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Misaimed Fandom / Myth and Religion

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“It wasn’t about what Christ was saying, but about the people who followed Him – the ones who for the next 2,000 years would torture and kill each other because they couldn’t agree on what He was saying about peace and love."

Examples of Misaimed Fandom for characters in mythological and religious stories.

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  • In many health food stores, one can find "Ezekiel 4:9" bread, which, as prescribed in the verse cited, is made from wheat, barley, lentils, beans, millet, and spelt. The problem is that the bread is being made as penance; the next few verses tell them to cook it over human feces.
    • Though when Ezekiel is unwilling to use that as fuel even to make a point, God allows him to use cow dung instead. And the point they're gleaning from it, while not the main thrust of the passage, is that if you can live off of nothing but about 12 ounces of it a day (a little more than 340g) for 390 days, it must be reasonably nutritious. (Though yeah, they probably diverge from the original recipe in that don't bake it over any kind of dung these days. And that's not even getting into cinnamon raisin...)
    • In general, Christians who treat every word in the Bible as though it is on equal ground. This is not even going into the issues of whether we should interpret it literally or allegorically; we could be here all day with that. But even with a literal interpretation, there are some books which are intended to be read as histories, not as rules to follow. And even as far as rules go, some of them were laws only meant to be followed by Jews (e.g. the ones in Leviticus); indeed, the first dang Church Council, attended by Paul and the Apostles themselves and recorded in Acts, specifically said that Gentile Christians (i.e. those who are not ethnically Jewish) are not bound by Jewish law. (Eventually, this came to be understood to mean that all Christians are not bound by Jewish law, but the black letter of the Council's judgment at the time was limited to what was required of Gentiles and did not address whether Christianity abrogated Jewish law for Jewish Christians.)
      • That said, Matthew 5:17-20 reads like a fairly resounding endorsement of the law which is backed up by John 5:46. Despite the fact that these words were likely intended for (and spoken to) a Jewish audience, they have resulted in OT morality seeping through to modern society.
      • This overlooks the fact that those verses cover events that happened before Jesus' death, when (according to most prevailing Christian theories) the Mosaic Law was still in effect for Jews. Jesus' death, according to subsequent Christian theory, removed the necessity of Jewish Law even for ethnic Jews.
  • In fact, what people, believers or otherwise, need to consider is that The Bible is actually an anthology and not one book. It's a compilation of various different books with varying interpretations and validity. Therefore, it is possible and even viable to reject parts of the Bible (for good or ill).
  • One verse which is often misinterpreted due to cultural changes is Matthew 5:39 "turning the other cheek". People overlook that the verse specifies the right cheek. In society at that time, to strike someone with the back of one's fist was considered an insult and as most people are right-handed, a backhand to the face lands on the right cheek. With this in mind, it reads as "Don't feed the trolls" and not "let people walk all over you".
    • There's also the fact that if you turn the other cheek, they'll have to slap you with the palm of their hand, hurting them more than you.
      • A lot of people claim that "turn the other cheek" has some nonobvious meaning due to the social conventions of the time. But they tend to neglect the other instructions that come immediately after: "And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." So whatever Jesus may have been saying about cheeks specifically, the larger point still stands.
      • Even those verses, however, have meanings specific to the era and culture in which they were written. Roman imperial policy allowed for people to sue someone for their personal possessions (including the clothes off their backs) if they were unable to repay their debts, so long as the person was allowed to keep their cloak; similarly, a Roman soldier was allowed to force a civilian to carry his gear for a mile, but no more (hence the phrase "go the extra mile"). Jesus was instructing his followers to gladly go beyond what was required of them by law, regardless of how unjust it might be. Whether you look at it as a way of loving your enemies or exposing a corrupt system, it's still asking for a great deal of personal sacrifice and humility on the part of the person being mistreated.
      • Missing the point that a Roman soldier would be considered in violation of the law and face punishment if they made people carry for farther than the prescribed distance, or that nudity was seen by the Jews as being so shameful that implying that a persecutor demanded all of someone's clothing was an utter monster. It's not about peace and love, it's about passive-aggressive resistance.
  • A lot of weddings like to use the blessing from Deuteronomy 28:2-14, where God promises a lot of juicy blessings for his people who obey his commands — blessings for their city and country, their offspring, their produce of the ground, their herds and flocks, their tools and houses, their jobs and relatives, when they come in and go out, etc, if they obey his commandments. What newlyweds who pick that passage forget is the passage immediately after that one, 15-64, where the Lord promises that if they don’t obey him, they will be host to a whole horde of punishments, including curses on everything he listed above, as well as defeat in war, conquest, death and rape of your family, exile, etc. Not much fun to read at a wedding, hence why it’s important to be read in context.
  • Depictions of Judas as a despicable villain and cowardly betrayer are pretty mainstream, but some works treat Judas as an agent of Satan. But Judas was meant to betray Jesus, so Jesus could die for humanity's sins. Jesus even knew it was coming in the Last Supper, where he said "one of you shall betray me". Also, Satan wanted to prevent Jesus from dying, because Jesus coming back would spread light through the world. Which begs the question of why Satan would send a guy to sell out Jesus to people who wanted him dead.
    • At least one of the Gospels has Judas possessed by Satan when he betrays Jesus. When Satan leaves him, he desperately tries to make amends, and is so wracked with guilt he hangs himself. Yet, his name is shorthand for evil and a lot of people think he's one of the Bible's greatest villains.
    • We have Word of Dante to blame for that one, of course. The Church (for quite some time, Christianity really was Catholic) demonized Judas for various reasons, a portrayal cemented in our culture by...well...Dante, whose Inferno has Judas be one of the three great historical traitors (with Caesar's traitors Brutus and Cassius) deemed bad enough to be chewed upon by Satan for all eternity.
    • Judas wasn't entirely innocent, though, as he makes the deal with the Pharisees before Satan enters him at the Last Supper. John also records that Judas was greedy and would often help himself to the contents of the disciples' moneybag, and at one point called out Christ for wasting perfume that could have been "sold to the poor" when he really only intended to get more money for himself.
    • And Jesus' own condemnation of Judas, saying "betrayal must come, but woe to the one through whom it comes!" While it's acknowledged as a necessary evil, Judas is definitely a villain in the Bible. Pointing out ways in which he maybe wasn't so bad is Misaimed Fandom in itself.
    • Though there is always the implication that, Jesus was pointing out that whoever would've committed the betrayal would forever be remembered in history as a villain and "woe be to them".
    • There are non-canonical gospel books, some of which have Judas acting under direct orders from Jesus at the time.
  • The vast majority of Christian theories about the apocalypse are a result of reading large numbers of passages in obtuse ways that were largely not meant to go together. A large cornerstone is Revelation, a book that could just as easily be read as a veiled criticism of Roman policies at the time it was written than any kind of warning about The End of the World as We Know It. But this confusion pales before one of the resulting theories, which is that an Antichrist will come forth proposing peace, but truly desiring war, who will begin all of the troubles. While it is true that people can deceive others in their bid for power, this often results in followers of these theories who will absolutely refuse to follow any leader who argues in favor of policies that promote peace. Which was a concept Jesus often supported himself.
    • Revelation does not contain the word "Antichrist". The word only comes up in the Epistles of John, and in one case, it's plural. The Antichrist is either some particular guy who denies the divinity of Jesus, or it's a generic term for any person who denies the divinity of Jesus (i.e. "Antichrist" is a synonym for "non-Christian"). Meanwhile, Revelation features Satan, The Beasts, The Dragon, and The Whore of Babylon, but none of them are named "Antichrist". And they generally come across as physically (not just morally) monstrous, which sorta messes with the popular idea that "The Antichrist" will show up as a charismatic human-shaped leader, and that such an event is plainly predicted in Revelation.
  • The story of Adam and Eve has been misused for centuries to provide An Aesop that women are seductresses who lure men to their downfall. Since Eve was the first one to bite the apple, it also has the implied message that women are weak, stupid, evil, and so on, and should therefore be punished for all eternity by being reduced to second-class citizens or kept out of high profile religious professions. Even to this day you'll find people who use this story as a reason why women cannot be ordained as priests or popes. Some of them are even women! They ignore the fact that Adam also eats the apple of his own free will.
    • The ordination restriction actually has Biblical support; 1 Timothy 2:12-15 makes mention of not "suffering a woman to teach or usurp authority over a man" and specifically mentions Eve's deception as the reason (along with Eve being formed second). At the same time, different denominations have different interpretations of what that particular line actually means or what positions it would restrict a woman from if it does indeed restrict them. To say it is a touchy subject would be a vast understatement.
  • As far as religious figures go, Jesus has the worst case of Misaimed Fandom ever. Here's a poor son of a Jewish carpenter who, for the most part, was practically a hippie. A man who spoke on behalf of the poor and marginalized, respected women as human beings and equals, eschewed material wealth and earthly power, chewed out the "fat cats" and stuffy religious authorities of the day, a man who openly called out religious leaders of his day as not practicing what they were preaching, a man who taught kindness, altruism, generosity, unconditional love, forgiveness, and peace to all people, even if they don't deserve it. In fact, especially if they don't deserve it. If anything, Jesus was practically a "Liberal Peacenik Hippie Socialist" or whatever... Yet institutions professing to follow him have used his brand of a kinder, gentler, humanitarian Reformed Judaism to commit horrific acts of violence and bigotry! Yeshua Bar Yosef (a.k.a 'Jesus') would look at the Crusades, pogroms, Witch Hunts, hate crimes, totalitarianism, imperialism, bigotry, sexism, and lust for power committed through the ages in his name with utter horror.
  • On Jesus and Economics (given that none of the authors of the New Testament Gospels and Epistles are alive to explain their writings, take note that socio-economical structures of the time were downright alien to a modern lens, so there's the real risk any of their advice is inapplicable): Many of the Christian Left have accused those of the Christian Right of having a misaimed fandom in using religion to rail against various social issues (e.g. same-sex marriage) while overlooking efforts to confront poverty and other socioeconomic problems. On the other hand, Rightists have also accused Leftists of also observing a misaimed fandom in pursuing Social Justice in that Jesus, while calling people to be charitable and humble, did not call for forcibly seizing people's private property (and thus in doing so, conflicting with prohibition on theft) autocratically to impose this on people and that such actions would not be so different from the Roman Empire's despotism that Jesus was opposed to. The Book of Acts is frequently interpreted by both sides as supporting their respective arguments.
  • On Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation: Many Protestant Christians hail Martin Luther as a hero for cutting ties from the Roman Catholic Church. However, Luther sought to reform (hence why it was initially called a reformation in the first place) the Catholic Church, not to create any sort of other religious denomination(s). Near the end of his life, he even aired his own disappointment about a new Religious assembly (Lutheranism) and "complained that he did not want to give his name to a community that should take its name only from Christ".note 
  • The Proverbs passage about the Wife of Noble Character is sometimes used by various sects in the modern age to demonstrate that women should Stay in the Kitchen and tend to their families and to work deemed appropriately feminine (the example given is textile work), and stay out of trouble, while their husbands should work in the public sphere. However, it was actually written not so much to tell women what they should be doing, but to encourage men to appreciate the work done by the women in their lives, instead of taking their wives and the work they did for granted. (Indeed, the woman in the poem is strong and capable, and she runs her own business. And her husband boasts about her to his friends and colleagues.)
    • Indeed, the Woman of Valor seems to run several businesses, in addition to buying land for her vineyard and teaching Torah (Proverbs 31:26). She most definitely does not stay out of the public sphere.
    • On the flip side, it could be (and indeed has been) read as an admonition to women to aspire to an impossible "superwoman" ideal in order to be "worthy" as a human being and a marriage partner, but again, the same thing about the passage actually being written to encourage men to appreciate their wives (as opposed to admonishing women) applies. In other words, she is a Composite Character of all the roles that a "respectable" woman could do in that time and place. Just because she can "do it all" doesn't mean that the reader (or reader's spouse) must "do it all," or try to fit into a role that she is not really suited for or talented at, or does not want to do. Nor is it meant to imply that men can't/shouldn't do domestic things, or "have to" work in the public sphere if he'd rather be a House Husband, or that a woman's first or most important role is to be motherhood if she doesn't want it to be, or that an infertile or not-so-conventionally-attractive woman is not (or cannot be) a good wife.
  • In the story of Cain and Abel, God gives Cain some kind of "mark," so that no one will go and take revenge on him. What this mark was or might have been is not known. But somehow, some sects thought it was a change in Cain's overall skin color, and that it was not so much a protection as a curse...and used it to justify slavery and racism towards black people.
    • Similarly, Noah's curse of Ham's descendants in a hungover rage for laughing at Noah's nudity.
    • An ancient Gnostic sect called the Cainites had a misaimed fandom for Cain himself, believing him to be a saint persecuted by an evil demiurge. They had similar views of Esau, Korah, and the men of Sodom.
  • On the Veneration of "Saint Ernesto": In some parts of Latin America, shrines have been made to venerate Che Guevara with some even "Canonizing" him as a "Saint" along with making prayers for his intercession. It is taken to the point that it was noted in one rural village in Bolivia in 2007 had a space that included images of him along side those of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Pope John Paul II. However the only problem with this is that Guevara, who while motivated by Marxist beliefs that coincide with some Christian tenets of generosity and charity, was an ardent Atheist who disdained both the Catholic Church and for that matter organized religion in general and would not at all take kindly to being associated with the Catholic Church.
  • Satan is intended in the Abrahamic religions as at worst evil incarnate, and at best humanity's adversary / bad cop (as in the earlier portrayals) yet both the trope Satan Is Good and various forms of Satanism exist.

     Other religions 
  • Some feminists really seem to love viewing Athena as some sort of role model. The reasoning's justified (Athena was the Goddess of Wisdom and War, after all), but it completely disregards the fact that Athena was quite the opposite of a feminist; due to never having a real maternal figure in her life, Athena grew up siding more with men than women.
    • Case in point: She sides with Orestes against the Erinyes for killing his mother, Clytemnestra (who had killed his father) and concedes a belief that, in a marriage, the man is more important than the woman, citing the fact that she was born from Zeus without a mother.note 
    • A more famous case involves one of her own priestesses, who was raped by Poseidon in her temple. Athena showed less concern for her priestess being brutalized and more concern with the fact that sex of any kind occurred in her temple (and involving Poseidon—with whom Athena had an intense rivalry—no less). For this, Athena gave the priestess a swift and brutal punishment in the form of a terrifying transformation. The name of that unfortunate priestess? Medusa.note 
      • Some scholars speculate that this story *is* more feminist than it seems at face value. Some view Athena's actions as protecting Medusa from Poseidon and other men by making it impossible to look upon her. This is speculated because a gorgon head was a symbol associated with the Ancient Greek version of domestic violence shelters. This theory is however somewhat diminished since Athena helped Perseus to kill Medusa in the first place.
  • The Midas Touch is a term used for someone who's extremely lucky or skilled in their endeavors, despite the fact that it was explicitly a cautionary tale about King Midas being Blessed with Suck. King Midas did turn everything he touched to gold, but it literally meant everything, including food, wine, and his own daughter. The tale is supposed to be a cautionary story on the nature of greed, and what Midas went through was portrayed as horrific. In the end, he begs Dionysius to undo his gift as he'll starve otherwise (he'd been given it as a reward for helping Dionysius' friend) according to Hawthorne's version.
  • A lot of people in the LGBT fanbase ended up seeing the heroes and gods from Classical Mythology as LGBT representation and role models, citing that they also engaged in same-sex relationships - despite that homosexuality wasn't necessarily acceptable to the Ancient Greeksnote , and plus, the majority of the male gods and heroes aren't... paragons of morals and virtues to be used as good representation...
    • To an extent, some aces sees Athena, Artemis, and Hestia as being asexual representation due to their attributes as being virgin goddesses. This ignores that the Ancient Greek did not interpreted virginity the same way as todaynote , as well as did not consider the concept of asexuality. Furthermore, real life Ancient Greek religion practices demonstrate that the goddess' virgin attributes aren't universal for most Greeks. Case in point, Artemis, whose major role is the goddess of fertility and childbirth (something that is often ignored in pop culture), particularly has a cult in the Asia Minor where she's Artemis Ephesia depicted with a hundred breasts), and has her share of obscure myths having affairs (such as Orion).
  • Many people think that Hades of Greek mythology was handed a raw deal and that the Everyone Hates Hades trope is mean - primarily because he was one of the few gods who, as far as we know today, never went around cheating on his wife, fostering illegitimate children, and screwed mortals over for no real reason except for people who are considered to have "deserved it" (ie wanting to kidnap his wife). And on top of it? His dog, Cerberus, is even named "Spot". Except that Everyone Hates Hades actually does have mythological basis. While Hades was never the God of Evil (Ares would actually be a better candidate, prior to when he became "Mars"), the ancient Greeks were not exactly fond of him. Ancient greeks would look away when making sacrifices to him and calling him the one who enriched himself off of the tears of man. Speaking his name was very much a curse (Which is why "Hades" was also often a synonym for "Hell") which was why so many other names for him included things like "The Zeus of the Underworld" (meaning he was just as powerful and as wise as Zeus), or even "Pluton" meaning "Wealthy one". This is the source for his Roman name, Pluto. Hades isn't the god of death - that's Thanatos - but he is the lord of the dead and everything inside the earth. This includes mineral wealth, hence why several of his nicknames derive from such a thing.
  • Values Dissonance also applies to Zeus as well - to the ancient Greeks? Zeus, like all other Olympians (even Hades) was a flawed, but ultimately wise figure who was one of the most ideal figures you would want to strive to be. Zeus wasn't just the god of thunder and the god of cheating on his wife, but also the god of law and justice.
  • Atlantis was never actually seen outside Plato's writing - Even though it may have been inspired by numerous events (ie the Minoan people) it was a philosophical dialogue as to what Athens should not be, as even a city of half-man-half gods could be sent to the bottom of the ocean by someone bigger than them. This hasn't stopped many people from insisting that it was in fact actually real and was in the Americas, even in Antarctica, or declaring every underwater city or ruins to be "Atlantis". This doesn't make the Atlantis trope any less awe-inspiring though, as it's led to many interesting works about what "Atlantis" would be like.
  • While not characters per se, the suicide bombers and similar in Real Life are the result of Misaimed Fandom of their own religious texts.
  • Rastafari is a highly conservative religion. Followers maintain strict dietary restrictions, swear off alcohol and most other mind-altering substances, cut themselves off from the corrupt world around them to varying degrees, treat women as second-class citizens, and despise gay people, especially gay men. They also smoke ganja, grow dreadlocks, and are associated with reggae music. Guess which of these aspects are embraced by middle-class Americans.
    • The more sincere forms of this probably see Rastafari as an Afro-Centric version of New-Age Retro Hippie with Judeo-Christian "dressing". They might embrace a far more liberal take on it but accept some of the general philosophy (fighting the corrupt establishment, simpler living, spiritual oneness, liberation of black people, etc.) even if they don't take the more bigoted elements or "Emperor Hailie Salassie is Christ" literally or seriously.
    • In addition, Haile Selassie vehemently denied being any kind of messiah. He made it very clear that he was a mortal man destined to die and be replaced by his descendants, and he tried to convert Rastafaris in the Caribbean to his faith, which was Oriental Orthodox Christianity.
  • Rasputinian Death was probably invented by Russian ultra-right deputate Purishkevich to show what a hellish being Rasputin the Mad Monk was. Today, some people point to this as being like miracles from a saint.
  • In recent years, various neopagan religions, as well as Christianity, have been attracting a following among white supremacist groups, even though most of them preach treating all people with respect and dignity, not treating some people with respect and dignity and dehumanizing others.
    • Notably, Norse Mythology has attracted a following of white supremacists calling themselves "Odinists" and referring to it as the "true Aryan religion" (Christianity was founded by a Jew, after all). This is despite the fact that the Norse and Germanic peoples who practiced Norse Paganism never expressed these beliefsnote , as the very idea of color-based race as it exists today wouldn't come about until several centuries later. Not only that, but evidence shows some Norse people had children with Black and Middle Eastern people, something repugnant to racists, rather than keep themselves "pure". As class and family were much more important to the Norse than any notion of race, a Norse king would have identified more with a prince of another people than a slave of his own.
    • Loki similarly is often seen as a "misunderstood hero" - and while he's certainly not a God of Evil, he isn't exactly a "good guy" either since he essentially got Baldur killed, prevented his resurrection, and said it was just a joke. He may have been the one to help execute ideas involving trickery, but the entire story with Baldur shows that he went too far.
  • Similarly, certain neopagan sects and circles attracts transphobic people with beliefs and doctrines influenced by second-wave feminism, ignore entirely that pre-Christian societies (whether that be Ancient Greece or Mesopotamia) had fluid and complex gender roles that wouldn't fit their criteria of binary gender roles (in other words, some would be puzzled by this).