Uriah: Didn't you just tell me of the bloody slaughters perpetrated by crusaders? Doesn't that make you no better than the holy men you were telling me about?
The Emperor: The difference is that I am right.
Uriah: Spoken like a true autocrat.
Considering all the dog-kicking and -raping the Knight Templar gets into, sooner or later a(nother) good character is going to get the courage to ask them something. How on earth do they believe themselves to be "absolutely good", given just how spiteful and needlessly cruelnote they are?
The Knight Templar's answer is simple. They are good, and their every action is good because they are good .
That headache you're feeling right now is the mounting frustration most characters feel at the realization that they're dealing with a Tautological Templar, a character who has been radicalized to a cause for so long that they cannot comprehend the idea that they could be immoral. Alternatively, this could be an outright villain who is deluded enough that they can justify completely selfish behavior as being for the greater good, such as claiming that The Hero is the evil one because they keep foiling their plans which are, of course, going to make the world a better place, because they are the ones who will be running it.
Tautology is a term meaning that something is true in every possible interpretation; a Tautological Templar, then, is a character who can justify absolutely any sort of behavior to themselves because no matter what it was, they are arrogant, fanatical, or Ax-Crazy enough to interpret it as being the right thing.
This character may look like a Hypocrite (he probably is, but he's too stupid, self-righteous, deluded, or willfully ignorant to understand it), but in reality he's far more dangerous than that. Because he can't comprehend the concept of Moral Dissonance, he will throw himself into any struggle with the same force, conviction, and resolve that The Hero shows against the Big Bad. That's because in his worldview, every enemy he has is twirling a handlebar mustache, madly cackling while tying orphans to the railroad tracks — even if said enemy turns out to be The Hero himself.
Can often come about unintentionally as a result of a Designated Hero, most often when a writer is trying to rationalize the character's action but is having trouble doing so. A Well-Intentioned Extremist may also be one of these, provided he's genuinely oblivious to the suffering he's caused in the name of the greater good.
In general, if you feel inclined to put on a page "Well-Intentioned Extremist: This character thinks he is this", then you are probably dealing with this trope.
Sometimes related to What Is Evil?. People generally don't think of themselves as evil, but following the true way. In Real Life, this may result from cognitive dissonance, the psychological discomfort produced by holding beliefs that conflict with one's actions. In order to relieve this discomfort, people may subconsciously modify their beliefs to justify their actions.
A form of It's All About Me mixed with Never My Fault and Obliviously Evil. Such characters are also prone to Believing Their Own Lies, and for their followers to do so with Blind Obedience. If the Designated Hero is called out for acting this way, it's What the Hell, Hero? See also Super Dickery, For Great Justice!, Lawful Stupid, Holier Than Thou, and Ron the Death Eater for when the hero really is a hero, but fans see him this way.
If a character comes across this way despite the author's intentions, you might have a case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. Compare Hitler Ate Sugar, an equally flawed argument that any given action is bad because the person doing that action is a bad guy.
A subset of Moral Myopia.
- Ashe/Angela from Black Butler. S/he declares everyone impure and that they must be Cleansed With Fire, but doesn't see anything wrong with murdering children and banging demons and Devil Dogs.
- Tousen is revealed to be this, though not too surprising as he'd turned out to be The Mole and had long appeared to be a Knight Templar anyway. It was known that he became obsessed with justice when a friend of his was murdered by her Shinigami husband who managed to get away with the crime; it transpires that the reason he turned against Soul Society was for revenge (he has previously implied it was because Utopia Justifies the Means, though this was still somewhat true), believing that forgiveness of any sort was a mockery of justice and feeling he was completely entitled to take revenge on Soul Society and all of its inhabitants, even if that means helping the Big Bad become a god and not really worrying about the countless innocent lives he was killing or planning to kill along the way.
- Masque de Masculine's defining trait is that he is is quick to label anyone who stands against him and his comrades as a villain, fiercely loyal to the Quincy cause. In his eyes, he is a hero and a champion, and because he believes he's a hero, he also thinks he is undefeatable by anyone he calls a villain. That he himself could be a bad guy is so beyond his comprehension that he is killed off before coming even close to the realization.
- Light Yagami of Death Note has the following to say on the subject: "Me? Evil? I am JUSTICE! Those who oppose me—they're the evil ones!" Contrast L, who readily admits when he engages in Dirty Business. There's also Light/Kira's followers-when Misa is introduced even Light thinks she goes too far when she kills innocent newscasters and police officers for just speaking out against Kira. That in itself is in an instance of templar tautology because Light did more or less the same thing when he killed FBI agents but naturally it's only okay when he does it. When Misa tries to defend her actions and dares to ask "isn't that what you did?" Light sends her a withering Death Glare and seems angrier that she called him on it than the fact that she killed people. Then there's Mikami—when Mikami's mother scolds him for fighting with the bullies at school Mikami decides she's an enemy of justice and when his mother and the bullies all die in a car accident he thinks that means that God is looking out for him. He takes the Kira mission even further than Light and Misa, killing reformed criminals and lazy people in the name of justice. Though when Light sees that in the news he mentions that he MIGHT eventually have gone on to kill lazy and unproductive people himself, just not quite that soon.
- In Rosario + Vampire, Gin gives a perfect definition of this trope in relation to Kuyou: "Kuyou is the kind of guy who mistakenly believes that, without a doubt, everything he does is for the sake of justice. Anyone who goes against him is going against justice and is an evildoer, and he believes that he can do anything for his own sake, because he is justice."
- Dragon Ball Super: Zamasu believes that he is righteous and correct about mortals being evil and it's his duty to promote the god's justice by wiping them out. Even if this means murdering his fellow gods. When he is called out on this by Gowasu and Vegeta, he states that they could never understand him. Zamasu freely admits that what he's doing is evil, but is firmly convinced that his actions will lead to a greater good.
- One Piece: The midpoint of the Whole Cake Island arc reveals that Big Mom is this. Her dream is "world peace". Nominally a laudable goal, Big Mom has twisted it — she believes that it is so infallibly righteous, that any actions she takes are above reproach and suggesting otherwise is "selfish". Said actions include outright genocide. This mindset was the result of falling into the care of enablers like Mother Carmel and Streusen who ignored teaching her a conventional moral code in favor of encouraging her destructive habits. As a result, Big Mom developed an It's All About Me attitude that severely skewed her view of the world.
- Anna Nishikinomiya from Shimoneta is a staunch believer in the setting's extreme moral values and anti-obscenity laws. Not only has her sexually repressed upbringing left her with a truly staggeringly high libido, she's completely ignorant of what sex even is and is incapable of distinguishing between love and lust. This leads her to repeatedly attempt to rape Tanukichi, the object of her affections, all while believing that her actions are "pure and just".
- Norman Osborn fell into this territory in Dark Reign, insisting that all of his actions were for the greater good and the heroes shouldn't be uniting against him and have no idea how much he has been doing to protect everyone. The fact that he started it by trying to kill all the heroes in the first place, that he tried to murder his own son for ratings, that he's been killing or locking up everyone who has a bad thing to say about him, that his own superhero teams comprised of supervillains he was allowing (and often ordering) to commit all sorts of murders and atrocities, and that the crisis in question he was referring to (The Sentry turning back into The Void) was all his fault in the first place, or the fact that his own Superpowered Evil Side was slowly taking over and he was starting to lose his mind and covering up the fact... Yeah, none of that really mattered.
- Fantastic Four: DOOM IS ALWAYS RIGHT!!! This, in a nutshell, sums up everything about Doctor Doom's character; he sincerely believes he's the smartest man in the world, a veritable god, and that his brilliance means he deserves to rule over the world. Depending on the Writer, sometimes, the authors seem to agree with him.
- The Flash: Zoom (Hunter Zolomon) thinks he's performing a vital service by putting heroes through utter hell under the belief that Misery Builds Character and will make them "stronger" heroes. Unfortunately, however, his beliefs absolutely do not match up with reality, he is profoundly disturbed, and his moral code is completely incomprehensible to others. Furthermore, he's probably up there with the Joker in terms of how dangerous he is to his own allies as he is to heroes, as he will brutally attack anyone who he thinks is impeding his progress with "improving" his current target.
- In Green Lantern, the Guardians of the Universe fall into this behavior on their worst days. It became worse and worse over Geoff Johns' run on the series until it came to a head in Rise of the Third Army, wherein they decide that the problems of the universe are caused by emotion itself, and thus Emotion Suppression and removal of The Evils of Free Will will remove the problems. This is in the face of the fact that the problems of the previous two armies were pretty much entirely their own fault. The Manhunters were created by them (and replaced by the extremely similar and also eventually evil Alpha Lantern Corps), and the Green Lantern Corps were led by misinformation and factors completely beyond their control, with their last "problem" being that one of them managed to kill a rogue Guardian.
- Depending on the Writer, Judge Dredd is aware that sometimes strict adherence to the letter of the law results in injustice; whether he accepts it as I Did What I Had to Do or exercises Loophole Abuse varies. There have been other Judges every so often who actually believed, "Because I'm a Judge, everything I do is right/legal." One of the Arc Words of the comic is "Who Judges the Judges"?
- Venom believes that he's the good guy and anything he does to Spider-Man is justified because he "ruined his life." The fact that Spider-Man hadn't even met the man before he got his powers does nothing to dissuade this view.
- Lex Luthor sometimes has this attitude with Superman -and to a lesser extent Supergirl-, especially evident in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. He justifies his crusade to bring down the hero by proclaiming that Superman, as a godlike alien, is a menace to humanity who impedes our progress by dint of his existence, and more crudely that Luthor is capable of solving all the Earth's problems but he can't until Superman is dead, and to be more specific dead at his hands. Doesn't seem to have any problem teaming up with other aliens like Brainiac or even Darkseid, even if those aliens really are out to enslave us all and make no secret of the fact. His supposed belief in the potential and value of humanity also doesn't seem to stop him from planning atrocities which, in attempting to destroy or 'expose' Superman, usually ratchet up a pretty hefty body count in human lives in the process.
- Ra's Al-Ghul is going to make the world a better place, so in the meantime he should be treated like God. Notably, he is trying to murder billions of people so that his family can inherent the Earth, on his terms as well.
- Chief Justice Tyrest is clearly this during the events of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, declaring their actions perfectly valid, legal, and the right thing to do, guided by their beliefs but self-justified using their role in the justice system. Let's quickly point out that this is the same individual who believes indiscriminate genocide will somehow absolve him of his guilty conscience, and actually carries out that plan.
- Superboy Prime from Infinite Crisis jumped pretty quickly from "Dark Age heroes are too violent and amoral" to "Time for me to start killing them."
- Contest of Champions: An alternate universe version of Tony Stark, who went through Civil War but never got deposed by the Skrull Invasion insists he doesn't make mistakes "anymore". Turns out that he has a Reality Stone concealed in his armor, which he uses to immediately Ret Gone any snafus he pulls off, starting with the accidental murder of Bill Foster... and including the various times that Steve Rogers has died, some of which were deaths by his own hand.
- Poison Ivy is often depicted as this with her "eco-terrorist" depictions, being too obsessed with either making people go Green now, too willing to sacrifice human lives in favor of the environment, or both. She completely fails to realize that this only hurts her position and that she has more viable options in her arsenal thanks to her powers because she sincerely believes that she's protecting Mother Earth and so totally justified.
- Batman, Depending on the Writer. The man has pulled off some truly serious Nineteen Eighty-Four-esque moves (i.e. Brother Eye) in his attempts at keeping crime under control, he is a complete Control Freak that needs to have a plan to take care of any obstacles (even if the "obstacle" is a trusted friend that would get immensely hurt from finding out that he did this), and when it comes to Thou Shalt Not Kill he is completely unwilling to budge and has come to blows with people that he considers allies and even family because the mere thought of applying it (even if they at make a point of deciding it will be applied if there is absolutely no other choice, i.e. any time The Joker is involved) is completely inexcusable (beating criminals to the point that, realistically, some would be dead and causing massive collateral damage (that, again, may have killed people) with his antics seems perfectly okay, though).
- Adam Taurus gives off shades of this in Resurgence, calling out Blake for attacking her fellow Faunus and accusing her of turning her back on her own kind completely, when not only has he himself has been trying to kill Blake all along, but he personally killed Sun, both of whom are his fellow Faunus. When Blake rightfully calls him out on this, Adam simply brushes Blake and Sun off as obstacles.
- Dumbledore is this in Heir. As far as Dumbledore is concerned, he's good and therefore all his actions are good by default (actions such as leaving an innocent child with his abusive relatives). In his world-view, all the "light families" are inherently good and all "dark families" are the cause of all problems, and if a member of a "dark family" happens to be a victim well they must have deserved it.
- Until he is defeated at the end, Titan, the Big Bad of the Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Immortal Game, never stops to think that maybe, JUST MAYBE, he's the one being an overall self-righteous bastard. All he really seems to care about is (A) what he claims to be the "natural order" and (B) all of ponykind acknowledging that he is their GOD simply because he says he is.
Twilight Sparkle: You're a god because you're a god because you're a god. You let your mind fall into the same grooves you've carved for yourself over millennia of thought. It's a circular argument, and one you've used to justify the slaughter of numberless innocents, all of them no less endowed with a mind and soul than you.
- In fact, he is defeated by getting called out on this. When Twilight makes him realize that he runs on circular logic by automatically associating himself with order, while in reality he doesn't have a place in the world that he created, his sword goes out and he proceeds to have a massive BSOD.
- In Sex Note, Souichiro Yagami believes that it's impossible that any of his men are raping people because they are the police, the good guys, so of course they'd never abuse their authority like that! So he decides it all must somehow be Kougoukan's fault, that no rapes actually happened, and it's all a plot to embarrass the police.
- In 3 Slytherin Marauders, Neville gains this twisted worldview as a result of both nature (his mother, Alice was a Knight Templar) and nurture (he grew up resenting Harry Potter and living in constant fear of his life from his Evil Uncle Algie.) No matter what he does, he is justified in his own mind, and no matter what anyone says or does, he believes that Harry is evil.
- In many The Conversion Bureau stories, especially those written by Chatoyance, Celestia and the ponies completely fail to see anything wrong with forced conversion and why the human race is so pissed off at them and fighting so hard against them.
- Fade: L. His logic for using the Death Note and becoming as bad as Kira in the story that came with it amounts to this. In his mind, he is Justice, and thus, if he were to die, there would be no more Justice in the world. Hence, every life he takes to subvert fate and save his own, be it that of a criminal or an innocent, is for Justice.
- Kingdom Hearts 3: Final Stand: The Insurgos, hands down. As far as they're concerned, everyone in the royal family of Radiant Garden is evil purely because they're related to Hanako, a tyrant queen, anything and everything they do to get at them is justified, and anyone who sides with the royals for any reason is their enemy. It's actually revealed in Moons of Fate that Yamato Kazekiri's father approached them, offering to negotiate with the royal family for them and make things easier; rather than take his offer, the Insurgos openly accused him of "kissing up to the royals" and murdered him on the spot before killing his pregnant wife.
- The Jedi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy sometimes come off like this, especially Obi Wan's line of "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."
- Explored in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith. While debating Palpatine in the balcony seats of the Mon Calamari Ballet on Sith vs. Jedi philosophy, Anakin's only answer to why the Sith are wrong is eventually "Jedi are GOOD. That's the difference!" and can't point to any specific reasons supporting his assertion, in spite of the fact that historically, Jedi have served as protectors of the innocent and keepers of the peace for centuries, to the point they defanged themselves to regain the trust of the galaxy after a particularly nasty war wrecked their reputations, while Sith, without any real exceptions, always seek to rule and dominate others through their powers, have traditionally been slavers, and have a propensity towards racism. This likely says more about Anakin than the Jedi, especially given how he winds up. It also goes some way towards explaining why seeing Mace Windu make a morally grey decision was such a turning point in his fall; the tautology was the only thing keeping him even nominally on the good side, so seeing it falsified let him take a running jump off the slippery slope without a backwards glance.
- Subverted in Serenity. The Operative readily admits that he's a monster, and that there won't be a place for him in the "better world" for which he's killed so many.
- Lock Up: The Warden is determined to destroy Frank's life. He'll go to any means to assure this, because he seems to think that as the Warden, he's always the hero and as the prisoner, Frank is always the bad guy. This goes to the point of justifying the murder of Frank's friends as another means to provoke Frank into getting himself "the punishment he deserves".
- Thank You for Smoking has a scene where Nick extols the virtues of the Chewbacca Defense for his son, explaining that he has to be this trope in his work as a tobacco lobbyist.
Joey: ...so what happens if you're wrong?
Nick: Well, Joey, I'm never wrong.
Joey: But you can't always be right.
Nick: Well if it's your job to be right, then you're never wrong.
- In Vice, the oft-repeated "unitary executive theory" is that anything the President (or the US) does is, by definition, legal/moral. Why? Because it's done by the President/US.
- Catch-22 has Sgt. Milo Minderbinder, who believes capitalism is the ultimate expression of good, and as such will do anything up to and including getting his own squad mates killed to promulgate it. It's Blue and Orange Morality enough (as far as we know, he's completely honest in this belief) that it's still possible to like him somewhat, unlike other antagonists such as serial rapist Captain Aardvark.
- C. S. Lewis, though a devout Christian, wrote that theocracy is his least favorite form of government. As Lewis described, a secular dictator has a chance, even if an infinitesimal one, of realizing he's wrong, whereas a theocrat wholeheartedly believes God is on his side, and thus, how could he be anything other than right? After all, God would stop him if he were to do anything wrong!
- Lady Lilith in Witches Abroad. She runs a police state and feeds people to stories to increase her personal power. But her understanding of her own story is that she's the fairy godmother, and Granny Weatherwax is the wicked witch, and therefore everything she does is okay.
- This is discussed a number of other times in the Discworld series, mostly by Vimes but also by Granny Weatherwax and the wizards. Some character will suggest an action and justify it 'because we're the good guys', only to have it pointed out that being the good guys depends on not doing certain things.
- Vetinari nails it in The Last Hero when he concludes that Cohen the Barbarian is supposedly "heroic" when he commits theft or arson because it's Cohen the Barbarian doing it.
- The cunning argument for why the Unseen University's Department of Post-Mortem Communications is absolutely not necromancy is that only bad wizards do necromancy. One of the determining features of whether a wizard is bad or not is... whether they do necromancy. Because they're not bad wizards, what they're doing cannot be necromancy.
- Inverted by Lord Vetinari. To him, everyone is evil (or at least bad), it's just that some people are less evil than others. He also deliberately sets up Ankh-Morporkian society to be a series of counterbalancing forces, to prevent anyone (including himself to a certain degree) to go power-mad without someone to oppose them
- In Night Watch, Vimes acknowledges that how he justifies bending the rules is that it's him doing it — and that this isn't a good reason, because people like Carcer use the same reasoning. Vimes, at least, watches himself very carefully to make sure he doesn't truly cross the line.
- The Quisition in Small Gods runs on this. If the Quisition suspects you, then you must therefore be totally guilty, because the Great God Om would not have placed suspicion in their minds otherwise. Deacon Vorbis wholeheartedly believes that every atrocity he commits is by the will of Om, and that even when he deceives he never lies—instead he is acting in service to a "greater truth." It's revealed in the end that he had honestly believed he was a prophet his whole life, when it really just his own thoughts; the realization breaks him.
- The First Law:
- Black Dow, a Card-Carrying Villain, accuses Barbarian Hero Logen Ninefingers, the "Bloody Nine", of being this, and says it makes him even worse than him because Logen is capable of absolutely anything while Dow can show that Even Evil Has Standards, such as when Logen slaughters a couple of kids and his own allies in the middle of a siege after the enemy breaks through, and thinks nobody noticed. Subverted though, since in fact Logen is just a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who happens to have a Superpowered Evil Side that is the real source of his wicked reputation and (most of) his evil deeds, including the above, and he just doesn't want anyone to know that both out of fear that his allies would turn on him because he's too dangerous, and conversely because even his allies are nearly all former enemies and he worries that, even though he is a formidable warrior in his own right, they might turn on him because he's not as dangerous as they all thought he was.
- Played utterly straight with Bayaz, however, who justifies centuries of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and callous manipluation as being for the betterment of mankind, in spite of his paradoxical utter contempt for humanity in the first place. He seems to see himself as a Dark Messiah, though a lot of his actions seem to be entirely selfish, and though he can accurately claim that he is protecting the world from a Knight Templar Evil Sorceror and his Corrupt Church of cannibalistic ninja wizard clerics, he neglects to mention that it really all started as a private blood feud between two powerful mages, and that he is actually guilty of everything the other guy accuses him of and more, including all of the Black Magic that supposedly makes the latter the bad guy. By the end of the story, you'll be wondering who the real villain was.
- "I am First of the Magi. I am the last authority and I say I am righteous. Power makes all things right. That is my first law, and my last. That is the only law that I acknowledge."
- In The Redemption of Althalus, at one point a priest is burning local girls for witchcraft, since they use it to put shameful and lusty thoughts and urges in his head. He's convinced that they must be using wicked magic for this, since he's too pure to experience those things — the idea that he's just having the normal male reaction to pretty girls doesn't even occur to him. It's rather frightening when you realize how long he's been doing it without anyone stopping him. It's even more frightening when you realize that after the heroes have rescued his latest victim (because they needed her for their group) and she gives him a The Reason You Suck Speech, they leave without stopping him permanently. Wait, what?
- The Big Bad of the Safehold series, Zahspahr Clyntahn, is the Grand Inquisitor of the Church, so in his mind anyone who opposes him must be evil. He comes up with all kinds of propaganda about his enemies to justify his atrocities, and he actually believes the lies he himself invents, which the other characters (including most of his allies) find incredibly disturbing.
- Doctor Impossible, the Villain Protagonist of Soon I Will Be Invincible, discusses how petty and mean the "heroes" act and suggests that the only real difference between heroes and villains is that villains are on the losing side.
- Discussed in the first book of The Sword of Truth, in which the villain is described as having this mindset. (Unfortunately, in some of the later books, the author eventually starts using the same kinds of logic to justify the actions of the protagonists.)
- Big Jim Rennie in Stephen King's Under the Dome. He is afflicted with a particularly bad case of Moral Myopia. God intends for him to lead and protect the town... no matter how many townspeople need to die to make it happen. As far as he's concerned, the town of Chester's Mill is his by divine mandate, anything that threatens his absolute control of the town threatens the town itself, and any action up to and including murder and inciting a riot is justified if it helps him stay in control. To wit: it doesn't matter how bad for the town it is, if it's good for Jim Rennie, it's good for the town.
- In Villains by Necessity, the side of Good is actually pretty damned evil. Not only is the world becoming "mystically unbalanced" by their actions, but they've turned it into a horrible theocratic dictatorship and most of them still insist that they are Good and all who oppose them are Evil. The so-called "heroes" are also pretty blasé about rape—at least when they're the one's doing it.
- It is possible that Sauron from The Lord of the Rings started out as this, wanting to bring order to a chaotic world. He was the only one who knew what was the most appropriate course of action according to him, after all. Then he underwent severe Motive Decay and ends up as one of the most evil villains in Literature.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, the Archbishop of Alba justifies making use of a hermeticist (something he otherwise condemns and being of the Devil) by stating that because he's an agent of God, everything he does must be for God's cause.
- In the Imperial Radch series, Lord Anaander Mianaai is the absolute ruler of the Radch and is generally believed to personify the Radchaai values of Justice, Propriety, and Benefit; so Mianaai quite sincerely believes that all of her actions are, by definition, for the good of the Radch. Those actions include massacring entire planets, summarily executing citizens for minor inconveniences, and using the entire Radch as pawns in a covert civil war between two factions of her thousands of cloned bodies.
- Notably, this latter situation arose from a disagreement over the above: Anaander Mianaai — or, rather, a part of her — was unable to reconcile the destruction of Garsedaai with the values of Justice, Propriety and Benefit. This internal disagreement (with the part of her that could) eventually matured into a shadow war against herself, and eventually a fully-blown civil war. The faction that couldn't manage to reconcile those two ideas is marginally less tautological as a result.
- The Malleus Maleficarum uses such "reasoning" as a proof that the witches do actually fly on broomsticks and cast evil spells, rather than it happening in their imagination, as per some more reasonable claims. It goes like this: "If they didn't do those things in reality, there'd be no reasons for us to burn them. But we couldn't possibly be wrong on this accord, hence they do fly on broomsticks in reality. Burn the Witch!!"
- The Colbert Report: Stephen Colbert is this trope Played for Laughs. "Great X or the Greatest X?"
- In Babylon 5, "Comes The Inquisitior", we meet the Vorlon Inquisitor Sebastian who once held this belief while doing God's work.. The Vorlon's made sure to show him the depth of his error.
Sebastian: The city was drowning in decay, chaos, immorality. A message needed to be sent, etched in blood, for all the world to see: a warning. In the pursuit of my holy cause, I did things, terrible things, unspeakable things. The world condemned me, but it didn't matter, because I believed I was right and the world was wrong. I believed I was the divine messenger. I believed I was...
Sebastian: I was found by the Vorlons. They showed me the terrible depth of my mistake, my crimes, my... presumption. I have done 400 years of penance in their service. A job for which they said I was ideally suited. Now, perhaps, they will finally let me die.
Sheridan: I think that might be wise.
Sebastian: Good luck to you in your holy cause, Captain Sheridan. May your choices have better results than mine. Remembered not as a messenger, remembered not as a reformer, not as a prophet, not as a hero, not even as Sebastian... Remembered only... as Jack.
- Castiel of Supernatural professes this attitude regarding his actions early in season four. He's following Heaven's orders, and because the orders are from Heaven, they are just, even if they include possibly nuking a town and annihilating every person living there. He later admits however, that he has doubts and doesn't know what's right and wrong.
- Lucifer accuses God of being a Tautological Templar, in those exact terms: "Everything is a tautology with you. Everything is 'Because I said so," or "Because it had to be done." In trying to be fair to Lucifer and see if he has a good point, the main thing to remember is that Lucifer remembers God from many millennia in the past, and is meeting him for the first time in thousands of years. Lucifer's criticism is probably valid about the way God was at that time; but in modern times, the God we see today has learned to be have a more mature attitude towards his creations than than the old angry deity that he used to be. Also, Michael says that Lucifer is full of shit, and is just trying to justify his own actions.
- Rance Burgess in Firefly has shades of this. He frequents the local brothel, but when he impregnates one of the girls, he's disgusted at the thought of his child being raised by a whore, and is entirely willing to massacre the entire brothel to ensure that the child has a decent, proper upbringing in a respectable family. There's no rationalization or justification of why he's better than the prostitute he was sleeping with, just the rock solid belief that he's a righteous family man, so whatever he does for his family is inherently right.
Mal: Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he's right with God.
- Parodied in a mockumentary by French comedian trio Les Inconnus, in which hunters are presented as a bunch of inbred morons. When asked what the difference is between a good and a bad hunter, they are quick to answer that the bad hunter shoots anything that moves, while the good hunter... shoots everything that moves, but he is a good hunter still (that joke has reached memetic status in the French-speaking world, by the way).
- "Dirty Window" by Metallica.
I see my reflection in the window
It looks different, so different than what you see
Projecting judgement on the world
This house is clean babe
This house is clean
- In "Overburdened" by Disturbed, Hell is overburdened with Knight Templars who don't understand why they are being sent there. Subverted when the narrator seems to make a Heel Realization mid verse:
- The Fundamentalist interpretation of God falls under this trope.
- Some interpretations go further, suggesting that morality (and even truth) itself can only come from God, making any opposition to their views irrational and wrong by definition.
- This is also the standard response to criticisms that certain actions taken by or commanded by God would be considered unforgivably monstrous in any other context. If God does it, it must be moral.
- This is a trait of heel commentators throughout wrestling, excusing or justifying almost anything wrong a heel does. The inverse is also true, as some face commentators will justify the actions of the face wrestlers, even if they do something morally ambiguous.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Just about every Radical Inquisitor is in danger of (eventually) becoming this. The important distinction between Radicals and Puritans (who will happily nuke a planet if the slightest whiff of heresy is found) is that the Radicals are willing to tread the thin line between heresy and non-heresy (as dictated by the Imperial Creed), as well as turn the tools of the enemy against it, e.g. Chaos against Chaos (daemonically possessed weapon and hosts, etc). Of course, many such Radicals are overconfident enough to always think they can control it, fall under the Daemon's control without realizing it, and then get surprised/outraged when another Inquisitor comes to investigate and/or assassinate them. Of the different types of radicals, Xanthians may risk becoming this while Oblationists already are ones. Others such as the Seculous Attendos and Xeno Hybris completely dive into heresy because they believe that the Imperial Creed is actually holding humanity back and therefore aren't an example. The main reason these two forms aren't is because they don't try to use chaos. Seculous Attendos want the Imperium to become secular while Xeno Hybris think that humanity is better off trying to cooperate with some speciesnote of Xenos.
- The Flawless Host are a Chaos warband who originated this way. They believed themselves to be pure and perfect, and so could do no wrong. Eventually they started massacring entire planets for no reason, because if they do it then it must be right! They're now devoted to Slaanesh.
- The Emperor of Mankind maintains that killing people who don't share your beliefs and worldview is awful except when he does it because he's right. He has been called out on his hypocrisy.
The Emperor: It is my dream. An Imperium of Man that exists without recourse to gods and the supernatural. A united galaxy with Terra at its heart. [...] These warriors shall be my generals and they will lead my great crusade to the furthest corners of the galaxy.
Uriah: Didn't you just tell me of the bloody slaughters perpetrated by crusaders? Doesn't that make you no better than the holy men you were telling me about?
The Emperor: The difference is that I am right.
Uriah: Spoken like a true autocrat.
- This is the path to damnation for several darklords in Ravenloft, most notably Elena Faith-hold. She routinely slaughters entire villages, convinced that she is "cleansing evil from the world."
- Exalted has the Immaculate Order, a religion which says that enlightenment leads to a better reincarnation, ultimately resulting in being reincarnated as a Dragon-Blooded; therefore, anything the Dragon-Blooded do is for your own good and it is right and proper that the Dragon-Blooded rule over you as cruel overlords, enslave you, beat you, burn down your house for kicks, etc. Also, the "Anathema" (actually celestial exalted, and they have a mandate straight from heaven saying that they should rule) are all utterly selfish and evil, so anything they do is part of an evil plan, even curing horrible diseases and saving small children. Yeah.
- To be perfectly accurate, the Immaculate Philosophy teaches that it is possible for a Dragon-Blooded to do things that are morally wrong, and which they will need to atone for in their next life. However, even when a Dragon-Blooded is being undeniably wicked, it is still wrong for mortals to disobey or oppose them in any way, since it is not their place to judge the actions of their betters.
- This was the hat of the Mercy Killers in Planescape. They believed that the guilty must be punished for their crimes, and they would use any means necessary to do so. And considered any crimes they committed along the way to be completely justified.
- In Antigone, after Creon has sentenced Antigone to death, Haimon urges him to relent and learn from those who can teach, and Creon is offended by Haimon's boldness at suggesting that an adult should be counseled by a child, and Creon asserts his authority that as king and the leader of state, the city's authority is subject to the king:
Creon: You think it right to stand up for an anarchist?
Haimon: Not at all. I pay no respect to criminals.
Creon: Then she is not a criminal?
Haimon: The City would deny it, to a man.
Creon: And the City proposes to teach me how to rule?
Haimon: Ah. Who is it that's talking like a boy now?
Creon: My voice is the one giving orders in this City!
Haimon: It is no City if it takes orders from one voice.
Creon: The State is the King!
Haimon: Yes, if the State is a desert.
Creon: This boy, it seems, has sold out to a woman.
Haimon: If you are a woman: my concern is only for you.
Creon: So? Your "concern"! In a public brawl with your father!
Haimon: How about you, In a public brawl with justice?
Creon: With justice, when all that I do is within my rights?
Haimon: You have no right to trample on God's right.
- Assassin's Creed:
- When they are not just in it for the power, the Templars are literally this. Why are Templars' Creed good? Because they strong-arm the world from falling into chaos, but only if it's them who gets to exercise being heavy-handed. If it's by anyone else, it will breed chaos! Best exemplified by Dr. Warren Vidic, who believes that his actions are not only pardonable, but righteous all along — unlike "those Assassins, who only take and take."
- The Assassins can also fall under this, believing that killing a Templar is justified no matter what. This is what caused Shay to join the Templars in Assassin's Creed: Rogue. Of course, considering that the Templars seek to remove free will from everyone else in the world, it's understandable why the Assassins fell into the mindset as well.
- BioShock 2: Sofia Lamb just wants to push mankind into its next evolutionary stage. It's for the Greater Good, and nothing could be more evil than trying to stop this noble goal. Ask yourself: are Rapture, human consciousness, individuality itself, and Eleanor's mind really such high prices to pay for paradise?
- Comstock of BioShock Infinite has a very... interesting interpretation of divine forgiveness. After being baptized in order to wash away the sins he committed as Booker DeWitt, he was told to Go and Sin No More. Instead of the intended meaning of "don't commit any more sins", he instead interpreted this as "you are now incapable of sin", and thus went on to commit even more horrific acts believing that since he was able to do them, they must therefore not be sinful.
- Injustice: Gods Among Us has an alternate universe's Superman take up this madness after one particular event sends him over the Moral Event Horizon. He then decides that because he is the Man of Steel, whatever he does in service to "saving" his world is justifiable because he says so, even coldblooded murder of other heroes who might call him out on this.
- Since the demons in Disgaea insist they're evil no matter how much good they do, multiple villains have served as their foil by insisting in their goodness no matter how much evil they do. Aurum in the third game is a particularly spectacular example: having killed the last and most powerful demon overlord, he's spent two hundred years molding a young demon into the "perfect overlord" for him to fight and defeat. He thinks he has to do this, because without villains, heroes are no longer relevant. Not until the very end does he realize that, since he's trying to create a threat to humanity, he's now a villain.
- Knight-Commander Meredith of Dragon Age II gets worse as the game progresses partially due to the influence of her red lyrium sword, but believes she is always in the right because she is keeping people safe from blood mages and demons. By Act III, she's decided that anyone who disagrees with her at all is a mind-controlled blood mage puppet. Every decent Templar still alive has realized what she is, but they're all too afraid of her to speak out. Thrask tries to form a mage-templar alliance to depose her, but picks exactly the wrong person to be his right hand. When Meredith goes completely off the deep end, the entire Templar Order (except Cullen, and possibly Carver) runs out of sight and lets Hawke's group do all the work.
- The Elder Scrolls
- This is a trait of Meridia, a Daedric Prince whose sphere is obscured to mortals, but is associated with Life Energy, Light, and Beauty. She is considered one of "good" (or at least benevolent) Daedric Princes by most mortals, but definitely has a number of Good Is Not Nice traits. She is very much a Knight Templar toward anything undead, as well as any other entities of cruelty, darkness, rot, filth, or decay. Thus, she will stop at nothing to destroy them, even if it means causing collateral damage to innocent people or her own followers, bordering on being a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Because of this, she feels that any actions she takes is therefore good and anyone who opposes or abandons her is evil. She will thus deal with them appropriately.
- The Alessian Order was a rabidly anti-Elven religious sect which established a Theocracy in the 1st Era that wielded nearly as much power as the Emperor at its height. They taught that resisting the Order was equivalent to resisting the gods themselves.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, Jolee Bindo argues that the Jedi believe that since they follow the Light Side of the Force, that they can do no wrong. In the sequel, Atris unknowingly falls to the Dark Side because of the extreme methods she used to lure out the Sith.
- Samara in Mass Effect 2. Her philosophy as a Justicar is that so long as she follows her Code, all of her actions are just, even when that action happens to be killing a helpless enemy simply for refusing to give her information or potentially killing a police officer for being ordered to take Samara into custody. Unusually, she recognizes that this is a problem in a galaxy of Grey and Gray Morality and her code even has some deliberate loopholes for situations when "kill the hell out of everything in my way" would not be a good idea.
- Team Plasma from Pokémon Black and White is against people owning Pokemon, but one of the grunts stated that it is perfectly okay if Team Plasma has Pokemon. In the end, subverted; Team Plasma, or at least its higher ups, want people to release their Pokemon so that Team Plasma are the only ones with Pokemon, which in that setting would make them the most powerful people in the world. By the end, some of the grunts have turned against this idea. The sequel averts this altogether with most of New Team Plasma, who are more overt about their aims.
- Resident Evil 6: Derek C. Simmons honestly seems to believe that everything he does, no matter how evil or crazy, is for the sake of preserving global stability. In trying to preserve said stability, he infects Tall Oaks with the C-Virus and then nukes it to cover his tracks. believing that President Benford revealing the truth behind the Raccoon City incident would destroy that stability. Leon and Helena justifiably call him out on it, pointing out he caused an actual disaster to prevent a possible one.
- Shin Megami Tensei: The Law faction invariably has a few of these. YHVH, in His worst moments, dives straight into this. In many games YHVH feels that he has the right to do whatever he pleases to Earth by virtue of having created it.
- Spec Ops: The Line features a Character Arc that seems to be about a character waffling between being a Tautological Templar and being afraid of becoming one. "Do you feel like a hero yet?"
- The Pope from Tales of Symphonia believes that all half elves deserve to be executed or be slaves because he's The Pope, he never gives any further explanation than he's the Pope; he doesn't even care that The Chosen, a centerpoint of the religion, disagrees, because HE'S RIGHT. Essentially, he bases his racism entirely on being The Pope. His DAUGHTER is a half-elf, and that didn't stop him from putting her in a chamber because that's just how things are! His daughter IS the reason he hates half-elves. He started out on the half-elves' side until his daughter was born, and after she grew up, then stopped aging, he "realized" how different half-elves really were from humans, and it terrified him. Xenophobia at its worst.
- In Mega Man Zero, Copy-X believes that he is a "perfect copy" of the legendary hero X, and because he's perfect, all of his decisions are perfectly correct and beyond reproach.
- Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. In his own mind, he's the hero of the story, doing whatever it takes to bring about a better future for Pandora. Therefore any action he takes, no matter how horrific, is just and righteous.
- The Reapers in Diablo III, a renegade faction of angels led by Malthael, the Angel of Death. They believe that angels are inherently good, demons are inherently evil, and humans (who are Half Breeds of the other two races) have free will to choose between the two, a choice they are not worthy of making. Therefore, when The Reapers decide to commit genocide against humans, it must be a course of action that will ultimately benefit the universe.
- This is Megatron's entire schtick in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Despite the fact he's forced Cybertron to go into a coma-like state that's resulted in the loss of the entire planet's supply of Energon, effectively killing his own world, forced millions of Cybertronians to evacuate for the millions of years it will take for Cybertron to recover, and murdered countless millions more in the war that he started, he's still absolutely convinced that he's the hero and the savior of Cybertron. Throughout the game, he can be heard ranting and raving about he will save Cybertron and how Optimus' resistance to his tyranny is the true evil.
- : Angie Yonaga, the Ultimate Artist, in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. She is a very religious upbeat girl, who believes her actions are being guided by her god, Atua. Tenko will mention that, because she genuinely believes that her god is guiding her every move, so she feels no regret or thinks through her own actions, because since god is guiding her, everything she is doing must be for the better. This comes to a head when she creates the student council, which is basically a cult she made for her own god using the students that follow her to enforce a set of rules she made on the other students and says that it will all be fine as long as all others follow her rules and join her cult.
- Siegfried in Dominic Deegan, "Oracle for Hire", starts as one of these.
- Not just him, either. This seems to be the modus operandi for all of the Knights of Callan.
- Heavily implied in Goblins with Kore, who murders innocent and villain alike if he perceives them as a force for evil in the world. Although why no higher power has intervened and robbed him of his powers is one of the comic's biggest mysteries, one which several characters have acknowledged.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Paladin Miko Miyazaki ends up being one of these, though at first this impression appears to have been wrought from circumstance. Time and again, she is portrayed as believing Violence Really Is the Answer in regards to even minor crimes, shows hypocrisy about lawfulness in battle, and must be given multiple commands by her legitimate lord, Shojo, to even consider taking a less extreme course of action. This finally reaches its head when she kills Lord Shojo, believing him to be the head of some nefarious anti-good conspiracy. Even when stripped of her paladin powers by good-aligned Gods, she still refuses to believe she's crossed the line, instead concluding that she's facing an even more elaborate conspiracy and the stripping of her powers is some sort of trial.
- Arc Villain General Tarquin is an inversion; instead of believing he can only be good, he refuses to accept that he could be anything less than the villain, the Big Bad, and that the Story is all about him and his heroic son, Elan. That Elan refuses to go along with this narrative, and insists on deferring to party leader Roy and acting as if there are other things much more important than defeating Tarquin, drives him to rage. It eventually culminates in Elan just completely abandoning Tarquin, rather than engaging him in some form of final battle like Tarquin wanted.
- Paranatural gives us Isaac's spirit, some kind of weather elemental with an interesting definition of moral righteousness.
Montezeusma: "GOOD" is what EVIL FEARS—and JUSTICE is when YOU MAKE THOSE FEARS A REALITY!
- Bruno the Bandit: In the satirical story "The Good Guy", there's a character actually called the Good Guy who's the main villain. That is pretty telling. He insists that he's supremely rational and plainly states that he has irrefutable proof that he is the good guy and therefore must be in the right, the irrefutable proof being that his sword has "Good Guy" written on it.
- Freefall: When asked what's the difference between his and Florence's viewpoints, Blunt answers that he's right.
- Ken and most of the Zedi from Space Blood are at worst killing people who they considered as "sinners" like people of the Blood Side, transsexuals and people who are homosexual and the Zedi think of it as "Good" for doing such killing that Zalda Len when she was Rei Skykiller called Ken out on it.
- Æon Flux: Trevor Goodchild honestly believes that he can transform Ink City into a better place — a New Bregna — if he can just eliminate The Evils of Free Will. He is so convinced that his cause is just that when Wakko Warner and Don crash in and find him about to do horrible things to their brothers, he actually tries to convince them it's for the best. Needless to say, neither one buys it.
- Captain Hammer, the Narcissistic Jerk Ass Bully of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, is a Hero, or so he believes. He also believes that all Nerds and Goth kids are supervillains and should be reported to the police.
- Dr. H himself doesn't have any illusions about which side he's on ... he's trying to get into the "Evil League of Evil", after all ... but he still apparently believes that once he's in charge, everyone (or at least the vast majority) will be legitimately better off than they are now. "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it." He seems to be somewhat confused as to his actual goals; he once described his ideal world as "anarchy which I run."
- Worm discusses this quite a bit. The protagonist is a "villain", but is a much better person than many of the self-professed heroes, who range from narcissistic jerks to one of the very bullies who made her life miserable, unlocking her powers in the first place. Meanwhile, other "villains" fell into their situations by happenstance or just generally being victims of someone else, or were offered a job by another villain, and many are agreeable, polite and kind in their own ways.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Lord Inquisitor Karamazov states that charging the Eternity Gate would be heresy — the very thing Inquisition is supposed to fight — but it won't be when he does it, because it's him who'll do this.
- The second Podcast takes the page quote and runs with it, to the point that the Emperor gets called out on it by his Custodes. And then Daemon Uriah shows up and really lets him have it.
- Stan Smith from American Dad! is always confident that his way (which is often shockingly bigoted, even by his own family's standards) is the good, righteous, and just way, by simple virtue of being his way. He often comes around by the end of an episode, but the show actually lampshades how the lesson never sticks. As a gung-ho CIA agent, he also feels this way about the United States itself — he doesn't believe that America can do no wrong so much as he believes that anything it does is justified by being America. Although ironically, despite his Aesop Amnesia, Stan has undergone more Character Development (along with Characterization Marches On) than anyone else on the show; in later seasons, this aspect of his character is less habitual and more a series of Compressed Vices.
- Demona from Gargoyles wants to Kill All Humans because she blames them for enslaving and wiping out her species, specifically the eponymous clan she used to belong to, and for all the persecution she personally has suffered. All of that was entirely her fault, though it transpires that there actually are other Gargoyles in hiding around the world anyway. In truth, Demona has always hated humans, deeming them inferior and resenting how her clan was serving them (when in fact it was much more like a mutually beneficial alliance), and her poorly thought-out plan to "free" them is what got most of them killed in the first place. Her problems stem from a serious case of Moral Myopia combined with Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, and she can't (or rather, refuses to) fathom why her old clan keeps trying to defeat her.
- Coop from Megas XLR just assumes he's always the good guy, regardless of what he actually does. This isn't out of arrogance or insanity though, mostly he's just too dumb to realize what the consequences of his actions are.
- In one South Park two-parter, Eric Cartman, in the guise of his "superhero" Secret Identity The Coon, manipulated Cthulhu (yes, that Cthulhu) into working for him and used it to kill and destroy everyone and everything he didn't like (and then got mad when Cthulhu was getting all the media credit), justifying it by saying that he was making the world a better place. When Kenny, as the superhero Mysterion, confronts him and angrily tells him that he's only making a better world for himself, Cartman simply and in all honesty just says "Yes, that's what heroes do", and didn't really get Kenny's point. He seriously thought Kenny and the other boys were only trying to stop him out of jealousy.
- Steven Universe: White Diamond's entire worldview turns out to be based around the idea that she is a perfect and flawless being, which means that she knows best and justifies her enforcement of a caste system that ultimately just makes everyone miserable, and even her taking control of other Gems to remove what she sees as their flaws. It's only when she realizes that she isn't perfect that Steven is able to reason with her.