A character with a religious belief, whether it be fervent, casual, or never mentioned before or since, loses it and spends a Story Arc as an unbeliever until learning a valuable lesson about faith. More Anviliciously, a Hollywood Atheist Long-Lost Uncle Aesop may be introduced, just to be enlightened and then never heard from again.
The Reset Button will often be in full effect — after all, in mainstream American media (where this trope is most common) God Is the Status Quo and the Moral Guardians might kick up a fuss if the option of losing one's faith for good were presented as a valid decision. Naturally, Values Dissonance abounds for viewers who consider atheism a valid outlook to live by.
Of course, suffering a period of painful doubt is completely Truth in Television for people with a strong faith in any cause. Sometimes it's a painful transition that ultimately leads into a new outlook, and sometimes it's a period of existential angst leading to developing a deeper and more nuanced faith because of the experience. This is not the place to debate these issues.
A more angry reaction may include Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter! or Rage Against the Heavens. The character will most likely become either a Hollywood Atheist, losing all will to live or respect for morality, or a Nay-Theist, accepting that God exists but refusing to worship him.
Not to be confused with Have You Seen My God?, where the divinity in question really is MIA. Compare Religious Russian Roulette, where the character lets their belief in God ride on their request for a miracle.
- In the Forgotten Realms comics, the elven cleric Vartan refuses to worship his god Labelas—even to access desperately-needed healing powers—after an arc in which Labelas possesses Vartan's body and torments his friends. Labelas shows up later and tries to make amends; Vartan accepts the gesture, and a later short story shows him returning to Labelas's service.
- Just a Pilgrim: The titular Pilgrim spends the first arc as a Religious Bruiser, quoting scripture as he brings down the Lord's warth on a group of post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque raiders, sacrificing a convoy of settlers in the process. In the second arc, he encounters people with the means to escape Earth, and at first opposes it... but then meets what he considers proof positive that God is wrong (jellyfish that evolved into Puppeteer Parasites and took over a little girl) and spends the last few moments of his life renouncing God and telling the survivors to forget everything he'd said earlier while he pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice. Garth Ennis is a noted atheist.
- Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Captain America had a big one about Gah Lak Tus, a hive mind of planetary size that roams the universe destroying complete planets. How can God allow such a creature to exist? He always thought that God allowed evil to exist because he also allowed virtuous and good men to stand against evil, but how can men stand against something so big and far removed?
- Nightshade: Eve Eden is a Catholic who learns that her powers are due to her mother's partially demonic heritage. Even after she's reconciled her faith with this discovery she's seen discussing it with Father Craemer and she is never fully comfortable with that part of her lineage.
- After spending the first half of Angel Of The Bat discovering and eventually embracing Christianity, Cassandra Cain's faith is nearly destroyed after a Trauma Conga Line that includes admitting she has romantic feelings for her best friend Stephanie and learning that homosexuality is sinful; being cornered and beaten in battle by The Seraphim; and being subsequently tortured for just shy of two weeks to try and force her to surrender to his Religion of Evil. It takes confronting Christ (or maybe just a dream of him) and getting some heavy philosophy to convince her her faith shouldn't be given up yet.
- Victoria suffers from this following the siege of Adamant Fortress in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird. Being a devout Andrastian who has up to this point fully embraced her role as the Herald of Andraste, she's deeply shaken to learn that it was nothing more than a cosmic accident, and that the god she's always revered may really not exist at all. It takes a lot of effort by those to whom she's closest to help her get out of it.
- The protagonist of Priest (1994) spends practically the whole movie in a Crisis of Faith.
- In Signs, Mel Gibson's character is a former Anglican priest who lost his faith when his wife died. The Twist Ending makes him reconsider.
- Roger in Angels in the Outfield goes through a particularly heartwrenching case of this. After misinterpreting a case of sarcasm about him and his dad being a family again if the local baseball team wins the pennant, he asks God to help the team win in order to make this come true. He gets his prayer answered and he witnesses angels help the team win game after game. Unfortunately shortly before the team reaches championship, his dad gives up custody of him, which causes him to go through this. Interestingly, since he has been the one able to see angels, his case also overlaps with Flat-Earth Atheist since he declares there's no God and doesn't believe in angels afterwards.
- The protagonist of the Diablo Cody dramedy Paradise is a devout Christian who goes through a crisis of faith when she's involved in a plane crash and gets horrific burns on most of her body (but conveniently not the face)
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, 1970s Xavier begins with one, because of all the things he lost. He eventually gets better.
- The Ingmar Bergman film Winter Light focuses on a pastor who struggles with his faith in God.
- The Rapture: Sharon undergoes one after her husband's senseless murder. It only gets worse from there.
- Silence: Rodrigues undergoes an extreme one over the course of the film after seeing how much all the Christians in Japan are suffering for the faith. Eventually he apostasizes to save others and it seems he has lost his faith completely. However, the ending reveals he privately remained a Christian to his death.
- A big part of the plot of the movie Dogma revolves around Bethany, who was raised Catholic her whole life, is now questioning the existence of God after an infection destroyed her uterus, preventing her from ever having kids and causing her husband to divorce her. This gets thrown for a loop when she encounters, an angel, two "prophets" (Jay and Silent Bob), and the thirteenth apostle who assist her on a journey to find out what happened to God, who ended up missing, and stop two renegade angels from causing all of existence to be eradicated.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany: Both Johnny and Rev. Merrill have this. The former cites the entire story as being his reason why he got over the crisis. Merrill does only because of a ruse Johnny stages with a dummy, tricking Merrill into thinking that Johnny's mother reached out to him from the grave.
- The Book of Job is probably the Trope Maker, being the origin of the "if your life sucks, God is testing your faith" Aesop.
- Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Star" is about a Jesuit priest who has a crisis of faith when he learns that the nova that destroyed a planet of morally good inhabitants was the star over Bethlehem.
- The short story isn't a full example, as it doesn't end with the priest getting his faith back. This was "fixed" for the television adaptation.
- In Warrior Cats, the whole of ShadowClan stops believing in StarClan after a loner named Sol predicted a solar eclipse and StarClan weren't able to. ShadowClan's leader Blackstar had already been having some doubts because life had been harder since the Great Journey, so it didn't take much for Sol to convince him that StarClan was powerless. They did start believing again, though, after some StarClan cats - ShadowClan's last leader and medicine cat - spoke to Blackstar and his medicine cat.
- Another example comes from Cloudstar, a cat from the distant past. His novella Cloudstar's Journey features him losing his faith entirely in StarClan. Unlike most examples of this trope he never regains his faith until after his death.
- Drives a lot of the plot in Dirge for Prester John. John tries hard to be a good Christian king of a kingdom of, in his view, heathen monsters. In the frame story, Hiob's faith is also shaken by John's account of Pentexore.
- In Courtship Rite, on the Lost Colony of Geta, repeated cycles of famine have, after many centuries, made cannibalism an accepted part of the culture. The "Gentle Heretic" Oelita, in addition to believing that cannibalism should be avoided, is convinced that humans are native to Geta, despite their obvious biological and genetic differences. When conclusive evidence appears that this is not the case, she begins to question her whole belief system.
- Due to events at the climax of the second Mistborn book, Sazed (who collects dead religions and considers himself a believer of every single one) spends much of his time in the third meticulously examining each one, looking for a faith that can provide an answer to his questions.
- This happens to Omman Knight Jon Ommandeer in Serial 5 in Spectral Shadows, or at least is supposed to according to the serial synopsis. How his faith is in crisis and the extent of it is as of now unknown.
- Concerns over this are a recurring theme throughout the series, as the entire cast save Merlin were raised and taught to believe in a church that is, in fact, a Path of Inspiration perpetrated through a God Guise. While dedicated to the eventual revelation of this gigantic lie many characters, especially Archbishop Maikel Staynair, fear the large scale Crisis of Faith that many will suffer since it's hardly a leap to decide God is a lie after learning your entire Church is. Some members of the Inner Circle itself, such as Baron Wave Thunder, develop into genuine atheists while others find their way towards a deist mindset.
- Even without this knowledge, Father Paityr Wylsynn experienced a Crisis of Faith in the wake of everything that has happened across the first four books. In the fifth book, How Firm a Foundation, Staynair recommends him to the monastery that helped him with similar troubles in his youth and eventually votes to induct him into the Inner Circle of those in the know.
- Knowledge Of Angels: Beneditx has one after talking with Palinor, and becoming convinced by Palinor's atheist retorts.
- In Ardath by Marie Corelli, Theos Alwyn starts out with one. His quest leads him to experience two extremely vivid dream-visions, confirmed as definitely not All Just a Dream, which convince him in the reality of God and, later, Jesus (although not mainstream church Christianity).
- H.P. Lovecraft has his hero Randolph Carter go through this in The Silver Key. Randolph has lost the ability to go to the Dreamlands, and without that experience, life isn't worth living. Fortunately he finds a way, by starting his life over from childhood.
- In The Witchlands, Warrior Monk Aeduen starts to question his faith when he realizes that his current targets might just be the prophesies messiahs of his faith, and yet he feels nothing as he's hunting them down. Ultimately, in contrast to the usual path this trope takes, he comes to terms with the fact that he doesn't believe in the tenets of his own religion anymore and becomes an atheist.
- The Neanderthal Parallax: Mary starts to undergo one when it's shown that a religious experience can be induced by magnetic fields. When this happens to people all over the world at once, following the specific beliefs they have, she concludes that religion is bunk. Even before this, she disagree with the Catholic Church on many issues (as many liberal Catholics in North America do). This prompts her to decide her child with Ponter shouldn't be made capable of religious beliefs.
- The Dresden Files book Skin Game involves two
- Waldo Butters own crisis of Faith not in the Almighty, but in the hero Harry Dresden. In the past few books Harry died, his ghost came back to help them save the day, was resurrected but stayed on a creepy island all while things in Chicago were getting worse and worse. Waldo doubts Harry and his goodness now, even spying on him and as Harry is in Chicago to work with some villains but also betray them and no one can be told, Waldo believes the act. This act leads to the destruction of the Sword of Faith because when chasing Waldo, a confrontation between Harry and his "allies" ensues and one bad choice causes the Power in the Sword to go dormant and allowed it to be shattered to the hilt. Later, realizing his mistake, Waldo stays with some friends to guard them if the "allies" come back, which they do. The minions capture the mother in this family and the bad guys intend to burn the house down, making her watch. With Harry down from a medical condition, Waldo has had his faith in Harry restored, and restoring it in the ideals he has devoted himself to, that good can overcome evil, that one person can make the difference, and if he needs to die to save some friends, just stalling them until help arrives, he will. He takes Harry's magical duster to guard himself from bullets and charges into battle.
- Watching all of this is Harry Dresden. While Harry has always had full believe in Magic, he has been a Nay-Theist towards God. This is even after meeting an archangel, three paladins, had a Fallen Angel in his head for a few years, died, and a few other things. But seeing Waldo running out there, he remembered words one of his paladin friends told him about having faith in Power of the Sword and not the physical form of the blade. Gripping onto that, he throws the hilt to to the religious mother held captive. The hilt misses her and ends up in the hands of Waldo as he is about to be killed by the bad guys. His actions and restoration of his Faith allow for the Sword of Faith to be reborn into a symbol which represents the ideals he so strongly believes in, a Lightsaber. He dispatches the bad guys and saves the day.
- House: While House himself gets a pass for being a misanthropic Jerkass, a wayward priest patient finds his faith again after seeing the fantastic series of coincidences that line up to save his life.
- Game of Thrones: The red priest Thoros of Myr admits that by the time he came to Westeros he didn't believe in the Lord of Light anymore, but his faith returned after his last rites resurrected his friend Beric.
- Later in the series, another red priestess, Melisandre, has this in a big way after her advice to Stannis to sacrifice his own daughter to the Lord of Light in order to win a battle does not succeed, and actually causes a large number of his men to defect to the other side.
- In the Scrubs episode "My Own Personal Jesus", Turk loses his faith in a just God after a hopeless Christmas Eve in the emergency room, but regains it after he finds a missing pregnant woman by intuition and helps her give birth. (Interestingly, Turk is the only character in the episode who professes strong religious beliefs in the first place, and the other major characters seem to look down on him for this.)
- In the Quantum Leap episode "Leap of Faith", Sam leaps into a priest, and Al is uncomfortable with the whole thing. He reveals that he left the church as a child, after prayer failed to save his father from dying of cancer, and swore never to have anything to do with God again. However, he resorts to praying to God again when it looks like Sam's life is in danger.
- An episode of Dead Like Me included a drunken priest whose faith is restored by Daisy revealing herself to be a Reaper.
- This is an ongoing issue for Scully of The X-Files. She was raised as a devout Catholic and already had a few issues reconciling her work as a scientist with her faith. When she joins the X-Files and paranormal events and aliens get thrown in, she struggles to strike a balance.
- Combat Hospital explores this one pretty thoroughly through an army chaplain who undergoes a crisis of faith as she serves in Afghanistan and sees the brutality of war up close and personal.
- An All in the Family episode has Edith undergo one of these after Mike and a family friend are mugged on Christmas Eve, with the friend subsequently dying. Ironically, it's Mike who convinces her to reconsider.
- A recurring problem for Adam Smallbone on Rev. According to his wife, it happens at least once a year. One particularly bad crisis sends him into a deep depression, lashing out at several people around him.
- On one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Neelix experiences a deep crisis of faith after dying, and being revived 18 hours later, without having experienced the afterlife his faith promised. After trying to come to terms with it, he tries teleporting himself into space to die, convinced that there really is nothing after death, but Chakotay manages to talk him out of it. The episode ends without giving a firm answer about his beliefs one way or another.
- Drop the Dead Donkey has it both ways. In order to impress Japanese investors and Sir Royston, a debate between an atheist sociologist and a Catholic bishop is planned. Unfortunately, before it can go ahead, the TV news screens a piece of footage from the Middle East. The bishop is distressed in the inhumanity of it all, particularly when focusing on civilians caught up in the middle of violence, and loses his faith. However, the sociologist sees the same woman and same child and gains faith from seeing human survival against the odds and concludes the world must be in the hands of a divine being. The debate is, naturally enough, cancelled.
- You, Me and the Apocalypse: Besides many people heading this way once news of the comet is announced, Father Jude and Sister Celine must fight their growing feelings for each other. Celine later has a proper crisis of faith after Jude dies.
- Medici may as well be called "Crisis of Faith: the Series." Cosimo struggles mightily with his guilt, morals and his personal identity in conflict with his family's needs.
- My Name Is Earl:
- Earl confesses to a happy nun that used to be his cranky landlady that the "voice of God" she was hearing was actually him fooling around with a walkie-talkie and her hearing aid. The nun loses her faith in God, leaves the convent, and returns to Pimmit Hills Trailer Park, grouchier and meaner than ever. Earl and his friends then try to help her get her faith back.
- In another episode, Earl himself has a Crisis of Faith in Karma. He gets out of Prison for doing something bad, had spent all his lotto money on a prom for the prison and then can't get back on his feet because no one wants to hire an ex-con. Meanwhile, his friend Ralph has been living it up, posing as a senile old woman's dead husband. Earl becomes frustrated because he was expecting to be rewarded for good behavior (which is why he embraced (The Theme Park Version) of Karma in the first place), but hasn't experienced any rewards.
- The Path: Eddie starts to have one regarding Meyerism, his religion, when the series starts.
- Hand of God: Pernell gets one after what he believes is God's promise to him that PJ would come out of his coma doesn't happen.
- Brutaka from BIONICLE performed a brief but notable FaceHeel Turn when he lost his faith in the Great Spirit Mata Nui. Little did he know that Mata Nui's actually a very Physical God, who hasn't shown any sign of himself due to being in a coma. He later realizes that being a villain stands against all the other things he believed in, and the rest of the story portrays him as a mostly positive character.
- The Ocean has a few songs like this. It's prominent in "She Was the Universe".
- Daniel Amos's lyrics show an interesting transition in frontman Terry Scott Taylor's attitude over the years. In "Skeptics' Song" (from the 1976 debut album), he simply mocks anyone who disbelieves the Bible. (Reportedly, Taylor is deeply embarrassed over that song, now.) Then in "Walls of Doubt" (from 1981's ¡Alarma!), Taylor reassures listeners that having doubts isn't the end of the world, but that God will help them through their crisis:
You can let go now
Love is the master's plow
Crash down the walls of doubt
- And then in "The Uses of Adversity" (from 2013's Dig Here Said the Angel), he takes the position that these crises may be necessary.
No dont send me certainty
If somehow its best for me to doubt
- Tyler Glenn, best known for being the frontman of Neon Trees, went through one related to his Mormon faith, and chronicled it in his solo album titled Excommunication.
- Faith crises are the subject of several Sufjan Stevens songs. The narrator of "Casimir Pulaski Day" questions God after the death of a loved one due to bone cancer, musing over the emptiness of his religious practices and beliefs as a result:
All the glory when He took our placeBut He took my shoulders and He shook my faceAnd He takes and He takes and He takes...
- The entirety of "Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickerel Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)".
- In The Final Trumpet, an adventure for the In Nomine RPG, the Archangel of Faith himself actually reaches this point, risking Armageddon in the process. Depending on the actions of the player characters, he may come back stronger than ever, or Fall completely to become the Demon Prince of Fanaticism.
- Happens to at least one cleric on Zendikar when the true nature of the plane's "gods" is revealed.
I believed in a beautiful god. But this is the true face of the divine.
- In the play Doubt, Sister Aloysis experiences a crisis of faith after seeing the abuses of trust and privilege in the church. It's not a major plot arc but is significant because the character is a nun.
- The lead villain of Resonance of Fate Cardinal Rowen goes through one over the course of the story. He used to believe fervently in Zenith, the clockwork tower that the people live in, and believed in it's plan. However, Sullivan shows the way to control Zenith, and since it regulates the lifespan of a person through quartz, controlling life and death. Rowen goes from worshiping God to being God
- Dragon Age: Inquisition has this for three of the major characters: Cassandra, Leliana, and Cullen. Cullen falters slightly due to using faith to try and overcome his addiction to lyrium, at which he can fail if encouraged to take it again. Leliana and Cassandra worked with Divine Justinia to make the Conclave, only for it to fall apart in the beginning of the game. Leliana sees the whole thing as a cruel joke by a Jerkass God, while Cassandra begins looking for any sign of faith that would extinguish her doubts.
Leliana: I was with the Hero of Ferelden when s/he killed the Archdemon. The Maker brought us together, and then... I watched her/him die. In that instant, I felt the Maker's presence grow cold. One moment, a cherished child. The next... abandoned.
- Inquisition also reveals that Leliana, if in love with a Warden who died killing the Archdemon, has been dealing with a crisis of faith since the end of 'Origins'.
- Zelda is shown going through this during the "Slumbering Power" memory in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild due to her inability to access her Royalty Super Power despite her constant efforts, fully aware that failure to do so before Calamity Ganon's return would (and ultimately did) result in untold death and destruction.
- In It's Walky!, a distraught Joyce, unable to reconcile her fundamentalist Christian beliefs with the events of her life, shouts out at the heavens, then in a fit of inspiration (or insanity, or both) takes up the Power Booster Rod and goes out to seek out God for answers... or rather, the nearest equivalent, the immortal being known as the Traveler (AKA the Cheese), who is completely dumbfounded that she would think he could give her an answer.
- The Simpsons has had a couple.
- In "Homer The Heretic", Homer decides going to church is too much effort, and starts his own religion. Then his house catches fire, and he's rescued by Ned Flanders and a multi-faith volunteer fire brigade.
Reverend Lovejoy: Homer, God didn't burn your house down. But he was working in the hearts of your friends and neighbours, be they Christian [gestures to Flanders], Jew [gestures to Krusty], or [pauses] ...miscellaneous!
Apu: Hindu! There are seven hundred million of us!
Reverend Lovejoy: Aw, that's super!
- Ned Flanders himself has a brief crisis of faith in "Hurricane Neddy", when his house is destroyed by a tornado (in a clear homage to the Book of Job, mentioned above) and then again in "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly", with the death of his wife Maude.
- In "Homer The Heretic", Homer decides going to church is too much effort, and starts his own religion. Then his house catches fire, and he's rescued by Ned Flanders and a multi-faith volunteer fire brigade.
- South Park:
- Kyle loses his belief in God after Cartman gets a million dollar inheritance and buys his own theme park, while Kyle gets diagnosed with hemorrhoids. His faith is restored when he sees Cartman lose all his money, which Stan interprets was The Plan by God to punish Cartman the whole time.
- Another episode has all the Catholics in South Park (which is pretty much everybody) declare themselves Hollywood Atheists due to the Pedophile Priest controversy. They wind up reverting back after Father Maxi makes a televised speech to the church hierarchy about not letting unnecessary bureaucracy and corrupt rules get in the way of religion's core message.
- Inverted in Justice League, "The Terror Beyond", with Hawkgirl questioning her own Naytheism. She's genuinely surprised to learn that Wonder Woman gets stronger by asking the gods for aid, and admits at the end that she doesn't understand why a teammate (who believed in an afterlife) was able to Go Out with a Smile. The episode ends with this subplot deliberately left hanging.
- One episode of Daria has Quinn take a sudden interest in stories of angels, and she becomes convinced she has her own guardian angel when she happens to move just in time to avoid a dangerous accident. The problem is that she comes to believe her angel will help her with everything, and becomes convinced that he's "abandoned" her when she embarrasses herself at a party. Daria puts aside her own feelings about the matter and helps Quinn decide she should only trust her angel for "big" issues.
- 1755 Lisbon was possibly the most splendorous city in the world, having spent centuries funnelling their colonial wealth into majestic palaces, gold-laden churches and gigantic art collections. On November 1st (All Saints Feast, one of the main Catholic holy days), the city was struck by one of the deadliest earthquakes in history. The subsequent fires created massive firestorms, but the fires downtown were short-lived since a tsunami put them out (the rest kept burning for five days). Palaces and churches alike fell along with 85% of the city, the surviving 15% being basically the city narrows and the red light districts... Not only Portugal but all of Europe went into a near religious panic: for all they knew God had punished the most pious people among one of the most religious nations in Europe while sparing the sinners, and the King himself only survived because he decided not to attend mass and went to the countryside instead.
- The trope works even nowadays: read the "Spiegel" interview with German politics legend note Heiner Geißler taken just before his death. He confesses to have lost faith in God bit by bit for the standard theodicy reasons.