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Unwanted False Faith

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Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me, you don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!
The Crowd: [in unison] Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: [in unison] Yes, we are all different!
Man in Crowd: I'm not.
Another Man: Shhh!

Bob is neither a true messiah nor a scam artist wanting to make his own religion. He's just a regular good guy. And yet he is made into an object of misplaced religious faith. For added irony, this religion is likely to be one he finds repulsive—or would find repulsive, in the cases where he's not even aware of having followers. Of course, if the character is of a decent sort, he will try to clear up the misunderstanding, but that might take some persuading to do so.

If this worship keeps growing out of control, it can establish itself as a Scam Religion. This can either be used to suggest that Religion Is Wrong, or it can be an illustration of the foolishness of "worshipping false idols".

Compare and Contrast Stop Worshipping Me, where the guy not wanting to be worshiped actually is a god or messiah or similar: The faith is not truly false, but the deity doesn't want the worship anyway. Also contrast God Guise, which has the character being falsely worshipped use said worship to his advantage. See also A God I Am Not, when a powerful being rejects the label of god. Also contrast I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: Cases of misplaced hero worship (rather then religious worship) goes into that trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In one episode of Minami-ke Kanna dresses Chiaki up as a Teru-Teru Bōzu in order to make it stop raining so they can go to the beach. Chiaki eventually manages to negotiate the rain cloud into going away. When Chiaki's friends come over, Kanna boasts of having gotten rid of the rain cloud, at which point it angrily returns, and Chiaki ends up having to calm it down again. After this display Chiaki's friends and Kanna promptly start praying to Chiaki, over her angry (and still helplessly bound) protestations.
  • In 20th Century Boys, there is God, a crotchety old homeless guy with a preoccupation with bowling and an inexplicable talent for clairvoyance. He's pretty sure he's not actually God, and constantly tells people to stop calling him such, but that doesn't stop the other Crazy Homeless People from doing it.
  • In Spirit Circle, this happened to Fone, who lived in a Mayincatec setting. He knew that the Human Sacrifice religion is fake. When his lover got chosen as a sacrifice, he rushed to the altar at the last moment to stop the ritual, only to get killed by a priest. After his death, however, the citizen began revolting against the priesthood, slaughtering them, sacrificing their blood in the name of their new god...Fone. Fuuta, Fone's reincarnation in present time, is utterly shocked and disgusted by these turns of events.
  • In Tales of Wedding Rings, the dwarven Robot Girl Amber was sent from her world to Japan hundreds of years ago. The people of the time mistook her for some kind of god or youkai and placed her in a shrine so they could worship her, a fact which seems to embarrass her when she relates her past to Satou.

    Comic Books 
  • In Fables, Boy Blue only wanted to be a regular guy. He became a war hero out of necessity, but hated the cruelty and slaughter that war entails and really preferred to simply be an office clerk. One of the main reasons he participated in the war effort was his hatred for tyranny. After his death, a cult springs up around him. His worshipers long for him to come back as a bloodsoaked tyrant slaughtering all who stand in his way and indulge in the most blatant and unfair forms of nepotism. Of course, they consider this a good thing, using rhetorics very similar to how the Adversary justified his own reign of terror.
  • This happened to Superman during the Action Comics Weekly Sunday-strip run.
  • Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen is powerful enough to be considered a Physical God, but resents being perceived this way. As he himself puts it: "I don't think there is a god. If there is, I'm not him".
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd himself has been turned into an object of worship at least once by a Mega City One cult. He had to arrest the whole faith (prompting them to turn on their savior as an "impostor") to dissuade them of any delusions about his supposed divinity.
  • Invader Zim: In Issue 7 of the continuation comics, Zim accidentally seeds a dead planet with rapidly evolving life. This includes a race of sentient amoebas, which worship him as a god. He's initially pleased with this, but as they go so over the top in praising him (in much the same way he does with the Tallest), Zim quickly becomes annoyed with them

    Comic Strips 
  • Played with in a Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! strip in which Agent X explains an ancient drawing as the story of an alien visitor who was worshipped as a god, tried to explain to the primitive humans that he was not a god, and found himself pelted with stones for espousing this heresy.
  • One Gahan Wilson cartoon has a psychiatrist down on his knees kissing his patient's hand, as the patient growls "This is not going to help my Messianic complex, doctor!"

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Asgardians are in the tricky position of having to explain that yes, technically they are gods, but that's more sort of a classification — they do not want to be worshipped (and it was a mark of how nuts Loki was during The Avengers that he did). Harry, being a demigod thanks to Thor having been incarnated as James Potter, ends up with a Stop Worshipping Me response.
    • In the sequel, Doctor Strange comments that the definition of godhood is a rather fluid one, and that he — as an immortal and extremely powerful wizard whose Beyond the Impossible antics make him a low-level Reality Warper, who's casually bossed around the gods of gods (even murdering one for his own convenience) and Seer/Time Master whose prophecies are (almost) never wrong — has been worshipped in the past. He adds that he went to a great deal of trouble to put a stop to it.
  • The Kung Fu Panda fanfic, Memoirs of a Master, has Master Oogway learning that the Mongols consider him a god. Of course, he makes it clear that he wants none of that.
  • A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies has this happen to Megan; after she left Ponyland, over the millennia she'd grown into a mythical figure and eventually was elevated to the status of a Messianic Archetype. She's rather upset to hear about this, especially since she's a Christian.
  • The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds, which has a similar premise to A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies but significantly less Grimdark, uses something like this as well. Megan's more embarrassed than annoyed, though it helps that most of the mighty deeds for which she is now Famed in Story are Not Hyperbole.
  • All of the Princesses get this in the Triptych Continuum. Not only do ponies swear on and by them in daily life, a significant part of the population perceives divinity in the alicorns and actively prays to them — something which makes them heartsick, as they have no means of hearing those pleas, and their ability to answer any direct requests is limited to the magic they know. Blessing shows Celestia's struggles with such beliefs, and Twilight is just beginning to recognize that consequence of her ascension. Basically, if you want to emotionally wound a Princess, ask her to bless you, and then stand by your faith when she insists she can't...
  • In Domovoi, the Precursors are disgusted by the Kaiju Cult's worship of their kind and of the Kaiju, calling it "barbaric superstition." In a more humorous example, Striker Eureka is not amused by being turned into a shrine by a Jaeger-worshiping sect and takes every opportunity to chew his devotees out, which the non-English-speaking worshipers completely misconstrue.
  • Empath of Empath: The Luckiest Smurf dislikes worship and has even destroyed the statue Papa Smurf had erected as a memorial to him when the Smurfs started using it as an object of worship when he was elevated to Messianic Archetype status.
  • The Naruto fan fiction The Book Of Naruto is an example of the "unknown" variety: on this fanfic, Naruto has honest-to-goodness near-god-like powers and the capacity to create miracles, but he remains the goofball Idiot Hero that he always is (the 'fic happening when he's a kid boosts on the "goofball" part, as well). A number of random good deeds he does for people on his travels and his actions on the Wave arc soon boom into the creation of a cult that worships him, makes other Konoha ninja nervous, and Naruto remains unaware of for most of the fic.
  • The Life and Times of a Winning Pony: Shadow Kicker, a legendary leader of the Kicker clan from the days of the ancient Lunar Rebellion, is the focus of a widespread cult in both the modern clan and the military dedicated to adoring her as a semi-religious figure and exemplar. Shadow herself deeply disliked regular hero worship, and liked actual worship of herself even less. It's noted that the cult only took off after Shadow was too dead to do anything about it and, even in her modern day, her lingering spirit clearly dislikes being referred to by her religious honorific of "Honored Shadow".
  • Edward in My Master Ed keeps getting frustrated whenever a Xerxian sees him create gold, since they all think only a demon or a god can do so.
  • One of the rules in the Fusionfall fanfic Rules and Truths of Fusionfall is a ban against siccing alien worship cults on Ben. Apparently, he enjoyed the attention until the child-sacrificing nuts arrived and pissed off the KND.
  • Inverted and played for laughs in the Lord Helix Gaiden of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. MissingNo's attempt to use Omanyte and Omastar to create a cult who worshipped him backfired horribly, since he created instead a cult who worships them (aka the Helixism religion).
  • Earth's Alien History: Katie Marek's curb-stomping of Bastest inadvertently inspires a religion built around her (as the "Ka'tee") amongst the human slave and rebel Jaffa populations. Later, circumstantial evidence also ties her into the Kuvah'magh prophecy in the eyes of some Klingons.
  • Song of a Northern Sorcerer: Alim Nox isn't exactly impressed or even happy when devotees of R'hllor start bowing to him and calling him Azor Ahai reborn, all because he happens to wield a red lightsaber and as such fulfills the criteria to be The Chosen One. According to him, zealots bring more trouble than they're worth.
  • Frozen Wight: In the sequel series Anatomy of a Snowwoman, Elsa finds out that the neighboring nation of Pagania is "amenable to an alliance." Then she finds out that this is a polite way of saying that they literally worship her as a goddess. She does not appreciate this.
    Elsa: No. My powers don't put me above anyone else – I refuse to believe that. I'm not a goddess.
    High Priest: [snorts] Oh, nice, what are you gonna do next, barge into the Vatican, march up to the Pope, and say you don't believe in Jesus?
  • A Darker Path: After the multiple shocks she has gone through in a little time, Emma Barnes starts a cult centered in the worship of Atropos as a goddess of death. Taylor, who is also Atropos, is completely baffled by the idea, and although she'd rather put a stop to it, she just tells them not to kill, to do good things for the sake of good instead of do things that make themselves feel good, and never claim to act in her name. And to wear normal clothes instead of dark robes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Braveheart: One of the two new recruits arriving at to Wallace's camp kneels down in front of him - who was actually an assassin sent to kill Wallace - kneels down in front of Wallace who insists he immediately gets back up.
    Wallace: Stand up man, I'm not the Pope.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian:
  • In The Invention of Lying, Mark lives on an Earth where lying didn't exist until he came up with the idea one day. When his mother is about to die, he tries to comfort her by telling her rather than just not-existing, she'll go to a happy place ruled over by "The Man in the Sky." Unfortunately, the people nearby hear, and make him tell more about it until he ends up inventing Christianity, to the point that he has to crash his true love's wedding in a chapel devoted to The Man in the Sky.
  • This is part of The Reveal in The Man from Earth. Professor John Oldman is an immortal 14,000-year-old-man who is embarrassed to reveal that he tried to teach Buddhism to people in Jerusalem, but was arrested and crucified, so he used a meditation technique to fake his death and escape his tomb. Yes, Jesus Christ is actually an immortal cave man Buddhist. John has been very displeased to be misconstrued as the son of God.
  • C-3PO, in Return of the Jedi: The Ewoks mistake him for a deity, much to his embarrassment. And also because it's somehow against his programming to impersonate a deity. Presumably Anakin thought it was funny.
  • Bubble Boy has Jimmy be mistaken for the messiah (in search of "The Round One") that would take a cult to Heaven, rather than mutate and burn in Hell on planet PX-41 (or planet PX-42 if there wasn't enough room).
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has Superman rescuing people around the world seeking to inspire hope and faith in the goodness of people but is quietly despairing at the near-religious fear and worship he is also causing (as feared by Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel). Lex Luthor (if you take his rooftop rambling as genuine), Wallace Keefe and Bruce Wayne all accuse him to various degrees of being a false god.

  • According to legend, King Canute of England was often flattered by his nobles, who told him he was so powerful he could even order the tide to go back. The pious King was quite annoyed, since this was effectively telling him he was God. To prove them wrong, he dressed up in his full royal regalia, had his throne taken to the shore, and as the tide came in, he sat in his throne and ordered the sea back. A wave promptly soaked him from head to toe. He then told his nobles that the power of earthly kings was empty and that nobody was worthy of the title King but God Himself. According to the legend, he never wore his crown again.
  • In some versions of the above tale, he orders his men to give the sea a taste of the lash (anywhere from 40 to 300), fettered in chains, and branded, only for the tide to wash over him again. This version has also been attributed to many historical figures, such as Xerxes, but sometimes in earnest rather than as a lesson of the mortality of rulers.

  • In Linnea Sinclair's An Accidental Goddess, the heroine wakes up and discovers that (a) she's lost a few centuries somewhere and (b) she's been branded a major deity. Awwwkward....
  • In a Simon R. Green novel, Beyond The Blue Moon, many peasants assume that the Shaman must be a prophet because he's an old hermit who lives in the woods. The Shaman dissuades their attempts to win his blessing by screaming and throwing Road Apples at them until they leave him the hell alone.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): Anthony and the Colony have done a lot for the human village of Renewal, so it's understandable that the humans would be grateful, but since the village is led by a very passionate priest, it tips more toward outright worship of the ants in general and the "Great One" in particular. Anthony mostly tries to avoid the subject, and considers the priest and all his disciples to be crazy, but even more sensible villagers like Enid sometimes suggest that the Colony's influence feels like a miracle.
  • Ciaphas Cain has a small sect that worships him as a manifestation of the Emperor, complete with holy book, founded when some very religious soldiers saw him face down a Daemon. According to the novels he never found out and probably would have been horrified.
  • Dune:
    • Paul Atreides of the Dune series fits this well, being a supposed messiah to the Fremen (even though he knows their myth about a saviour is implanted by external influence and is only set up to look like a naturally created legend). Though this may be more of a case of Stop Worshipping Me, since Paul does have the ability to see the future. He doesn't really want people worshipping him (possibly because he's prescient and can see where that path leads), but at least at the start he deliberately encourages it anyway because he can't see any way to accomplish his goals, which ultimately include saving the entire human race from destroying itself, without it. Once he gets past the stage where he's actively needed as a figurehead, he leaves it all behind and wanders the world as a mysterious prophet instead of the God-Emperor everyone is trying to make him into.
    • Paul's son Leto II (technically it should be Leto I, as the grandfather he's named after wasn't Emperor) is forced by his own prescience to fully embrace the God-Emperor role. He also doesn't really like it, but again ... turns out that in the Herbertverse prescience is a harsh mistress.
  • The Humanx Commonwealth Novels include the book Running From The Deity, where Flinx lands on a primitive planet (they're a Steampunk society without gunpowder, so they have steam-driven catapults as their most advanced weapons) and is mistaken as a god after he uses some of the basic medical equipment on his ship to heal a native he accidentally injures. Naturally, several local leaders try to exploit him to their advantage.
  • The Nagasaki Vector, by L Neil Smith, has a timeship pilot inadvertently guide an entire alien race towards sapience through the use of some coffee and some mazes he made in the sand to pass the time while escorting a team of scientists on a research expedition to a planet that had been wiped out in a supernova. Realizing what he has done, his superiors arrange for the evacuation of the newly-discovered sapient species before their planet was destroyed, and they decide the most fitting punishment would be to force the pilot to fulfill his responsibility as their appointed god. Naturally, the little guys he has following him around through the entire book are annoying as all get-out, or else it wouldn't be a good punishment.
  • In Wise Blood, while Hazel Motes is standing on a street corner preaching against God, Hoover Shoats cashes in by starting the Holy Church of Christ without Christ, which anyone can join for 1 dollar. When Hazel fails to make people understand that he's preaching against God, he leaves in disgust. This leads to Shoats hiring a random homeless man to impersonate Hazel and be his new preacher.
  • In Warbreaker, Lightsong The Bold believes himself to be neither a god nor worthy of worship for most of the series.
  • Jimmy Goggles the God, a short story by H. G. Wells. The title character, through a complicated accident, becomes stranded on an island of savages while wearing an old-fashioned copper helmet type diving suit. The savages take him to be a god, build him a temple and worship him. While this does have significant advantages in terms of ensuring his survival, he soon becomes heartily sick of constantly wearing a heavy waterproof suit with copper helmet and lead boots in a tropical climate...
  • In The Lost Fleet, John Geary fights a total of one battle in his entire Space Navy career, before his ship is destroyed, and he is forced to become a Human Popsicle. A century later, his pod is discovered, and he wakes up to find The Alliance engaged in a century-long war with the Syndicate Worlds (the battle he fought was the opening shots of that war). The brutal conflict with a massive casualty rate has resulted in fleet tactics being all but forgotten, and the new generations of captains are ingrained with an Attack! Attack! Attack! mentality, claiming that "fighting spirit" alone decides the outcome of any battle. Even worse, the Alliance officials have elevated "Black Jack" Geary to a legendary status, using his Delaying Action to paint him as an ideal to be striven for. So, when Geary returns just as the Alliance fleet is in peril, many take it as a sign from the Ancestors that he has been sent to save the Alliance in its hour of need. Geary honestly tries to put his skills (meager that they are) to use, while also fighting off resentful captains who resist any attempts to change what they believe is the only true way to fight.
  • Somber Kitty from May Bird is mistaken for a deity by a group of Egyptian ghosts simply by virtue of being a cat. Being a cat he doesn't understand the worse aspects of this, such as their plan to sacrifice him to Ra, but he still escapes because he wants to find his master, the titular May Bird.
  • In There Was No Secret Evil Fighting Organization, an enterprising telekinetic makes money by turning turbines for a power company. However, because he wants to keep The Masquerade going, he does so remotely. The other employees, horrified that the turbines have seemingly become sapient, build a shrine to their imagined "God of Turbines", and try to placate its wrath by offering stacks of unfilled paid-leave applications. Though he's touched by their piety, the telekinetic does nothing to encourage the cult.
  • In The Silmarillion, Finrod is initially mistaken for a Vala by the humans he encounters. This is fairly understandable: Finrod is considered particularly beautiful, virtuous and skilled even by the other Noldor, and they are fairer and greater than other elves due to having seen the holy light of the Two Trees. However, he very quickly explains to them that not only is he NOT a Vala, but they shouldn't really be worshipped either: there is only one God, Eru Ilúvatar. Indeed, he's a bit confused by the whole thing: because elves don't really worship. The closest they get is swearing oaths in Ilúvatar's name which they feel are absolutely binding: although this could be termed piety of a sort, it bears no resemblence to anything the reader would call religion.
  • The Way of Mrs Cosmopolite in Discworld. In keeping with the theory that wisdom is something that looks bigger the further away it is, many saffron-clad acolytes in the High Ramtops have followed Lu-Tze the Sweeper's example and visited the city of Ankh-Morpork to learn the ancient wisdom of Marietta Cosmopolite. Her usual reaction is to hit them with her broom, although sometimes she allows them to carry her shopping for her.
  • Third Time Lucky and Other Stories of the Most Powerful Wizard in the World: In "Mirror, Mirror on the Lam" Magdelene gets mistaken for a returning goddess on teleporting into Tarzabad-har, one of the Five Cities, beside her shrine. She has to dodge worshippers for the rest of the story.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 examples:
    • G'kar is treated like a prophet by the Narn during the final season due to the book he had been writing about his experiences accidentally being published without his consent and spreading like wildfire (it even outsells the Book of G'Quan, a previous example of this trope). Crowds of followers followed him everywhere he went asking for his wisdom on all sorts of deep questions. He grows increasingly disillusioned by this treatment for a few reasons: he doesn't want to hold that much power among his people (he had turned down the position of president earlier in the show), he doesn't have the answers they're looking for, and he sees that everyone is projecting their ideals of a perfect person onto him, creating this idealized person that's not actually him. It also doesn't help that the book was released unfinished, and early chapters contain ideas he had since rejected but hadn't edited yet which now get thrown in his face by his own followers. Things reach their nadir when a rejected worshipper turns into a Loony Fan and tries to kill him, accidentally seriously injuring an innocent bystander. Eventually he decides to leave civilized space for several years to get away from it all.
      G'kar: I worry, Ta'Lon, that my shadow may become greater than the message.
      Ta'Lon: If that happens, I give you my word that I will personally kill you.
      G'Kar: And this is supposed to put my mind at ease?
    • In the RPG and the B5Wars game the Vorlon are worshipped as the "Living Gods" by the Orieni-no matter how many times they, both in person and through the Minbari, told them they were just incredibly old and technologically advanced aliens. There's a reason for this: in the past they presented themselves as gods to the early Minbari civilization to better shape it before revealing the ruse when they deemed the Minbari sufficiently advanced, and as the final result of that experiment was most of the Vorlon on Minbar being slaughtered by angry Minbari before the panicked survivors bombed them into stone age they have grown wary of a repeat. They instead prefer to have other species "mistake" them for angels, so the other races will still listen to them without considering them gods but simply messengers or aliens that helped them in the past and are rather wary of showing it, and the eventual realization would have less harsh consequences.
  • On Battlestar Galactica, Gaius Baltar never really asked for the cult of attractive young women who dedicated themselves to him, but his massive ego led him to accept them, until Apollo made him reject them in the end.
  • On Dead Like Me Roxy accidentally inspires a religion centered on her as a manifestation of God. She doesn't mind, but her boss is pissed and makes her go back and smash the fledgling religion.
  • The last we see of Damien in Drop the Dead Donkey is as a captive of a primitive rainforest tribe, an object of worship in a cage. The penultimate shots are filmed from his point of view, but then they destroy his camera and build effigies of it instead. For the first few scenes he is happy enough with his new-found status, but once they destroy the camera, he realises there is no likelihood that they will release him...
  • Doctor Who:
    • In early classic series, the First Doctor castigates short-lived companion Katarina for calling him a god. The First Doctor was also mistaken for Zeus by Achilles, much to his indignation.
      Achilles: It is well known that when you come amongst us you adopt many different shapes. To Europa, you appeared as a bull, to Leda, as a swan; to me, you come in the guise of an old beggar....
      The Doctor: [offended] I beg your pardon, I do nothing of the sort!
    • Subverted in the modern series where not only he is frequently referred to as a god (or rather, the "lonely god", being the last of his Sufficiently Advanced Alien species) by some oracles, psychics and others who have a rough idea of what he really is, he seems to embrace the idea, generally in the Wrath department when it comes to evildoers. He seems to regard his status as the Last of the Time Lords (not to mention the destroyer of the Time Lords or so he thought for a while) as meaning he is one of the last real authorities left in the universe, and dares anyone to test that. It's gotten to the point where he is sometimes afraid of himself.
    • That was a very specific and controversial character facet of the Tenth Doctor, though. The Ninth Doctor was very much uncomfortable with being thought of as a god. And when he absorbed the power of the Bad Wolf, he let it all go without even a hint of temptation to do something with it. Unlike, say, Ten a short time later in "School Reunion", when offered the chance to solve the "God Equation". And the Eleventh Doctor was very explicit about not wanting to be seen as anything other than "a madman with a box", and once tried to erase the whole universe's memory of him as an expression of this trope.
      Margaret the Slitheen: I almost feel better about being defeated. We never stood a chance. This is the technology of the gods.
      9th Doctor: Don't worship me, I'd make a very bad god. You wouldn't get a day off, for starters.
    • A good chunk of the Doctor seeming to go along with it is that he'll use any means necessary to save lives - including his reputation, whether he believes it's warranted or not. If he can de-escalate a conflict, or bring courage to civilians who need to stop crying and start thinking, by reminding everyone just what happened to the last few dozen villains who tried something similar to today's crisis, then it's "Oncoming Storm" time! As for how he sees it, one of his most famous Badass Boast speeches, from Eleventh Doctor episode The Pandorica Opens, ends with the Legion of Doom backing off and him quickly telling his allies that it's bought them half an hour at most.
  • In the TV version of The Martian Chronicles, a telepathic, shapeshifting Martian encounters a priest who's undergoing a crisis of faith. Since the priest longs to meet Jesus, his thoughts force the Martian to take on Jesus' appearance. The Martian begs the priest not to see him as the Messiah because he can't bear the responsibility, and fears he'll be trapped in Jesus' image forever. The priest asks the Martian to go whenever he pleases, and come back as Jesus only personally for him and only on Easter.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Waiting for God" is centered on Lister's discovery that the cat civilization has formed a religion vaguely based around Lister and his pet cat from 3 million years ago. He is rather horrified when he realizes that they fought a holy war over what color the hats for his planned doughnut stand should be. In the novels, it was over whether his name was "Clister" or "Cloister", referencing a real-life religious dispute over the Nicaean Creed, which was based on a one-letter difference in spelling — which is also, incidentally, the origin of the English meaning of "iota" as "a small or insignificant amount."
  • Smallville: Clark has to deal with this from Tess Mercer, who thinks he'll solve all the world's problems, and help her put her incredibly screwed up life back together. He manages to dissuade her of the former, largely by helping her with the latter.
  • In Stargate SG-1, the SG-1 team are frequently mistaken for gods in the first five or so seasons, as the villains who pose as gods are the primary users of the gate. Then there was the the time they were mistaken for demons. This is mostly due to the fact that the Stargates on many worlds are left unexplained, and the people there are primitive.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the early seasons, Sisko is uncomfortable with being the Bajorans' "emissary", although he gradually comes to accept it. Since Sisko is portrayed as a regular human and the "Prophets" as enigmatic aliens rather then deities, this is Unwanted False Faith. However, as the series progress, the "Prophets" become less and less of "aliens mistaken for deities" and more and more of actual deities, with Sisko becoming more and more of the Messiah - so the example is only true for the first few seasons.
    • In the later seasons, Odo resents being revered as a "Founder" by Weyoun and the other Dominion grunts.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches the Watchers?", Picard inadvertently becomes a deity to a group of proto-civilization Vulcanoids. He beams their tribe's leader on board the Enterprise to try to explain to her that what he has is merely a more advanced form of technology, but she isn't convinced until she sees a patient die in sickbay and realizes that his people are just as mortal as hers. Picard ends up having to let himself get shot with an arrow by a more fanatical believer so the whole tribe can see him bleed. He's then able to convince them otherwise by referencing the idea of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens (minimizing the damage to their "natural development") and asking them to consider how their own ancient ancestors might view them if they were to witness some of the things they could do with even their medieval technology. It helps that the people in question are so-called "Vulcanoids", who have abandoned superstition generations ago, so it wasn't so hard for them to accept a logical explanation of events.
  • In one episode of Farscape Rygel finds a technologically regressed colony where one of his ancestors set up a Cargo Cult. He tries to tell them that he's not a god or savior, just their Dominar.
  • You, Me and the Apocalypse: Many of the "messiahs" that Father Jude and Sister Celine investigate are examples of this, including Frankie, Jamie and Layla's daughter.
  • The Orville: After being mistakenly deified by a primitive people in "Mad Idolatry", Kelly works hard to prove her mortal status. However, her efforts are to no avail. In the end, they grow out of this on their own.
  • Supergirl (2015): "The Faithful" has Supergirl being worshipped by a cult who reveres Rao, the Kryptonian Sun God, and believes her to be his agent. She's understandably creeped out by this, since she doesn't think of herself as a God, and tries to convince the cult otherwise, especially once members deliberately putting themselves in danger so they can be saved by her becomes an initiation of sorts.
  • On Yellowjackets, a high school soccer team get stuck in the woods following a plane crash. Lottie gradually emerges as a spiritual leader thanks in part to her genuine ability to soothe and comfort people, and in part to a now-unmedicated mental illness giving her "visions". As the team descend into starvation and shared psychosis, she realises a bit too late that she's essentially become the head of a cannibal death cult.
    Lottie: I never meant... I didn't want this. How could you let them?
    Misty: How could I? Lottie, you started this. It's done. And it's going to save all of our lives, so you better not start making people feel bad about it now.

  • Elvis Presley hated his nickname of "The King" because he felt being exalted that way was unchristian.
  • Scar Symmetry's The Illusionist is from the perspective of the central figure of one of these.
  • Jerry Garcia used to blow "raspberries" at Deadheads who called him the messiah.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible: Two examples in the Acts of the Apostles.
    • The first is when Cornelius meets Simon-Peter, he bows and worships him because of a vision he had earlier. The disciple quickly tells him to stop and explains he is only God's messenger.
    • Acts 14, Paul of Tarsus and Barnabas are witnessing in a Greek city and performing some miracles while they were at it. The citizens of the city were convinced that they were the gods, Hermes and Zeus, respectively, and set up a whole procession to sacrificing to them as such. The apostles had to go to considerable lengths trying to make them to stop. This, in turn, made it easier for troublemakers to convince the very same citizens to attempt stoning Paul and Barnabas to death.
    • Several times people in the Bible are so overwhelmed upon being visited by an angel that they start worshipping the angel. The angels tend to immediately tell them to stop that: angels are mere messengers of God, and any worship should be directed towards God Himself, not them.
  • Muslims accept most of the story of Jesus as told in the Gospels as essentially true: the Virgin Birth, his status as the Biblical Messiah, his ministry and miracles, his status as a great prophet, moral teacher, healer, and one of the top-five greatest, purest human beings ever, etc., etc. Muslims even accept a variant of the Crucifixion story (in this version, he never died; God took him up to Heaven bodily while still alive and fooled the Romans into executing a criminal lookalike in his place) and many believe in the Second Coming (where Jesus will either be the Mahdi or assist him... or perhaps the Mahdi will assist's all hazy, as eschatology usually is). However, Muslims do not accept that Jesus is God Himself; a prophet of God, yes, and a messenger of God, yes, and even a great prophet and messenger of God... but not God. This causes a conflict with Christianity: how can a true prophet of God claim to be God himself, when (according to Muslim theology) God would never do such a thing? The Islamic answer is that he did not want to be worshiped, note  clearly stated that he was just a prophet and should not be worshiped, but people worshiped him anyway, especially after the crucifixion. Thus, according to Islam, Christianity is an Unwanted False Faith—which has caused some friction between the religions.
    • Even in Christianity, one does not worship Jesus per se; one does not pray to him directly. (Per his example of a proper prayer aka The Lord's Prayer)
    • It's worth noting that not all Christians believe that Jesus is God; while this is certainly the largest Christian theology, many traditions, both extinct and extant, considered Jesus to be anywhere from a mortal prophet to something approaching an angel sent to Earth as a prophet (which is the most accurate explanation that can be given of such theology without several thousand words of explanation).
  • It is widely believed that Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I had this attitude toward the Rastafari movement, which views him as God incarnate, as this belief contradicts the doctrine of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; Haile Selassie was known to be a fairly devout Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. However, he never specifically denied his divinity, saying "Who am I to disturb their belief?" Whether this faith is false or not is best discussed elsewhere.
  • Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti was born a Hindu, adopted at 14 and groomed (using that word advisedly) by C.W. Leadbeater to become Theosophy's predicted World-Teacher, and twenty years later repudiated the whole thing and denounced religion, saying "Truth is a pathless land." He gave lectures on self-understanding and caring for others, and in doing so he had a serious Unwanted False Faith problem. In film after film he can be heard exhorting his starry-eyed listeners "Please, don't accept this!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has pulled this one a couple of times.
    • Most notably, we have Jerome Blake. A man who simply wanted to save as much as he could from the inevitable wars between the Great Houses, he set up Earth (and the interstellar phone company based there) to be completely neutral and untouchable, the (secular) guardians of advanced technology, so that civilisation in the Inner Sphere could be rebuilt once the fires of war burned themselves out. One set of 'deathbed revelations' to his 'chosen disciple' later, we have the foundations of the pseudo-church known as ComStar, and after a couple of centuries of piled-on dogma and trappings, the Word of Blake and their Jihad.
      • The First Succession War sourcebook, published in 2016, retcons this into an embittered Blake truly ordering Comstar being turned into a cult on because he felt that he had given so much of his life trying to preserve technology for an Inner Sphere that was hell bent on tearing all of it down anyway—so much that he felt that it had taken everything from him. So he felt being remembered as a god was the least the Sphere owed him.
    • Aleksandr Kerensky would probably classify his post-mortem treatment this way, too. A military man who simply wanted to limit the damage the Inner Sphere could do to itself by denying them large amounts of weapons and soldiers, he would not have wanted to be remembered as "The Great Father" by the warrior society his son founded. Especially once the Clans tried to invade the Inner Sphere, starting yet another war.
  • Most of the Exalted respond to developing a cult of their own with something along the lines of "awesome, free motes," but Alchemicals are tasked with suppressing any unauthorised cults that spring up - including ones worshipping them, many of which end up taken down by the very being they revere. (The exception is Nurad, a nation which is so screwed that Alchemical worship is actually mandatory so that the nation's remaining Champions can keep it safe from the oncoming blight zone, but most of them are not comfortable with the situation.)
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • In Return To Dominaria, Jaya explains to Chandra how Keral Keep got started: in her own words she "went to Regatha, got drunk, said some things, and apparently performed some very impressive pyromancy, then came back two centuries later to discover they'd based a religion around [her]." She's actually rather embarrassed about the whole thing. Downplayed in that they don't really worship her as a god (though, since this was pre-mending, she arguably was one at the time), they just follow her philosophy of complete individual freedom and her style of pyromancy. Also, she actually stuck around to make sure they didn't misinterpret her words, posing as a regular nun named Mother Luti.
    • A nastier example happens to Nahiri. Eons ago, she and two other planeswalkers trapped the Eldrazi titans in her homeworld Zendikar, and after the feat she taught the Zendikari people about the Eldrazi until, due to her resentment to being immortal, she went to a long slumber. When she woke up centuries later, she found to her horror that her teachings about the Eldrazi had been twisted so badly that they had been worshipped as Zendikari gods and she was mistaken as their High Priest.
  • In Transhuman Space, Adam Stein, the unofficial leader of a group of transhumanists who believed in The Singularity, despite the growing evidence it wasn't going to happen, responded to 2070s criticism that "singularitanism" was a cult by sarcastically applying to register it as a religion. He was very surprised when his application was accepted, and even more surprised when he started getting new followers who seemed to take the religious aspects seriously. As of 2100, half of the Singularitists are true believers, and Stein is still trying to explain to them that it was a joke.
  • An unusual example from Warhammer 40,000: The Emperor insisted that the Imperium be totally secular and banned his followers from worshipping him despite knowing full well that the Chaos Gods exist; his intention was to starve them by removing worship. Indeed, the entire reason that the Word Bearers Legion fell to Chaos was because they were hurt when the Emperor rebuked Lorgar, their Primarch, for worshiping him. Since the Horus Heresy, however, the Emperor has been powerless to prevent the people of the Imperium from venerating him, and with 500 trillion worshippers all in a universe operating on Clap Your Hands If You Believe he's almost certainly a god now if he wasn't before. And unfortunately for the Emperor, the Chaos Gods were not powered by worship. They are powered by emotion, and existence itself. For extra irony points, the Imperial Cult that worships the Emperor is based on Lorgar's teachings.
  • Despite heavy evidence that she is some form of God or godlike being, The Lady Of Pain of Planescape absolutely forbids people to worship her. Those who ignore her warnings soon get a visit from the Lady herself to personally enforce this ban. A very painful visit.

    Video Games 
  • In Borderlands 2, Original Vault Hunter, Lilith, is disturbed (and flattered) when she finds out a cult is worshipping her as a fire goddess. She sends the new Vault Hunters on a mission to see if the cultists are too dangerous to let live. For a while, it seems that they just want to be burned to death, and seem happy enough to limit their attention to each other, but when it turns out they have kidnapped "heretics" from Sanctuary to be burned as sacrifice, she steps in to rescue the would-be sacrifices while the Vault Hunters finish off the cult. This, in turn, creates a new cult that worships the Vault Hunters. Player reactions may vary.
  • Michael Altman from Dead Space supposedly founded the Church of Unitology. However, he was actually simply a geophysicist who found the Black Marker, and people started worshiping it and called him their Messiah. In an interesting twist at the end of Dead Space: Martyr, he was killed by government agents to make him appear as a Martyr, fueling the flames and allowing them to get rich off donations. They succeeded.
  • In Fallout 3, the player can encounter Harold, a Mutant who appeared in previous Fallout games and has since grown into the trunk of a treenote . A group of people created a cult that worships Harold as a god, which causes him no end of annoyance — especially since they interpret his pleas of "Please kill me" as pieces of deep, arcane wisdom. The player can't actually convince the cultists that Harold is just a man, but they can help him get over his suicidal urges by convincing him that he's saving lives...or you can just burn him to death.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the courier Ulysses relays a tale of how he taught a tribe, named the White Legs, to use modern weaponry. In gratitude, they started tying their hair up in dreadlocks to imitate and honor Ulysses' hairstyle. But Ulysses didn't feel honored by this gesture; in fact it outright angered him. Partly because his dreadlocks was a symbol of his own tribe, the Twisted Hairs, and to him the White Legs' appropriation of it was a childish, ignorant and, above all, empty gesture as they didn't knew the story and meaning of it. And partly because it reminded him of the sad fate the Twisted Hairs had suffered. Ulysses never told them this though, he just quietly walked out on the tribe.
  • Jolee Bindo of Knights of the Old Republic has this happen to him during his long stay on Kashyyyk. His tendency to help young Wookiees in trouble led them to believe he was a benevolent forest spirit and leave him offerings; allowing their leader to clobber him dispelled these notions.
  • Javik in Mass Effect 3. After being released from stasis, not only does he have to deal with being the last member of the Prothean race, he's also now 50,000 years out of the loop, got an archaeologist and fellow team-mate, Liara, desperate to learn everything about him... and also learnt that the entire Hanar race revere him as a God. One of the variants for his last conversation has him mention a plan to retire to the Hanar homeworld and play it up for all it's worth, though.
  • Father Sakura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable was a priest, but due to some use of brain-washing magic (whose existence he was not aware of), he did not realize that the worshipers attending his church are not putting their faith on God he is preaching, but rather on him. Which he really did not want, as shown by his breaking-down after he found out the existence of the magic. This was originally a bit of backstory from the anime on which the game was based, but was expanded on in the game.
  • The history of the Boron in the X-Universe series features an amusing incident on the Wenendra homeworld. During First Contact the Wenendra thought the Boron were at least affiliated with their creator deity, due largely to the Boron being sufficiently advanced compared to the primitive Wenendra. The Boron had some trouble convincing them this wasn't the case.
  • The Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition can feel this way about being worshipped as the "Herald of Andraste" depending on dialogue choices. Understandable, since not only can they come from a non-human background (with the elven Inquisitor explicitly stated to be Dalish) they only survived the destruction of the Conclave and gained the power to seal the Rifts through sheer dumb luck. The Inquisitor can confide in Mother Giselle about how unnerving it is to be placed in the same standing as Andraste herself. On the other hand, a devout Andrasten Inquisitor can end up embracing the role as a divine weapon against evil.
  • Most of the Suul'ka in Sword of the Stars II are a bit annoyed with the Zuul for their fawning adoration, with the possible exception of the Bloodweaver, who created them. Though they'll play along so long as they're fed.
  • In Myst, Atrus sometimes visited Ages where he was immediately treated like a god upon arrival, an example being the Tree-Dweellers of the Channelwood Age. He reputedly disliked this treatment, preferring being simple friends to the natives. Given how his egocentric father, Gehn, wanted Atrus to see things his way, this is understandable.
  • In Ensemble Stars!, Kanata was brought up to believe he was a deity, but lost faith in himself after the events of the war. Despite now identifying only as a normal human, many of his past followers still believe in him, to his discomfort.
  • Iconoclasts: The One Concern worship the Starworm as an all-powerful creator god, referring to it with great reverence as "Him". The faith isn't so much unwanted as it is unknown, as the Starworm very likely has no idea that humans even exist, much less that they've established a brutal theocratic regime centered around its worship. Or rather, its pilot doesn't, as the Starworm itself is really just some alien Space Trucker's funny-looking rig. Once he finds out humans exist, though, he most certainly doesn't want them there, since the planet is essentially an intergalactic fuel depot and they've nearly drained it dry.

  • Quain'tana of Drowtales hates how her followers and the common folk of Chel'el'Sussoloth have begun to idolize her as some kind of mythical warrior queen for fighting against the current ruling class, especially since said ruling clan idolized Sharess, a former queen, and used her cult as a means to control the populace back at the beginning of the city's history. Kel'noz, her own son, capitalizes on her unwanted fanbase and tries to canonize her as a national heroine immediately after her death.
  • Feral animals worship Zach from Housepets! as the Opener of Ways, much to his annoyance. They even steal his diary to copy into a sacred text. Said faith is not entirely false. Pete the gryphon, who is an actual demigod, has confirmed that Zach really is a prophet, or he was before the U&U game ended.
  • Suras from Wayward Sons tries to get the ancient Greeks to stop calling him and his crew gods, but causes a brief lightning storm in his frustration (which was counterproductive to his efforts).
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Kat is able to activate (and de-activate) some of the old Court robots. To the modern robots, it looks as though she has the power to grant life and then take it away. However, it has been has been strongly implied that the robots' belief that Kat is an angel might not be so false after all. Kat's etheric form, as seen first through Zimmy's eyes and later by Annie, looks like a vaguely angelic Eldritch Abomination made of metal.
  • In Freefall, while explaining Sqid religion to Florence, Sam mentions the first human explorers to encounter them expected to be treated like gods... and were very disappointed when they were, since Sqid religion is, like everything else about them, based on thievery.

    Web Original 
  • Sara Waite (Carmilla) of the Whateley Universe, who is worshipped by about The Church Of The Kellith, roughly a hundred thousand people worldwide. Only problem? This is exactly what she doesn't want to be. The Kellith is an Eldritch Abomination foretold to wipe humankind off the planet with her spawn.
  • In Twitch Plays Pokémon Red, Pidgey (later Pidgeot) became so powerful he was referred to in canon as "Bird Jesus" and attracted his share of worship. Cue the mob catching a different Pidgey in Twitch Plays Pokémon Crystal. Many latched onto it as the reincarnation of Bird Jesus, others... had a different opinion. This has actually become a theme of the second one: Brian is now held as not wanting to be seen as Bird Jesus 2.0 but himself, while Lasergator is in Rage Against the Heavens mode (the previous game's Helix Fossil and later Omastar is considered a god).

    Western Animation 
  • On Invader Zim, Zim is "captured" by a group of UFO nuts who believe that aliens want to bring peace and prosperity to mankind. Somehow, despite being an insane Narcissist on a mission to Take Over the World, he fails to see the possibilities of this and instead gets GIR to help him escape..
  • The premise of The Road to El Dorado is two con-men get shipwrecked in South America, and they have a map to the legendary city of El Dorado, a beautiful civilization where everything is made out of solid gold. When they do actually find the city, the natives mistake them and their horse as the gods they pray to and whose return they've been praying for, and hilarity ensues as they try to precariously keep up the act.
  • In Justice League Unlimited backstory, the previous incarnations of Hawkgirl and Hawkman were Thanagarian police officers stranded on Earth before human civilization arose. They founded the first human state (in Ancient Egypt) and, despite their sincerest efforts to avoid it, were worshiped as gods in return.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot — In one episode, Jenny is mistaken for the Comet Goddess by a group of awkward aliens, and while the worship is nice at first, she eventually gets sick of it.
  • In the South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet", Stan is mistaken by the Church of Scientology for the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, the church's founder. Though it turns out that L. Ron Hubbard was a fraud, and the Church's current president is simply using Stan as a way to bilk more money out of their followers.
  • The The Transformers episode "The God Gambit" a few Autobots and Decepticons stumble across a primitive humanoid race living on Titan. The primitives (understandably) mistake the enormously powerful metal giants from the sky for gods. The Autobots try to clear up the misunderstanding, while the Decepticons play it up for all it's worth. Jazz spent most of the episode protesting that no, they weren't gods and never were.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Stop Worshipping Me I Am Just A Regular Guy



Brian himself is desperately trying to convince everyone that he isn't the messiah, but the crowd of followers aren't having it, asking for miracles and signs. One asks for food because he and the rest of the "disciples" are hungry. Brian points to a nearby juniper bush that's been there the whole time, and the crowd think he miraculously made it appear and produce juniper berries. A blind man gets touched and loudly shrieks that he's been healed and can see (he can't), and the crowd erupt. An old hermit loudly complains that he hadn't spoken a word in eighteen years until Brian came along (he fails to note that it was because of a vow of silence), and the crowd believe he made the mute speak.

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Main / MistakenForSuperpowered

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