FANDOM


WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism 125 ("The Madman")

In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth. Whether it took six days or six billion years for Him (or It, or Her, or Them, you know) to complete the Creation, there's nobody to give the award plaque to. Why not, you ask? Because, somewhere along the way, God croaked. Went belly up. Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Answered the last prayer. Played the last game of skee-ball. Named the last prophet.

This is going a step beyond Have You Seen My God?; they've called off the search and alerted the next of kin. The Council of Angels is now running around trying to figure out who's in charge.

Of course, the subject of Nietzsche's pronouncement is one of the most serious debates in the academic world.[1].

This trope can occur in either a monotheistic or a polytheistic setting; of course, the ramifications of a God dying vary in severity, depending on if there are many Gods or just one.

Compare Gotterdammerung and Death of the Old Gods, which is the general end of the age of Gods, and Kill the God, wherein a (usually mortal) character destroys a God. Not to be confused with Shinigami or The Grim Reaper, which are divine manifestations of the death principle (God Is Death).

Examples


Anime & Manga


Comicbooks

  • Ruins, a Marvel Comics graphic novel, shows a newspaper headline with a photo of Galactus' corpse and the headline reading: "God Found Dead In Space".
  • The Millennium story for The Authority was about a creature who created the Earth and is explicitly described as the closest thing there is to God. This creature was the being that had physically collected the matter that the Earth is formed of and placed it into orbit around the sun, but its plan was to return someday and use the Earth as a home; the evolution of life was a completely unplanned event that stemmed from a freak asteroid collision billions of years ago. The creature, as large as the moon and of comparable power, planned to de-terraform the planet back to its original state before taking up residence, unconcerned with the extinction of humanity since we are less than microorganisms compared to it. It was killed by Jenny Sparks in a Heroic Sacrifice (as the Spirit Of The 20th Century, her time was up anyway -- until she was resurrected as Jenny Quantum). The creature qualifies for this trope. Jenny does not.
  • At the end of Preacher (Comic Book), the Saint of Killers kills god.


Films

  • Only temporary, but Dogma makes killing God (or at least, Her current mortal guise, an old man on life support) crucial to the plot.
  • When Bower confronts Payton/Gallo in Pandorum, he asserts that God died along with the rest of humanity, and that there is nobody left to judge their actions as the concepts of right and wrong and good and evil have ceased to exist.


Literature

  • In Towing Jehovah by James Morrow, God's corpse is found in the Atlantic Ocean. The Vatican decides to bury it in Antarctica, while pissed-off atheists want to destroy it, as even a dead God is proof that they were wrong all along. In the next book of the trilogy, God gets posthumously put on trial for crimes against humanity.
    • Well, Not Quite Posthumous, as it turns out. At the end of the second, though, He gets Killed Off for Real. The third novel is about how a visible reminder of God's death -- a giant skull in geosynchronous orbit -- affects Western civilization.
  • God (aka "The Authority") died in The Amber Spyglass. In the His Dark Materials verse, God was simply the first and most powerful angel. By the time Lyra and Will show up, he is senile and tortured by his eternal life. They simply let him out of his protective enclosure and he is freed, but he's too fragile to live in the world from sheer age, so he disintegrates from a slight breeze. Oh, the vicious irony.
  • Discworld: In Monstrous Regiment, the Borogravian god Nuggan died some time ago. Since gods live or die based on their worshippers' belief. It is revealed that Nuggan died because everyone came to believe in his numerous abominations more than Nuggan himself.
    • In Small Gods, the Great God Om narrowly avoids this fate.
  • Our Friends From Frolix 8, by Phillip K. Dick:

 "God is dead," Nick said. "They found his carcass in 2019. Floating out in space near Alpha."

"They found the remains of an organism advanced several thousand times over what we are," Charley said. "And it evidently could create habitable worlds and populate them with living organisms, derived from itself. But that doesn't prove it was God."

  • In Gods Debris, God killed Himself, resulting in the Big Bang.
  • Robert Rankin's Waiting for Godalming: God is shot dead in an alleyway. Later subverted, when it is revealed that God's death was faked as part of a massive insurance scam.
  • In the book IT, by Stephen King, the Turtle created the universe (because of a stomach ache). Later, it's revealed that the Turtle died in the thirty-year time gap of the novel.
  • In a Woody Allen short story, existential detective Kaiser Lupowitz is hired to find God; and becomes chief suspect when His body is found.
  • In Clay by David Almond, upon going insane, Stephen Rose claims that God is dead, and died sometime in the 60's.
  • In The Egyptian, the Cretan God (really a kind of sea monster) is dead. The priest keeps killing the human sacrifices to keep people from noticing this.
  • Karl Edward Wagner's Kane is based on Cain from The Bible. Kane was one of the first humans, created by a mad god. In the story At First Just Ghostly, Kane claims to have later killed this god.
  • In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Proctor invokes this trope when accused of witchcraft. "I say... I say... God is dead! A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud - God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!"
  • At the end of The Way of Kings, Dalinar receives a "prerecorded" vision from the Almighty, the setting's god. in which He reveals that He is actually dead, having been killed by a God of Evil named Odium at some point prior to the beginning of the book. This also has some crossover with God Is Evil, since Odium is now the world's de facto God.
    • Except Cultivation, the third of Roshar's shard gods, is still around (although we haven't met her yet), and since the setting is actually part of the Cosmere, all the other shard gods are still running around on other worlds (apart from the ones Odium has Splintered, like Aona and Skai). Plus, it would be more accurate to say Tanavast, the man who became Honor, is dead, as Honor's power is still out there and it is possible another person may take up his shard. Got all that?
    • As far as Vorinism, Roshar's dominant religion, is concerned, the trope is in full force, since Honor/The Almight is/was their only recognized god.
  • In Clive Barker's Imajica, God is killed by his own fire when the restoration of the titular circle causes it to boomerang through the dominions.


Live-Action TV

  • A Kids in The Hall sketch centers around this. "God is dead...and here is the body to prove it."
    • ...and what was most surprising was how short He was...
  • In season 5 of Supernatural, the Archangel Raphael informed Castiel that the reason Cas cannot find God is because He is dead. However, it's implied in the season 5 finale that Chuck is God, and therefore God is not, in fact, dead. Death does reveal that God will eventually die at the end of time by his hand.
  • Possibly the case in The Lost Room. Some say that the Event that created the Objects was the death of God.
  • Stated by Anthony Jr. in season 2 of The Sopranos, as part of his briefly becoming a Nietzsche Wannabe.


Music

 When the New York Times said God is dead

And the war's begun

  • One of the most famous songs by Italian band I Nomadi ("The Nomads") is titled just that. Except, in this case, "God is dead" is meant as a metaphor, with God standing for near damn every value and ideal. The last part of the song subverts it though, because as long as there's "a newborn hope", as the song itself puts it, "if God dies, it's just for three days, and then he's born again".


Mythology

  • In Norse Mythology, most of the important and well-known gods, such as Thor, Loki, Frey, and Odin end up dying permanently in the final battle of Ragnarok. Interestingly, when the Scandinavians began to accept Christianity, they actually merged Norse mythology with Christian ideas, by stating that Ragnarok had actually taken place already, and that it was a "prequel" to Christianity--that Adam and Eve were the only survivors of Ragnarok.
  • In Miami homeless children's street culture, it is sometimes believed that God is dead.
    • Digger based an in-universe myth on this.


Puppet Shows

  • God from Wonder Showzen kills himself after losing a competition over the fate of the Earth and then they eat him.


Tabletop Games

  • In Demon: The Fallen, Lucifer murders a monk for even suggesting that God, who has, to this point, been missing in action, may have really died to save the earth: The Sundering was not God's punishment for rebel angels breaking Her commandment of not revealing themselves to humanity, it was God sacrificing Herself by catching the world as it fell due to the violation of some cosmic law. The suggestion would haunt Lucifer until the End of Days.
  • In Planescape, dead gods are a part of the setting, their corpses floating in the Astral Plane. There's even a high-level adventure entitled "Dead Gods". Also, the Lady of Pain killed the god Aoskar for daring to set up shop in Sigil; this is one of the greatest demonstrations of why you really don't mess with her.
    • She didn't attack him when he merely came there and has a portfolio that covered her portals. She killed him when his followers started to talk about her as his aspect aloud and some of her servants became his worshippers. Not only does she flay people with her gaze even for attempting to worship her as a deity in her own right, but in Planescape, the "aspect" part alone sometimes causes problems to the target (e.g. Bast didn't make it through).
    • The Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms setting has a tendency to kill off some gods and introduce new ones every time a new edition of the game rules is released.
    • And then there are resurrection attempts. In Finder's Bane, for one.
  • In Kult, God is dead, and the Devil is the only one who wants him back. Also, god is dying retroactively, being dead further and further back in history. It's mostly a good thing (as far as anything can be good in this Crapsack World).
  • In Warhammer 40000, all but three members of the Eldar pantheon were killed with the birth of the Chaos God Slaanesh. The God-Emperor of Mankind is a far more complicated case - despite his power, he fiercely denied his divinity, but after being mortally wounded during the Horus Heresy books, he was placed on the Golden Throne and kept in a psychically-active vegetative state, leaving his followers to proclaim him a deity. If ten millennia of worship has elevated him to proper godhood, this trope will probably soon apply due to the recently-discovered irreparable malfunctions in the Golden Throne.[2]
  • In Exalted, this can (depending on your ST's preference for where to take the story) happen in the Endgame chapter of Return of the Scarlet Emperor with Infernal Exalted, possibly backed up by demons or even Abyssals, breaking into the Jade Pleasure Dome through a long-forgotten 'back door' and assassinating the Unconquered Sun, who lacked his usual invulnerability because he was addicted to the Games of Divinity. The Ebon Dragon never expected the massive power boost every Solar Exalt in Creation got when their patron Incarnae was killed.


Videogames

  • The Baldur's Gate series is essentially the posthumous Batman Gambit of the god Bhaal, who foresaw his own death and arranged to be resurrected. Things usually don't work out quite perfectly for him. There's a side quest in the 2nd game in the temple of a different dead god who has since stopped being dead.
  • Grandia II has the revelation that Granas, the God of Light, died fighting Valmar the Devil of Darkness long ago. Turns out they were both just Sufficiently Advanced Aliens though.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer features a dead god in an important role.
  • The creation myth told by the cultists in Silent Hill ends with God dying.
  • One of the possible final bosses in Guardian Heroes is "The Creator". When you beat him, he admits that he was just toying with humanity all along, and now that he's dying, humans are free to choose their own destiny.
  • The entire premise of the God of War series is about the protagonist going on a quest to essentially kill all of the Greek gods, and he's already taken down Ares and Athena. At the end of God of War 3, every God Kratos encountered is dead, with the exceptions of Artemis and Aphrodite.
  • Implied in Tears to Tiara. The Council of Angels are the ones running the show and, without supervision, have gone a little overboard on the whole Heaven on Earth thing. Watos (the supreme creator deity) hasn't been seen since existence started. Probably seen as less offensive than an actual evil God when we already have a good Satan.
  • In the Zul'drak region of World of Warcraft, the Drakkari trolls native to the region have been killing their gods and stealing their powers in a desperate bid to protect themselves from the Scourge. Your character can go through a quest chain in which you try to save the gods or, failing that, Mercy Kill them or help them avenge themselves on their killers.
  • The whole Shin Megami Tensei series. You have gods. You get to fight gods. YHVH is effectively immortal, however, even though he is temporarily killed in SMT II. As long as there is even one human who believes in a higher power, God will exist.
  • In the Left 4 Dead campaign 'Dead Air', some of the graffiti on the walls says 'GOD IS DEAD'. Occasionally, Zoey can be heard saying, "Oh no, the zombies killed God!" when passing by this message.
  • The majority of the Aedra of the Elder Scrolls universe invested so much of their essence into the Mundus that they became mortal and died. Earthbones, the laws of reality which bind mortals, are magical restraints created from their deaths. In all, only eight remain alive and they're halfway to dead themselves.
  • The Creator Deity-slash-Eldritch Abomination Ormagoden from the Creation Myth in Brutal Legend chose to self-terminate rather than have his fire extinguished by the First Ones' dirt, destroying the ancient world and creating the Age of Metal from his own body in process.
  • In The Reconstruction, Tezkhra is. (You have to bring him Back From the Dead.) Subverted in that he isn't actually a god, he's a sufficiently advanced alien, and just as killable as anyone else.
  • In Mass Effect Cerebus agents find the corpse of a Reaper who they estimate had been rendered non-operational 37 million years ago. As they investigate it they begin to become indoctrinated by the Reaper, despite it being dead, and their minds start melding together as shown by them sharing memories that only logically they should know which is a side effect of the Reaper's hive mind. After a while everyone goes crazy and the only survivor makes an Apocalyptic Log talking about the Reapers as if they were Gods and that even a dead god (in this case the dead Reaper they found) can dream. In his own words he talks about how a true god, not the white-bearded old man with magic powers told about in mythology, is a verb, a force of nature that warps reality just by existing it doesn't have to desire affecting things around it for it to do so. In this case he wishes that they had never found god.


Web Originals

  • In The Salvation War Satan's already dead via anti-ship missile to the face, Jesus appears to have been nuked, and Yahweh's been killed by Michael-Lan.
  • Played for laughs in the Team Starkid production Starship, set in the distant future. Tootsie Noodles mentions early on that there is empirical proof that science killed God[3]. Anytime the word God is used, dead precedes it.

 Junior: Thank dead God I caught you!


Real Life

  • The April 8, 1966 cover of Time read, "Is God Dead?" The accompanying article described a movement known as "theothanatology" (in other words, the study of God's death).
  • "The Theistic God is Dead - A Casualty of Terrorism." An article by John Shelby Spong, a liberal theologian and a former Episcopalian bishop.
  • Certain theological theories deriving from Deism, Pantheism, or Pandeism hold our Universe to be the physical remains of an essentially "dead" deity.

Notes

  1. What he was probably trying to get at is that modern people have started to wake up to the "fact" that everything is meaningless, and there is no such thing as universal truths, absolute values, or any sort of afterlife -- thus, a more accurate statement (according to Nietzsche) would be "God never even existed", but that wouldn't quite manage to convey the poetic severity of the message. Thankfully, we don't need to dwell on grim philosophical intangibles to enjoy a story about the mortality of the divine
  2. A more optimistic, and therefore heretical, theory is that if the Emperor's mortal shell ever truly dies, he will finally be free to become the all-powerful god he is worshiped as.
  3. He'd like to think that when He died, He went to heaven.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.