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Love Is Like Religion

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"Love, for you, is larger than the usual romantic love. It's like religion. It's terrifying."
Richard Siken, "Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out"

The inverse of God-Is-Love Songs, Love Is Like Religion is a trope commonly found in pop songs and other romantic works where religious imagery and terminology are used to talk about love as though it itself were a faith or as though the beloved were a celestial being.

Romantic love and religious faith are often portrayed as very similar states of mind in fiction. Like Property of Love and Love Is a Drug, it's a common romantic desire to worship or be worshipped by ones beloved. (See the split etymology of "passion".)

This interplay can be complicated, since many major religions now and historically have involved suppression of sexuality and supported power structures that make Marrying for Love almost impossible, especially for women and LGBT people. This means it may overlap with Protest Song, and using it may reflect a character's Crisis of Faith. It can also give it a similar effect to Interplay of Sex and Violence.

A common Motif. Sub-trope of Blasphemous Praise; Sister Trope to the non-romantic Like a God to Me. Compare In Love with Love and Converting for Love. Common to characters and artists who are Culturally Religious. Expect lots of ritual-inspired Unusual Euphemism.

Often incorporate Biblical Motifs such as Blood Oath, Forbidden Fruit, Garden of Eden, and Seven Deadly Sins.

Compare Divine Date, where the object of affection is literally divine. Contrast Hot as Hell, where they're the opposite. Contrast Religion Rant Song. See also Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory.

Note that this trope is about the motif where love is figuratively compared to religion, not actual religions based on love.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Taken rather literally with Karen in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, who is such a rabid Kaguya/Shirogane shipper that she routinely compares their assumed love for each other to an act of god, even claiming that the idea of one of them going out with somebody else to be blasphemy. She goes so far as to directly quote the bible whenever she sees them engaged in a particularly romantic activity like holding hands during the fireworks festival or their First Kiss.
    Karen: There is a God. He preaches the President x Kaguya-sama gospel...

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In A Knight's Tale, William compares his love for Jocelyn to "the fear, the passion" of being in church and declares that he will say rosaries to her and no one else.

  • Several of William Shakespeare's sonnets explore this trope.
    • In Sonnet 31, the poet, speaking about his past lovers, laments:
      How many a holy and obsequious tear
      Hath dear religious love stol'n from mine eye
    • In Sonnet 105, the poet protests that his devotion to his beloved should not be considered "idolatry" (worship of idols distracting from God), because his love is, like his faith, "To one, of one, still such, and ever so."
    • In 108, he compares the beloved's name to a prayer:
      ... like prayers divine,
      I must each day say o'er the very same,
      Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
      Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name.
  • Even in The Bible itself, the book of Song of Songs can seemingly be read as a straightforward love poem (bordering on outright erotic in some places), but many prominent Jewish and Christian interpreters through history have understood it as metaphorical for God's love for His people.

  • Synth-Pop singer Allie X has "Sanctuary", where she characters her lover as her sacred place of protection, also incorporating allusions to witch burning. There's also the line, "the Saints all dance to the trumpet sounds", alluding to the Rapture.
  • Similarly, the Aly & A.J. album Sanctuary:
    • "Church" uses church as a metonym for unconditional love:
      I need redemption
      For sins I can't mention ...
      I need a little church.
    • "Sanctuary":
      Every waking moment
      Yeah, you always bring me to my knees
      Somehow no one does it better
      When you fall down and commune with me.
  • Annie Lennox's "Take Me to the River" combines the imagery of a baptism with subtle innuendo.
  • From the unreleased Billie Eilish track, "6.18.18":
    You made me wanna pray
    But I think God's fake.
  • "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle, where she claims being with her lover makes . . . Heaven a place on Earth.
  • Beyoncé's "Halo", where she declares her lover an angel sent to save her:
    Baby, I can see your halo
    You know you're my savin' grace.
  • "Primitive Kiss" by Carol Tatum:
    Holy is my ancient queen
    A primitive kiss ...
    Salvation in her dark eyes.
  • Cinema Bizarre's "My Obsession" says, "You're my obsession, my fetish, my religion."
  • The Commodores' "I Feel Sanctified".
    Ooh, the sacred feeling
    Just blows through my soul
    Searching for sanctuary
    To rest it must explode
  • "Baptized" by Daughtry.
    Take me down, take me down by the water, water,
    Pull me in until I see the light,
    Let me drown, let me drown, in you honey, honey,
    In your love I wanna be baptized
  • Depeche Mode:
    • "Personal Jesus". According to Word of God here:
      "It's a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It's about how Elvis Presley was [Priscilla Presley's] man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships; how everybody's heart is like a god in some way, and that's not a very balanced view of someone, is it?"
    • "Martyr":
      I've been a martyr for love
      Nailed up on the cross.
  • Fall Out Boy:
    • "Uma Thurman" is a heavily sexual song incorporating much religious imagery, the singer promising to "move mountains", "work a miracle", and "keep you like an oath" and expressing a desire to "confess" to his beloved.
      The blood, the blood, the blood of the lamb
      Is worth two lions but here I am.
    • "Church":
      If you were church, I'd get on my knees
      Confess my love, I'd know where to be
      My sanctuary, you're holy to me
      If you were church, I'd get on my knees.
  • Florence + the Machine just loves religion and passion, so this trope is bound to happen.
    • Her obsession in "Drumming Song" is "sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell."
    • "All This And Heaven Too":
      And the heart is hard to translate
      It has a language of its own
      It talks in tongues and quiet sighs
      And prayers and proclamations.
    • "Bedroom Hymns" is one long comparison of religion to the ecstasy of sex.
    • "St. Jude" invokes the patron saint of lost causes for a failing relationship.
    • "Big God". According to Genius:
      "Instead of trying to deal with them herself, Florence decided that she personally needed a being both higher and larger than herself—a God—to which to hand these overwhelming feelings, as she was unable to deal with them alone. She hoped it would allow her to reconcile with her loss and fill the hole her partner had left in her life."
    • "Moderation" includes the line:
      Then bow your head in the house of God.
  • HIM:
    • They have a Love Martyr song titled "The Face of God".
    • In "The Sacrament", the narrator's religion is the relationship he has with his true love.
  • Hozier:
    • "Take Me to Church" is an intense ballad that uses religious imagery throughout as the singer expresses wanting to worship his beloved instead of the church that rejected their love, with a prechorus of repeated amens.
    • In "Foreigner's God", the singer expresses his love for a woman who does not conform to his society's edicts as "Screaming the name of a foreigner's god".
  • Katy Perry often makes nods in her love songs to her early career as a Christian singer.
    • "Legendary Lovers" makes nods to various religious traditions, mentioning Karma and the third eye and telling her lover, "Say My Name like a scripture / Keep my heart beating like a drum".
    • "Spiritual" is this trope in purest form.
      Lay me down at your altar, baby
      I'm a slave to this love
      Your electric lips have got me speaking in tongues
      I have prayed for a power like you.
  • Lady Gaga employs this frequently, especially in Born This Way.
    • "Judas" remixes pieces of the story of Jesus, Judas, and Mary Magdalene to explain the singer's current relationship.
    • According to Gaga, "Bloody Mary" was also inspired by Mary Magdalene. It Incorporates much of the same imagery.
      And when you're gone
      I'll tell them my religion's you.
    • "Electric Chapel" plays with the idea of sanctuary, asking her lover to commit to her by meeting her in the symbolic "electric chapel".
      My body is sanctuary
      My blood is pure.
    • One verse of "Teeth":
      Got no salvation (no salvation)
      Got no religion (my religion is you.)
  • Lana Del Rey has a lost-love song "Dark Paradise."
  • While its literal message has been variously interpreted, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is actually an inversion, as it combines lost-love tropes with a lot of Jewish symbolism to describe a man's troubled relationship with God.
  • Madonna, Like a Prayer: Released at the height of the AIDS crisis, the album explores themes of religion versus sensuality throughout. The title track, "Like a Prayer," is probably its best example of this trope:
    When you call my name
    It's like a little prayer
    I'm down on my knees
    I want to take you there
    In the midnight hour
    I can feel your power
    Just like a prayer
    You know I'll take you there
  • "Funeral" by Meg Myers is a twisted love song that says, "You came in like a God from above" and "Let me wear your halo on a Sunday."
  • "700 Club" by Nicole Dollanganger:
    Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ
    Think I just found the light in your eyes
    Think I just became as religious as they come
    I think I just found God
    Dumb founded by the glow of your gold halo
    Oh, God, I can't believe I'm staring at a living angel.
  • Religious imagery is all over Panic! at the Disco's music, tempering the wild sin motif. Their lead songwriter, Brendon Urie, grew up Mormon . . . in Las Vegas.:
    • "This Is Gospel", a lost-love song. The promotional video for the album's tour featured Brendon Waxing Lyrical to this song in the style of a mega-church evangelist.
      This is gospel for the vagabonds
      Ne'er-do-wells and insufferable bastards
      Confessing their apostasies
      Led away by imperfect impostors.
  • Peter Gabriel's "Lay Your Hands on Me".
  • Prince's "7" plays heavily into religious imagery, including comparing his lover to an angel and saying their love will defeat the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • "Rev 22:20" by Puscifer is an Intercourse with You song comparing lustful feelings with Biblical imagery.
  • Zig-zagged by R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion". The music video features religious imagery, although the song itself isn't about religion: it's derived from the southern expression meaning "Losing one's temper" or "Being at the end of one's rope"; Thus, the song is about unrequited love.
  • In one lyric from Sia's "Cellophane", she compares her lover to a saint:
    Patience is your virtue, saint o' mine
  • "My Religion" by Skillet:
    I don't need to stare at stained glass and a steeple
    I don't need to dress to impress all other people
    Don't need no priest, don't need no pew
    You are my religion, my religion is you
  • Discussed in Indie Pop Singer-Songwriter Squalloscope's "Big Houses" (featured on Welcome to Night Vale), where she explores the relationship between love and the Catholic Church, questioning what sort of commitment her religious lover wants from her.
    If I sign this piece of paper
    Do I sell my soul along with my duty?
    And we won't put our money where your Catholic mouth is
  • Sting's "Sacred Love":
    I've been up, I've been down
    I've been lonesome in this godless town
    You're my religion, you're my church
    You're the holy grail at the end of my search
  • Suzanne Vega: The similarly themed "Bound" and "Penitent" both play with the idea of the singer as the disciple of her lover, asking them to take her back like a prodigal son and wondering to what extent she would obey them.
    You appear without a face
    Disappear but leave your trace
    I feel your unseen frown.
  • Taylor Swift:
    • In the opening track of Red, "State of Grace", she compares the short time she spent with her lover to a state of grace, though she admits in the bridge that "you were never a saint / And I loved in shades of wrong".
    • The similar "Holy Ground":
      And darling, it was good
      Never looking down
      And right there where we stood
      Was holy ground.
    • In "False God" on Lover, Taylor pledges religious devotion to her paramour, even if it turns out to be a "false god".
      We might just get away with it
      The altar is my hips
      Even if it's a false god
      We'd still worship this love
  • "Wings Of Heaven" by Tiamat.
    The wings of heaven are descending
    The touch of her naked skin's amending
    The skies will collide
    Only for a little while
    And it will take us through the night
  • "Deeper" by Valerie Broussard incorporates some religious imagery, including saying she wants to lead her lover through the darkness (an allusion to Psalm 23:4).
    Ain't no saint without the sinner
    No relief without the fever
    So c'mon and cut me deeper, deeper.
  • Zolita expresses her love as a form of worship in "Holy", from the album Immaculate Conception.
    Worship your body as you walk my way
    You're the only one who can make me pray
    I fall at your feet, your breath defined
    And underneath my skin's an intrinsic shrine.
  • "Love Is My Religion" by Ziggy Marley is about love in general rather than the specifically romantic variety, but it does contain lines that play into this trope.
    I'll take you to the temple tonight.

  • In Heathers, J.D. and Veronica sing a song called "Our Love Is God" about destroying what they've known and building everything new with the power of their love.
    J.D.: I worship you.
  • Romeo and Juliet:
    • Romeo begins his famous "But soft ... " speech comparing Juliet to the sun and moon, and ends by straight up calling her an angel:
      O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
      As glorious to this night, being o'er my head,
      As is a winged messenger of heaven
      Unto the white-upturned wond'ring eyes
      Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him.
    • Later, when he has been exiled, he laments that "Heaven is here, where Juliet lives!"
    • Juliet gets into the act as well, during the balcony scene (Act II, scene 2):
      Do not swear at all.
      Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
      Which is the god of my idolatry,
      And I’ll believe thee.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Rick and Morty, an exercise at couples' therapy shows that Beth's ideal version of her husband perceives her as a literal goddess.