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The Gods Must Be Lazy

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"Gardens are tended. Not just watched. Should a gardener not pluck the weed? When I was invited here, I thought you would teach me divine justice, but all you seem to do is just watch while these monsters stain existence with each other's blood."
Zamasu, Dragon Ball Super

In a setting where there are demons and angels or the equivalent forces of cosmic evil and good, evil will go out into the world and raze villages, kill people and destroy the countrysides. Meanwhile, God will only exist as a symbolic force to inspire heroes. Either that or you'll have the Powers That Be (such as a Celestial Bureaucracy) incapable of or unwilling to stop a rogue God of Evil. Either way they won't have a hands-on approach.

This is to prevent the feeling of Deus ex Machina but In-Universe it doesn't work very well, the message seeming to be that Good Is Impotent and Being Good Sucks but Evil Is Cool and Evil Is Easy. The explanation for this is usually that God solving people's problems would prevent free will... but if you think about it, monsters coming to wreak havoc sure is screwing around with free will and the least the angels could do is get off their bums and keep a damn balance. In the worst case-scenarios this can lead to characters enacting some form of revenge for such ignorance by starting a Rage Against the Heavens, undergoing a Heel–Faith Turn, becoming a Nay-Theist, or choosing to try Fighting Your God to Kill the God; alternatively the one actively forsaking their God Job can be branded a Loser Deity.

Another explanation is that good "plays by the rules" and both sides promised not to interfere... but in practice evil lies and figures losing a few minions is a cheap price for the unopposed everywhere else. Inevitably the angels and such only come once the mortals have done all the hard work or when things have gotten so bad only a Deus ex Machina could possibly stop them. Any proactive good-aligned celestial beings will inevitably be worse than the basest villains in practice if not intent, intent as well as practice or simply quickly done away with.

It may also be that it's actually more acceptable to show the forces of evil than the forces of good. For instance you have shows like Reaper where The Devil is a main character; conversely there was Joan of Arcadia. Guess which one the Moral Guardians really brought the hammer down on? And some religions dislike the display of images of their deities. It might also be more about the fact that if you have good-mortals-plus-angels vs. evil-mortals-plus-demons then the battle is too even, so to have the good mortals fighting against impossible odds the angels have to sit it out because underdogs are who the audience is supposed to root for.

This trope is influenced by changes in attitudes towards Real Life conflict in the 20th century. Just declaring war and rolling in troops is something the "bad guys" did (like World War II Nazis) while inspiring resistance forces from afar with weapons and supplies but letting the fight ultimately be up to the locals is more the "good guys" style. (Yes, there's quite a lot of asterisks and quotation marks to this in the real world.)

See also All-Powerful Bystander, God Is Inept, God's Hands Are Tied, Good Is Impotent, Being Good Sucks, Powers That Be, Have You Seen My God?, Neglectful Precursors. Should the deities involved be unpleasant or incredibly morally complex see Jerkass Gods and Abusive Precursors. If the good deities aren't just lazy but flat-out don't exist that's Devil, but No God.

The trope name comes from the film The Gods Must Be Crazy. If this trope is averted (i.e. gods take a more active role in fighting evil) see Heaven Versus Hell and God Is Good. The villainous version of this is Orcus on His Throne. Compare In Mysterious Ways where it is left unclear whether or not this trope is in effect.

For the unrelated but similar-sounding trope see The Guards Must Be Crazy.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • "God" from The Savior's Book Café Story in Another World picks his saviors at random, can't be bothered to send them back if they decline, doesn't tell anyone that he has no real limits on the number of unique abilities he can give them and apparently he isn't allowed to meddle in the affairs of his saviors in any meaningful capacity until the results turn apocalyptic. Given that this is "God" however, one can't be certain if this is him working in mysterious ways or if he just can't be bothered.
  • Slayers:
    • There's the Shinzoku (the gods) and the Mazoku (the demons); the Mazoku often cause destruction at the most convenient time they can, while the Shinzoku often do absolutely nothing about it unless the balance between good and evil is severely tipped. One manga reveals the Shinzoku's discerning nature; this is never truly addressed in the anime or novels.
    • Averted, actually, with Cepheid as the Supreme God of Good in the Slayers world is dead. He sacrificed himself to save the universe from the Mazoku and his ghost is now hanging around with Lina's sister.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Beings like Frieza from Dragon Ball Z (who had conquered/destroyed hundreds of planets) are apparently beneath the notice of the gods, but if there's a threat to multiple galaxies, or the universe (such as Buu), they'll take direct action. In Dragon Ball Super, Gowasu, U10's Supreme Kai, states that the Kais are not allowed to interfere with mortal affairs. Their job is to create life, watch over the mortals, and give them guidance. The only gods who are allowed to interact in the mortal realm are the Gods of Destruction. The situation with Buu was presumably an exception since he attacked the Kais first. His apprentice Zamasu, who looks down on the mortal races with disdain for never seeming to learn their lessons, disagrees and believes this non-intervention policy actually hurts the multiverse. Eventually, Zamasu decides to stop being lazy and goes about doing what he feels is necessary for protecting the universe... by killing all the mortals and all the gods who get in his way.
    • Speaking of Zamasu, in the Bad Future he killed all of the Supreme Kais, which in turn killed all the Gods of Destruction and their accompanying Angels. In spite of virtually the entire Celestial Bureaucracy being wiped out, the Top God Zen'o fails to notice all of this until Goku personally summons him to Earth for Divine Intervention in the climax of the arc.
    • Part of Beerus' duty as a God of Destruction is to wipe out evil mortals who misuse the knowledge of the gods, but he spends most of his time eating and sleeping, as shown in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. He should have killed Majin Buu before he wiped out most of the Supreme Kais and left his universe with only the Incompletely Trained Shin (who has been called Supreme Kai throughout Z), but he slept through the whole thing (and if Shin had died, so would he). Also, not only did he let Frieza run rampant throughout the cosmos, he actually encouraged Frieza's actions by approving of his genocide of the Saiyans since he basically did his job for him. When Gods of Destruction from other universes are introduced, it's revealed that several of them are far more efficient than he.
    • In the Universe Survival Saga, Zen'o, the Omni-King who rules over the multiverse, decides that he's tired of keeping track of 12 separate universes and wants to clean house. The universes are rated by "mortal level", a measure of how developed its mortal inhabitants are, which is also a reflection on each universe's Gods and how well they've been doing their jobs. The top four are safe, while the bottom eight have to participate in a tournament. Each universe with assemble a team of ten warriors, who will take part in a battle royale. Only the last team standing gets their universe spared. Universe 7, the setting of the Dragon Ball franchise, has the second-lowest mortal level because its God of Destruction Beerus is a slacker, while there's only been one Kaioshin for the last five million years or sonote , meaning the universe has mostly been left to its own devices and at the mercy of people like Frieza and Buu.
  • In a two-part special of Pokémon Journeys: The Series, the Bizarro Universe counterparts of Team Rocket form a Rage Against the Heavens plot using the gods of spacetime Dialga and Palkia to Take Over the World. Giratina, whose role is to explicitly prevent this and preserve balance, is completely absent and the Top God Arceus doesn't intervene until Ash and his friends run out of options and pray hard enough for it to take notice & Save Both Worlds.
  • The very premise of Heaven's Design Team enforces this. God is too lazy to design the animals to inhabit the earth he's already created, so he commissions the titular Agency to do the work for him.
  • In the hentai series Viper GTS, God is never seen, instead relying on an orgy of hermaphrodite angels to "purify" the demons they capture. As the angels all collapse from exhaustion without having purified either of the demon girls, it appears that God in this universe is either lazy or simply a perv.
  • In chapter 58 of Interspecies Reviewers, Y'gamiel reveals to Demia that the Goddess rarely intervenes with the world, only doing so after it gets destroyed, where She will then create a new world in a new timeline without whatever caused the destruction of the old one, then abandon what's left of the old for the new; and they imply the She's already done so multiple times. Demia is shaken by this info but then feels a odd sense of safety that she won't be struck down by doing something the Goddess doesn't approve of.

    Comic Books 
  • While acting as the Avatar of God's Vengeance, The Spectre can do damn near anything. However, he's been noticeably sparing about using his gifts against people like, say, popular supervillains. Apparently, there are rules. Somewhere.
    • The trope is lampshaded, and explored, in Final Crisis: Revelations. The Spectre and his fellow avatar, the Radiant, find themselves powerless against the forces of evil who have taken over the Earth - and not even they know why they can't do anything about it.
    • The Ostrander/Mandrake ongoing Spectre series cleared up many facts about the Spectre-force: while it is the literal embodiment of God's wrath, it is not allowed to roam free, but must be bound to a mortal soul, who in turn decides how to use its power. But most of this seems to have been forgotten in recent years; for example during the Infinite Crisis miniseries the Spectre, now without a host, sought to ironically kill anyone he could find regardless of their crimes severity (i.e a kid stealing $6 from his mother is drowned in change). He then caused mass destruction (being an unwitting pawn of some villains) and God only stopped it after it caused the end of the 9th Age of Magic (by killing off the Lords of Order and Chaos.)
    • During Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, the Spectre is initially approached by the New God Metron for his help, but is rebuffed as he believes the crisis is natural in nature and thus beneath him. When Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick approaches him in the penultimate issue, he agrees to help, ruefully admitting that time travel is not one of his powers, thus he had no idea things were this bad until it hit the present day.
  • The DC Universe in general suffers badly from this: God (The Presence) is known to exist, but only acts when he feels like it. Meanwhile numerous demon lords come and go from hell almost freely. Justified since if The Presence goes after every demon all the time, there wouldn't be much of a story.
    • Lucifer left hell because he felt like it, a far cry from his imprisonment back in Dante Alghieri's day. In The Sandman (1989), all God does about this is damn two more angels to look after the place.
      • The implication was that Lucifer was imprisoned in hell, not by the power of God but his own pride that wouldn't allow him to admit that he wasn't there of his own free will. In The Sandman (1989) continuity this applies to everyone in hell; anyone, damned or demon can leave the place at any time if they really want to, but most are too tied up with their guilt or hate to realize this. This also applies to Remiel, one of the two angels sent down in Lucifer's replacement, but not Duma who knows exactly what the deal with hell is, but stays there anyway.
  • Just take a look at some Chick Tracts. Satan is all over the place, ready to corrupt the nonbeliever (i.e., anyone who doesn't subscribe to Jack Chick's particular interpretation of Christianity), occasionally in a very thin disguise, while God is sitting on his throne waiting for them to say the prayer at the end of the tract. Sure, occasionally he sends some angels around to try to save the hapless heathens, but they're not very good at it. To the extent that the most useful tool in their bag of tricks appears to be tripping old ladies.
  • Taken literally in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, after Johnny dies. He ends up in heaven and meets God, depicted as a balding fat apathetic little gnome in a recliner, who explains that he created the universe and now needs some downtime.
    Nny: Don't you think you should get up and pay attention to what's happening in the world?!
    God: Ooooh, sorreeee! I only created the universe! You're right, I should be out running laps.
  • This trope motivates the plot of Preacher. When Jessie Custer is given the power of The Word, a combined demonic/angelic force, he learns that God has abandoned his post in heaven and left humanity to fend for itself. He's slumming somewhere on Earth, so Jessie rounds up some friends and begins a quest to find the Almighty and tell him to get back to work.
  • Valhalla: Odin frequently qualifies as this. In "The Golden Apples", Odin and Loki knowingly hang back and let Thor go through the hassle of capturing their meal by himself. When Roskva asks Tjalfe why Odin doesn't help, Tjalfe says that Odin's a king and kings don't have to work. Roskva then asks if Loki is a king, too.
  • Zigzagged with Marvel Comics. Many gods (most famously The Mighty Thor) are either active on Earth or have empowered champions to fight evil, but the vast majority of them are no-shows about 99% of the time and in many cases the "Council of Godheads", the coalition of the Top Gods of most world religions, is shown to be a Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering. Sometimes they'll put in an appearance when the world is threatened, like when the Celestials showed up for the first time, but considering The World Is Always Doomed, usually they won't. And often when they do show up, something happens that suddenly renders them unable to actually do anything. It's even worse with the One-Above-All, the top god, known to be both omnipotent and fully good... except he practically never intervenes in any conflicts, no matter their scope, and in the rare times he does it's usually just pulling a superhero aside for a pep talk. Also justified like his DC countepart in that there wouldn't be much of a story at all if The One Above All goes around and curbstomp every malevolent entity in existence.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid, Zordon begs for an audience with the Morphin Masters, the creators of the Morphin Grid, afraid of the threat Lord Drakkon poses after his army captures the Samurai Rangers. The beings he confronts who would decide if he could or not decide that it's not worth it and sends Zordon back, telling him that the Rangers are more than capable of handling Drakkon's threat. It's implied, though, that they just don't think Drakkon is that bad a threat and that they think the balance of good and evil will even out soon enough, completely underestimating Drakkon's threat.
    • This comes back to bite them in the final issue of the event where Drakkon succeeds in his mission to enter the Morphin Grid, kicks their asses, steals the Heart of a Morphin Master and uses it to erase all realities to create his own.

    Fan Works 
  • A weird variation in With Strings Attached. Although the Dalns gods will do minor things like look into whether they can send the four home, they repeatedly refuse to restore the skahs paradise by restocking Baravada with monsters—the one thing the skahs really want.
    • The reason for this is that the Dalns gods have finished running the continent into the ground and are not interested in doing anything big (i.e., costly) any more. In fact, they've been wanting to abandon C'hou but can't because they would then have to pay a big penalty. Luckily for them, restoring the Vasyn means C'hou passes into the hands of the Pyar gods.
    • Then, in the sequel The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, an inversion: the Pyar gods gave the skahs their combat utopia and ignored them thereafter. The skahs, perfectly happy now, could care less.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: For all of their claims that they want to protect humanity, the Almighty and the angels typically just sit back and watch as Tsukune and his pals fight for their lives against such threats as Fairy Tale and Alucard. Rason even calls them on it in Act IV chapter 16, where they blatantly refuse to intervene against Hokuto's plan to revive Alucard.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda fic Wisdom and Courage, Din, Nayru, and Farore essentially just sit back and watch as Veran steals their Triforce and uses it to commit all manner of atrocities For the Evulz. At one point, Link and Zelda, the Goddesses' chosen ones, even outright wonder why the Goddesses aren't doing anything about Veran; they only strip Veran of the Triforce when she's been fatally impaled on the Master Sword, after she's used its power to completely destroy both Hyrule and Termina and killed hundreds of innocent people in cold blood.
  • Averted in another Legend of Zelda fic, The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13. Gods are free to intervene in mortal affairs in any way they see fit, including creating/destroying new species, entire planets, and possibly even universes. Savvy gods like Link Sr deliberately "farm" mortals (notably the Sermonians) by giving them power and resources in exchange for worship.
    • Played straight with Fate and Destiny themselves. They are similarly hands-off toward lesser gods the same way those lesser gods are with mortals, even if one of those gods is threatening them directly. It's later shown that Fate does take active steps to suppress threats, but does so by proxy, such as letting Hadrian and Charon be depowered by the Originals, and by letting Link dispatch of his father.

    Films — Animated 
  • By the start of Legends of Valhalla: Thor, Odin had long since stopped caring about the Vikings that worship him and is content to sit on his throne and stuff himself fat with their offerings. When Hel's campaign of devastation in Midgard begins, he finds that his army of honored dead are too out of shape to make any headway and thus has to go to his bastard son Thorfor help, Crusher the only thing capable of saving them.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: Satan and Saddam Hussein rise up from hell and take over earth. Only the fact that Saddam is such a Jerkass and Satan is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold saved Earth from being plunged into a 1000 years of darkness, and yet God does not seem to be doing anything to stop him. It's especially jarring considering that Jesus and God are both recurring characters, and you can actually briefly see Jesus in the background of one of the shots in the movie (when the soldiers are marching in front of Kyle's house).
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Throughout the movie, King Neptune is far more concerned with covering up his receding hairline than the fact that Plankton has enslaved all of Bikini Bottom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Constantine, God and the Devil have made a bargain to not interfere directly in the mortal world (the "Balance"). Lucifer's half-demons are constantly breaking this rule, but they aren't punished by God, angels or even half-angels — they're deported back to hell by John Constantine.
  • Invoked repeatedly in the Oh, God! movies. Whenever God is asked why He doesn't simply solve the world's problems with his omnipotence, He simply handwaves it as something people must do for themselves.
  • In the end of Time Bandits, it's revealed that Evil is as much a part of the Supreme Being's plan as anything else in creation. When Kevin asks the Supreme Being why evil and suffering must exist, He replies vaguely, "Ah... I think it has something to do with free will."
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe it's revealed in Thor: Love and Thunder that All Myths Are True and almost all the gods are jerkasses who are apathetic towards mortals at best. Even when Gorr the God Butcher assaults them directly the most powerful among them retreat to a safe haven to wait it out, arrogantly assuming he could never reach Eternity.
  • In Mortal Kombat (2021), Shang Tsung outright says that the Elder Gods other than Raiden are too lazy to stop him from just flouting the rules of Mortal Kombat, as well as doing stuff like invading Raiden's temple and general cheating.

  • Apparently there's an old Chinese tale about how the lesser gods demanded some human be punished for an outrageous act of blasphemy. The Boss God points out that if he interferes in this case, he'll be expected to interfere in others or everyone will think he's losing his grip. But when something bad happens to the human (as it does to everyone eventually) people will say "Well the gods might take their time about it, but they always get their revenge!"
  • The whole point of Deism. An almighty figure created the universe, and after that either went away or just stopped interfering in the fabric of reality. European Enlightenment thinkers didn't believe this was a Cosmic Horror Story, because for them, Deism allows for the existence of God without the necessity of miracles and means that if you cannot accept the whole "God's will" thing at face value, scientists can get on with their business without fear of committing blasphemy. Their religious view is often ascribed to by those who think that people can control their own fate without divine intervention.

  • John Milton's Paradise Lost was written to explain why this isn't the case in The Bible, stating that he will "justify the ways of God to men." In the story, God explains that all of his creations are "fit to stand but free to fall," and that therefore they have only their own free will to blame if they should sin. Satan throws himself out of heaven after warring with Heaven, and Adam and Eve have only themselves to blame for being corrupted by Satan's temptation.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • For most of the story, the Valar - depicted as essentially good and well-meaning - barely do anything as the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth fight the Dark Lords. That is actually justified since even their helpful, beneficent interventions tend to destroy continents.
    • In the very first version (The Book of Lost Tales) this was intended to be seen as a failing of the Valar. As The Silmarillion evolved and the Valar became less like morally ambiguous Greek gods and more like archangels, this was changed.
    • The Silmarillion:
      • Their first wars with Morgoth did so much damage (shattering continents, lifting up mountain ranges) that they could not release their full powers against him without causing an End of the World as We Know It, which would have been rather counterproductive. They had to wait till he squandered his powers sufficiently that he could be defeated with less extreme means. (Even so, that battle - the War of Wrath - *still* sank Beleriand, an enormous area of land larger than all the countries in Lord of the Rings put together).
      • This is at least in part punishment for Fëanor in particular and the Noldor elves in general. When Feanor rebelled and the Noldor committed genocide, they essentially told the Valar "We do not need your help, we never wanted it at first place, so leave us alone and go to hell". The Valar simply took them at their word.
      • Their being lazy is defied in the story itself, which claims they are active. They did after all create the sun and the moon, after the two trees had been poisoned. Manwë would also send the Great Eagles when he wished to intervene, and Ulmo intervened on multiple occasions (but wasn't listened to, because elves and humans were arrogant).
      • Eventually, faced with the corruption of the Númenóreans in Akallabêth by Sauron, they call on their creator to save the world from Sauron and Ar-Pharazôn, as they could not defeat them without destroying the world. Eru intervenes, moving Valinor away from the rest of the world (possibly limiting their influence to a significant degree) and sinking Númenor, a country perhaps as big as France, beneath the waves.
    • The Lord of the Rings:
      • This time around, the Valar pitch in just enough help to bring down Sauron, most notably sending five wizards (Gandalf being one of them) to Middle-Earth.
      • While some people have criticized Gandalf and the other wizards for not doing enough (i.e. if Gandalf can kill a Balrog why can't he defeat whole armies on his own?). However if one pays careful attention it becomes clear that to avoid interfering with mortal free will they are only allowed to use their abilities in opposition to other supernatural forces. Also, that isn't how Gandalf's powers work. His powers are White Magic. He is very powerful, but only in a very specific way.
  • This is the base argument for the Inheritance Cycle's Elves' atheism.
    Oromis: Ask yourself this Eragon: If gods exist, have they been good custodians of Alagaesia? Death, sickness, poverty, tyranny and countless other miseries stalk the land. If this is the handiwork of divine beings, then they are to be rebelled against and overthrown, not given obeisance, obedience, and reverence.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar novels have expanded to the point where the Shin'a'in Goddess and the Karsite God (along with a bajillion other names for them) are the two world deities, who refrain from direct action in the world unless absolutely necessary. The argument is that humans wouldn't have freedom if the gods were too active.
  • Even animal gods are subject to this one. In Mary Stanton's novel, The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West, the horse god Equus and his heavenly court must respect a Balance with the Dark Horse and his minions. Neither can interfere in the world unless the other has broken the Balance first.
  • In The Wheel of Time, The Dark One mostly is a Jerkass who encourages in-fighting between his top followers over who gets to be his right-hand minion. But he does occasionally have their back, such as resurrecting some of his followers from the dead, though when it comes to Balthamel's resurrection, he's still a jerkass. The Creator (a.k.a God), on the other hand, never interacts with any of the characters directly, and while it's possible that he may be responsible for some of the actions of the plot (e.g. resurrecting the Dragon and the Heroes of the Horn), this is never actually proven.
  • This was a specific agreement-breaker in Eoin Colfer's The Wish List: an angel and devil both promised not to interfere with goings-on on Earth. The angel kept his end of the bargain; Beelzebub not so much.
  • This is the main theme of many of the Incarnations of Immortality books. The characters assume God isn't acting because he's following the rules, except it turns out that God is not acting because he's busy admiring his own magnificence, and that all of Satan's Evil Plans are part of a Batman Gambit trying to get him to act (hence Satan Is Good). Eventually the mortal governments of the world impeach God and boot Him out of office. No, really.
  • The two fairly benevolent faiths of A Song of Ice and Fire, even the one with actual power, never seem to do anything for their followers. Meanwhile, the faiths with a high emphasis on human sacrifice, particularly the church of R'hllor, are out destroying wombs, toppling kings, reversing death, and otherwise shoveling extra manure into the Crapsack World that is Westeros.
    • Although given how most of R'hllor's miracles work, it is possible that a lot of it is blood magic. It's also worth pointing out that the faith of R'hllor claims that it is the only thing standing between humanity and complete annihilation, and given how little most of humanity seems to care about the Eldritch Abominations amassing north of the Wall, they may even be right.
    • Also, the Old Gods of the North definitely seem to occasionally do something. The ways they are capable of acting in are subtle, but they've given people visions and dreams and such to persuade them to do things. As the series isn't finished, it'll be interesting to see what they might end up doing. Their power might be limited though, if Gods Need Prayer Badly is in force.
  • In the Ea Cycle series, all of the planetfuls of powers of goodness stay out of Ea, even though the fate of the universe is at stake.
  • David Eddings:
    • The Redemption of Althalus inverts this. Althalus' live-in goddess and lover Emmy might not be busting out the orbital smite-rays on his enemies, but she does provide him with immortality, powerful magic, team mates, and resources (such as a house that can open doors to anywhere) to defeat any enemy. Oh, and she even lets him keep armies in the house, marching around so they can be deployed at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, the god supporting the bad guys prefers to just terrify them and be a jerk.
    • The Belgariad and its sequels and prequels, however, justify playing it dead straight by having the gods actually leave the friggin' planet because The Chosen One will need it to finish The Prophecy, and if they fight Torak they'll go and destroy the world.
    • In The Elenium, while the less powerful Styric and Trollish gods both actively help out, with many characters being granted magical powers by a Styric goddess, the Elenian god, who is acknowledged as being real and incredibly powerful by the other gods, never does anything at all. To such a degree that some of his worshipers also pray to a Styric goddess for the aforementioned magical abilities. Lampshaded in The Tamuli, where one of the high-ranking members of the church of the Elenian god muses to himself that they might not have had to go outside their faith to other gods to begin with if they had just thought to ask their own god if he could grant similar powers in the first place.
  • In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the universe of The Land is within the "Arch of Time" which Lord Foul is intent on destroying so he can be free of the Land and wreak havoc on the cosmos. The Creator can't directly interfere in The Land without breaking the Arch and setting the Lord Foul free. However, the Creator find a loophole when Lord Foul goes outside the Land (to the "real world") to obtain white gold (which doesn't exist in the Land and contains the magic necessary to break the Arch) and is able to tweak fate so the protagonist is brought to the Land (with their white gold ring).
  • Dragon Lance. The gods of evil are always up to something, while the gods of good are strangely non-active and non-vigilant. They're apparently not asleep or distracted from the state of the world or anything, but they curiously do absolutely nothing to stop the forces of evil or alert the good races that something's up before The Empire has nearly conquered the world. They don't even step in to tell the elves to stop being racist pricks — maybe even the gods Can't Argue with Elves.
    • One particularly painful example of this from the original trilogy: At one point, Paladine, arguably the most prominent god of good in the setting, who has in fact been quietly helping the protagonists along in disguise, shows up to sternly lecture a silver dragon for... well... trying to do much the same thing. Never mind that the oath she broke in the process was made by the good dragons a) under duress b) to the forces of evil who c) had just stolen all their eggs to blackmail them into staying out of the fight and d) never actually bothered to return said eggs afterwards. (Which, as we find out not too long after, was because e) they were too busy using those eggs to breed new minion monsters for their own armies...) Thus, this probably also makes a fine example of Lawful Stupid behavior on Paladine's part.
  • In nearly all of Stephen King's novels that have supernatural elements, "The White"/"Purpose"/God has a strong DIY ethic when it comes to fighting evil. It will assist the human protagonists, occasionally giving them special power in the process, but does not appear to have any equivalents to Randall Flagg, The Crimson King, It, Dandelo, etc who actually do anything to fight evil directly. For example:
    • IT: the Turtle is implied to be stronger than It, but openly says he'll take no part.
    • Insomnia: One of the Bald Men actually says that "Purpose" prefers to have people deal with the problems instead of taking care of them itself.
  • The gods of Discworld, with occasional exceptions (like Offler and post-Small Gods Om, who've acquired some wisdom), aren't lazy so much as clueless. Gods don't need to think, they have worshippers to do that stuff for them. Playing dice with the universe — or the life of some poor sap they picked at random from their set of game pieces — is loads more entertaining than answering prayers and so on.
    "But if you've been down here as a tortoise, who's been answering the prayers? Who has been accepting the sacrifices? Who has been judging the dead?''
    "I don't know. Who did it before?"
    "You did!"
  • In Between the Rivers by Harry Turtledove, every city is ruled by its own god, and the city of Gibil is ruled by a god whose main characteristic is his laziness. This means that the men of Gibil have much more freedom, and have to do much more thinking and working for themselves, than all the surrounding cities, which are ruled by gods who are more interventionist.
  • In Everworld, the Egyptian gods no longer do anything, because they are so obsessed with ritual that they just stand around like statues as their priests pray to them. Because of this and the Pharaoh's mental retardation, the country has become so weak that it's easily blockaded by the dwarves and conquered by the Amazons, until Sobek, the one god unaffected, comes out of exile.
    • The other gods tend to be pretty lazy too, though to varying degrees. The Greek gods, for example, are one of the most powerful pantheons, but most of them just lounge around or bicker like house cats, even when Ka Anor's army is at the foot of Mt. Olympus. It takes Athena and the protagonists quite a while to convince them that they need to do something other than "show favor" to mortal heroes. The only other two willing to fight were Ares and Heracles, and they wound up abandoning their army after a fight with Zeus.
    • Merlin notes that while Huitzilpoctli is terrifyingly powerful when he's hungry for human hearts, once he's full all he can do is sit there and wait until he's hungry again. War gods tend to be pretty dull, apparently.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, Conan knows perfectly well not to expect anything from Crom, even though he regularly swears by him. Crom isn't precisely lazy, per se — he "breathes the power to strive and slay into a man's soul" at birth according to Cimmerian myth (as related by Conan in "Queen of the Black Coast") —, but he hates to be bothered by mortals asking for even more than what he's already given them and so generally leaves them alone to succeed or fail on their own merits. And in one story, Conan actually gets help from Crom, precisely for asking nothing from him, and being the badass.
  • Zeus/Jupiter of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is like this mainly due to pride. He prefers to sit on his throne and ignore a problem until left with no choice but to act. The others are more mixed. Some have the sense to fully act at least when their own interests are on the line by aiding heroes and others like Hades have full time jobs. Its been stated that the Fates and various rules prevent the gods from necessarily intervening more.
  • Star Trek;
    • In The Q Continuum trilogy, this is essentially the reason why Q anticipates that the rest of the Q Continuum won't be available to stop the equally-powerful criminal 0 if he should escape his current "imprisonment" outside the galaxy, as in the aftermath of the Q Civil War they're more focused on rebuilding the Continuum and won't be paying attention to an exiled criminal they believe they dealt with millennia ago. Q does concede that the Continuum would likely notice 0's return in a couple of hundred years, but by that point it's unlikely there would be anything of the Federation left, and given Q's own history with 0 he doesn't want to put his son at risk of growing up in a galaxy contaminated by 0's presence.
    • In the Star Trek: Millennium trilogy, the pah-wraiths are far more proactive than the Prophets. This is actually justified - the Prophets' best bet for protecting the universe is to keep their distance and remain apart from the mortal/temporal realm, while the pah-wraiths want to bridge the distance and reunite the two celestial temples, even though it means destroying creation.
  • According to the Great Book in Who Fears Death, the goddess Ani is this, having half-created the world (but not the sun), and then gone to sleep for centuries before finishing the job.
  • In Tanith Lee's Tales from the Flat Earth, the Gods are Neglectful Precursors who created the universe, got bored with it, and now do nothing but stand around contemplating their own greatness. They've intervened in the world approximately three times, all of which were to deliver smack-downs on anyone who dared to challenge them: the first is when they flooded the earth because people were acquiring too much magical power (mentioned in the second book), the second when a mad king tried to build a tower to heaven and storm it, and the third when they send robot-angels to destroy a new emerging religion. The primary protagonists of the series are chief demons/personifications of dark forces named the "Lords of Darkness," particularly Azhrarn, the Lord of Evil, who has a Blue-and-Orange Morality, and is probably as old as the Gods themselves. Much of the series is devoted to showing how he manipulates humanity for his own pleasure, but is still (arguably) a friendlier force to humanity than the Gods. In the first book, after inadvertently beginning a chain of events leading to the Apocalypse, he enters Heaven to ask the Gods to do something, which they point-blank refuse, after which he proceeds to save the world himself.
  • The Goddess worshipped by the protagonists of Black Magic is fully capable of communicating with her followers and making her wishes clearly known, but spends hundreds of years doing nothing to curb the persecution of necromancers or giving any indication that there's a way to return demons to human form.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are notorious examples. The planet is filled with multitudes of incredibly dangerous demons (to the point where a superpowered demonic virus in human form is considered mundane), rampant evil deeds and potential apocalypses are common, hell dimensions have frequent recruiting and their deities are known to take a stroll on Earth with impunity, yet representatives of The Side of Good are almost nowhere to be seen. The best the Powers That Be did was a couple miraculous interventions for Angel, their "champion", sent infrequent, frustratingly vague visions to a single person, and the Slayer was eventually revealed as a human invention that used demonic powers. Angel and his crew even lampshade this, outright calling the Powers That Be such names as "The Powers That Screw You" and "The Powers That Sit on Their Behinds."
    • And as noted in the trope description, the one divine being who decided to come and try to fix the world for humanity (Jasmine) did so by very...questionable means. She's not really one of the Powers That Be, claiming to pre-date them. She's a being of Order that could have brought unity and peace to the world, at the expense of free-will and individuality.
  • The Judge from The Good Place is more interested in TV and Podcasts than in making sure the afterlife makes sense. When the main characters have finally convinced her that the Afterlife system isn't properly judging humanity, she decides that the solution isn't to design a better afterlife, but to just press a button that erases all humans on Earth and the Afterlife, then hope that whatever evolves next will be better.
  • This seems to be the case as of Season 4 of Supernatural, according to Castiel, the resident angel. As it turns out, God was there the whole time in the form of Chuck. The reason he didn't directly interfere more than once was because he wanted the "story" to be interesting, and a Deus ex Machina is not the greatest storytelling technique out there.
  • This also appears to be the role of the Time Lords on Doctor Who. They see the Doctor as something of a rebel because he interferes in history to save people. (It's eventually explained that they've learned the hard way that they're not perfect and that trying to help out can make things much worse: an excuse that's not available to God.)
  • While not gods exactly, the Ancients of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis are a good example, as they have Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence. Their belief in free will, coupled with their higher understanding of the universe making earth's troubles seem insignificant results in them enforcing a law of non interference, even if the fate of a galaxy is at stake. Notably, not all Ancients feel this way, such as Oma Desala, Merlin and Morgan Le Fay, but most of those who want to help are kept in check by the rest. They do earn credit for (passively) holding the Orinote  in check, having kept them from finding out about the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. We just never actually see that.
  • In Babylon 5, while the Shadows are quite active, the Vorlons seem more interested in being mysterious. Then again, in the end, the Vorlons turn out to not exactly be good. And then there was Lorien, who sat for a million odd years at the bottom of a pit, twiddling his non-corporeal thumbs....
  • In Bibleman they show the villains doing things like actually having a cell phone conversation with "The Master" and repeatedly coming back from the dead, but there appears to be only one time God steps in to help his champion (the Rage movie).
  • In Battlestar Galactica (1978), the "angels" on the Ship of Light explain why they don't stop Count Iblis, a renegade member of their order. "Because we cannot interfere with freedom of choice. Yours, his, anybody's." However, they did tend to abduct several Galactica viper pilots for whatever reason. They also later recruited Apollo to save an Earthlike world from destroying itself. So, obviously, they're not above using agents to interfere since the agents would have to be acting out of their own choice. And with Ibis, they prevent him from using his powers on anyone who rejects him. He can only use his powers for people who freely accept him. If they refuse he is not allowed to kill them or anything else.
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Well", Coulson complains about the lack of the Norse god of "cleaning up after yourself" when dealing with the aftermath of Thor: The Dark World's climax.
  • In Lucifer (2016), Lucifer Morningstar, former King of hell turned Hollywood nightclub owner and part-time "Handsome Devil Cop" sidekick to a female homicide detective, gets to play around and do whatever he likes. But sometimes he sulks because "Dad" is not talking to him or doing much of anything except sending an angel to try to get him to go back to hell. Until the last episode of the first series.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sacrifice of Angels", Sisko calls out the Prophets for pretending they can't get involved in the Dominion War (after cheerfully interfering in other matters):
    Prophet: Corporeal matters do not concern us.
    Sisko: The hell they don't. What about Bajor? You can't tell me that Bajor doesn't concern you. You've sent the Bajorans orbs and Emissaries — you've encouraged them to create an entire religion around you. You even told me once that you were "of Bajor!" So don't tell me you're not "concerned" with corporeal matters. I don't want to see Bajor destroyed and neither do you. And we all know that's exactly what's going to happen if the Dominion takes over the Alpha Quadrant. You say you don't want me to sacrifice my life — fine, neither do I. You want to be gods — then be gods. I need a miracle. Bajor needs a miracle. Stop those ships!

  • Knights of Cydonia by Muse: "I'll show you a god who falls asleep on the job."
  • God Was Never On Your Side by Motörhead: "If God is wise, why is he still, When these false prophets, call him friend, Why is he silent, is he blind!? Are we abandoned in the end?"

  • In Books of Kings, Elijah had a showdown against Baal's priests; whichever god answers their prayer is the real God. As Baal's priests' prayer goes unanswered, Elijah taunts them with this trope.
    Elijah: "Shout louder! After all, he is a god. But he may be in conversation, he may be detained, or he may be on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.”
  • In the apostle Peter's second epistle from The Bible, he refutes the idea that God is slow in bringing His coming judgment upon the world by saying that instead of being slow as some would count slowness, He is being patient, desiring for none to perish and for all to come to repentance.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has a bit of this. The lesser deities are quite involved in the world (albeit constrained by the rules of the Heavenly Bureaucracy at times) and not always for the better, although the player characters can usually match them in power anyway when disagreements happen. However, the theoretically "good" Incarnae, the Lords of Heaven and the Mightiest of Deities, are so engrossed with the Games of Divinity they can almost never be bothered to do anything else.
    • The Sourcebook Glories of the Most High goes into detail on the character and motives of the Incarnae, including sections detailing how they continue to deal with their duties and their responses to prayer.
  • The Chaos Gods of Warhammer versus any other possible deity in the setting.
    • It seems like the 'good' gods are just more subtle; even characters in the setting have noted that ridiculously powerful heroes are always born at exactly the right time to be around to barely beat Chaos again. The Chaos Gods are supposedly at the brink of winning, but they have been for THOUSANDS of years. They aren't exactly shirking, either.
    • The black library book Liber Chaotica gives a fairly reasonable explanation for why the regular Gods and Goddeses are so less apparent than those of Chaos; unlike the Chaos gods who tend to favor individuals and have the obvious advantage of control of the chaos gates at the poles, the other Gods have countered this by dispensing their favor upon their followers as a gestalt whole. Therefore while Chaos has singular champions who can slaughter hundreds, the forces of Sigmar, Ulric the Lady etc give out favor in smaller amounts to all those who fight for them, thus giving the armies of the Old World the courage and strength to hold back the hordes of the North. Singular champions appear vary rarely, i.e. Valten, but when they do they're damn powerful.
    • 40k then invented the concept of the Great Game, essentially an eternal struggle within the Warp between the Chaos Gods themselves. It is treated as being more important than anything happening in the material universe meaning that the all powerful gods and their servants don't really have much reason to extort much pressure on a crumbling Imperium. When they do get their act together and focus on the Materium, galaxy-wide disasters like the Horus Heresy or the Fall of Eldar tend to happen.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Wyld has done little or nothing to counter the destructive actions of the Weaver and the Wyrm. The narrator of the Corax tribebook snarks that the Wyld was off "picking his toes" when the Weaver imprisoned the Wyrm in her web. Some source material suggests that the Wyld has insufficient sentience to act, unlike the Weaver and the Wyrm.
  • A non-divine parallel is found in Wraith: The Oblivion: after death, the negative and self-destructive parts of the wraith's psyche is separated (though this does not affect the rest of the wraith's personality in any appreciable way) and becomes the Shadow, an Enemy Within trying to push the character into oblivion. The counterpart to the Shadow is the Eidolon, representing a higher ideal... except it never does anything active beyond providing bonus dice to survive Harrowings, and isn't even available unless you spend background points to buy one in the first place.
  • Dungeons & Dragons plays with this depending on setting. In the original Greyhawk setting, the gods were bound by a mutual non-aggression pact, as the last time they got active in the world and fought among themselves, nearly everything was destroyed. As a result, any time a god takes direct action in the world, they're granting a major enemy permission to do exactly the same - and most often what happens is a more powerful god on the other side intervenes to put a stop to the first god. Other settings have since assumed similar justifications or made up their own:
    • The Forgotten Realms has an overgod who forces the other gods to stay hands-off on the world, preventing mass destruction from constant divine meddling. Like many other works the gods Take a Third Option and act through their respective churches, clerics, paladins and favoured mortals. Several of them like the Church of Bane run a city state (Zhentil Keep) while others like the Church of Tymora sponsor adventuring teams and Mystra has her Chosen to act as her agents. The presence of the gods is a fact in the Forgotten Realms setting and their churches are collectively as influential as the Catholic Church in medieval Europe.
    • In Planescape, gods on the Outer Planes are masters of reality in their home realms, but lose a lot of power outside of their realms or planes and more when they step into another god's realm. Even for gods, going where you're not wanted is almost asking to get slapped around. Instead, gods employ proxies, previously-mortal servants imbued with a spark of divine power who act as their representatives. As well, the city of Sigil is barred to all gods by the mysterious Lady of Pain. This once was not the case, but then she killed the only god permitted in the city after one of her servants began to worship him.
    • In Eberron, the gods of the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six may not even exist. Clerics gain spells from devotion to the gods, but then again clerics can gain spells from devotion to an impersonal principle such as Justice. The other faiths aren't really focused around gods, but are cults to impersonal forces and powerful non-divine beings, such as dragons or undead ancestors; or are more philosophies about bringing change to the world. Not even angels nor fiends can honestly claim to have met the gods.
    • On Mystara, the Immortals have agreed to a limited non-intervention pact so as not to inadvertantly wreck a world that many of them come from and that keeps providing new candidates in the form competent adventurers questing to earn Immortal status themselves on a somewhat regular basis. Showing up in an effectively mortal cover identity is a-ok, going down in one's full Immortal glory to whomp on somebody is not — and there's a watch with members drawn from all factions in place to ensure any such unsubtle intervention is quickly noticed.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, two factions of Atlantean mages got to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence before their efforts broke reality: the Exarchs, who promptly started trying to enact Despotism Justifies the Means on a cosmic scale, and the Oracles, who erected the Supernal Watchtowers that allow later generations to Awaken to magic. Since then, the Exarchs bend the treaty that binds cosmic-level entities as All Powerful Bystanders whenever they can, while the Oracles have vanished. Whether they're playing a very subtle game In Mysterious Ways or are actually inactive is unknown.
    • All these entities do act, but usually in indirect ways, as they are bound by Pax Arcanum, even Exarchs. For example, Corpus Author (one of the premier Ascended mages of Mysterium) still writes books and creates artifacts for non-Archmage level mages to find and gives advice to non-ascended archmages, while General, Exarch of Forces sends ochemata to create more war and strife to divide humanity and further its own power.

  • BIONICLE: For all the series hypes him up to be the ultimate Big Good and God of Good, Mata Nui has willingly admitted that he was pretty apathetic towards the beings of the Matoran Universe,note  hence the reason Makuta Teridax was able to pull off his plan right under Mata Nui's nose. Afterwards, his guilt over the Makuta's crimes leads him to becoming The Atoner and then willingly becoming a Sealed Good in a Can after he realizes his people no longer need him to lead them.
    I spent most of my existence exploring other worlds, watching cultures evolve, measuring and analyzing the dance of stars and planets. After a time, I took the beings inside my metal body for granted, ignoring them and their constant squabbles to focus on the outside universe. This neglect would cost me - and my small workers - endless misery and pain.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in Bayonetta. The forces of Paradisio (Heaven) are actually more active than the forces of Inferno, to the point where the only demon-characters we see have to be painstakingly summoned by our heroine. However, the trope's basic spirit — antagonistic divine forces are everywhere while helpful ones are only rarely seen — remains: the angels of Paradisio are the game's main enemies and present a far greater threat to humanity than the demons of the Inferno. (Not that the demons are much better.)
  • Taken to its slightly illogical conclusion in Black & White; good-aligned Gods can't launch apocalyptic fireballs or armies without becoming evil. Even zapping an enemy creature while he's trying to eat your citizens, a clear case of self-defense, is evil, never mind something as aggressive as stopping an evil army preemptively. While evil-aligned Gods can just kill the populace and take over enemy cities, Good ones are supposed to simply make converts and keep the populace of his or her cities in good shape. Good apparently stays home and minds the kitchen.
    • Being lawful nice sucks.
    • Good civilizations can become a paradise of eternal summer, which makes everything and everyone super productive. This is amazingly useful, but so mindbogglingly difficult to achieve it's enough to make anyone drop white-hot boulders onto the villages of the unbelievers in near-terminal impatience.
  • The latter case was used in Diablo II, where Archangel Tyrael is considered somewhat of a rogue by the rest of the Council of Angels for meddling in mortal matters an unseemly amount of the time, including once engaging both Diablo and Baal by himself.
    • However, given how the whole long history of the soulstones tends towards Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, the other angels may have a point.
    • We also have Trag'oul, the closest thing to a god that's been introduced in the franchise. In the Sin War trilogy, a series of prequel novels, Trag'oul limits his involvement because he doesn't want the angels and demons to learn of his existence. By the time he decides that the situation has deteriorated enough for him to step in, he's forbidden from doing so by other entities apparently similar to him.
    • The tendency continued in Diablo III - the divine Angiris Council refuse to get involved in the war between human and demons at all until the heavens themselves are invaded by Diablo. Once again, only Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice, is interested in lending a hand - and he is put on trial for 'breaking the rules' and chooses to discard his immortality and become human rather than be forced to sit on his hands like the rest of the angels. And while there's quite a bit of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero involved in the ending, one cannot help but imagine that things would've never gone that far if the angels had been willing to lend a hand instead of forcing the humans to adopt untested and risky methods of demon-slaying in a desperate bid for survival...
      • The third game also reveals that humans are the offspring of angels and demons. Many angels, Imperius among them, would prefer humanity to cease to exist because of the role of demons in their creation and the propensity many humans have toward evil, which definitely explains why the angels don't help humans. In addition, there was a pact between the forces of Heaven and hell not to interfere in Sanctuary following the Sin War, which the demons broke. Tyrael was forbidden to act directly because it would draw the Council's attention to the demons' activities there and endanger humanity.
  • Dragon Quest VII: God decided that after sealing the Demon Lord that humanity and the elemental spirits could fix the sealed world while he just sat backed and watched, even as the Demon Lord came back and pretended to be him. Made even worse by him showing you just how much stronger then the Demon Lord he actually is.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Throughout the series and in the Backstory, the influence of the Daedric Princes (who are, very loosely, demonic deities who are not always "evil" as we understand it) is usually much more apparent than that of the Nine Divines (or Aedra, who are, again very loosely, angelic deities). Due to their sacrifices during creation, the Aedra have been left significantly weakened and no longer possess Complete Immortality. While they are still recognized and often worshiped throughout Tamriel, many, especially Daedra worshipers, consider them either inept, lazy, nonexistent, or some combination thereof. The Aedra prefer a lighter touch when influencing mortal affairs, at most acting through mortal agents. The rare instances in which they have intervened directly have typically been as the last resort to stave off The End of the World as We Know It. Even with their immortality in-tact, the Daedra prefer working through mortal agents as well, though for a different reason - metaphysical barriers prevent them from setting foot on Mundus at full power unless they've been specially ritually summoned, they take a much-weaker mortal avatar form, or some other special specific circumstance.
    • In Morrowind, The Tribunal, a trio of Dunmeri Physical Gods who gained their power by tapping into the still-beating Heart of Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god of the mortal world, initially averted it. For their first several millennia of reign, they, particularly Vivec and Almalexia, regularly lived and worked among their people, offering guidance and protection while performing miracles. However, a re-awakened Dagoth Ur (a former ally of theirs who gained divine powers in the same fashion) ambushed them on one of their annual pilgrimages to the Heart to recharge their divinity. He stole two of the tools necessary to tap into the Heart, cutting the Tribunal off from the source of their divine power. Channeling what was left of their waning divine power into the Ghostfence, which (mostly) sealed Dagoth Ur's influence within Red Mountain, forced the Tribunal to withdraw almost completely from the affairs of mortals, playing this straight. (To give an idea how much their power had waned: Originally the Ghostfence was a complete dome over the Red Mountain. By the time of the game, it's a twenty-foot fence. This is despite the fact that the Ghostfence has gone from being strengthened by just a few honoured Dunmer dead (Dunmer have a connection to their ancestors — it's why it's the Ghostfence and not the Godfence) to almost all dead going to keeping the Ghostfence up.)
    • This is lampshaded in Oblivion with two god-hating NPCs: Else God-Hater, a Nord in Skingrad who declares that 'The gods don't do a damn thing. Do they even exist? How could anyone tell? Daedra Lords, sure. They exist. They do things. Bad things, mostly, but things you can see.', and Ulene Hlervu, a Dunmer in Cheydinhal who asks you 'You worship the Nine Divines, perhaps? Have they ever helped or harmed you? Of course not. Now, worship a Daedra Lord, and you get effects... bad ones, of course, but clear and measurable effects.' The Nine Divines get their own back in the Knights of the Nine expansion, though. In the end quest, you die fighting the Big Bad and the gods are good enough to resurrect you. A friendly NPC declares this 'undeniable proof of the strength and the might of the gods we serve!'
    • In Skyrim, Akatosh (and possibly Talos) do take steps to protect Nirn, by arranging for the Dragonborn to arrive in Skyrim at the same time as Alduin returns to the world.
  • Genshin Impact: the first three archons we meet could be considered lazy. The first one, Barbatos, does not want to lead his nation as he believes in freedom includes being free from a god's demand, but his lack of leadership made him the weakest archon. The second one, Morax, is the oldest and just wants to retire. The third one, Baal, is a shut-in who creates puppets to lead her nation instead.
  • Grim Fandango: The only rule that the Powers That Be actually enforce is "you can't buy your way into heaven." The people who try that get what's coming to them, but you don't get any sympathy if your ticket is stolen.
  • In GrimGrimoire, the Legions of Hell have a unofficial representative in the school's Sorcery teacher, the devil Advocat. The school is also threatened by the return of the mighty devil Grimlet, who intends to conquer the whole kingdom and has the power to do it. The only Heavenly presence in the story is a homunculus created with an angel serving as her core (ie: soul), and she doesn't even remember being an angel in the first place; she even doubted whether or not she really was an angel. This disparity gets even worse if one considers the possibility that the angel didn't willingly consent to become the homunculus in the first place — and there's been been no apparent response or reprisal from Heaven, one way or the other. Last but not least: Should this homunculus commit Heroic Sacrifice to defeat Grimlet with the angel within, the angel is never actually seen or heard from — there's just an impressive devil-roasting lightshow. All traces of the homunculus or angel vanish immediately after the job is done, without so much as a "See ya, later." By contrast, both devils get multiple appearances and speaking parts.
  • In Mortal Kombat, while the Elder Gods give each realm a "protector god" to watch over their charges and defend them against supernatural threats, in reality they're powerless to do their duties; most of the threats that the protector gods are supposed to help defend against are from out of realm eager to conquer the little piece of reality they're supposed to be watching over, and they have no jurisdiction - or powers - once that happens. Plus, the Elder Gods are more likely to yank the gods from the front lines than to, y'know, let them do their jobs thanks to their overdeveloped Obstructive Code of Conduct and Alien Non-Interference Clause. The most any god can do without outright rebelling is to train warriors to deal with the oncoming threats themselves.
    • Taken to ridiculous extremes in Mortal Kombat 9. When Raiden and Liu Kang ask them to stop Shao Kahn's blatant rule-breaking and Earthrealm invasion, the Elder Gods refuse to act since he hasn't technically broken any rules. The only way to get them to act is for Raiden to surrender to Shao Kahn; when Kahn nearly kills him anyway the Elder Gods FINALLY step in, empowering the thunder god so he can finish Kahn once and for all. And that was after Raiden had blundered his way through visions he'd received and gotten his allies whittled down to virtually nothing.
    • Goes even further during the main story in Mortal Kombat X. Shinnok, a former Elder God acquires an amulet created by the Elder Gods that has the ability to destroy the fabrics of reality itself. The Elder Gods do not stop him and it takes Johnny Cage and Raiden to stop Shinnok and seal him in the amulet. Later on, Quan Chi manages to release Shinnok before being killed by Scorpion. Shinnok proceeds to lay the smackdown on the heroes, go to the Sky Temple and the infect the life force of Earthrealm as he bathes in it to gain incredible power. The world is in danger yet the Elder Gods still stand by and do nothing at all. Shinnok even lampshades how spineless the Elder Gods have become. Shinnok is stopped not by the Elder Gods, but by Johnny and Sonya Blade's daughter Cassie Cage. The Elder Gods' continued lack of motivation affects Raiden who, after using his own life force to cleanse Earthrealm becomes extremely disillusioned and declares to use his powers to protect Earthrealm at all costs.
    • The events of X lead right into Mortal Kombat 11, where the Titan Kronika, who is displeased by Raiden's meddling with her intended course of history decides to take matters into her own hands and pull fighters from between multiple timelines. You know Kronika poses a serious threat to the realms when the Elder Gods provide Raiden with precise instructions on what he needs to do to thwart her ambitions. Unfortunately they pay the ultimate price for their inaction over the eons when Cetrion eliminates them to prove her loyalty to her mother Kronika and finish what her brother Shinnok started.
    • This trope along with divine douchebaggery are the reasons why Liu Kang decided to be more proactive and helpful in Mortal Kombat 1 after his ascension.
  • Philemon, from the Persona series, is the ultimate mass of all positive and benevolent emotions and acts in humanity. He's locked in an eternal war with Nyarlathotep, his Evil Counterpart, who's born of all evil acts and thoughts of humanity. Likes to empower kids and send them to do the job.
  • Persona 5: While the Greater-Scope Villain creator of the Palace seems to be spreading access to his Eldritch Location to multiple individuals and filling an underground labyrinth with monsters, the Big Good Igor just sits in his room and fuses new Guardian Entities for you. Subverted when it turns out: a) the Greater Scope Villain has been impersonating Igor, explaining his general disinterest. b) The real Igor created Mr. Exposition Morgana to help you, and his assistant Lavenza has been appearing to you as a Butterfly of Death and Rebirth throughout the game.
  • This trope motivates a Necessarily Evil villain in Planescape: Torment, and he is taking steps to rectify it. Trias the Betrayer believes that the forces of Good allowing the Blood War to continue without getting involved is slowly tainting the universe and making it more and more evil (and he may very well be right). It inspired him to attempt to assault Mount Celestia with an army of devils in the hope that the forces of Good would counter-attack and start involving themselves in the war.
  • Thoroughly averted by Palkia in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers. As soon as space begins distorting he attempts to halt it with his powers, and when pointed towards the ones responsible, he seeks them out personally. When it's revealed that he'd been deceived, he once again personally goes after the real culprit and wrecks him. Dialga also averts it to a lesser degree; using his temporal powers to revive the player after they're erased by a paradox, and as Primal Dialga he personally attempts to stop the group from returning to the past. Played straight by Arceus until the end of Grovyle's story though.
  • In Prince of Persia (2008), evil god Ahriman is able to corrupt a kingdom despite being imprisoned for most of the game. The good god Ormazd on the other hand is never explicitly shown to do anything, although Elika does believe that Ormazd was responsible for the Prince showing up.
  • Touhou Project has Yukari Yakumo, who's not actually a god (she's a youkai instead), but stronger than most actual gods and is the creator of Gensokyo (the pocket dimension that the games take place in), who takes this trope to an artform. Not only does she tend to sleep for twelve hours a day, only awakening at night, but she's also known to sleep through winter (her subordinates even say she's "hibernating"). And when she is awake she much prefers to use the local miko to do things for her while annoying/flirting with her.
    • To explain: as of 2013, there's been seven main-series games since her debut and a large number of spinoffs. She's been actively involved in events twice, acted as support as many times, and made a small handful of appearances to provide advice.
    • The actual gods aren't lazy— they need faith to survive, and can't afford to laze around.
  • Jak and Daxter has the Precursors, a godlike race purported to be "the most powerful beings in the universe," relying on poor Jak to do everything, including saving their race from destruction though this is revealed to be a Red Herring by the Precursors to protect themselves, so.... And it's very likely, though not outright confirmed, that Jak somehow got his powers from the Precursors, either through being The Chosen One or having his ancestor given powers.
  • Beyond Zork featured the Implementors, obvious Author Avatars for the game's creators, who created the world but now spend all their time having lunch on the Ethereal Plane of Atrii.
  • Unwritten Legends: So many times everybody's lost count. The gods won't usually help you unless the bad guys destroy their temple, no matter what's plaguing you, their loyal followers. Don't want to distract from their cosmic game of boggle, I suppose.
  • At the start of Hyperdimension Neptunia V, the four CPU goddesses (Neptune, Blanc, Noire, and Vert) have slacked off from their work because there is no more threat from any piracy group. Histoire kicks them out to do some work in which, Neptune finds herself going from level 99 back to level one. Oh and thanks to them slacking off, someone started a group to actually kick the gods out and become independent from their rule (which is one of the main plots of the game).
  • Inverted in Final Fantasy XIII-2 where Etro causes problems by being too active. Saving the heroes from their crystalized fate and reuniting them with their loved ones at the end of the last game distorts the 'true' timeline which directly leads to the death of Yeul. She is a seeress whose visions shorten her life span and the distortions in time increase the frequency of her visioons which leads to a premature death. This motivates Cauis to become the game's Big Bad. The power to see visions was given to her by Etro to better govern her city. The only thing she did that did NOT backfire was choose Lightning to be her champion.
  • In Dragon Age, all of the gods are either absent, never existed in the first place, were never really gods, or dead. The Maker is the most mysterious one of them all. It's never made clear if he has abandoned Thedas, is just lazy, or just never existed at all. This does not stop people praying to him in the Darkest Hour. There are hints that the timely coincidences that help save the day are The Maker's work, but nothing is ever confirmed. Solas of Dragon Age: Inquisition claims that this is a positive trait, since no true god needs to prove its power to anyone. "Gods" that do flaunt their power inevitably are nothing but trouble. Since the creators of the franchise have stated that The Maker represents "faith", we will likely never get a clear answer. Solas turns out to actually be a god himself; although he insists he's not one his actual power level is so far above anyone else active in the setting the difference is fairly academic.
  • Zeus: Master of Olympus: Gods will only help if you build a sanctuary to them, and their involvement is limited to (sometimes) showing up when a rival god or army invades and fighting them. The only god who will fight against monsters is Apollo.
  • The Charred Council of Darksiders knew all about The Destroyer's treachery, but did nothing about it until after he'd caused the apocalypse. They may have even been the ones to make War believe the 7th seal had been broken and ride. All so they could get "proof" of The Destroyer's treachery and use War as their pawn to take him down.
  • Pillars of Eternity explores and zig-zags this a lot; the gods are active through mortal agents and mysterious ways, but rarely ever get directly involved for the simple reason that it’s total overkill. Prior to the events of the second game, there’s only three instances of the gods directly and unambiguously manifesting; Ondra smiting the Engwithans, Abydon trying to stop her from doing that (and failing), and Eothas leading an army into Dyrwood in an attempt to prevent Woedica from wrecking the cosmic balance. They also have another major reason for not becoming directly involved in the world; they don’t want to risk anyone finding out that they’re actually huge Magitek AI’s. They were created by the Engwithans after the latter became convinced deities didn’t exist and that mortals couldn’t handle such an idea. This is also the reason for their treatment of their creators. The latter wanted the gods to destroy what remained of them in order to hide the truth, but Ondra was the only god willing to actually do it, while Abydon objected to what he saw as the senseless destruction of people and knowledge. The plot of the second game is kicked off when Eothas says “fuck that” and directly manifests again to demolish the whole system giving the gods power over mortalkind, as he thinks it was a huge mistake.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, the Top God Bahamut also known as the Omnipotent has been missing for millennia, leading to rampant speculation from those below him in the divine order on where and why he's disappeared. The dragon who oversees Light and Life to ensure they work properly in reality, Lu Woh, has the position that the Omnipotent is far too lazy and incompetent at both creating and managing the world he created. At the end of Lu Woh's debut event story, he speculates that they may have to kill Bahamut if they want a god who's more attentive at maintaining the world.

  • Exterminatus Now features both light and dark gods. While the Dark Gods seem to treat their followers with suspicion, contempt and outright mocking, the light gods are more apathetic, even to the Mobian Inquisition that serves them. At one point, an angel comes down to tell the main characters that the gods are having a disagreement that is "beyond (their) reckoning," which turns out to be an argument about who gets to be the race car in Monopoly.
  • Ethan Nicolle drew a webcomic featuring Jesus and Ernest Hemingway fighting Those Wacky Nazis, using this trope as a jumping-off point. God is ultimately benevolent, but he only swings by this particular universe every once in a while, and only watches what's going on like a big cosmic game of The Sims while he's here. Jesus, on the other hand, is here watching all the time, and thinks something oughta be done; so, choosing World War II as the highest concentration of evil, he incarnates in time to blow shit up.
  • This is evidently the case with the Dream Oracle of Cucumber Quest. That and incompetence.
  • The whole plot of Misfile came about because an angel was slacking off at his desk and left some files strewn around when his boss kicked him out, causing a Gender Bender for one character and a Cosmic Retcon for another. Nobody has any idea what God himself is up to, if anything.
  • Played with in this Partially Clips strip, depicting the gods as taking on so many different jurisdictions that requests for aid tend to fall between the cracks.
  • This comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal ends with a priest asking if it's possible for God to be All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Good, but also lazy - to which God points out that there is a day designated for resting.
  • Subverted in Order Of The Stick: The gods have agreed to a universal armistice that prevents them from directly helping the mortal world, and must channel their powers through mortals or send relatively weak monsters as 'reinforcements'. It turns out the Good-alignment gods "wrote them that way on purpose" and intentionally tied their own hands up, not out of sloth but because (A) they're outnumbered by 'not-good' gods and (B) the last time the gods had an inter-pantheon argument, it blew up their world and created an Eldritch Abomination that easily feasts on gods. Keeping all the raw power of divine creation tied up means balance naturally finds itself.

    Web Original 
  • Near the end of the third season of Press Start Adventures, Count Vile, who had defeated Satan in combat and taken the reigns of hell, is told by God to pick up his slack with punishing the eternally damned or else the Balance Between Good and Evil will be off and reality will fall apart. Vile fails to do so, but before everything is wiped out, Vile realizes through God's actions that God is just as lazy and irritable as he is. He then convinces God that he can be lazier and restore the balance by not rewarding the people in Heaven, pointing out that it evens out if there are no punishments or rewards. God agrees and reality is restored.
  • In the Whateley Universe, one of the main characters has been to what seemed like hell, and was confronted by a being who claimed to be Satan. He tells the character while he's torturing her that God does exist, and that he and God play by these rules to keep things worse than Satan from invading our reality. He could have been lying about being Satan, or about the arrangement, or about anything... except that he does give her information that stops something horrific.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Bender meets a godlike being (who may be the actual God). God explains that if you do too much, people become dependent on you, and if you do too little, they lose faith. However, if you do your job right, then nobody will be sure whether you've done anything at all.
  • God, the Devil and Bob: It's a Humanity on Trial show, but God and Satan are mostly kicking around with Bob at his place, waiting for him to vindicate or doom humanity.
  • In the South Park episode "Mysterion Rises", God and Jesus don't seem to care that Cartman and the evil god Cthulhu are taking over the world.
  • At the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender episode The Painted Lady, the actual Painted Lady thanks Katara for protecting her people. At least it proves Katara did nothing wrong pretending to be a spirit to help people. But when her people needed help, the spirit… waited for a human who would do her job?