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Love Is Like Religion

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I don't need to stare at stained glass and a steeple
I don't need to dress to impress all the people
Don't need no priest, don't need no pew
You are my religion, my religion is you
Skillet, "My Religion"

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.

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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 and Not Christian Rock (though it is also common in actual Christian Rock). Compare In Love with Love and Converting for Love. Common to characters and artists who were Raised Catholic. Expect lots of ritual-inspired Unusual Euphemism.

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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.

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


Examples:

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    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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
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    Music 
  • 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":
    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
  • 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".
      Then bow your head in the house of God
  • Katy Perry:
    • "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
  • While its literal message has been variously interpreted, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" combines lost-love tropes with a lot of Christian symbolism.
  • 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".
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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.
  • "My Religion" by Skillet, as seen in the page quote.
  • 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?
  • 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
  • Several songs on Taylor Swift's Red play with this.
    • In the opening track, "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
  • "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.

    Theatre 
  • 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!"

    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.

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