • Historically the Soviet Union was antagonistic towards the Russian Orthodox Church, seeing it as a tool of oppression ("the opiate of the masses"). This means Russian Orthodox priests are depicted as being against the revolution and antagonistic to the workers in Soviet films such as Earth (1930) and The Battleship Potemkin.


Need a joke about polygamy (of the polygyny form, of course)? Then by all means mention The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the LDS Church, aka the Mormons. (Or see "Religious practitioners of polygamy" below.) The jokes are still prevalent, despite the fact the Church officially did away with multiple marriage in 1890 - though the fact the US Government had to seize the Church's assets to make that happen might explain why the jokes stayed. Other stereotypes are that the women are all Stepford Wives, they all have 15 kids, 100% of the population of Utah is Mormon, and they are unusually happy all the time. They also are known for not drinking tea, coffee, or alcohol, something considered unthinkable by many. Like African-Americans, it's claimed that Mormons give their children absurd made-up names. They have what (depending on your point of view) can be called a colorful history of race relations, though they've fixed this. Most damningly, they put vegetables in Jell-O.

  • There is an offshoot sect of the church that calls itself the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints. They fervently believe polygamy should have stayed and continue to practice multiple marriage - mainstream LDS folk are not fans, but that's likely because the same group marries underage girls off to older men, and tosses any 'extra' boy children to the curb to fend for themselves.
  • Then there are the stories about Mormons that range from missionaries scouring the globe for women to kidnap to being mistaken for the Amish.
    • On Mormons allegedly "scouring the globe for women to kidnap and imprison as sex slaves in their temples", the only reported case went in entirely the opposite direction and gave everyone in Britain (and beyond) a huge laugh. The Joyce McKinney story is here: the Mormon in manacles case.
    • They also get the similar eye-rolling as Jehovah's Witnesses get, for knocking on your door every weekend and trying to preach.


  • Any joke about Mormons will probably involve the belief many have that Indians are Jews. (Technically: that the Amerindians are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israelnote .) Which at least one of them is, according to one scene in Blazing Saddles.


  • The entire second half of A Study in Scarlet is a completely different story explaining why the culprit murdered his two victims. It's basically a hundred, hundred-fifty pages or so of a group of Mormons during the Utah migration tormenting a man named John Ferrier and his daughter Lucy (in the traditional British "Mormons are sexually deviant kidnappers" way) who they saved from dehydration in the desert. Arthur Conan Doyle later met some real-life Mormons who were none too pleased with this description, unsurprisingly, and went on to portray them positively in his future works.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series of novels, the Mormons are basically stand-ins for Islamic terrorists, right down to the suicide bombings. Unlike in real history, they remain staunchly polygamist, even after attaining Statehood, though they try to hide the fact by claiming their other wives are "cousins" and other such Blatant Lies. Pretty much any time America goes to war in the series, the Mormons secede from the Union, and rename themselves Deseret. As a result, a big part of every war involves pounding Salt Lake City back into submission, which creates harsh feelings on both sides.

Live-Action TV

  • The TLC show The Sister Wives is a notable aversion, being about a polygamist family of fundamentalist Mormons (Apostolic United Brethren Church, specifically) and portraying them as a relatively normal family that happens to have multiple moms and a lot of kids. However, the trope is arguably being played straight in that since the show's airing one wife has lost her job, the husband is having difficulties in his, and they are under investigation for polygamy (only the first marriage is legal, the rest are symbolic, but could still be considered common-law marriages), a third-degree felony that could send the husband to prison for 20 years and each wife for 5.
  • The Cold Case episode "Creatures of the Night" features a Mormon Serial Killer who hears voices and strangles people to death after seeing "God's light" shining on them. We also see his aunt, who first tells him to listen to the voices (thinking he's a prophet), then concludes that he's actually hearing Satan.


Western Animation

The Amish

As well as other Anabaptists (Mennonites, Hutterites, Baptist Brethren, Plain Quakers, and others), not because they are often considered worthy of scorn but simply because, as they isolate themselves from popular culture and modern technology, including television and the Internet, and so are not in a position to become aware of any slights made against them. Because of said isolation and their old-fashioned lifestyles, many mock them as being backward and simple, though only, of course, in forms of media they do not read.

  • Amish have a lot of other problems that are more or less ignored: the practice of shunning or genetic difficulties (such as six fingered dwarves) because of the founder effect; markedly higher levels of child sexual abuse, and excessive inbreeding due to failures to use exogamy, even with Amish of other villages. It's also notable that Amish are not entirely Luddites, only that new technology has to be approved first to make sure it does not interfere with religion.
    • Due to the way that the church hierarchy functions, where the actual line between "interference" is drawn varies from community to community. For example, in some areas, an Amish home may utilize an electric generator, batteries, propane, kerosene-powered refrigerators, or thermal solar collectors. It should be kept in mind that pretty much no Amish sect views technology as inherently evil.
    • The Amish are more or less only against technology that does not have primarily work-related purposes. Hence, a truck to bring the harvest to your local wholesaler might be alright, but a nice comfy Volvo station wagon just to ferry your family to church is not so alright. Or a weather-radio might be okay to stay abreast of severe weather alerts, but not a TV set (and certainly not a TV set that's connected to cable or satellite). A barebones-basic home telephone located in a not-so-convenient area of the house, or only set up to make and receive calls to certain numbers might be permissible, but not smartphones for each family member with all the bells and whistles. A horse-and-buggy might be allowed for getting around town, but not a minivan for taking extended road trips. A DSL or dial-up Internet connection might be allowed for work or school-related purposes, but not a broadband connection for watching cat videos, social media...or porn. And in many cases, medical devices (such as an oxygen tank for O2 therapy, or a CPAP machine for obstructive sleep apnea, or a home blood-pressure-measuring machine to keep an eye on hyper/hypotension) are allowed. Which is not so bad, after all...
    • Craig Ferguson often says that the only group you can make fun of on TV is the Amish. The reason he gives is that they don't watch late night TV.
    • Some Mennonite groups believe in the core tenet that people shouldn't "yoke themselves to unbelievers" and therefore are okay with solar panels and other modern things, as long as they needn't buy them from factories and can stay "off the grid" while using them.


  • North's premise is the titular Child Prodigy bouncing around from foster home to foster home. One candidate is an Amish family in the middle of nowhere. Upon seeing his would-be new foster family, North immediately steps back on the plane and tells the pilots to floor it.

Live-Action TV

  • One of the victims in 1000 Ways to Die is a young man named Jebediah, a Naïve Newcomer going through the Rumspringa coming of age rites. The dude happens to go out for it in Halloween for it and is roped into going to a Halloween party, since people think he's only disguised as an Amish. Poor Jebediah then gets piss drunk... and dies of alcohol poisoning, since he was born without the enzyme that allows the liver to process alcohol
  • An episode of Cold Case is centered on an Amish family whose eldest daughter was killed.
  • Judging Amy has a case in which an Amish girl gets pregnant by an outsider, then the dad sues for sole custody.
  • The crime drama Banshee takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania Amish country. The main antagonist is the local crime lord Kai Proctor who comes from the local Amish community but has been shunned by them for years due to his criminal lifestyle. Despite this he still shows many aspects of his Amish upbringing including the way he dresses and talks. He also takes it very badly when some rednecks harass and insult the local Amish. He clearly still deeply respects the Amish beliefs and lifestyle while having rejected them in his own life.
  • Played with on an episode of Bones, where one of the Amish boys out on his Rumspringa is found dead due to a burglary-gone-wrong, and who was torn about going back to his community due to his love of, and skill with, playing piano. His parents decide to watch a video of one of his performances with his roommates on a DVD-player at the end of the episode.
  • On My Name Is Earl, there is a settlement of people known as the Camdenites. They split off from the Amish over what constitutes acceptable technology. Even the wheel is too much tech for the Camdenites! They get around by a kind of sled-buggy, that is pulled by a horse in the front and pushed by several men in the back, shovel straw for the horses using...well, a shovel instead of a pitchfork, and slaughter animals for food by bludgeoning them with a hammer, among other things. They have a Rite of Passage for women when they turn 21, where they are allowed to experience The Outside World, with the choice to come back and embrace the Camdenite lifestyle, or stay in The Outside World and live a modern "normal" life. Earl and Randy used this every year to their advantage: they passed themselves off as being from a similar group outside of the nearby town of Nathanville, in order to get these women to trust them, took them out to bars and such, and then had sex with them. They liked it so much, they all decided to leave the village, leading to the Camdenites being in danger of going extinct due to an insufficient number of women of childbearing age. To make up for it, Earl has to protect the Preacher's Kid. He isn't successful in getting her to go back to her village, but his ex-wife Billie ends up becoming a Camdenite when she uses their land to hide out from the law.
  • On Orange Is the New Black, Leanne Taylor is an ex-Amish inmate. (She can speak their particular dialect of German, although is not well-versed in many matters of the modern "English" world.) She left the community for a time as part of Rumspringa, and experimented with methamphetamines and partied with other ex-Amish teens. She, however, decided to go back to the community, but when she was caught with the drugs, she became The Informant, got shunned by her community (for ratting on the children of respected members of said community), and ran away from home to save her family's honor, getting arrested shortly thereafter for unknown (although probably drug-related) reasons. After other inmates learn about her past, they make jokes referencing Witness, which Leanne in annoyance says had many innacuracies.


  • Weird Al's song and music video "Amish Paradise," a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise". The facts presented in the song are in fact technically correct, though naturally presented in humorous fashion. Given the tone of the song, it's almost certainly playful satire. Further lampshaded on a segment of ALtv, where Al, after the video played, declared: "If I offended any Amish people out there, I just want to say... you're not supposed to be watching TV! What are you doing?... Get back to work!"


  • The Bob & Tom Show featured a band called The Electric Amish, who sing Amish-themed parodies of classic rock songs (such as Barn to be Wild, Give Me Three Pigs, Proud Gretta, and Black Bonnet Girls). They also tell terrible Amish jokes in between verses and take frequent shots at Mennonites. The incompatibility of a batch of Amish guys forming a rock group is frequently lampshaded by them not knowing that they're on air or telling each other to hide from the local parson. The general idea is that they're basically everyman type characters who happen to be Amish, but there are definitely jokes at the culture's expense.

Western Animation

  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory sent Dexter to what he thought was a summer camp at a high-tech farm, but turned out to be an Amish farm run by a very morose and boring family whose idea of fun was churning butter. Sent into withdrawal by the lack of science, Dexter built a potato-powered lamp, and the family accused him of being a witch and tried to have him tarred and feathered.
  • This is naturally the focus of the Family Guy episode "Amish Guy" with the following speech accurately summarizing the portrayal. "Dear Amish Lord, thou looketh sternly down upon us thine flock, even though we did not do anything wrong and have been doing chores like (bleep) crazy, please make us humble, and deliver us more hardship, that we may get thick, calloused hands, much larger than other people's. And grant that we become dull, like Eric Bana, who we have never seen, but are just going by reputation because it is your will. We solemnly believe that although humans have been around for a million years, you feel strongly that they had just the right amount of technology between 1835 and 1850; not too little, not too much. Please deliver us from Thomas Edison, the worst human being who ever lived. And protect us from those who laugh at our buggies or our hats and deliver us from mustaches. Amen."

Jehovah's Witnesses

Generally used as the punchline of something or other, much like the Krishnas. Everyone knows of them, but no one knows anything about them.note  The only thing that seems to be widely known about JW's, in fact, is that everybody hates them, and so it's okay to pick on them.

  • Jehovah's Witnesses have no secret beliefs, and are more than happy to talk about them; if you actually want to know what they believe, it's not that difficult to find out. In fact, the jokes are more often about trying to get them to keep their beliefs secret when they come knocking.
  • What is known about them is pretty funny to some. They stay politically neutral. They preach door to door. Some find this as harassment. They don't celebrate birthdays or Christmas due to its origins. They also don't accept blood transfusions due to them following a Bible text that says to abstain from drinking blood.
    • The general idea of the Witnesses is to live by Biblical values considered by them to be of divine origin, and to discuss with others how these values can benefit everyone, hence the name. By personal experience, these conversations touch upon different topics, from history, science, moral values, philosophy, political science, literary analysis, current events, family life, and the Bible. The Bible touches on all these topics (e.g.: Job, Daniel, Matthew).
    • Harassment is what it seems like if you go out of your way to avoid talking to them, because they keep coming back until they get a hold of you. If you actually speak to them and ask them not to come back, they put you on a list of people to stay away from. The rest of that is all true.

Unitarian Universalism:

Unitarians, though a relatively small religious group, tend to get poked fun of primarily for "believing nothing" and "questioning everything". This is a gross over-simplification of the modern Unitarian avoidance of dogma and strict religious rules that other religions have. Of course, a large portion of its adherents are wealthy/white/gay/hippy-ish/all of the above anyways, so there are a number of Acceptable Targets to shoot at. It also helps that Unitarians tend to laugh louder than anyone at the jokes. It doesn't help that few people know what the heck a Unitarian is, even though it was a prominent Christian sect of the 19th Century (and four Presidents - John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and William Howard Taft - were counted as members). Psst: Unitarian Universalism is a merging of two churches. Unitarianism is the belief in a unified Christian God rather than a Trinity: Universalism is that every person will be saved.

Despite the comparatively laid-back nature of the religion, Unitarians can attract some genuine rancor-either from other Christians accusing Christian Unitarians of not being real Christians, or Atheists assuming that Christian Unitarians share the same beliefs and attitudes of any other Christians. Many Unitarians aren't Christians (no dogma, remember) and some are even atheists.


  • A joke at some Unitarian churches: "Why are Unitarians so bad at singing? Because we're always reading ahead to see if we agree with the lyrics."
  • A good example of the anti-dogma jokes: "For Unitarians, "tradition" is how you did it last year. "Firmly established tradition" is when it holds on for two years. After three years, it's "The way we've always done it.""
  • Another joke:
    What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness?
    Someone who knocks on your door, but doesn't know why
  • A columnist for SFgate wrote an essay detailing the Unitarian Jihad. Filled with jokes about how everything gets decided by committee vote, it was quickly picked up by Unitarians themselves who created sites like the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator.
  • Q: How do you know you've pissed off a Unitarian? A: There's a burning question mark in your yard.
  • Q: Why are there no UU's in Heaven? A: They were given a choice between going to Heaven and going to a discussion group about the existence of Heaven.
  • "I went to a Unitarian church. The only time I heard mention of Jesus is when somebody fell down a flight of stairs."
  • Members of the United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination, joke that UCC actually stands for "Unitarians Considering Christ."

Live-Action TV

  • On one episode of M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter calls the head of chaplains at the Pentagon to lobby for Father Mulcahey to get a promotion. After the call goes through, Colonel Potter says "He answers his own phone, must be a Unitarian."
  • A stage manager character on The Colbert Report is a UU. The show poked fun at the character's agnosticism and his celebration of multiple holidays in a bit that a Unitarian Universalist website called "humorously accurate."
  • Colbert has also joked that UU “sacred texts include the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Free to Be You and Me.”

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons:
    • At the church ice cream social, Reverend Lovejoy asks Lisa if she wants to try the new "Unitarian flavor ice cream". She gets handed an empty bowl and says "But there's nothing there." The Reverend responds with a smug "Exactly."
    • Another joke is when Bart goes over to Rod and Todd Flanders and plays the only video game they have, "Billy Graham's Bible Blaster". The goal is to shoot Bibles at cavemen and other heretics to convert them. It leads to this joke:
      Bart: Aw man I missed"
      Todd: Nah, you just winged him. Now he's a Unitarian.

Episcopalians and The Church Of England:

Often seen as ineffectual "anything goes" types who will completely contradict their own dogma whenever its convenient. That's if people still aren't cracking jokes about Henry VIII. In America, WASP jokes will do.

Interestingly, Henry VIII's official declaration of the Church of England was, while of course related to divorce, a final move in a several-century game of poaching control of national churches from one another by popes and kings. Strictly speaking, since the old Roman church withered to nothing in the Dark Ages and the pope at Rome only started recentralizing after the institution general was healthy again, the pope poached first. Medieval kings of England had control over things like appointing bishops, and never quite felt they'd lost the right.

Comic Books

  • Bishop Lilliman from V for Vendetta. While people generally associate pedophilia with the Catholic priests, here an Anglican Bishop is shown to be similar. Every Sunday, he hires an underage girl, has her brought to the cathedral, and does... things. Pat Mills, cited this scene with special relish. Noting how unfair it was that the Anglican Church rarely gets the satire it deserves despite being, in his opinion, just as hypocritical as the other churches. According to him, Moore's satire of Bishop Lilliman is quite accurate and apposite to Anglican tradition.


  • Robin Williams on his own Episcopal faith:
    I'm an Episcopalian. That's like Catholic Lite. All the ritual, half the guilt!
  • Eddie Izzard has his brilliant Church of England monologue, as well.
    • I choose death! Wait! No! Cake!

Web Original

  • Babylon Bee uses Episcopalians as their go-to punching bag for jokes about Christians who have, in their view, hopelessly sold out to the secular left.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons shows an Episcopal church with vibrating pews.
  • In American Dad!, the family is Episcopalian; since Stan is often The Fundamentalist, that actually goes against the usual stereotype. Their priest, however, is consistently shown as being very apathetic (and apparently atheistic, given a line in "Rapture's Delight").

Mainline Protestants

Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and non-evangelical Baptists (if they're not feuding) and their splinter groups are often times depicted as bland and interchangeable, assuming they're not The Fundamentalist. Expect tiny churches, beige decor, lots of small-town gossip, big zany hats, rehashing of generic WASP stereotypes...and less emphasis on actual religion than on squeaky-clean socializing, usually involving a carnival (not necessarily a crappy one, but pretty boring in either case), a picnic (with men wearing straw hats and ladies playing croquet if a work is set in the Gay Nineties) or a potluck supper organized by lodge brothers in those funny "Turkish" hats; watch vintage live-action Disney movies or "family" films from the 1950s or '60s if you want to see these stereotypes in action. African American churches are considered somewhat exempt because of their role in the civil rights movement and for being less "vanilla" than Protestants of other races (although there are some very staid, and even stern, black Protestant churches out there), but they might still be chewed out on some of the more contentious issues (homophobia, gossip, phony faith healing, etc..) ; expect a loud, joyous, clapping choir, a flamboyant preacher, audience participation so involved people are fainting in the aisles...and even bigger, zanier hats. And while there are plenty of American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Asian (usually Hong Kongese, Korean or Burmese) Protestants out there, don't expect to see them in media unless a work is aiming for a realistic portrayal of Protestantism.

  • In case of Southern Baptists, see Deep South. Hyper-conservative (albeit not to the same extent as the Amish), fire-and-brimstone, and generally still acting like the Civil War and civil rights movement never happened (which is kind of unfair, since many evangelical Christian groups - including some in the South - were instrumental in helping to get slavery gradually abolished). On the other hand, they're usually also portrayed as intensely involved in and committed to the community - the entire population of an American South town going to the same church on Sunday, from the mayor to the dog catcher, is Truth in Television in parts of the South.
  • Christian teens are commonly the antagonists in a lot of teen programs (Saved, Easy A) or have to give up their beliefs to become a "better" person (Glee, Secret Life).
  • Commonly, kids in abstinence groups are portrayed as judgmental hypocrites (who may not have been taught enough about human sexual anatomy to realise they're being hypocritical); this possibly is meant to be critical of having opinions on sexually active peers, or criticizing the demonization of contraception, but usually comes off as being "abstinent is directly wrong," and that you are either stupid or selfish for not "doing it," and the advantages abstinence has over contraception (it's cheaper, has no side effects, and has more probability to work) are rarely brought up. note  However, most main female characters usually will be a virgin and proud of it, but never for religious reasons.
  • There's sometimes the belief in countries with a Catholic majority, like in Latin America for example, that all Protestant denominations, especially within the United States, are comprised of slightly backwards people who are usually very overdramatic and willing to dish out all their money to televangelists in exchange for salvation.


  • In Vampire in Brooklyn, Max manages to take the form of a flamboyant black preacher and convince an entire congregation to start singing "evil is good."

Live-Action TV

  • Shirley from Community sometimes enforces her beliefs on the rest of the group and even tries to force them to celebrate Christmas. Generally, she's one of the sweetest and most down-to-Earth characters, though.


  • Cynically invoked by Genesis song "Jesus, He knows me".



  • An obscure stage musical called Crowns is entirely centered around Black church ladies and their flamboyant hats. Inspired by a coffee-table photo book of the same title

Western Animation

  • The main characters of King of the Hill are Methodist, and generally fit the "religious for one hour per week" kind of trope. In one episode Bobby asks what exactly Methodism actually is—Hank looks panicked for a moment, and then we cut to them sitting in their reverend's office.
    Reverend Stroup: Methodism is a rejection of Calvinism.
    Hank: (already standing to leave) Ah. Uh, yeah. Huh. So Bobby, you heard her.
  • White, conservative, Middle American Christians are acceptable targets in Moral Orel. It's like an orgy of target acceptability — but when the whole point is to deconstruct these targets, it makes a little more sense. In fairness, Orel himself qualifies as the above, as does Christina — and Reverend Putty's love for his daughter shows that he's not to be considered a strawman. For that matter, Clay Puppington — for all his monstrous actions — had such a thoroughly miserable life that he literally doesn't know how good he could have it if he just tried. All in all, the cartoon digs into white, conservative, hypocritical Middle American Christians. And while the show pokes fun at some of the hypocrisy of said hypocrites, it actually goes out of its way to show the positive side of faith as well. Case in point: Not only does Orel's well-earned happy ending not involve him turning his back on his beliefs, but also shows that his faith played a huge role in him growing up to be a good and loving family man.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism"
    • "She of Little Faith" has this exchange.
      Bart: Still looking for a new faith?
      Lisa: Yep.
      Bart: Hey, how about one of those religions where you eat a human heart?
      Lisa: No.
      Bart: How about Methodist?
      Lisa: (Emphatically) No!
    • In "The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star", Reverend Lovejoy's church tries to dispel the stereotype that mainline Protestants are boring by taking Bart to a "Presbylutheran" theme park. Bart (a recently converted Catholic) isn't impressed, even after encountering Heavy Metal band Quiet Riot (having temporarily dubbed themselves "Pious Riot") performing "Christian" versions of their most popular songs. But then he sees the "Onward Paintball Soldiers" play area and goes nuts, firing globs of paint at everything in sight, including standees of Adam and Eve and a manger scene.

TV Ministries

TV ministers in fiction are pretty much universally portrayed as being big haired, overweight, obnoxious, materialistic, loudmouthed southerners who are corrupt as corrupt can be. They're in it more for the money than they are for the saving of souls. Their sermons are almost always accompanied by pleading with their followers to send in more money, or to commercials that allow their flock to purchase such "holy relics" as a set of "Last Supper Steak Knives", each engraved with the face of one of the apostles, or a set of "Mary and Joseph salt and pepper shakers" and the like. The worst of these preach what's known as "Prosperity theology," which holds that physical and financial well-being is a sign of God's favor - if you're wealthy, God loves you! If you're poor, you need to donate more money to the church (specifically their church) so that God will bless you.

  • Oddly averted in Good Omens, where one of the people Aziraphale possesses after getting his body destroyed and having to make his way back to England is Marvin O. Bagman, an American country singer turned TV preacher. Even though he hawks records of his album Jesus is My Buddy every four minutes on his show "Marvin's Hour of Power", and Bagman is described as an almost picture-perfect stereotype (with a show consisting of "four three-minute songs from the LP, twenty minutes of Hellfire, and five minutes of healing people" with "the remaining twenty-three minutes [...] spent alternately cajoling, pleading, threatening, begging, and occasionally simply asking for money"), he's also said to sincerely believe in God, and to spend most of the money he makes on what he believes to be God's work.
  • This got lampooned in God, the Devil and Bob in the very first episode, where Bob pitches an idea for a call-in show where people talk about the impact of God in their lives. The televangelist loves the idea... until he finds out there'd be no money in it, and tosses Bob out of the studio. This also helped turn off some viewers who would otherwise have enjoyed the show, making it Too Good to Last.
  • As mentioned above, the Genesis song "Jesus He Knows Me" is all about lampooning televangelists who demand money from their followers while not actually doing anything charitable with it (and who don't even practice what they preach). The video makes this even more explicit, with the televangelist demanding eighteen million dollars from his followers as he, behind the scenes, lives a corrupt, decadent lifestyle.
  • Dire Straits "Ticket to Heaven".
  • In Brazil, the thing is combined with the Latin stereotype of Protestants above - helps one of the country's biggest network stations is owned since the 80s by an Evangelical church.
  • The Righteous Gemstones deals with a Big, Screwed-Up Family of megachurch televangelists who are all massive hypocrites exploiting faith for their own gain.


It's been noted, with only marginal hyperbole, that one could count on one hand all the positive depictions of Jewish culture and Jewish people made by non-Jews before the 20th Century. Ironically enough, the most famous was Gotthold Lessing's Nathan the Wise, written in German (which was for obvious reasons, revived in a prominent production after World War II). After World War II revealed the harmful consequences of centuries of religious bigotry, open anti-Semitism is no longer acceptable, and in some places is proscribed by law as a hate crime. The de-ghettoization of Jews in the 19th and early 20th Century also led to a renaissance in Jewish culture which has led to aspects of Jewish culture and jokes entering the mainstream. This led to a range of relatively harmless stereotypes, mostly revolving on Jews Love to Argue and the complexity of Rabbinical discourse.

In the Middle East and Eastern Europe, anti-semitism remains common and in some cases is even on the rise. There it has more to do with the Arab–Israeli Conflict and resentment over military defeats and perceived Double Standard on the part of the West, in feeling guilty over anti-semitism and Jewish persecution rather than colonialism in the region. Among Eastern Europeans anti-semitism endures for a variety of complex reasons revolving around the Cold War and Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell. Since Israel has an active media as well, there the tension is between Secular Jews and Orthodox and Religious Jews.

It should be noted that Jews are often Acceptable Ethnic Targets, and are often represented as Hasids with big beards, peyes, and huge noses.

Live-Action TV

  • British TV comedy So Haunt Me was a pretty typical BBC sitcom of middle-class manners, about middle-class professional parents with the statutory 2.4 children moving into a new house in a smart suburb of north London. So far, so BBC Light Entertainment. But the North London suburb is somewhere in the Golders Green/Finchley area. (Which instantly paints a picture to British people: Golders Green is synonymous with British Judaism). Sure enough, the house is haunted. By Yetta Goldberg, its previous owner. Who stands there impassively as a Christian exorcism is conducted, remarking "Oi vey, have you got the wrong ghost". Over the three series, Yetta becomes Jewish Mother from Beyond The Grave to her adopted goyim family.

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons, Artie Ziff comes close to this, and there's lots of fun with Krusty's religion.
  • While Cartman will constantly rip on Kyle for his being Jewish in South Park, it isn't until Kyle's cousin, Kyle, shows up for a visit that we see a Jewish stereotype in all its glory.
    Stan: (Commenting on Kyle being "self-hating" for detesting Kyle's over-the-top nature) Dude, you are a stereotype!

Ultra-Orthodox Jews:

The ones about Jews are sort of true by a bizarre self-reinforcement effect. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews spend a lot of time and money telling all the other Jews that the only proper expression of Jewish culture, history, or heritage is an Orthodox lifestyle. So devout Jews tend to stay quiet around Gentiles and then turn annoyingly preachy around other members of their own faith.

  • Occasionally references will be made to Orthodox Jews having sex through a hole in a sheet. Orthodox Jews have no problems with sex or nudity... so long as it's happening between husbands and wives.
  • A common stereotype regarding the Ultra-Orthodox is that the men study Talmud all day, while the women are Apron Matron Action Moms who work multiple jobs and keep the house and kids in order, but who are still treated as inferiors no matter how much work they do. Although among certain denominations the first half of this is Truth in Television to an extent, it's exaggerated in comedy for no reason other than the Rule of Funny.


  • Among Gentiles, there are jokes about the multitude and detailedness of laws and customs that the Orthodox Jews adhere to, or some about Jewish Mothers, but generally the Jews fall into Once Acceptable Targets.


  • Israeli film-maker Amos Gitai made a film, Kadosh that was controversial for its criticism of Orthodox Judaism.


  • An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man is staying up all night, looking in every Jewish law book he can find. His friend asks him, "What are you doing?" He responds, "Trying to overturn the Gezeirah of Rabbeinu Gershom."note  His friend asks, "Why would you want to do that?" He responds, "We can't live on a single income anymore!"
  • On a hot summer day in Jerusalem, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man boards a bus. Looking around, he is annoyed to notice that the only seat available is next to a secular woman wearing what to him looks like practically no clothes at all. So he sits down, being careful not to be Distracted by the Sexy, and pulls an apple out of his bag. He hands it to the woman, who asks, "Why are you giving me an apple?" He responds, "Before Eve ate the apple, she didn't know she was naked." The woman is justifiably annoyed at this Deadpan Snarker and his Holier Than Thou attitude, and devises a plan. She boards the same bus the next day, and finds the man who insulted her the day before. She pulls out an apple from her purse, and hands it to him. Shocked and suspicious, he asks, "Why are YOU giving ME an apple?" She smugly responds, "Before Adam ate the apple, he didn't know he had to work."

Followers of the Kabbalah:

Blame Madonna. 'Nough said.


Since the Western media disproportionately influences the global media, the popular discourse of Islamic culture, as noted by academic Edward Saidnote  often derives from a cluttered associations of geographic stereotypes pertaining to "Arabian Nights" Days, Mystical India and various projections that fell under the rubric of Orientalism, dating back to The Crusades and stemming from the heyday of European colonialism, much of which remains Popcultural Osmosis despite the fact that both Crusades and Colonialism have been discredited.

It has also become an acceptable target among some leftists and some liberals in recent times, mostly as a fallout of the New Atheism movement where there is a contentious debate about Western criticism of Islam as a religion, and to the degree it is legitimate to satire and lampoon aspects of Islam especially when that criticism will largely be seen by a non-Muslim audience. As a result of the backlash against The Satanic Verses, the Jyllands-Posten controversy and most tragically, the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Muslims are perceived as a religious version of The Mafia: "If you're going to badmouth them, do it privately and very quietly; otherwise, they'll kill you." Nations which are Muslim majority are usually seen as The Theocracy and bereft of the liberal successes of the separation of the Church and State which needless to say is not born out by quite a few Muslim majority states in history and in the present. It's called a stereotype for a reason.

Usually, they're portrayed as all brown-skinned Arabs (or, occasionally, black Africans). So, if you're a white Muslim—a convert, or an Albanian or Bosnian, for example, or perhaps an Arab or Turk of partial Caucasian or Eastern European descent (there are a lot of those)—you officially do not exist. The same goes for Central Asian, East Asian, and Southeast Asian Muslims, despite the fact that three largest Muslim population nations (Indonesia, Pakistan, India) are not Arabic nations, culturally and ethnically, and in the case of India, not even a Muslim majority nation.note  The former Soviet Central Asian Republics were all nominally-Muslim with traditionally-Asian-looking populations, and China has a surprisingly large Muslim community, as well. Despite attempts to mount a big backlash against this, the trope still persists, especially since The War on Terror and ethnic strife in the Middle East remains a major geopolitical headache in the world.

Even before 9/11, a common portrayal of a Muslim male is that of a religious fanatic and sexist who wants nothing more than to spit on the American flag, cover up his wife (or wives), and chant threats in some Middle Eastern language (that is, if he's not making himself and everything around him go boom): however, 9/11 was followed by a rise in the aforementioned type of negative stereotyping. About the only positive representation of Islam in American culture before that, was perhaps Malcolm X. His controversial image was seen as a result of him being an Angry Black Man rather than a Muslim, and of course for the fact that he moderated after leaving the Nation of Islam, an American sect, in favour of mainstream Sunni Islam.


  • Perhaps an edited Jeff Foxworthy bit will help illustrate:
    "...the thing is, southerners Muslims are as smart (peaceful, tolerant, etc.) as anybody else in this country, our only problem is we just can't keep the most ignorant amongst us off the television."
  • Russell Peters also has a good one:
    "The ones you see on the news are the rednecks, that's why their Arabic is so bad! I'm pretty sure they show nothing but Springer in the Middle East, and there's a guy going "Look at them, they're stupid! He's fucking his own cousin!"
  • Jeff Dunham's Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Besides the name and accent, he calls God Allah, wears a turban, and is constantly threatening to kill people. The implication is that he died in a suicide bombing.
  • At one point in one of his stand-up shows, Dara O'Briain — an outspoken atheist — mentions being challenged by Christians who accuse him of being too "scared" to make jokes about Muslims where he'll happily make jokes about Christianity. To which he replies:
    "There's two reasons why I don't make jokes about Muslims. One: I don't know a single fuckin' thing about Muslims. And two: neither do you."
    • As an example, he mentions that he could make a perfect Muslim joke which would fall flat since most of the audience to his gigs wouldn't get it, and mentions something about a golden horse that comes over a hill once a year delivering cake to children as an off-the-cuff example. He then apologizes to any Muslim members of the audience, who are presumably at that point wondering what on earth he's talking about with this golden horse nonsense.
  • UK-born stand-up comic Shazia Mirza, who is of Pakistani descent, opens her act with"
    "Hello, my name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's licence."


  • Pretty much anything by John Ringo and his sometime partner Tom Kratman although Ringo has modified his portrayal slightly in more recent works.
  • Played straight with the fundamentalist faction in Robert Ferrigno's Assassin trilogy but averted with the moderate and modern factions. Interestingly the most positive portrayals of devout Muslims are all women. Also interestingly no mention is made of the real life Sunni/Shiite divide.
  • In Larry Niven's The Goliath Stone a character who was a victim of genital mutilation, when asked how it happened just says "I was raised Muslim", which ignores the fact that female genital mutilation is a cultural, not a religious phenomenon. Furthermore it is unlikely to have been done to her since her parents were second generation immigrants to the US and presumably acculturated enough. Plus she's Kurdish and that practice is very rare in Iraq.
  • Islam is presented as a false schism of Christianity by The Divine Comedy, a move that audiences found uncontroversial until the twentieth century brought the Comedy to a far more Christo-skeptical audience.
  • Without Warning: America is all but destroyed, and the Middle East turns into a bloodbath, as well as a long-running plot to conquer France through immigration.
  • Ira Tabankin is also highly critical and suspicious of Islam. See The Last Crusade or America on Fire. The worst has to be In the Year 2050: America's Religious Civil War where an American-Muslim majority and the first (openly) Muslim president leads automatically to Sharia law, weekly terror bombings etc.

Live-Action TV

  • Sayid Jarrah on Lost is mostly an exception — while he is a very flawed person, he's no more screwed up than the rest of the characters and generally portrayed sympathetically.
  • Lie to Me had an episode related to radical Muslim bombings, and the characters were treated in a highly sympathetic manner. In the end, it turned out to be the cousin of one of the victims who was planting bombs in the money collecting tins carried by the young members of the church, which horrified the rest of the community. They discussed quite frankly the fact that people distrusted the Muslim community, even though the majority of them, even the most conservative ones, were appalled at what happened and mourning the loss of two of their young members that were killed while carrying the bombs without knowing it. It contrasted the government's view of the 'bombers' with the view of people who were able to see and interpret the facial expressions of all the people involved.
  • JAG: Fanatic and outright anti-American Muslims with hostile intentions were always legitimate villains on this show. However, Muslims who did not express an open anti-American sentiment were portrayed very favorably.
  • Sitcom Citizen Khan followed the life of a Pakistani immigrant in Birmingham and his British-born family. It humanised British Muslims through the device of a family patriarch who was depicted as being every bit a Jerkass as any native white citizen. Mr Khan was xenophobic, pompous, and pretty much an Asian Alf Garnett - he found it hard to believe a white Brit could be a proper Muslim, for instance, and looked down on Muslims who weren't Pakistani. What saved him was a streak of well-hidden human decency and a lovable bumbling ineptitude about anything he did.

Western Animation

  • Subverted with Comedy Central. South Park thought that the censorship of Muhammad would be an acceptable target. They were wrong. Comedy Central censored them hard. Recently, they've become a much less acceptable target. Yet inverted in making a statement on the violent reaction to the Mohammed cartoons. And subverted in that South Park's depictions of Mohammed (their first was in the "Super Best Friends" episode, which got through unscathed) are neutral at worst, with the censored one even getting an In-Universe comment of "He was just standing there like a normal guy". And it's worth noting that a big reason Comedy Central censored the "Cartoon Wars" version was the receipt of death-threats from extremist Muslim groups before it even aired.
  • Oran Najir, one of the heroes of Broken Saints, is a devoutly Muslim terrorist/freedom fighter from Baghdad, Iraq, whose fundamentalist Qu'ran-spouting father is named Osama. Sound a bit much? Check this: The series (and therefore the character) began before 9/11, and ended shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. As a matter of fact, the character and his story was written in response to the behavior of the U.S. towards Iraq in between the Gulf Wars, especially in the 1990s. The significance of Osama's name is unknown, because he is never named in the series, and so the timing is difficult to tell.
    • As for Oran's actual characterization, he is actually depicted as a man whose religious beliefs are shown in conflict with his violent behavior. The series charts his journey to overcome his crisis of faith, and indeed, later on, his faith actually helps strengthen him in battle.


Eastern religions


The only surviving classical polytheisticnote  religion from the ancient to the modern era. It survives and is a major world religion with a billion plus adherents. It survived while other polytheistic faiths in Mesopotamia to Central Asia, the Middle East, Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Germanic and Slavonic paganism faded away at least in their classical form. This is because for most of its history, it was concentrated on the Indian Subcontinent and relatively isolated from the rest of the world. It only became known across the world during The British Empire. Stereotypes about Hinduism often overlapped with colonialist and imperialist-era racism, a fact that Hindus are extremely touchy about to this day, because in their eyes, most Western portrayals of their faith, whether positive or negative, is at best Entertainingly Wrong and worst, on account of Small Reference Pools of writers simply using old Imperial stereotypes (a side-effect of American Anglophilia), indistinguishable from colonialist propaganda.

Most portrayals in the West, from the Victorian to the modern era, tend to focus on the most bizarre, un-Abrahamic nature of the Hindu faith, like the idolatry, the multiple deities, the heavy ritualization and the perceived remoteness. Aspects of Hinduism are often conflated with Buddhism with many portrayals, even the positive ones, going on about finding Nirvana while chanting some pseudo-Hindu prayers.note  Likewise, their pantheon is populated by countless avatars (that's physical manifestations of gods, not blue-striped monkey aliens or masters of all the elements!) that resemble unusual animals and various grotesque multi-armed beings, even although avatars are not common and/or emphasized in all Hindu schools (rather the opposite, in fact). There's also the fact that Hinduism is more a collection of various beliefs and rituals with immense regional variations.

The close association with the 1960s counterculture (thank you, George Harrison) is also a liability. Victorian era fiction made much about sati and the Thugee cult, and of course the British needed some specially reprehensible practise to scapegoat an entire culture, never mind that neither were widespread or generally representative, or without criticism from within. Some people still argue that this is practised and ongoing in India, despite the fact that the Indian government has put a stop to that sort of thing and it is entirely illegal.

Portrayals of Hinduism is often associated with a range of stereotypes about India, despite the fact that Hinduism spread far and greatly syncretized in nations like Indonesia, Cambodia, the Fiji and even the Caribbean Islands (as a result of migrant workers settled there by the English). Another stereotype that is a common Berserk Button is the Everybody Hates Hades treatment of Kali. Kali is a popular goddess in India, especially in Bengal, and she is associated with a range of positive qualities and her symbolism of death is meant to indicate acceptance and transition.

Other stereotypes, especially in India, have to do with caste, with Indian intellectuals like B. R. Ambedkar arguing that it was an inherent part of the faith while others point out that since there was rarely an organization enforcing a common program unlike other faiths, this varied with region and time and place. The bigger issue is vegetarianism, where many Indians find the stereotype in the West about vegetarians being pacifist and tolerant types hilarious on account of the often nasty and violent tensions that flare up across India, with various governments trying to enforce vegetarianism by force and forbidding Christians and Muslims from eating meat or restricting it. As Empire history buffs know, the fact that some cartridges may have been coated with animal fat was one of the reasons for the bloody 1857 Mutiny among its own Sepoys, so it is Serious Business indeed.

On account of Flawless Token, some negative aspects of Hinduism is entirely forgotten or neglected. For instance, many assume that it's a religion of non-violence like Buddhism, on account of the world's most famous Hindu, and most famous Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, forgetting that the latter was not a mainstream Hindu in his time and afterwards, confirmed by the fact that he was assassinated by a Hindu zealot. Indian media, thanks to government censorship, generally walks on eggshells around Hinduism, but even then Hindu fundamentalists are generally regarded with scorn as being fanatic saffron-wearing Lower-Class Lout misogynists who want to dial the clock back as far as possible (and who, ironically enough, often enforce a less pure version of Hinduism than they believe). For some reason, extremist Hinduism hardly receives some of the same approbation from Western critics of Islam, despite the fact that it shares much of the same defects (sexism, hypocrisy, victim-blaming, and intolerance of criticism) as well as Monumental Damage (such as the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1991, which preceded the Taliban destruction of the Buddha statues and the stuff that ISIS got up to in The New '10s). This is likely because, outside of South Asia, Hinduism (and thus fanatical Hindus) barely exists, in contrast with Islam or Christianity, as they both are global religions.


  • Devi by Satyajit Ray got into a lot of trouble for its use of Hindu religious imagery for Religious Horror.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which the "good" hindus worship Shiva and the "bad" hindus follow Kali, who is represented as a evil Satan-like Goddess. Apparently someone forgot to tell Spielberg that Kali was Shiva's wife, and the Punisher of Evil. Mostly, it's because of Dated History, in that it cites the Thuggee Cult updated to the late 1930s. The Thuggee apparently did worship Kali but they were always a fringe and unrepresentative group.

Live-Action TV

  • In Outsourced, many members of the main cast are Hindu and it's never depicted in a negative light outside of a few prudish ideals.
  • Raj Koothrapali in The Big Bang Theory is an Indian Hindu. While he is allowed moments to defend his religion, against snide cracks by Howard, or Sheldon's presumption that he knows the specifics of Hinduism well enough to correct Raj, he is often taken to task for simultaneously believing cows are sacred whilst having no problems with eating beefsteaks and burgers. Raj also confidently believes that the more time he spends putting up with Sheldon in this life, in the next, karma will reward him by allowing him to be reborn as a well-hung billionaire with wings.
  • British sketch-show Goodness Gracious Me is presented as sketches on Asian life performed by British-Asian comedians. Hinduism comes in for its share of mordant observation, but like much Jewish humour, this is acceptable as it comes from "within the family" in the form of comedians Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Seaal.
    • The successor show The Kumars At Number Fifty-Two takes British-Indian Hindu family life a step further.
  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah often brings up in a couple of sketches, some of the lesser known stuff about Hinduism, such as the racism, by Gandhi and other Indian settlers in South Africa.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons, Apu constantly references (and jokes about) his Hindu faith, but is also a fully fleshed-out character, with various beliefs and habits outside his religion.
    "Please do not offer my god a peanut."
    • Indian viewers generally find Apu's combination of parsimony and mercantilism to be a deadly accurate portrayal of Brahmin hypocrisy.
  • An episode of South Park has a gentle (at least for South Park) parody of various religious figures as superheroes, and Krishna (a Hindu deity) steals the show as a nearly nude guy with periwinkle-blue skin who can change himself into various animals.


Eastern Buddhists are certainly subject to stereotyping like any other group, but for the most part, western media takes it pretty easy on them due to their perceived emphasis in peace and spiritual ascetism. Indeed, sometimes their portrayal as peaceniks overlooks the fact that plenty of Buddhist countries are also proud warrior cultures, with wars against other faiths and persecution of them having occurred.

Western converts, on the other hand, are given far less mercy. Expect them to be universally portrayed as New Age Retro Hippies, Bourgeois Bohemians, or granola girls/guys, when not hypocritical poseurs who adhere to a faith they don't understand in the search of moral superiority. Having some of them claim that Buddhism is "not a religion, but a lifestyle" is opening a can of worms.

In Japan, Buddhism acquired a somewhat sleazy image in the 80s thanks to some highly publicised scandals involving the financial misdeeds of major sects. Buddhist clergymen in Japanese fiction tend to be characterized as either humorous drunkards and dirty old men (in comedic works) or creepy, corrupt priests with hidden twisted desires (in more serious works, especially horror-oriented). The boom of Onmyōdō fiction often featured all of those traits in both heroic and villainous characters, and it helped to cement the impression that even in the best case, Japanese Buddhists are less-than-holy people that spend their time doing scary stuff.

It doesn't help either that Japanese Buddhism has somewhat of a reputation not to observe closely the rule about celibacy, which includes prostitution and ancient traditions of master-disciple homosexual relationships (called nenja and chigo). This attracted harsh criticism from Christian missionaries the 16th century and was the cause of a lot of ribald humor in medieval Japan's pop culture, even spawning an entire genre of comedy named chigo monogatari.


  • Otto, from A Fish Called Wanda, also claims to be Buddhist... although he's probably a sect of one within the religion proper...
    • He's also at least partially just an idiot putting on airs, since it's revealed in a confrontation with his girlfriend that he doesn't actually appear to really understand or even know a lot of the philosophy he claims to practice.
      Wanda: The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself."


Live-Action TV

  • Inara in Firefly... Or do space Buddhist hookers not count?
    • Then again, her Buddhism is informed at best and gets mocked on the one occasion it's brought up ("Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocket, and...").
  • Edina in Absolutely Fabulous, although what is being sent up is not Buddhism itself, but the self-absorbed, content-free version of Buddhism often associated in the media with Buddhists in the West.
  • Pierce Hawthorne on Community believes himself to be a "Born-Again Buddhist". He's actually in a vague, Church of Happyology cult.

Western Animation

  • On South Park, God is a Buddhist. And yet only Mormons are allowed into heaven. Saddam Hussein also gets sent there, but it's a punishment.
  • Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender, in which the hero's culture is based on Tibetan Buddhism. The series is loaded with Buddhist principles, as well as Hinduism and Taoism.
  • On one episode of Family Guy, Buddhism is called a religion that "annoying white guys" practice.


Of the five largest religions in India, Sikhism seems to be (along with Jainism, which you can note is not even featured in the article) the one that most Westerners know nothing about. In fact, a lot of them don't even know what a Sikh is. Due to their beards and turbans, they often get mistaken for Muslims, despite the fact that the two faiths have nothing to do with each other, so events like 9/11 have led to increases in attacks against Sikhs. But since Sikhs don't get a lot of media attention in the West, anti-Sikhism is rarely addressed. And then there's the issue of the kirpan, a small dagger that Sikhs must carry at all times, but which in fact only traditionalists do. Most Sikhs, even the ones who wear turbans, assimilate heavily into modern society and habits.

In Indian media, the stereotype is them being small town yokels (never mind the many urban entrepreneurs and countless small restaurant owners across India) and Boisterous Bruiser types who dance at weddings (which by the way, in no small part, inspired the Bollywood dancing trope that Westerners associate with India).



  • A Sikh family appears The Casual Vacancy, including the character Sukhvinder who gets mocked and bullied for her uncut body hair. J. K. Rowling claimed to have done her research on Sikhism, but the way she described Sukhvinder sparked a lot of protests from the Sikh community.

Live-Action TV

  • What Would You Do?:
    • In one episode, a situation was shown with an interviewer being prejudiced against job applicants for their religious attire—a Jew in a kippah, a Muslim in a hijab and a Sikh in a turban. The first two got their fair share of support from bystanders, but almost no one stood up for the Sikh.
    • Averted in a later segment where a sales clerk refused to sell a suit to a Sikh man because he mistook him for a Muslim, not even caring when the Sikh corrected him. This time, just about everyone was on the Sikh's side.

New religious movements


One of the more recent religions in Western society, Scientology is no stranger to controversy. It's often portrayed in media as a Path of Inspiration and a very litigious one at that. Part of this can be traced to the fact that its core beliefs involve a historical interstellar war and aliens and its founder was a science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard. In addition, Hubbard joked more than once that he founded Scientology to turn a profit, and the fact remains that how high one rises and how much of Scientology's beliefs one learns depends half on how much money one gives them (the other half is how long they have been Scientologists). However Scientology is rarely named or called out directly in fiction. The reason for this is that the aggressively litigious element is somewhat Truth in Television (emphasis on aggressive); some of its higher-ranking members tend to be quick to call in lawyers, sometimes many, and start suing people whenever someone says anything that could be construed as a negative statement about Scientology, or directly names Scientology without endorsing it, either in front of them or on a public forum. It's at the point that Scientology often becomes The Scottish Trope in fiction or some online communities, even on This Very Wiki, which is why the Church of Happyology trope exists (and why This Very Wiki doesn't have a Useful Notes Scientology page).

Despite cases such as these, some works still manage to stick in a blatant Xenu reference without being sued into oblivion. Also, there are Scientologists who hold the religion's beliefs, but are opposed to the church and its founder's actions. These people are called Freezoners.

In Belgium, Scientology is the religious equivalent of the drug mafia. This is mainly because there was once an investigation on the sect from 1999 until 2007 that brought to light that they defraud, extort, betray, go against the practices of trade, illegally practice medicine, go against the practices of privacy and participate with criminal organisations. The case was dismissed in 2016, with the judge saying the suit was brought about as a result of religious prejudice and the prosecutors had been too vague in their case. In Germany, the Church of Scientology is under blanket scrutiny by law as it is classified as a cult, and similar scrutiny has also emerged in many other nations where Scientology is practiced.

Live-Action TV

  • Dinosaurs had a subtle jab at this as well, with "L. Mother Hubbard" advertising his book "Dino-Netics: The Science of Selling Books". Nice little two-fer for comparing L. Ron to a fairy-tale teller, and the idea that he only wrote the book to SELL the book.
  • In the second episode of Californication, Hank is talking to a woman whose husband just left her for another man. Hank sympathetically says, "Well, it could be worse. He could have left you for a Scientologist." The woman then says, "I'm a Scientologist."

Video Games

  • The "Hubologists" from Fallout. This series actually went so far as to having the Hubologist 'celebrity spokespeople' "Juan Cruz" and "Vikki Goldman" tell you that their religion was not, in fact, connected or based in any way, shape or form upon any group in the real world.
    • They return in Fallout 4 Nuka-World DLC, With Dara Hubbell who happen be the descendant to founder of cult, come to Nuka-World of finding functioning spaceship.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • The Epsilon Program in almost all Grand Theft Auto games. In the words of their leader, Cris Fromage, they "tithe money in exchange for salvation and merit badges," and their success may be partially attributed to their leader's charismatic, James Earl Jones-esque voice. Oh, and their holy text, the Epsilon Tract, has never even been written. Kifflom!
    • In Grand Theft Auto IV, Some of Brandon Roberts's ranting on PLR was a parody of Tom Cruise's incoherent interviews. He tosses in a subtle San Andreas Continuity Nod, despite the fact that Rockstar says there isn't a continuity between the two; he never mentions the Epsilon Group by name, but he tosses out a "Kifflom."
    • In Grand Theft Auto V they play a major role for one of three main characters Michael that includes entire series of sub-missions involving Michael joining the Epsilon program, allowing a deeper insight into the cult than ever before. Plus cult converts you from an "antithesis" to a "thesis" through illicit favors, inane brainwashing rituals, and hefty, HEFTY donations (starting at $500 and escalating to $50,000!). Conversely, people who are looked down upon are referred to as "Objectionable Persons" instead of "Suppresive Persons."


  • The Order of the Stick had a subtle jab at Scientology (or more accurately, at one of its basic books, "Dianetics") in this strip.
  • Word of God is that Kano's parents in Kagerou were Scientologists, which goes a long way towards explaining why Kano started the story in a mental hospital and things proceeded to get worse as time went on (to the point that he has multiple personalities running around inside his head, though at least one of said personalities (Red) wound up there for totally unrelated reasons).

Web Original

  • Type "Chanology" on Google, and you'll see how and why the entire Internet 4chan Anonymous is currently at war against the Church of Scientology!
  • Not to mention the Anonymous protests at L. Ron Hubbard's birthday, almost single-handedly bringing Anon into the public eye, although they tend to be taken too seriously by newsgroups.
  • This hilarious Animutation, although obviously played "for the lulz", was taken seriously by none other than Tom Cruise himself. So the animutation now has a legal disclaimer.
  • The parody game Supreme Deities Jesus Dressup! not only features a caricature of the supposed "galactic emperor" Xenu, but also features the logo of Scientology on his robe. This is alongside outfits that allow you to dress up Jesus as Satan, various pagan deities, Jim Jones, and Cthulhu.

Western Animation

  • South Park might have had the best laugh possible about Scientology—they simply animated what the Scientologist beliefs are—that is, that the evil intergalactic space overlord Xenu placed a bunch of space rebels into spaceships that looked like McDonell-Douglas DC-8 jetliners, dumped them in volcanoes on Earth in the prehistoric past, killed them all with nuclear weapons, and that the ghosts of these dead space rebels are the cause of everything bad that ever happens to us. Oh, and humans are really space-gods, but these ghosts infesting us are causing us to be mortal. They even had a huge sign flash on screen during this segment—This is what Scientologists actually believe.
    • However, the story of Xenu (also known as the "Wall of Fire" or "Incident II"), while no doubt a part of the Scientology belief system, does not make up the entire crux of Scientology. It's like saying one of the Bible stories is the entire basis of Christian belief, despite other numerous sources. Still, there's quite a lot of solid evidence that the foundation seeks just to milk potential believers for their money, rather than genuine belief.
      • It does form the entire basis for the auditing process, which is one of Scientology's most sacred and most common rituals, and explains where evil thoughts come from. It may not be the entire crux of Scientology, but it is a major part of it, much like, say, Exodus (and the 10 Commandments contained therein) is a major part of Judaism and Christianity. The really screwed up part of it, though, is that, despite it being such a large part of Scientology's belief system, the average Scientologist doesn't find out about it until they've already invested years upon years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the religion.
    • Their earlier episode, "Super Best Friends" featured the David Blain-based religion "Blaintology" that existed to sell his book and get non-profit status. So many things that are so similar to The Religion Which Shall Not Be Named.
  • Futurama: in the year 3000 Trekkies became an organized religion, described in one gag as "The sci-fi religion that doesn't take away all your money". What could they be referring to?


An acceptable enough target that even on this very wiki, the tendency is to say "they're just doing it to piss people off", reflecting the shallowest possible understanding of the religion.

The Church of Satan founded by Anton LaVey, the most known true Satanist school, published the "Eleven Rules of the Earth", most of which are explicitly devoted to not pissing others off and minding your own business. For example, not giving opinions or advice unless you are asked, not complaining about anything to which you need not subject yourself, and not killing non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food. However, the religion's popular image is still heavily influenced by the old Satanic panic, meaning those humanistic aspects are very likely to be ignored in favor of skulls, metal music, Goths, psychos and human sacrifices. Even if a work shows that it has a pretty good handle of the fact that Satanism is not devil worship, expect the portrayal to be equivalent to the most jaded atheist, plus kookiness.


Live-Action TV

  • Silicon Valley: Gilfoyle is probably the most sympathetically portrayed Satanist in modern media. He is of course still portrayed as incredibly cynical, but due to the nature of the show, he's proven right more often than not. He's also generally shown to be competent, to the extent of being the Only Sane Man at times. However, his involvement in Satanism is usually portrayed as rather silly.


Neopagans and Followers of New Age beliefs:

Perhaps because New Age = The Force - The Dark Side, those are portrayed as the most unsympathetic of Cloudcuckoolanders, with a huge side order of Granola Girl, unable to finish a sentence without mentioning crystals, auras, star signs, vibrations, past lives, and/or spirit guides. Also note that the media — this article, for instance — lumps Neopagans, such as Wiccans, in with "New Agers." (When it doesn't portray them as having made a pact with Satan, that is.)

One of their major stereotypes is the "I'll hex/magically cause suffering to/curse you if you cross me" one, which actually goes against the Rule of Three held by many Wiccans.note  Alternatively, they'll be ruthless con artists cynically manipulating people into buying All-Natural Snake Oil through a veneer of self-righteous airy-fairy drivel. That's in part because of the number of prominent ones who actually are. Finally, Wiccans are also fairly uniformly portrayed as completely ignorant of the history of their own belief system, to the point of thinking Wicca was practiced in Salem, Massachusetts or even in ancient Europe. Again, this could be attributed to Wicca's admittedly controversial origins, as its founder, Gerald Gardner, claimed to be in possession of millenary religious wisdom passed by an Ancient Conspiracy that was exterminated by Christian persecution, a largely discredited theory (called witch-cult hypothesis) among modern academics.

Inversely, Norse and Germanic neopagans (sometimes called Astruar or Heathens), are often assumed to be white supremacists or neo-Nazis, because of their use of Germanic symbolism which has been historically appropriated — much to their dismay and disgust — by such groups. It doesn't help that there is a racist Vocal Minority among the Heathen community, which the rest earnestly attempt to distance themselves from. This may be broadened to other varieties of reconstructive Neo-Paganism, because it is supposed to bring back what roughly speaking was old national religions, and thus its appeal to various kinds of supremacist and nationalist types is not surprising. On the upside, the less negative stereotype just assumes this kind of neopagans to be friendly Born in the Wrong Century types, fond of historical reenactment as it allows them to live in the past with no-one finding it weird (not that it'd stop them).

For their part, Greek Neopaganism (called Hellenism) and its Jewish equivalent (informally called Jewitchery) are very rarely featured in works, and whenever they are, they usually get lumpted with the first type.

Comic Books

  • A Game of You, the Story Arc in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman was largely a Take That! on this phenomenon, where Gaiman had an actual pagan witch, Thessaly, being harsh, violent, and fond of mutilation and human sacrifice. Gaiman noted that he wanted to present ancient pagan practices in their original ambiguous light, where it was not as tolerant and friendly to female empowerment as neopagans believe it to be.

Live-Action TV

  • One time on Buffy, a group of religious (as against spellcasting) group of Neopagans Willow meets in college are portrayed as idiots who have no idea what they're talking about. Willow and Tara, who simply alter the fabric of reality with no religious connotations at all, are portrayed as far wiser. This type is known as the College Pagan, the Fluffy Bunny, or the Shirley MacLeaner among the pagan community. Also, Willow did invoke various gods and goddesses, so there were definitely religious connotations with her spellcasting.
    • This becomes a Brick Joke when, in the last season, Willow visits them again, and it turns out that they actually have become a real spell casting group; oddly enough, they still do the weekly bake sale.
  • An episode of Burke's Law had a bunch of self-proclaimed witches dressed up as Glinda the Good and holding the cheesiest ritual ever.

Western Animation

  • The portrayal in The Simpsons episode "Rednecks and Boomsticks" does not consistently parody the Wiccan coven of teenage girls Lisa stumbles across. One minute they're the epitome of stereotypical airhead teenybopper fluffy bunnies, the next they're portrayed as mysterious and ethereal beings of intimidating power—until the angry mob of townsfolk who thought they had the power to make everyone go temporarily blind found out it was just moonshine in the water supply.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Bobby makes friends with a group of Neopagans (especially modeled after Wiccans, Hellenistsnote  and Occultists). The leader and all members turn out to be a Basement-Dweller in their late 10s or 20s.

    Hare Krishna 
Hare Krishnas

Well known for chanting or singing the Hare Krishna "song", or as it is more properly known, Maha (meaning greatest) Mantra, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKCON as it is most commonly known is a visible target. Mainly due to misunderstanding about practices or a lack of knowledge of why they "sing the same song" the movement stems from the Vedic culture of ancient India and practices its most visible activity of singing and dancing in the street following the instructions of religious scripture that the fundamental religious process of the age is to congregationally chant the holy names of Krishna (the Maha Mantra or Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) and by so doing become "Krishna conscious" or "God conscious," literally conscious of who god is and what he is up to (Krishna is a name for God, he’s the blue guy with the flute).

A lot of the original negative stereotyping came from their reputation for aggressive soliciting of donations, especially at airports-similar to the Jehovah's Witnesses stereotype below. When soliciting was banned in American airports, this became a Dead Horse Trope.

Most commonly stereotyped as bald-headed white guys in orange robes, it is a worthy note that these are the monastics, and most practitioners of Krishna consciousness are actually married and generally have 2.5 children, etc.

Some countries recognize the Hare Krishnas as a sub-sect of Hinduism, or of Vedic culture. It is widely accepted that even though considered a New Religious Movement, their practices date back many thousands of years, some say predating the bible. Their practice of mantra meditation (also congregational chanting) is also proven to be an effective meditation technique with innumerable benefits.

However, they are vegetarians and generally love to feed people, making their portrayals slightly more sympathetic. This probably why that Zombie in Dawn of the dead didn't eat anyone (see below).


  • A part in Airplane! has two Hare Krishnas who, ironically, get bugged by two Jehovah's Witnesses on the way into the airport. They seem to be fairly normal people.
  • A Hare Krishna even shows up as a zombie in the original Dawn of the Dead (1978). He stares at one of the lead characters but stops short of trying to eat him, possibly due to his vegetarian beliefs.
  • Averted in National Lampoon's Class Reunion, where a member of the class shows up dressed like one of these, yet acts exactly like any other old classmate you might run into at a reunion.
  • Jonah from One-Trick Pony is harassed by a Hare Krishna at the airport, to his irritation.
    Hare Krishna: You said that your mind is troubled. Why don't you check it out, brother?
    Jonah: You know, this is such a minor point, I hate even to bring it up, but I have a brother.
    Hare Krishna: We're all brothers.
    Jonah: No, I mean I have a real brother.
    Hare Krishna: We're all real brothers.

Live-Action TV

  • When Paul Kinsey comes off the bus in Season 5 of Mad Men, he is a Hare Krishna; the portrayal is ambiguous, but one gets the distinct feeling that it's yet another pathetic phase he's going into (he had always come off as rather the poseur).
  • In Preacher (2016) the Hare Krishnas are shown to be in an on-going war with the Grail. Herr Star's first scene in the Season 3 premiere has him killing an entire temple of them.

Newspaper Comics

  • The main thing most people are familiar with is The Far Side strip portraying one disguising himself as an ostrich egg to avoid detection.
  • And if not that, Bloom County has "Pear pimples for hairy fishnuts!"

Video Games

  • They also show up in Grand Theft Auto 2. As one of the factions you can work for. About as serious as their depiction of the insane, The Mafia, The Mafiya, the Yakuza...
    • They can typically be found at the start of a level in the first game. It's well worth the police going after you for grabbing a car, running down the whole line of Krishnas, and bagging a huge bonus. GOURANGA!!!!!
  • The Airport section of the unlicensed NES game Spiritual Warfare featured pamphlet-toting Hare Krishnas as enemies. You converted them to Christianity by throwing pears at them, by the way.


Basically portrayed as brainwashing organizations, whose followers view their religious leader as a Messiah, and obey him without question. They're almost cut off from the outside world, believing in only in what their leader says. Some of the time they result in mass suicide.

The standard cult leader is the guy who is at the top of the cult hierarchy, whose rule is unquestioned, he will talk about that he is right all the time, and has all the answers to everyone's problem. But behind closed doors he secretly uses his authority to get his way with everyone in his cult, regardless of age or gender. Or he could be a Straw Hypocrite who actually doesn't believe anything his cult does, and is only doing it as a means to scam people's money.

In some countries, this is the very definition of the local word for "cult". An example is Spanish language, in which the English words "sect" and "cult" are translated both as "secta" and share the meaning of a brainwashing religious organization.note  In English, this wording is an example of Have a Gay Old Time: "cult" was for a couple of centuries a perfectly acceptable word meaning, essentially, "worship" or "a particular form of worship", and it was only starting from about the 1920s that it acquired the implication that the particular form of worship in question was weird or negative. The modern academic term for it is "New Religious Movement," as the term "cult" is now inherently pejorative.

Video Games

  • Carpainter's Happy-Happyist cult in EarthBound (1994), devoted to painting everything in the world blue and which kidnapped a girl from a nearby town to use as a religious figure. In this case, it's literally brainwashing courtesy of the Mani-Mani Statue.
  • There's a bunch in Grand Theft Auto V. Michael has a long and involved series of complicated missions where he gets inducted into the Epsilon Program (he's mostly following along just to see where it'll go), Trevor can deliver hitchhikers to the "Altruist" cult at the top of a secluded mountain that happens all their members are psychic Baby Boomers, and Franklin can complete an online seminar for the unrelated "Children of the Mountain" cult in exchange for a special t-shirt being added to his wardrobe. The "Cult Watch" web page in the in-game Internet also lists the ersatz Facebook "Lifeinvader" as a cult!
  • One of Majima's substories in Yakuza 0 has him infiltrate a cult to rescue a missing girl. The cult's leader demands huge donations from followers in exchange for blessings, and women who cannot pay up are offered (coerced into) the chance to have sex with him as an alternative. In the end, Majima beats up the cult's leader, but his own cultists prevent him from seeking medical attention, instead insisting on using the phony healing prayers he taught them. The cult gets revisited in Yakuza 6, where this time around it's the now-reformed former leader trying to stop the cult from exploiting a vulnerable old woman as a way to atone for his past.

    The ultra-religious 
The ultra-religious

There are rarely quietly devout religious believers on American television. Every person openly acknowledged as religious bears some psychological resemblance to the worst, most fundamentalist, most vicious examples of that religion. Every Muslim, to some extent, secretly admires Osama bin Laden; every Christian is a violently homophobic closet Jerry Falwell or Jack Chick... and that's not getting into the stereotyping that Jews and Hindus have to endure. In short, characters who treat their religion as something other than stamp-collecting or sport fandom tend to behave as if they got rabies. Of course, the occasional Very Special Episode will go against the grain of this acceptable target, punishing characters within the show who jump to similar conclusions.

Comic Books

  • Intentionally subverted in the Norwegian comic strip Kollektivet with the acknowledged Muslim Mounir, whose non-fundamentalism (and his clashes with the racist ignoramuses he bumps into all the time) is the source of much humor. Not so much with his extended family, who are all ultra-religious Osama-supporting crazies, though.
  • Played straight in the The Infinity Crusade crossover. Heroes who were devout religious believers were recruited by the Goddess, an Enemy Without of Warlock, for a crusade to conquer the universe. Interestingly, it didn't matter what that belief was in; Roman Catholic characters, Thor's friend who had his powers, and Hercules himself all fell under the Goddess's control. People with mildly theistic beliefs were unaffected.
  • A Chick Tract complains about the prevalence of this stereotype in fiction - spawning the phrase "God Told Me To Skin You Alive", which became part of punk rock history through the Dead Kennedys.



  • Paul has two characters who are Christians. They are depicted as crazy, dumb, and violent. One of them deconverts due to the title alien's abilities, as if only something completely in the realm of science fiction could ever make these people rational.
  • In Detroit Rock City, every Christian character is portrayed as a bad person. One is a bible-thumping, emotionally abusive mother. Another is the headmaster at a religious school who steals from the donation box. The last is a perverted priest who tries to get people to tell steamy sex stories during confession.
  • Deconstructed in the British comedy Four Lions, which pokes fun at a group of five Muslim suicide bombers who can't quite decide what to blow up. However, most of the Lions aren't actually that religious. Omar, for example, is shown to have a pretty liberal relationship with his wife, who doesn't even wear hijab except at work. One is so out of touch with his own religion that he learns about it from a children's book called "Camel Goes To The Mosque". It's heavily implied the Lions are glory-seekers rather than actual believers. The only true fundamentalist among them is Barry, the white, working-class Muslim convert. Because of this, the person eventually blamed for the terrorist incident is Omar's brother, who is highly fundamentalist (he has a harem and refuses to enter the same room as a woman) but peace-loving, nonviolent, and completely harmless-in fact, he's shown trying to persuade Omar that his plan is forbidden by Islam.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service had Harry investigate a Westboro Baptist Church knock-off, clearly uncomfortable with the hate filled racist homophobic sermon. Valentine goes there to, to test out his Hate Plague which in all honesty they needed little help, as the church look ready to tear Harry apart when he tries to leave before the test is activated, and when it is Harry slaughters them all like sheep.


  • In the cozy mystery AuntDimity and the Village Witch, a famous botanical artist moves to the village but conceals her identity for a time to avoid the members of a New Age cult that regards her as a guru. The artist herself deplores the idea: "'Me? A great spiritual guide?' She gave a short, unhappy laugh, 'I can't even find my tea cups!'" Of course, the subterfuge fails and the Bowenists arrive, including one young woman who calls herself "Daffodil Deeproots". Their leader is a wealthy faux hippie who proves to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive whose company engages in mountaintop removal mining.
  • In Stephen King's Carrie, Carrie's mother Margaret is The Fundamentalist, and part of the reason for Carrie's snap is the abuse she is put through by Margaret in the name of faith. King makes it clear, however, that not all people of faith are batshit insane, and that Margaret's beliefs and behavior actually have more to do with her abusive husband.

Live-Action TV

  • The Canadian series Little Mosque on the Prairie takes a much more nuanced view of religion, with the Muslim and Christian characters ranging from the quietly devout to the cynical. The lead character is a successful lawyer who decided to give up the career and become an imam, for instance, who has often has to deal with the obnoxiously intolerant Babar who is essentially an Islamic Archie Bunker. The imam also goes to see movies with the Anglican reverend. "I don't want to miss one minute of Halle Berry."
  • Averted to some degree in Firefly by Shepherd Book, one of the few characters in a Joss Whedon series to be (apparently) Christian and not gratuitously evil. Joss also made a point of avoiding this trope with Riley from Buffy, whose religious belief was mentioned exactly once, and in passing at that.
    • Also in Firefly, the first scene with Mal in the episode "Serenity" shows him kissing a cross necklace. While he lost his faith at that point, it is a representation of (arguably) the main hero of the series as having been religious at some point.
      • Mal's loss of faith in his religion is even portrayed as a negative thing, part of his apparent emotional trauma from the war, and a major theme of the movie is the importance of faith in some sort of ideal.
      Shepherd Book: When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I'm talking about God?
  • The Chaser's War on Everything, after doing a segment on Australian fundamentalist group Catch The Fire Ministries, had a skit featuring an irate viewer complaining about them making fun of Christians, providing the quote at the top of the page. They then did a segment satirizing the Israeli army. This was followed by the same irate viewer saying "I bet you're too gutless to go the Muslims". Cue a segment on Middle Eastern TV. "What about the Hindus?" They "outsourced the show to India". At the end of the episode, they had the same irate viewer complaining that they hadn't made fun of Jedi.
  • This tends to show through in how people will focus on a few certain episodes of Touched by an Angel, singling out those that come closest to being ultraconservative to try making them representative of the show as a whole. This ignores the many episodes that fly in the face of this perception, including one where the angels very clearly, and in no uncertain terms, informed a gay man dying of AIDS that God loved him unreservedly, was not in any way punishing him, and that he had led a wonderful life with many things to be proud of, without a single whiff of "love the sinner but not the sin".
  • Angela on the American version of The Office is described as a very religious person who is serious about her convictions. She is also very judgmental, condescending, and cheated on her fiance, Andy, with co-worker Dwight. So add "hypocrite" to that list.
    • Also fits with the Everybody Has Lots of Sex trope in that the person who disapproves of others' promiscuity (or in Angela's case, even mild flirting and use of "whorish" colors) will turn out to be a hypocrite.


  • Religion is actually a fairly common topic in Something*Positive, both played straight and averted, of all places.
    • The main character's father (Fred) is a quiet man with deep, earnest religious beliefs, but otherwise acts like a normal (if senile) old man.
    • A segment centered around Fred going to a haunted house, which turned out to be run by a bunch of radical Christians showing the horrors of sin and refusing to let people go who wouldn't accept Christ, among other things, complete with a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer on the first page — they're called Hell Houses, and also fit under this trope. When the police became involved and broke the whole thing up, several people who had sat down to protest the haunted house commented negatively about Christians, causing Fred to protest. When the people expressed surprise that Fred wasn't talking down to them for not being Christian themselves, his response was to go home quietly and pray with a tear rolling down his eye. Meanwhile, his now-dead wife, Faye, was as close to a living saint as the comic will ever get.
    • Cousins Branwen and Mike are from a Catholic family, both their mothers being offensive traditional Catholics. Mike's mom frequently says things like "No being gay under my roof!", and "Don't you bring a Protestant girl here!" Literally the first thing Branwen's mom does when meeting her then-boyfriend, main character Davan, for the first time is attempt to bully him into converting to Catholicism. Kim was originally Wiccan, but lost interest after the leader of her coven went control freak, assigning homework, trying to get them to proselytize, even trying to excommunicate someone from all of Wicca.
    • There is the Scarf Girl, a little girl who repeats bigoted things her parents say, such as "Black people are dark because their skin is stained with the sins of their ancestors". Needless to say, Randy Milholland is not even remotely concerned about offending people.
    • Davan himself, though, saves his ire only for those that latch onto a belief to "be different", while having full respect for those that actually give their religious choice the depth of thought and consideration it deserves, saying as much to Kim when she dragged him to visit Salem. Well, that and he's partially Distracted by the Sexy with her.

Web Original

  • Played straight and averted in the Whateley Universe:
    • The Reverend Darren England is a fire-and-brimstone preacher, and a hard-line Christian. He's actively trying to get a couple of the protagonists (up to hiring an assassin) because he sees them as threats to all humanity. Okay, he could be right on one of those calls. On the other hand, he also has a long history of working with superhero groups.
    • At least two of the main protagonists (Loophole and Phase) are devout Christians, with Phase struggling with his beliefs because of the Break the Haughty he has gone through. They even had a talk about their religious beliefs in the middle of one of the stories.
  • On Honorable Hogwarts, there's a Meta example... Reverend Noah Howerton, who is not actually a reverend, but a wizard himself and bent on world domination by killing all other wizards, uses the religious fervor of the Muggle populace in the US to his advantage, and turns pretty much every Christian in Texas into his own personal army. This allows not just the guy in charge of the Christians in-universe — who views them as morons/tools to be disposed of after they're no longer useful — but also the guy writing that character to disparage religious fundamentalists.
  • The less topic-specific and well-moderated a particular subsection of Internet is, the more likely you are to get a response on the lines of: "Oh yeah? But at least I do not believe in centuries-years-old fairy tales like a dumbass, dumbass."
  • Matthew Santoro:
    • Most of the religious adherents discussed in his video The 10 CRAZIEST Religions in the World!, such as Jediism and The Church of Euthanasia.
    • He criticized the Catholic church in Text The Pope! for the pedophilia scandal.
  • MrRepzion often criticizes radical theists, such as the radical Muslim who beheaded a journalist.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons's Ned Flanders may zigzag this trope. While starting as a fairly positive (if somewhat naive) example, Flanders is the Trope Namer for Flanderization and, as a result, now seems to have a lot of negative or controversial aspects of religion hoisted onto his character if the writers want to take a few shots at religious beliefs. For example, supporting creationism, opposing same-sex marriage, and being intolerant of others' beliefs have all been topics involving poor Ned at some point. Part of this is a case of Writer on Board and changing views/writers over the show's 20+ year run.
  • Princess Clara of Drawn Together is an extremely devout Christian, and arguably gets the least sympathetic portrayal of anyone on the show. She is typically portrayed as closed-minded and intolerant, which often crosses the line into "unnecessarily spiteful and hateful". She is generally cast as the villain whenever the show needs one. In the first season, she was portrayed as simply ignorant and merely parroting beliefs that her racist father had taught her. It wasn't until the second season that Flanderization set in and she became a true fundamentalist bigot.


The basic joke in America is that an atheist can't be elected dog-catcher and that they are the most disliked and least trusted group. Historically, dating back to the classical and medieval era, the word atheist was a strong and nasty word often hurled by groups at each other as an insult, largely because they believed "in other gods" or another kind of Christianity, or if they seemed to have some mild doubts about the doctrine and as such not truly believing in their art (what Orwell would label a "thoughtcrime"). The modern version of atheism came out during The Enlightenment, the scientific revolution and the French Revolution, and the association of atheism with radical modernity (even if not everyone who was progressive and modernist in those groups were atheists) continues into the 20th and 21st Century. Within America, atheism was somewhat mainstream in the 19th Century, with the likes of Ambrose Bierce being a respected intellectual and wit, and it was at the very least not seen as a mark of disfavour.

Some of the modern stigma can be traced historically to Cold War propaganda from both sides, based at least on a grain of truth. A lot of communist regimes have endorsed state atheism, often in conjunction with violent - even murderous - campaigns against religion/the religious (even communist regimes that relented from violent anti-religious campaigns, such as modern China, have still tried to repress religion through other means). During the Red Scare of The '50s, In God We Trust replaced E Pluribus Unum on the US Currency as part of the general culture wars against the anti-religious Soviet Union, thus atheists in popular media were depicted as communists. To be a communist was to be an atheist, so to be an atheist was to be a communist, and to be either was to be a traitor and Un-American.note 

In the separate US Culture Wars of The Noughties, the atheist movement, particularly the New Atheist movement, emerged as a response to the religious right, creationism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Problems arose with the founders vitriolic stance as well as some logically fallacious and myopic statements (such as founder Richard Dawkins identifying atheists as a persecuted group who's plight should be alleviated while at the same time calling for mockery and ridicule of the religious, and the anti-religious book by fellow founder Christopher Hitchens consists mostly of terrible things religious people have done or endorsed throughout history). Many criticisms of atheism by theists also exist, such as in the field of apologetics, which really stepped into the public light after the New Atheist movement's emergence.note 

This activism also comes in part from a feeling that it's hard to find a happy, well-adjusted, or optimistic individual on American television who is an openly avowed atheist. Very few TV atheists are portrayed as having come to this conclusion by dispassionate consideration of their experience but, much more likely, they have some tragedy in their past, such as a Cynicism Catalyst or gave up after a crisis of faith (which does occur in real-life but isn't universally true). Not appearing to practice or even mention religion at all is fine for most people, but it's generally only characters with a fair degree of cynicism and bitterness who can state outright that they don't believe there is a God, or even that they severely doubt if God exists (however the latter is agnostic, not atheist). In more positive depictions, such characters often reverse or at least re-examine these views after something good happens to them (often in a Very Special Episode or a Do They Know It's Christmas Time?), even if nothing in the episode suggested a supernatural influence (and especially if there is supernatural influence). See, for example, House on House, Mal on Firefly, or Signs.


  • One surprising aversion is John Ford's 7 Women, his obscure final film which was Anne Bancroft as an atheistic, cigar-smoking, Good Bad Girl who is also a competent and charming doctor. She affably aids a Christian relief organization in Warlord-era China, and doesn't really engage in apologia or controversy. And in the end, she heroically sacrifices herself to save the group. What makes this surprising is the director was an Irish Catholic but he didn't think goodness was exclusive to faith or the lack thereof:
    John Ford: She was a doctor—her object in life was to save people. She was a woman who had no religion, but she got in with this bunch of kooks and started acting like a human being.


  • Sanya in the The Dresden Files places a spin on this trope. He's charismatic and well-adjusted, unlike the majority of fictional atheists. However, in an epic feat of rationalization, he manages to be both an agnostic atheist and a Holy Knight, standing against the forces of evil with a sword given to him by the archangel Michael that contains one of the nails that fixed Jesus to the Cross. He explains to Harry, "I have met many strange and mighty things since I took up the sword. If one called them 'aliens' instead of 'angels,' it would only mean that I was working in concert with powerful beings, not necessarily the literal forces of Heaven, or a literal Creator. A philosophical fine point, true, but I am not prepared to abandon it. What we do is worthy, without ever bringing questions of faith, religion, or God into the discussion."

Live-Action TV

  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Saving Grace. The show is about an occasionally bitter atheist in the slow process of being "saved" by an actual angel with Special Powers, and as of season two is dating another atheist, but gets treated awfully well by the TV show. The main character may be bitter, but the boyfriend is openly avowed and rather happy and well-adjusted without being bitter or having a dark past to drive him to it.
  • Science Fiction series are often exceptions, since many were written by atheists, and may go so far as to posit a future where mankind "no longer needs gods".
    • A slightly subtler version of this is Garibaldi on Babylon 5, whom we only learn is an agnostic at the end of the first season, when someone else mentions it. In subsequent seasons, this becomes "atheist", including his own statement. His character, an Italian teetotaling semi-Boisterous Bruiser, is more stereotypically Catholic.
    • In Firefly, Malcolm Reynolds hints at being an atheist, especially around Shepherd Book, and his past indicates that this is because of the war.
      • Serenity seems to imply that Mal is more of a nihilist-after the war, he didn't just lose faith in his religion, but also in the idea of fighting for a moral cause. One theme of the movie is his regaining a bit of idealism and deciding to risk his life for what's right.
    • See also No Such Thing as Space Jesus.
    • And even the Christian writers tend not to interject God himself into the equation, not just because the sci-fi demographic is composed of godless heathen bastards, but because it just gets in the way of multicolored shooty things and wondering what's on the other side of a wormhole... and going in anyway (also, it would be kind of awkward if they stumbled across Heaven). If a character is religious, he will instead spout relevant Biblical verse, or a quote by a medieval Catholic priest of some notoriety (which also serves as a "we haven't changed so much since then" kind of reminder to both the remainder of the cast and possibly the reader as well).
  • Klinger from M*A*S*H along with other characters, where many of the cast had subverted "There are no atheists in foxholes" for the sake of war-weary cynicism (though, in one of the places where it's specifically mentioned, it's because it's noted Klinger is bowing his head in prayer after a touching event, and he claims he's given his agnosticism up for Lent). It's worth noting that agnosticism is not the same as atheism as well.
  • Bones's Dr. Temperance Brennan frequently states her rationale for why she doesn't believe in a God, considering she's an anthropologist above all else. She and her Catholic FBI partner get into frequent arguments over her atheism, but over the seasons, he's come to mostly tease her affectionately over it.
    • The arguments usually aren't "over Brennan's atheism", though... they're usually started because she'll occasionally come close to picking a fight with him over some aspect of his belief. This stands in contrast to how she's shown to not only be knowledgeable but openly respectful of pretty much every religion but Christianity. She tones it down later as she seems to realize she's antagonizing Booth for no particular reason, and it's entirely possible that there's a Freudian Excuse for why she has issues with Catholicism.
  • Glee has some strange variations of the Hollywood Atheist, playing it straight and subverting it at the same time. On one hand, it's sort of played straight with Sue Sylvester, the bitter Jerkass villain, who apparently doesn't believe in God because her mentally ill sister was mocked and treated unfairly as a kid. On the other hand, Kurt, a more positive character, seems to be an atheist because of the way Christians have demonized gays, yet he uses logical arguments for his atheism.
  • Averted (for comic effect) in Irish/British comedy series Father Ted where Catholic priest Father Dougal seems to not actually believe in God-he says things like (about "Heaven and Hell and everlasting life and all that type of thing") "You're not meant to take it seriously, Ted!" His reasons for not believing may not be very logical or based on careful thought (he's really not very good at that sort of thing), but at least he's not bitter or a villain of any kind. In an odd twist of the trope, he's basically the Ralph Wiggum of the show.
  • Britta Perry of Community is an atheist. Her objections to religion are treated as being part of her overall Soapbox Sadie shtick. For the most part, Britta's atheism only comes up when she's interacting with Shirley, in which case both will be portrayed as obnoxiously self-righteous.

Western Animation

  • Family Guy (after it got renewed) is an incredibly easy target on this very website. A specific example would be the episode "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven". Brian initially seemed to be a deist but as the series wore on (especially after it was Un-Canceled) he was Flanderized into a particularly arrogant atheist. Especially since he's actually met Jesus, and witnessed a pair of miracles performed at Peter's request. This was lampshaded by Stewie in a later episode: "Jesus lived with us for like, a week!"
  • One episode of Metalocalypse included the Church of Atheism being picketed by Agnostics. Toki and Skwisgar's nihilism is occasionally poked at through the series as well.
    • ...Church of Atheism?!?note 
      • "Oh, God, whom we do not believe in, let us all not pray for you whom does not exist in any rational realm..."
      • It should be noted that atheism and nihilism are two different things, although they're compatible.
    Nathan: What the hell kind of Church is this?
    Pickles: This is the Church of the, uh, Atheists.
    Nathan: What's an atheist?
    Pickles: Oh, you know, someone who doesn't believe in, er... God.
    Nathan: Oh, you mean like Skwisgaar and Toki?
    Skwisgaar: No! We are nihilists! We don't believes in anythings.
    Nathan: But can't a Nihilist, you know, like, not believe in God too?
    Skwisgaar: Ahhhh... well... I don't know...
    • On the other hand, it should be noted that Skwisgaar and Toki, being Swedish and Norwegian, respectively, also invoke the Norse Gods often despite being self-proclaimed 'nihilists'. Hell, Skwisgaar believes in Valhalla.
    Skwisgaar: What in the fucking names of Odin?!
  • South Park, as you'd expect, takes this to the logical extreme with a future where everyone is an atheist that treats science like a god ("Science damn you!"), and war with each other over "The most logical answer to the great question" What should we call our atheist organization?. And otters. Richard Dawkins also features, where while he was treated better than other parodies, he still took his accent. Their conflict was basically South Park lampooning the notion that "Without religion, there wouldn't be war!" Yes, there would-it'd just be waged for different reasons.

Religious Practitioners of Polygamy:

If a religion in the United States practices or advocates polygamy (or rather, polygyny), expect everyone in the media to immediately assume that they are perverts and/or misogynists. Recently, due to some Real Life convictions of one leader of a polygamist religion, it is also assumed that any religion that advocates polygamy also forces young girls to "marry" rich old men.

  • There's a little bit of Truth in Television about it: in a lot of places where polygamy is or was practiced, you pretty much have to be rich in order to be able to feed, clothe, and house more than one set of wife + kid(s), and considering how long it can take to make enough money, you're likely going to be notably older than your second/third wife. It is a bitter fact that polygamy tends to turn women into valuable commodities and collectibles. It's also hard on young men trying to start a family since said commodity is monopolized by older and more powerful men.
    • Aside from Straw Feminism, polygamy tends to bring about the Mars Needs Women problem: no society manages it unless the number of polygamous marriages is very small, the young men are eliminated before they can marry, or women are imported into the society. Rudyard Kipling, deeply despising demonization, put jabs at both issues (among others) in One View of the Question.

Agnostics, Deists, and Religiously apathetic

Seen as wishy-washy fence-sitters by religious folk and atheists alike. There are approximately as many kinds of agnosticism as there are Christian sects, but the majority of them fall into one of two groups: "strong" agnosticism, which holds that the existence of God is inherently unknowable and is either not worth trying to prove or not worth caring about, and "weak" agnosticism, which holds that the question of God's existence hasn't been answered, but still may be. There's further irony in realizing that agnosticism and belief are not actually mutually exclusive (you might not know the answer but you can still believe in it anyway). This frequently leads self-identifying agnostics and atheists/theists to attack each other, not realizing for the longest time (or at all) that they are both on the same side of the argument, just identifying under different groups.

It's common for newly deconverted people to refer to themselves as agnostic, when what they really mean is atheist. (Atheist means anyone who doesn't believe in gods, not just those who actively believe they don't exist.) This presents agnosticism as a middle ground between theism and atheism, which it is not. However, there's a certain breed of agnostic who claim that they're better than theists and atheists because they don't hold any unsubstantiated belief: they call atheism a statement of belief too, in this case the belief in that there are no gods, while their agnosticism is statement of knowledge in comparison, because they admit they don't know whether there are any gods. Atheists tend to really hate people with this confusion, as the majority of atheists simply disbelieve through lack of scientific evidence, and even the ones who actually do think no gods exist do not hold this as an absolute belief, but merely the most likely scenario. Any agnostic who continues on in this vein moves from 'person confused by the terminology' to Acceptable Target.

Of course, it's also possible for people to (mis?)use "agnostic" to mean "spiritual but unconverted": the idea of thinking there's something out there, but not knowing what, and not including the subtext of "knowing is impossible". In a related matter, deists (those who believe in at least one, usually non-interfering god) often get it pretty bad from all sides. Many atheists consider them "unworthy of their group" for the same reasons they do any other theist and members of other more organized religions scorn them for refusing to commit to any god. However, some atheists "grandfather in" deists who lived in earlier times on the theory that atheism was not an intellectually viable option. Also, for many, it's a conscious choice to use a term that may not be technically correct, due to an explicit desire not to be identified with strong atheists, or people who insist all of the nonreligious should be called "atheists".

To further complicate things, philosophers and laypeople have different definitions for "atheism," and even amongst philosophers themselves there is a variety of competing definitions as well. If you're a skeptic (you have not been convinced by any theistic argument, therefore don't assume there is a god) or an agnostic (you believe that the idea of a god is so abstract or unknowable that we'll never prove or disprove it), you simply say that. The word "atheist" is reserved for discussing the claim that there is no god, and terms like "agnostic atheist" or "skeptical atheist" are at least immediately contradictory. The idea that an atheist is anyone who doesn't actively believe in a god is the more common, less precise definition used by those who haven't studied the subject. Since the average atheist is usually just a person who happens to not hold that belief rather than someone out to argue it, and the few hardcore atheists unfortunately tend to see theology as a non-subject, none of them know the specific terminology and use the more common definitions. Thus those on both sides of the argument appear to not know their terminology and say of the other "what an ignorant poser, he doesn't even know what he's talking about."

Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy

  • Paul F. Tompkins has a bit about his own attempts to figure out his faith.
    "I don't want to say that I'm 'spiritual', because the word spiritual to me always makes me think of people who say things like, 'Well, yes, I have a concept of God, but it's not some old man with a long white beard who sits on a cloud.' Well, that's no one's concept of God, you condescending dick."

Live-Action TV

  • In Community, the group explain their religious beliefs. When Jeff outs himself as agnostic, everyone jeers at him for it, and Pierce labels agnosticism as "the lazy man's atheism."

Western Animation

  • South Park mocked this heavily in one episode, subverting the usual perception of agnostics as apathetic by portraying at least a couple of them as agnostic fundamentalists in The Poor Kid. Among other things, they drink only "agnostic beverages", and have to memorize a Code about how religion isn't really worth caring about.


Often goes beyond "LOL" and well into "EEEEEEEEEEK!". Practitioners of voudon and other Yoruba-derived faiths, such as Santeria, Candomble, and Obeah, are often portrayed as magical and mystical at best. At worst, they're portrayed as murderous, morbid, half-Satanists and practitioners of necromancy and dark magics the likes of which would make Voldemort soil his robes. Most media portrayal bears little to no resemblance to the actual religion. See Hollywood Voodoo for details.


While not a religion in the traditional sense, transhumanists are often a target of both religious and non-religious communities. The religious believe them to be messing with God's plan/creation or trying to play God, and the nonreligious often accuse them of either wishful thinking or interfering with natural evolution. Although they may not strictly qualify, they're also criticized over being a religion or pseudo-religion. Religious conservatives denounce transhumanism as a false religion (along with criticizing the common atheism of transhumanists) while nonreligious critics claim they're a pseudo-religion (e.g. The Singularity is called the "nerd rapture" by some).