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Heel–Faith Turn

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Eric Cartman: from a Hitler-worshipping anti-Semite as a child to a Jewish rabbi as an adult.
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see."
John Newton, "Amazing Grace"

Faith can do amazing things to a person. Even the worst villain can redeem themselves after gaining a little bit of faith in God. A Heel–Faith Turn is a situation where a villain turns good because of a deep religious experience, possibly preceded by a My God, What Have I Done? moment or a Heel Realization. As a result, the former villain often becomes a Good Shepherd and/or Badass Preacher and an Atoner.

The title is a pun on Heel–Face Turn, directly inspired by Faith–Heel Turn, which is this trope's opposite. Compare Easy Evangelism. Subtrope of Turn to Religion.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Garai from Osamu Tezuka's MW started out as a violent gangster who molested a nine-year-old boy, but he became a priest to try to atone for his evil ways.
  • In another Tezuka work, Phoenix: Karma, widely considered to be his greatest masterpiece, Gao, a murderous bandit, is inspired to become a pacifistic, nature-loving artist by the teachings of the Buddha. What makes this example interesting is the contrast provided by the other main character, Akanemaru, a carver of Buddha statues, who starts out as a decent enough guy, but gets involved with the politicians who are trying to use Buddhism as a state religion to control the masses & turns into a vain Jerkass who thinks nothing of sacrificing the lives of countless workers to build his giant bronze penis extension Buddha.
  • In Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, Colin McLeod spends most of the film as a thoroughly unlikeable Hollywood Atheist. By the end of the movie, he has started believing in a higher power and has gotten a lot more friendly as a result.

    Comic Books 
  • Cerebus the Aardvark: The Trope Namer for all things that start happy and fun and end in the most horrific way possible, the series actually subverts its own trope when the titular protagonist, near the final arcs of the series, undergoes a religious experience similar to that of the comic's author, David Sim. He finds that the Bible, Torah, and Quran are all equally valid religious texts in the eyes of God, and after his conversion, becomes a stronger, more motivated, and determined character for the rest of the series, as he now believes he has something worth fighting for.
  • The French-Belgian comic book series Odilon Verjus is about a former pimp who has become a Catholic missionary, though in his case, while the embrace of the faith was sincere, there was no particular desire for atonement.
  • Shows up in most of, if not all Chick Tracts. Usually ineptly handled.
  • In the non-canon Wolverine: The End, Paul Jenkins has Sabretooth, one of Marvel's most deranged and sadistic murderers, renounce his former life and become a born-again Christian. Amazingly, despite Wolverine's skepticism, the conversion appears to be genuine.
  • In Watchmen, Hollis Mason at one point mentions running into a former supervillain from the old days, who has since become a born-again Christian. Apparently, they've become friends.
    • In the Before Watchmen prequels, Moloch became a devout Catholic towards the end of his life after learning that he was dying of cancer.
  • In Mark Millar's last arc on The Authority, the team is removed from power and replaced with a bunch of capitalism-friendly knock-offs. The knock-off version of The Doctor, who calls himself The Surgeon, tries to maintain his hold on The Doctor's powers by allowing corporations to loot the Garden of Ancestral Memory. When The Surgeon is finally deposed, The Doctor deals with the looters by forcing them to convert to the religions that they tried to demolish.

    Fan Works 
  • Allronix loves this one. In Through a Diamond Sky, The Dragon has second thoughts when she realizes her boss plans to kill the Creator. In her Tin Man fanfic "Tin," Wyatt Cain slowly renounces revenge and re-dedicates himself to the oath of his office and the Unnamed God through the events of the miniseries.
  • In the Pony POV Series, the Dark World version of Applejack (aka Liarjack) pulls a Heel–Face Turn as a result of encountering the Pony equivalent of God and her little sister, who has been declared a Saint In-Universe. She admits that even before her original Face–Heel Turn, she wasn't the most religious pony. Afterwards, she's seen praying a good bit and part of her motivation is earning her place in Pony Heaven back so she can be with Apple Bloom and the rest of her family.
  • The Girl of Tomorrow: Downplayed by Doomsday, aka Kon-El's story arc. He was more of a Tragic Monster than a true villain to begin with, but after Supergirl spares his life he spends some time Walking the Earth, eventually finding himself in Sri Lanka. While spending time there he learns about the tenets of Buddhism and finds himself making the pilgrimage to the summit of Adam's Peak when a wheelchair-bound man needs his help to reach the summit. Soon after, he enrolls as a novice at the monastery there and finds the peace he had sought.

  • In Dogma, Bethany has grown extremely cynical towards God and religion ever since a disease left her sterile, causing her husband to leave her. She remains a Catholic in name only until she is tasked with The Quest to stop two fallen angels from entering a particular church, which would purge them of their sins in accordance with Catholic dogma.
  • In the movie Dragonheart, the main character spends most of the film as a rogue outsider tricking townspeople into giving him rewards ... until he stumbles across a talking statue of King Arthur and gets reminded of his oath of knighthood. Although this isn't strictly religious, it has the same Renewal Of Lost Faith aspect.
  • The Butterfly Effect: In the alternate timeline where Evan stops the mother and baby from approaching the dynamite-filled mailbox and loses his arms in the process, Kayleigh's psychopathic brother Tommy ends up as a polite and well-kept Christian young man.
  • Seth has one in From Dusk Till Dawn, after his first encounter with the vampires.
  • In Gang of Roses, Rachel found God after a bank robbery went horribly wrong. She renounced crime and violence, laid aside her guns, and attempted to live a peaceful life.
  • In Holy Rollers, Sam turns away from his drug-dealing ways after an encounter with a Chasid who is manning a Kiruv ("bringing close") table on a sidewalk in Brooklyn, having Sam lay tefillin and recite the Sh'ma.
  • Delmar and Pete in O Brother, Where Art Thou? get baptized right after escaping prison.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Discussed and Played for Laughs. In their first scene in the movie, Pintel and Ragetti talk about how they are going to read The Bible and become "good men". They revert to their piratical ways pretty soon.
  • Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction rejects his violent, criminal career after he and Vince are miraculously unharmed by a man emptying a Hand Cannon at them at short range (to the point that there are bullet holes directly behind them where the bullets should've gone through them but didn't), and says he's going to "walk the earth" instead, "until God puts me where I need to be". While Jules does become a better person, his partner Vince is highly skeptical of his religious musings on the matter. Considering that Vince gets killed after sticking to the criminal life while Jules does not, Jules may have had a good point...
  • In The Quick and the Dead, Cort was Herod's former right-hand man, who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest who nursed him and Herod back to health once. Herod has Foy and Ratsy burn Cort's mission to the ground and force him to join the competition.
  • In The Stranger, the Nazi war criminal, Konrad Meinike, has found religion following World War II and wants to atone for the crimes he committed during the war. He tracks down his old commanding officer, Franz Kindler, now living in hiding in the United States under the alias "Charles Rankin", and tries to convince him to seek absolution for his sins too, but Kindler truly has no regrets regarding his part in the Holocaust, and even wistfully dreams of the day the Nazis will strike again, and instead he kills Meinike for knowing too much.

  • In Acts of the Apostles, Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee, a member of a very zealous Jewish sect. Being the approving coat-bearer at the stoning of early martyr Saint Stephen, he becomes the chief Knight Templar on "witch hunts" to destroy all Christians until he encounters Jesus on the way to Damascus. After his rename into Paul the Apostlenote , he's best known for being a faithful preacher and the pioneer of spreading the gospels to the gentiles (or foreigners), as well as being the author of 13 letters such as Book of Corinthians, Book of Romans and more.
  • King Guthrum of the Danes in The Ballad of the White Horse after the Battle of Ethandune.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Nate Starbuck series, set in the American Civil War, Colonel Swynyard goes through one of these when an extremely near-miss from a cannonball results in him waking up lying in the battlefield mud next to a religious pamphlet. Interestingly, this is played completely straight (and works extremely well) by an author who had, in other series, been very critical regarding the Catholic Church in the eras the books were set in (albeit still portraying individual priests as kindly or even heroic, and the Church has admitted the corruption which was very heavy at the times he wrote about).
  • Jean Valjean of Les Misérables starts off as a thief, hardened and not so nice, even going as far as to steal from the only man who gave him shelter. This man, however, happens to be a bishop, and gives Valjean more money, telling him that 'he has bought his soul for God'. Valjean repents and becomes #1 do-gooder. Javert doesn't care.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology, the main characters are on the run from the entire nation. At the end of the first book, they are cornered by the Guard, headed by a huge Austrian officer named Arnold (guess). Then Marcus creates a small miracle, causing Arnold to immediately switch his allegiance, believing the kid to be the new Messiah.
  • One epigraph from Elminster's Daughter invokes this in a typical Realmslore fashion. It's a quote from a book named "Tyrant's Throne to the Arms of a Goddess: My Road To Mystra".
  • In another Forgotten Realms novel, War in Tethyr by Victor Milan, this is implied to be the case for an orog paladin of Torm. Details of how an underground orc ended up in the service of the god of duty are unknown, but he avoids talking about his past and even abandoned his given name.
  • Sam Slater in Strawberry Girl is evil, before Brother Jackson, a traveling minister, tells him "the harm of drinkin' liquor, and of swearin' and backbitin', gossip and anger" and prays "extry hard" for him. Also, Slater's family had nearly died of unspecified illness while he was away, and he became sick when he got home.
  • Zed Arthen in the Heirs of Ash books used to be a Paladin of the Flame, but abandoned his church and fled after seeing terrible massacres committed in the name of righteousness. His apathetic cynicism when we first meet him starts fading when he starts to recover his faith.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters General Samar used to be a brutal member of former president Marcos's Secret Police. Then he became a Muslim and changed for the better.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Subverted with Aeron Greyjoy, who nearly drowned and had a Near-Death Experience, resulting in him revitalizing his faith in the Drowned God as a priest. This religion preaches that the Ironborn were made to rape and pillage everyone else, so while he certainly becomes a more pious and principled person, it's a stretch to say whether he's "better". It does inspire him to stand up to his brother Euron, however.
    • It's uncertain if this is what happened to Sandor Clegane, if the large man with a limp Brienne saw was him. He has previously renounced all gods, but the man Brienne saw was digging graves for a priest — a former knight who'd undergone this trope years before.
    • Lancel Lannister, after undergoing a near-fatal wound and out of guilt over his involvement in the murder of the previous king and sleeping with the Queen Regent, joins a Church Militant and repents his sins. This causes problems for the Queen Regent, who finds herself charged with murder and fornication.
  • Occasionally occurs in Safehold when clergy of the corrupt Church of God Awaiting rediscover their faith. The two primary examples include:
    • Archbishop Erayk Dynnys, who rediscovers God while awaiting execution. He proceeds to proclaim the Church of God Awaiting as being in the wrong, guaranteeing a death dragged out by Cold-Blooded Torture, rather than confirm the Church's version of events and get a quick and easy death.
    • Vicar Rhobair Duchairn, a member of the Group of Four, the vicars who really run the Church of God Awaiting. He begins to rediscover his own faith in the wake of the disastrous battles with Charis in the first book. While not siding with Charis, and unable to truly break away from the Group of Four even if he wanted to, he slowly but surely turns into a Good Shepherd who does his best to make sure the poor and destitute of the Church's capital city are looked after and becomes the chief voice of opposition against Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clynthan.
  • From Beka Cooper, this is Goodwin's backstory. She was once a loose Dog until a shipment went skewed and she was left dying in a ditch. She pleaded for the Goddess to let her live, she survived, and she became the Goddess' Magistrate in the Lower City as well as one of its best Dogs.
  • Knowledge Of Angels: Beneditx was hoping to cause one in Palinor, though Palinor wasn't a Heel to begin with (the Church saw Palinor as evil for disbelief in God, and so Beneditx was hoping that, by converting Palinor, the Church would see him as good and spare him). Instead, this backfires on him since Palinor's superior retorts lead him to undergo a Crisis of Faith from which he never recovers.
  • In A Wolf in the Soul, Greg becomes a better person, such as learning to finally appreciate his best friend, through returning to Judaism.
  • This is part of Desmond McCain's backstory in the eighth Alex Rider. However, it's later revealed that this is a lie.
  • Zigzagged in "Rokurokubi" from Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan. The main character is a noble and skilled samurai turned humble monk who wanders the countryside. He's met in a remote area by a woodcutter who invites him to take shelter. The monk wonders to himself at the woodcutter having courtly manners despite living in a hovel in the middle of nowhere, but that question seems to be answered when the woodcutter describes how he too was once a samurai, but after living a life of depravity that brought shame and ruin to himself and his master, he now leads a life of simplicity and repentance. However, it turns out that the woodcutter is actually a monster, the leader of a group of the eponymous youkai type, and he and the others were planning on eating the monk while he slept.
  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis, Mammon appears to have done this, converting from devil worship to becoming a televangelist while serving time in prison.
  • The Dresden Files plays with this trope. Sanya, Knight of the Cross, was a former villain, having been host to a Fallen Angel and did many evil things. But when he learned his handler, a woman he loved deeply, saw him as disposable and a tool, he left and suffered a My God, What Have I Done? moment. His guilt at his actions purged the Fallen from inside of him and he soon ran into Shiro, who is the Knight of Faith. Seeing this man needing guidance, Shiro helped the young man, and Sanya decided to help stop those who he was just part of. Then Archangel Michael appeared and gifted Sanya the Sword of Hope to wield and bring Hope to anyone who sees him or it. The played with part is, despite being host to a Fallen Angel, witnessed an Archangel appear, and many other miraculous moments and deeds, Sanya is an agnostic. He accepts God probably exists but doesn't know if God is some all-powerful being, an alien, or just a delusion of his. What matters to Sanya is his continued helping people.
  • Chance And Choices Adventures sees a few awful characters become much better people after finding Jesus, most notably the former bandit Ben in book two.
  • Part of the reason the galaxy won the Yuuzhan Vong war in New Jedi Order was the Jedaii Heresy, a corruption of the Basic word Jedi. The deeds of various Jedi throughout the war became so legendary that Yuuzhan vong heretics incorporated it into their religion. The Shamed Ones caste was particularly prone to conversion, as the whole heresy was kicked off by a Shamed One who was redeemed by a Jedi. A few notable figures in the Heresy include Shimrra Jamaane, whose evil deeds caused the gods to call for the Jeedai, Anakin Solo, who redeemed a Shamed One, the Ganner (actually Ganner Rhysode), who entered the religion as the guardian of the underworld, and Luke Skywalker, who slew Shimrra and was sometimes believed to be an aspect or incarnation of the war god Yum-Yammka.
  • Played with in The Mallorean in the nature of the protective curse around the city of Kell. Any Grolim that approaches the city is stricken blind. It is the effect of the curse that triggers this trope by causing the grolim to only see the face of their future god, a far more benevolent one than Torak.
  • The protagonist of The Fraternity of the Stone, and one of the two protagonists in The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell (creator of Rambo) is a former assassin for the US government who joined a monastery to atone for their past. Circumstances force them to return to their former profession.
  • In The Coral Island, natives who have undergone Easy Evangelism abandon all their old practices, such as cannibalism, Human Sacrifice, and Arranged Marriage. When the tribal chief Tararo converts, he refuses to persecute unconverted tribe members the way he previously persecuted Christians because he understands that God wouldn't want him to use force, but the whole tribe converts of their own free will within a few days.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dark Desire: Esteban becomes a Christian after his life is saved in a church shooting as he held up a Bible to save himself (a bullet passed through it but didn't hit him and the gunman was shot immediately afterward by the police), claiming he has now changed his ways.
  • In Deadwood, Tolliver's associate Andy Cramed leaves the life of crime after he develops a near-fatal case of smallpox and gets dumped in the forest to die. He returns to Deadwood later as a reverend and reformed man. Tolliver can't stand Cramed's shift in allegiance and provokes him to the breaking point, getting a shiv in the gut for his trouble. Old habits die hard.
  • Brother Sam from Season 6 of Dexter found religion while in prison, beating one of his fellow inmates to death in the chapel. When he saw the sunlight shine through the stained glass window, he stopped, looked down at the guy, and realized he had been kind of a dick for most of his life.
  • Subverted in ER. While Steve Curtis did become a born-again Christian in prison, this only made him infinitely worse, as it turned him from a smalltime hood to a Knight Templar who is convinced that he can do anything (including mass murder) because he is on a Mission from God to reunite with his ex-wife, Samantha, and their son, Alex.
  • In the Two-Part Episode "Blood and Wine" The Equalizer encounters a former terrorist turned Catholic priest and is not impressed, citing a friend who died trying to save someone from his last bombing. "I hope he's in heaven now, but don't you dare talk about meeting God!"
  • Shepherd Book in Firefly seems like he went through this. But as revealed in his origin story, he's more of an example of The Atoner. After spending decades as The Mole in the Alliance for the Browncoats, he had performed numerous atrocities, some to keep his cover, others to advance the Browncoat's cause. After a strategic loss, he's ousted and homeless, finding God under the supervision of a soup kitchen preacher.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Although he was already a priest, Thoros of Myr did not believe in his own religion and spent his time drinking and whoring. Then his prayers resurrected Beric Dondarrion. Unfortunately, his newfound belief leads him to sell Gendry to Melisandre because he is convinced it is his god's will.
    • During his brief appearance in Season 6, Brother Ray seems to have undergone this, based on his own account of his past as an amoral knight who followed orders no matter how horrific they were.
  • Hand of God: Zigzagged. KD gave up his criminal ways after being born again. Pernell also then gives up a lot of his corrupt practices, while believing God is using him as an instrument of vengeance against people, with KD carrying out his will. However, since they believe it's God's will, neither thinks this is bad (at first anyway).
  • Killing Eve: Villanelle tries to invoke this in Season 4. She's baptized into a church and becomes a Christian formally (although she isn't clearly a believer) but it's a bumpy ride. After a young woman in the church hits on her, Villanelle nearly kills her by dunking her head in the baptismal font but then resuscitates her.
  • In an episode of Law & Order, a man committed a racist murder and then contemplated suicide, until he heard church bells in the distance, leading him to a Christian conversion. He wasn't tried for the murder until after he had spent years living a genuine life of service, leading everyone to question the purpose of imprisoning him now.
  • The Lewis episode "The Point of Vanishing" features an inversion, in which a former religious activist who once tried to kill a prominent atheist author gains redemption after losing his faith in prison. Unfortunately, his attempts to make reparation lead to his own murder.
  • Eko on Lost.
  • Parodied in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where the family begins to attend a church and Reese, the epitome of Big Brother Bully, unironically becomes super into it. To the point where he tries to fly up to the clouds on a chair with huge balloons tied to it. A butchered, yet sincere, rendition of "Amazing Grace" follows.
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • Used along with Faith–Heel Turn. A Scary Black Man gangster who went by "Hash Brown" and eventually became a priest ends up being on Earl's list at least five times, with each new list item revealed making him angrier and angrier until he snaps and decides to return to his gangster life. Then Earl recognizes his car and reveals that he broke the taillight on it (another list item). The broken taillight caused Hash Brown to get pulled over and be late for a deal which ended up turning into a brutal shootout, meaning that Earl had indirectly saved his life. Since this event was what had caused him to take up religion in the first place (he originally attributed it to divine intervention), he thanks Earl and goes back to being a priest.
    • Another person on Earl's list was Donny, a former violent criminal lunatic who found religion while serving two years in prison for a crime Earl committed. Donny forgave Earl almost immediately, reasoning that if he hadn't gone to jail he wouldn't have cleaned up his act.
  • Person of Interest: In a bit of a weird example, Root goes through one at the beginning of season three. It's weird because the god she's following is an AI that, for whatever reason, chose her to be its interface, directing her to carry out missions for it and in the process curbing her murderous tendencies.
  • One episode of Psych features a former arsonist who converted to Wicca after narrowly escaping a fire.
  • Used in the Swedish soap Rederiet, where long-time villain Carl Ericsson, who was sent to prison in an earlier season finale, showed up for the final episode to make amends to his mother (one of the main characters). Then, when the end credits rolled, when we are shown still photographs and a voice-over telling us what happened to the main characters. we learn that Carl "served his time in prison and joined the Salvation Army. After his release, he now spends his time singing songs and collecting money for those in need." - including a picture of him in full uniform and collecting basket in hand.
  • Resurrection: Ertuğrul: Occurs a handful of times. In short, there’s:
    • Claudius, who had initially been sent by Petruchio Manzini to murder Ibn Arabi in the first season. Ironically, it’s an encounter with Arabi himself that convinces Claudius to convert to Islam and change his name to Omer.
    • Helena, who becomes Hafsa after her conversion to Islam. Subverted in that she’s not malevolent at all, and also abhors living with the Byzantines. While she initially shows some hostility toward the Kayis, she only acted that way because she wasn’t aware yet that the men who attacked her were Vasilius’ men in masquerade.
    • A game-changing example occurs with Tekfur Ares (Later Ahmet), who is initially set up as one of the primary antagonists of season 4. He sides with Ertugrul after testifying against Sadettin Kopek, then has a dream where he encounters Ibn Arabi, who convinces him that he can seek a more fulfilling life by allying himself with the Turks.
  • MIKE/Phillip Michael Gerard from Twin Peaks used to be a serial killer who raped and murdered women with his accomplice BOB. However, at some point, he "saw the face of God". He cut off his left arm to rid himself of his "Fire Walk With Me" tattoo (which symbolized being "touched by the evil one"), and even helps the main characters solve the mystery of Laura Palmer's murder.
  • Vida: Victor says he was once bad but changed his ways after getting religion.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Livia is shown her true origins by Rays from Heaven, revealing that she is Xena's daughter and a messenger from the God of Light.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Darkness and the Light": The first victim of the mysterious killer who's knocking off Major Kira's old La Résistance comrades one by one is said to be an anti-heroic example of this trope, having had a very rough time transitioning back into civilian life with no Cardassian occupation forces to use as a productive outlet for his homicidal impulses but eventually finding peace through his faith in the Prophets. Not that the killer cared; in fact the murder method was to stuff explosives into a small ceremonial brazier whose flames were used as a meditation aid, meaning that he would be killed when he knelt in prayer. Even Kira, who has no shame or regrets about some of the more morally questionable things the Resistance resorted to, is vocally appalled at such a cowardly tactic.
  • Wild Bill:
    • In "Dead Men Don't Return Library Books" a petty thief, JonJo Ryan, turns out to have become a Jesuit priest and repented his criminal past.
    • Ray Gilchrist in "Bad Blood in the Soil" has a criminal history, including assault, which he put behind him as a result of embracing Anglicanism. He tried to help other ex-offenders too, though unfortunately some didn't change and abused his charity.

  • Amazing Freaking Grace: English sailor John Newton converted to Christianity after his life was saved in a storm, became a minister, and penned the hymn about his experience. However, it is a myth that this also led him to free the slaves the ship was carrying. In fact, he continued in the slave trade for some years before leaving to enter the ministry, and only became an abolitionist years later, participating in William Wilberforce's Parliamentary campaign to abolish the African slave trade.
  • The Chieftain series by Clamavi de Profundis tells the story of a viking chieftain who goes out to plunder a monastery, only to encounter the divine, and is converted to Christianity. By the third song, he tells the Friar that he has chosen not to retaliate against a rival clan whose chieftain had slain his father. This is a sharp contrast to his bloodlust displayed in the first song.
  • Red's "Breathe Your Life" is implied to be sung from the point of view of someone who "threw himself away" and, during his Darkest Hour, is looking to convert to Christianity.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • John Nord, a wrestling barbarian horny viking, became nicer after converting to Christianity and putting his weapons to use chopping trees as a lumberjack.
  • Jake Roberts: Became a born-again snake-handling Christian in the mid-1990s, and by time his python was named "Revelations". His real-life conversion became part of the plot that set up the legendary career of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
  • Shawn Michaels is a Real Life example that transferred over into his career. He went from a sex-soaked narcissistic boytoy to having crosses on his wrestling gear and doing his best to help others.
  • Slick (Kenneth Wayne Johnson) started out in the WWF as a Jive Turkey heel manager taking over for "Classy" Freddie Blassie's stable which included The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, The One Man Gang (later known as Akeem), The Bolsheviks et al. In 1991, after being bodyslammed by Davey Boy Smith, he took a leave of absence and returned a month later as "Reverend" Slick, as his "born-again" conversion didn't just take place in-ring, but happened in real life as well. After retiring from wrestling in the mid-1990s, he attended Campbellsville University in Kentucky, receiving his bachelor's and master's degrees, and is now an ordained minister in Louisville, Kentucky.

  • Used as a hasty Deus ex Machina in Shakespeare's As You Like It. Duke Frederick, the usurping villain who sets the plot in motion by driving the heroes into exile, is on his way to make war with the heroes when he comes across a religious hermit who convinces him to give up his evil ways and lead a monastic life. We're told all this after the fact via messenger. Loose end officially tied up!
  • Memphis has an interesting take on this trope. Huey's mother is a prejudiced, racist "Christian." Then she attends a black church and becomes accepting.
  • A Double Subversion in the musical The Book of Mormon. In act 2, Kevin Price marches up to the genocidal warlord-dictator, singing "I Believe," over the top in his idealism and his conviction. The general is unimpressed and shoves the book up Price's ass. However, at the end of the show, with a confrontation from both the missionaries and the Ugandans, the general converts and ends up ringing doorbells at the show's conclusion.
  • Skin Lad in Road leaves his old life behind to follow the dharma after an apparition during a particularly nasty fight.
  • Plays a part in Jean Valjean's rejection of a life of crime in Les Misérables, although it's more the selfless altruism of the priest that shocks him. Explored in "What Have I Done":
    My life he claims for God above
    Can such things be?
    For I had come to hate the world
    This world that always hated me.

    Video Games 
  • Reverend Ray in Call of Juarez turned to religion after killing his own brother, who dreamed of becoming a priest but ended up Taking the Bullet for their other brother Thomas to show Ray the true faith.
  • Willy Thorndop, the Marksmanship master in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, was pretty much your stereotypical "Evil Gunslinger" in his younger days. One day, he was at a bar, drunk off his ass and shooting his mouth off about his skills, and was challenged to a gunfight by a teenage boy. Without missing a beat, Willy pulled out his gun, pressed it against the boy's head, and pulled the trigger. When he sobered up, he was so horrified by what he did and what he had become, he just ran, eventually seeking refuge in the priesthood of Halcyon. As penance, they made him cut off his thumbs and index fingers so that he could never use a gun again.
    • Virgil is an example as well: he used to be a criminal and a gambling addict who didn't care about anything until he failed to pay a debt to the local bandits. After said bandits proceeded to carry out their threat to kill his brother, he freaked out and ran away, eventually ending up at the local temple where a priest took him in as a disciple.
  • Castlevania:
    • On the original timeline, Dracula vows to curse God for all eternity, until seemingly defeated for good in 1999. In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Soma Cruz, who realizes he is Dracula in 2035, decides to reject the idea of becoming the dark lord. It is ambiguous whether or not this is Soma Cruz or if this is indeed Dracula rejecting his dark side.
    • The reboot, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, reveals that the protagonist Gabriel Belmont, who became Dracula, did not actually hate God and curse him for eternity as assumed. Instead, he hated the Brotherhood of Light for its naivety and Zobek for his betrayal and manipulation while he was in the Brotherhood. He also realizes that he cannot die by conventional means as shown in Mirror Of Fate, let alone realizing that Zobek and Satan will come out of their hiding places if he dies at the world's current state. In the end during the present time (2057), both Dracula and Alucard managed to kill both Zobek and Satan once and for all, fulfilling Dracula's original goal from the start before corruption.
  • Joshua Stephenson in Cyberpunk 2077 is a multiple murderer who found religion in jail and becomes a much better person as a result to the point that he wants to become an Inspirational Martyr like Jesus Christ Himself to inspire others in their Crapsack World.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has Leliana, a former spy-for-hire (and sometimes assassin) who got religion after being betrayed by her mentor/lover.
  • If you complete Thane's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, Kolyat Krios, his estranged son, will have quit the life of crime and turned to religion by the time you meet him again in Mass Effect 3.
    • After finishing his work upgrading the Genophage, Mordin began dabbling with various faiths in order to deal with his guilt. He never found an answer that satisfied him. While he doesn't express a belief in any particular religion and seems to remain agnostic, he does respect the faith of others and even says a brief prayer over the corpse of a deceased krogan test subject.
  • Longinus from Far Cry 4 was an African warlord who became a priest after surviving a bullet to the head, and left his home country behind to travel the world seeking to collect all the blood diamonds he sold to criminals. Currently, he works as an Arms Dealer for the Golden Path to assist them in their war against Pagan Min. That said, Longinus doesn't seem to get the central points of religion, saying things like "What gun would Jesus choose?" to justify his actions. He's a sincere Atoner, though, and is only ever helpful to Ajay.
    Longinus: (in a moment of Drowning My Sorrows) And the Lord said, "Who shall I send?" And I said, "I am here. Send me." I come from a land of death and misery. And I stood with the devil for so long. (He indicates two blood diamonds on the table between him and Ajay, both physical reminders of his past atrocities) This one...this one wanted travel documents to take his family some place safe. And this one... wanted malaria medication for his sick child, so he tried to kill me. I cannot blame him. (Longinus raises the bottle to his lips, but then plonks it down again) NO! There is still work to do! We are not finished! You know what you must do! And I know what I must do!
  • Joshua Graham from Fallout: New Vegas. He was originally a missionary of the New Canaanites, before helping to create Caesar's Legion. After being dishonored, set on fire, and thrown into the Grand Canyon by Caesar, he found his way back to New Canaan and the Mormons. It mellowed him out. A bit.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • In the series' backstory, during the 1st Era, the Nordic Empire, led by the Tongues (masters of the Thu'um), was expanding rapidly out of Skyrim. Their armies invaded deep into Morrowind, slaughtering both the Chimer (ancestors of the Dunmer) and Dwemer. The leaders of these long-time enemy races, Lord Indoril Nerevar and Dumac Dwarfking, agreed to form an Enemy Mine. Their combined forces met at the base of Red Mountain, where the Chimer/Dwemer alliance "annihilated" the Nord army, a truly shocking defeat in this history of the Proud Warrior Race Nords. The most powerful of the Tongues, Jurgen Windcaller, survived but fell into Heroic BSoD despair. Despite the advantage conferred by the Thu'um, the Nord army was soundly crushed. For seven years, Windcaller meditated and reflected on the defeat, coming to the conclusion that it was a punishment from the gods for misusing the Thu'um. He would use the defeat as inspiration to discover the Way of the Voice and found the Greybeards, a monastic order who espouse nonintervention and pacifism, and only use the Voice to honor the gods. The aftereffects of this battle can still be felt in the plots of both Morrowind and Skyrim.
    • In the Skyrim quest, 'Waking Nightmare', it emerges that Erandur, the priest of Mara that guides you to Nightcaller Temple (to destroy Vaermina's Daedric artifact, which is causing unending nightmares for the people of Dawnstar), used to be an acolyte of Vaermina himself. When a band of Orcs (who had been plagued by nightmares set on them by Vaermina) had laid siege to the temple a decade prior, Erandur was the only one of Vaermina's followers to have escaped after releasing a miasma that rendered everyone inside comatose. After wandering Skyrim for a few years, he was taken in by a priest of Mara, and eventually joined her clergy.
  • Cyprian "Whoreson Junior" Wily from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, a crime boss known as a sadistic nutter by his peers (who are hardly sane or strangers to violence), can, in one ending, find religion and re-invent himself as an above-board brown-water trader. Except it isn't actually him, but Dudu Biberveldt the Doppler who has stolen Whoreson's identity, and is using his new-found "piety" to keep Radovid's witch-hunters off his back and quelch any questions about why Whoreson has stopped using drugs and mistreating sex workers.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, late-game character Renault (or Renaud for those in PAL regions) reveals through Support conversations with other characters that he was once a mercenary and that the death of a friend of his had prompted him to turn to the Church of St. Elimine for guidance. The truth is more complex than this, however. After his friend had died, Renault came upon Nergal, who was then performing further research into the use of quintessence to create life. Still grief-stricken, Renault agreed to assist Nergal with his experiments, in the promise of having his friend returned to him. However, Nergal eventually fulfilled his side of the bargain by raising Renault's friend as a Morph, a soulless construct that was nothing like the person Renault had known. Overcome by regret from both this and his realisation of Nergal's atrocities (to which his aid had ultimately contributed), Renault left to join the clergy, to seek any kind of forgiveness for his actions.


    Web Original 
  • Done in There Will Be Brawl. Mario is quick to blame Bowser for Peach's disappearance but is reminded by Luigi that Bowser gave up such things when he became a Buddhist. Later in the series, we get to see Bowser. He is dressed in a Chinese-style robe while meditating in his garden and begins dispensing philosophy when questioned. Until his Taking You with Me Heroic Sacrifice against an army of Game & Watches.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "Dope and Faith", Stan makes friends with an atheist and, to get him to turn to God, he subjects the man to a thorough Break the Cutie process. Instead of turning to God, he kills himself and comes back by making a Deal with the Devil. Stan at least learns to accept him for who he is.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: One episode has Arty Stromwell, head of a crime family, do this with the forgiveness and encouragement of his brother, Michael, who lost a leg saving Arty as a child and went on to become a Good Shepherd.
  • Family Guy: "Quagmire's Mom" pulls a Decon-Recon Switch. When Quagmire is on trial for statutory rape, he talks about how his mother was as much of a sexual deviant as he is, playing a large part in making him the man he is today. Quagmire's mother Crystal then introduces herself, promoting herself as a born-again Christian and spouting stock Christian platitudes. She expects that Quagmire will forgive her, but it completely fails — Quagmire chews her out for using religion to absolve herself of her past behavior instead of offering any real apology. It is only when Crystal admits her mistakes as a mother, shows sincere remorse, and actually helps Quagmire (by having sex with the judge) that he starts to come around.
    Quagmire: But I thought you were Christian now?
    Crystal: Helping my son is the most Christian thing I could do.
  • Although he doesn't complete the turn, Skeletor in the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special does betray Horde Prime and save the two children he was ordered to capture/kill because he learned about and accepted the True Meaning of Christmas.
  • King of the Hill: "The Good Buck": Buck Strickland, normally a crass, profane jerk, becomes a well-behaved sincere Christian. At least until the end of the episode, where he turns back to his old ways.
  • Looney Tunes: "Tin Pan Alley Cats" concludes with the Fats Waller cat, having spent the cartoon at the Kit Kat Klub and a rather surreal landscape, joining Uncle Tomcat's gospel revival next door.
  • South Park:
    • In Season 16, Cartman seemingly converts to Judaism. Not that he'll ever be good, but his antics have been much less of a psychotic sociopath and closer to the Spoiled Brat or Jerkass persona he started the show with.
    • In South Park: Post Covid, Cartman truly converts into Judaism, marries and starts a family. Though Kyle is very skeptical about this, and Cartman backslides to his evil ways in The Return of Covid to protect his family, his wife is able to convince Cartman to help make the future better for everyone else showing that this change of heart is genuine. However, this leads to a future where Cartman never went through this change and remained a bigot, resulting in him becoming a homeless alcoholic, who’s all alone, and has done nothing but scream insults at people.
  • Robot Chicken parodies this in a skit where The Joker is about to be executed via the electric chair.
    Commissioner Gordon: Have you any last words?
    The Joker: I know that Jesus has forgiven me.
    Guard: Is that a joke?
    The Joker: [starts crying] No...