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Soul-Saving Crusader

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"And in the end the lesson was learned,
The Emperor knew you must suffer to be saved,
And he set out to save the world."
Fireaxe, Food for the Gods, "The Lesson Learned"

This character righteously murders and tortures people for their own good. No, not self-righteously. Righteously. After all, no horrors in life could possibly compare to eternal damnation in Hell. Yes, he is really willing to go the extra mile to save their souls. Unless they are Always Chaotic Evil, of course: In that case, he simply does whatever is in his power to exterminate them, up to and including finding a Final Solution.

If he showed up in Real Life, any reasonable person would consider him a Windmill Crusader or worse. But this is not real life. An in-story audience may or may not know it, but the cosmology he uses to justify his actions is true. Word of God says he is not deluded, and the threats he is facing are not windmills. Note, however, that being right about the cosmology of the setting doesn't automatically mean that he is doing the right thing from an external standpoint; just because demons are real doesn't automatically justify any and all actions taken to fight them. Most examples of this trope are therefore likely to be fairly controversial with the audience.

Mostly an Undead Horse Trope.

Compare Heaven Seeker and The Soul Saver, who do not use so harsh methods. Also compare Psychopomp. Contrast Windmill Crusader, who might incorrectly believe himself to be saving souls, and Knight Templar, who may or may not actually save souls but either way isn't justified in his over-zealousness. Compare and contrast Heteronormative Crusader, who depending on the setting might be either a Windmill Crusader or a Soul Saving Crusader. There is significant overlap with The Extremist Was Right, though the extremist can have any motivation.

Please note that this trope depends on the audience being able to see the setting/universe from the outside and that it thus cannot have any Real Life examples — subverted or otherwise.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Lucifer: The series contains various subversions of this trope, including the angel Remiel from The Sandman (1989).
  • Preacher: ZigZagged, as it turns out that the protagonist's horrible family WAS in fact doing the good Lord's work when they tortured him and murdered his father and all the other horrors they committed in order to force him to become a priest. And their actions would indeed have kept him safe from eternal damnation if he hadn't rebelled later. However, it also turns out that God Is Evil — and thus, saving souls for him actually isn't a moral thing to do.
  • Christian comics creator Jack Chick often made use of this. One specific example may be found in Uninvited, which features a nurse who harasses dying AIDS patients for what she considers their sin of homosexuality, calling on them to repent before it is too late. Of course, as a Soul Saving Crusader, she is fully justified within the premises of the story.

  • In the film The God Who Wasn't There, the Spanish Inquisition is briefly cast in this role. If they really kept all those souls out of hell, then it would be petty to whine about their systematic torture and murder of the people they in fact spared from a much worse fate. The real Spanish Inquisition would agree. However, the trope is subverted through Irony: the film is actually a pro-atheism Author Tract arguing that all religion is bad because even moderate religious belief inherently (at least according to the film) justifies this sort of thing.
  • Frailty: Adam and Fenton's father seems like a deranged Serial Killer at first who tortures and kills innocent people after hallucinating that he's been given a Mission from God to "destroy demons", but the ending reveals that it was all true: those people really were demons and their father was a Serial-Killer Killer.

  • In The Book of Eve, Brother Abramo imprisons and tortures sinners in an alleged attempt to save their souls. He and his Lambs roam the city, burning down the houses of heretics and coercing sinners into humiliating public penances.
  • The Grail Quest trilogy by Bernard Cornwell has several of these, one of whom is a primary antagonist in the second book.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality novel Wielding a Red Sword, this is played with. Mars takes on the role in his climactic challenge to Satan: if he brings about The End of the World as We Know It, the majority of souls will be on the good side of the spectrum and go to Heaven, and Satan will lose the War, which won't be the case if Satan's plot goes off properly and damns the world. Satan backs down, and Mars doesn't go through with it.


    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Mahabharata, King Shantanu gets to marry the beautiful Ganga, the goddess of the Ganges river, on the condition that he never question anything she does. She uses this to drown every baby she gives birth to; when he finally begs her to stop with the eighth baby, she explains that they are reincarnated sinners who get to clear their karma this way, and now that he broke her rule she has to leave him.
  • A case can be made for all characters in scriptures who do morally ambiguous things and yet are praised by the narrative. Regardless of whether a given religion is actually true in Real Life or not, their actions are definitely justified in the context of the story.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Zig Zagged Tropeed in Fading Suns. The Church attempts to impose "extreme penance" on psychics, and this is effective in reducing a psychic's Urge; also, some psis and theurges can in fact see into someone's soul, detect his/her sins, and determine the appropriate means for correcting that soul. However, Church doctrine is not always correct regarding what qualifies as a sin; for example, Invention is not a sin in the eyes of the Pancreator (as far as any powers can determine), but don't tell that to a Church official.
  • The player can potentially become one of these in KULT — it's possible to enlighten people in a positive manner, but it's often easier to drive them over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • In Target Games' Mutant Chronicles, the Inquisition and its methods are a necessary evil to defend humanity from the forces of Darkness.
  • Done in Games Workshop's Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 (Recycled In Space), where the humanity must be protected through Inquisition. The Imperium of Man is the most brutal and totalitarian regime imaginable, and it indoctrinates its people to be blindly loyal to it, no matter how hard their toil, how misplaced their loyalty or how misused they are. Because failure to present a united force in the galaxy will inevitably lead to the extinction of the human species at the hands of their myriad enemies attacking from all sides.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Gaia-affiliated Garou kill bane-possessed people (formori) not only as part of the war against the Wyrm but to free the host from the misery and slow corruption of bane possession.

    Video Games