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"God and the devil are idiots!"—Lestat lays out the bare bones of the trope in Memnoch the Devil
So, you're creating a work where the lead characters are up against The Legions of Hell. They're fighting the good fight, going up against Satan and all his demons. Of course, if they're fighting against Hell, this may lead to the question of where Heaven is. And if Heaven's fighting the fight with them, that may give them too much firepower to be interesting... or raise questions about why God, in all his wisdom, isn't doing anything else.
Then there's the other way: you write a work in which God Is Evil, and the characters Rage Against the Heavens. This leads to the question of whether or not Satan Is Good, which can be... uncomfortable.
So, here's the solution: make it so that neither side is all that helpful. In this situation, God and Satan Are Both Jerks, and neither has humanity's best interests in mind. Hell and Satan will typically be portrayed in the classical fashion, but God and Heaven will usually be portrayed as Knights Templar who don't give a crap about humanity, exulting in their own glories or focusing all their firepower on the fight against Hell with little care for civilian casualties. The end result of this trope is usually a humanistic work, one where mankind learns to get along without divine intervention, taking control of their own destiny.
This setting is often home to a Nay Theist. Related to the Balance of Good and Evil. Why God's intervention in a world that the Devil clearly has a hand in would be considered "unfair" is left as an exercise for the reader.
Anime and Manga
- It could also count as Devil but No God in that the God figure is inactive and removed from the normal world, and also not particularly godlike, but Fullmetal Alchemist could be considered this. The 'Truth' entity identifies itself as God (among other things) and shows sadistic glee in inflicting ironic punishments on those who break the laws of nature and engage in human transmutation. However, the Big Bad of the series, Father, is a cruel Satan-equivalent who keeps up a father-god image, and who plots to usurp Truth. At the end of the series, Truth does a bit of dog-petting and also punishes Father in a manner that's so cruel it's kind of funny.
- Father's punishment, fyi, is returning to where he was before Slave 23's master drew him out of the firmament into a flask, making his desperate terror of returning there an implicit Freudian Excuse. I felt a little sorry for the bastard.
- In the 2011 version of Dororon Enma-kun: in the final two episodes, Heaven and Hell agree to kill off billions of humans in order to harvest their souls for "soulperglue".
- In Devilman God is an Eldritch Abomination who wants to murder demons only because his vision of order don't show a place for them, while Satan wants to whipe all humans from the face of Earth so demons can rule over it. In AMON titular character opposes them both because, as chaotic spirit he is not happy with either's vision of order and God is Complete Monster who has put the world on a loop so Satan can fall in love with Akira and watch him die again and again and Satan realizes that he/she is quite insane.
- If Garth Ennis is writing a comic book featuring Abrahamic religion, this trope will reign supreme. Hellblazer, Preacher (Comic Book), The Chronicles of Wormwood, even his short run on Ghost Rider -- all portray Hell as petty and depraved and Heaven as self-centered and militant.
- In Spawn, the rulers of both Heaven and Hell are equally cruel and evil, and neither gives a lick of spit for the ultimate fate of humanity.
- More to the point, the beings humans know as God and Satan are simply the children of the true creator deity who has taken a back-seat to their meddling in the world, until in a joint temper tantrum they basically bring about the End Times way ahead of schedule. The Creator directly empowers Spawn who kicks ass on basically the entirety of the remnants of creation, then pushes the Reset Button but leaves God and Satan trapped in a pocket dimension thinking they're still waging their epic war.
- Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: God is a lazy idiot and Satan is an Affably Evil trickster who likes to give Nny a scare.
- In Warren Ellis's Planetary there is a brief mention of some Russian scientists who discover that souls are merely electromagnetic fuel for a war between Heaven and Hell. They decide to check out on an A-Bomb, so that the EMP blast will destroy their souls.
- In Lobo 'verse, Satan is kind of the guy you'd expect him to be. But God... he just finds Lobo's rampage through Heaven funny. When an angel politely asks him to intervene, he throws an empty can of beer at the angel and tells him to get an another one.
- Two characters from Grant Morrison's run on comicbook/DoomPatrol - the Red Jack and the Shadowy Mr. Evans have claimed to be respectively God and Satan. If they were right, then this trope applies, but only a little compared to God And Satan Are Both Completely Bonkers.
- In Lucifer both God and Lucifer himself tend to be uncaring while angels are Knight Templar types who care little or nothing for humans either way and demons range from For the Evulz Card Carrying Villains to just bored and unpleasant. There are exceptions on both sides but those are the general rules.
- In the film version of Constantine, the major angels and demons subscribe to neutrality, but the lesser ones don't. Humanity is left to sink or swim on its own, while caught between what is effectively a supernatural Cold War.
- In The Prophecy, rogue Angels led by the Archangel Gabriel are out to destroy humanity because humans have usurped the angels' place in God's affections, and the demons want to destroy humanity because... well... they're demons. God himself is never encountered on-screen, but the angels still loyal to him don't seem to care much about humanity, generally being content to either sit on the sidelines while humanity suffers or focus only on fighting Gabriel's angels.
- Legion had just about the same set-up, except God was actively helping the anti-human angels for a while.
- The Mexican movie Macario is related to the below fairy tale 'Godfather Death', but a lot of the circumstances are changed, and apparently It Was All Just a Dream.
- In the His Dark Materials trilogy, God was the first being created out of nothing and lied to all the angels that came after. He became senile and powerless over the eons, and was eventually killed by two children when they tried to release him from the prison in which Metatron was keeping him.
- Good Omens puts a marginally less religiously offensive spin on this trope: Satan and Metatron (the supreme angel) are both jerks that see humanity as being merely pawns in the greater war between Good and Evil, and both are quite ready to wipe out everyone on Earth when Armageddon goes down. God Himself, however, generally stays out of the picture until the ending, where it's implied that He's been manipulating both the angels and the demons and probably has Humanity's best interest in mind.
- Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. In And Eternity it is revealed that God has become obsessed with his own greatness and is completely unresponsive to the outside world, leaving Satan to try to corrupt the world.
- On the other hand, Satan's only an asshole because it's his job as Incarnation of Evil, and actively works to have God replaced by someone that will run things properly.
- In Percy Jackson and The Olympians, we're supposed to think that the gods are good and the Titans are bad, but YMMV on that, since most of the time it seems like both of them are just jerks. The Titans are overall portrayed as the worse of the two regarding humanity as disposable pawns and entertainment. The Olympians can be helpful and generally promote civilization, but like the myths are incredibly arrogant and hate being embarrassed, shown up by mortals, or putting up with things that piss them off. This leads to often taking out their frustrations on demigods or mortals.
- This is justified by the fact that this is Greek Mythology, where the gods are notorious for being an astonishing variety of jerkasses with a notable inability to keep it in their pants.
- According to Thirsty, God loves humans, and only humans. It doesn't matter if you used to be human. It doesn't matter if you desperately wish you were human. If you're a monster of any kind, you're going to burn in Hell forever. Demons, on the other hand, are exactly as sociopathic as you'd expect them to be.
- Memnoch the Devil. See the page quote above.
- In Simon R. Green's Nightside novels, one book has the forces of heaven and hell duking it out over the same thing, and it's clear that neither side cares in the least how much collateral damage they cause.
- In the one of The Brothers Grimm's fairytales "Godfather Death" the protagonist's father believes this. He does not want God for a Godfather for his son, because, he gives to rich and lets the poor starve 8 (the Grimms were quick to insert a comment about, "how wisely God apportions riches and poverty.", however it was not in the original fairy tale and seems oddly out of place), nor the devil, because he is a deceiver. He then chooses Death, because he "takes the rich as well as the poor, without distinction".
- Death was an excellent godfather, and made the boy's fortune as a doctor. But eventually the godson broke the rules, and therefore Death did not extend his life past its appointed time, as he might possibly have done if less annoyed. Even when the boy broke the rules, all that Death did was let the boy die when he should. Which would have happened if Death wasn't his Godfather anyway.
- Wendy Alec's Chronicle of Brothers series, in which the biblical story is re-written as adventure fiction. In which Lucifer, Son of God, comes accross as a spoilt petulant brat and throws Teddy in a corner in a big way, on learning that Daddy has new siblings (namely the human race) on the way. Lucifer, like any formerly only chid told a baby breother is coming, throws a tantrum and runs away from Home (Heaven), taking a third of the angelic race with him. God is every bit as much a jerkass for letting him go, despite the fact this opens up Hell as a post-mortem destination for most of humanity and virtually all the fallen angels. And for all his grandiose promises of supplanting God and Christos and whupping their divine arses, every time there is a showdown Luce inevitably gets creamed and despite his intelligence does not learn from events - there is no match, God always wins. So more arseholery on the part of Satan and fundamentally an unsatisfying read, as being Biblically-literate, we know who's writing the script and we know way in advance who wins. So God is an asshole for not managing the situation better and letting it happen; the Devil is a dick for not realising he can never win. Not, of coursde, that this is the divine Wendy's motivation for writing the book or the lesson she would have us learn...
Live Action Television
- Supernatural has featured demons as the bad guys from the first episode, but in season 4 angels, as represented by Castiel. Problem is, God is generally hands off, and most of the higher angels are perfectly in favor of another war with Lucifer to make sure he's finally taken care of... no matter how many humans get caught in the middle. In fact, human extinction is considered a positive element in some angelic circles.
- Cas spends most of season five looking for his Father, in hopes that if directly entreated he will fix all this injustice and madness. Eventually they manage to get in contact with a being who is in contact with God. God's message is: Back off. He has no intention of helping. Castiel's answer to that is: You son of a bitch. I trusted you.
- And then in season 6, Castiel becomes a god. And immediately demands worship or death. Death calls him 'just a mutant angel,' mind.
- Then there's all the gods of other religions, who don't care either way as long as it doesn't infringe on their territory.
- Babylon 5 uses the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens equivalent, with the Shadows (Social Darwinists who regularly trick people into a Deal with the Devil) and the Vorlons (Knight Templars who regularly take the form of each culture's angel equivalent and have a history of meddling with the advanced races). They're basically locked into a millennia-old philosophy debate with one another, using the other races as pawns and proofs of their "way"'s superiority. Sheridan eventually puts them in a position where they'll either have to leave or destroy the younger races because they won't play their games any longer, and tells them to "get the hell out of our galaxy". They comply.
- Reaper. The Devil is the obvious Jerkass, but all we see of God is him telling an angel to break Sam's hand so that the Devil owns both Sam and Andi's souls. However, this may also be a case of Leave the Plot Threads Hanging, as the angel in question (along with swarms of other angels) departs with a cryptic statement implying that God has some further plan in play.
- In Lost, good and evil appear to be personified by Jacob and the Man in Black respectively. Though one turns out to be the Big Bad and the other passes power to the show's lead character in his final scene, neither has many fans among the characters by the show's end. Their mutual jerkiness is most present in their flashback / Start of Darkness episode.
- In Old Harrys Game, God is a massive jerkass who couldn't care less about humanity but has no problem with their being disproportionately punished. Satan, who is one of the protagonists, is by far the nicer of the two, but he's still a pretty big jerk and fond of torturing the damned for his amusement. That most of the aforementioned damned actually did something to deserve ending up there, whilst those who end up there by default because God sets such impossibly high standards of behaviour seem not to be too badly off, keeps Satan on the Grey side of the show's Black and Grey Morality.
- The Game Master's Guide for the game In Nomine, which concerns the War between Heaven and Hell, provides a variety of options for modifying the tone of the setting; this is one of them, referred to as "Dark Low Contrast".
- Nobilis has an interesting case; the Angels of Heaven love beauty and good things -- but they want to make everything fit their image of what is beautiful and right, and destroy all the things that aren't good enough for them. The Fallen of Hell, however, love everything. They'll be there for you in your darkest moments, loving you unreservedly. Just like they will for the worst the world have to offer. Which of these is better is very much up to personal interpretation.
- In Dread and Spite, the Books of Pandemonium, it turns out that Dread's demon-slaying Disciples are working for higher demons who want to win the war of Heaven and Hell for the forces of Hell, and Spite's angel-slaying Zealots are working for angels who have rebelled against Heaven because Heaven apparently doesn't give a rat's ass about human free will. Whichever side in the Heaven vs. Hell War wins, humanity loses.
- Demon: The Fallen had a history that started as Rage Against the Heavens -- when it seemed like God and her loyalists were keen to let Adam and Eve remain unenlightened animals like the rest of the beasts in Eden, Lucifer and his agents (fearing a disaster that might occur if they didn't do so) raised humans up to true sapience. God, pissed off, shattered the perfect nature of Creation and reduced it to its current fallen state. However, then the Fallen started giving in to Torment... let's just say that by the time the demons got cast into the Abyss, there were few heroes on either side.
- In roguelikes such as Angband and its many variants, if angels make an appearance, they are even tougher opponents than the demons, since angels are not, by alignment, evil. This implies the in-universe equivalent of God and Satan are both willing to kill the player -- which, to be fair, is par for the course in these games anyway.
- In Diablo, angels are expressly forbidden from directly aiding mankind. The archangel Tyrael tries to give advice, but that's about all he can do aside from taking your cash to resurrect your minions (technically falling under indirect help).
- And it's explained in some of the supplementary works that most of the angels actively despise humanity because they are partly descended from demons, and would be perfectly happy to see humanity wiped out.
- And in Diablo III, Tyrael has had enough, willingly becoming a Fallen Angel so that he can aid humanity directly as a mortal.
- In Shin Megami Tensei, not only are the demons complete dicks, so are the angels. This is why Omnicidal Neutral endings tend to be considered the best.
- Subverted though in that you DO get some genuinely helpful ones on either side. The Megami clan tends to have a lot of benevolent folks (that ARE nice to you should you meet them), Kishins are essentially honor-bound warriors, and even the Reapers and Fiends are mostly old coots looking for something new to stoke the fire. The kicker is that the moral extremes tend to have a lot more of the bad eggs than good ones. Extremes, in any point of the moral spectrum (Tyrants, Seraphs, Heralds and Fouls), are almost as a rule quite demented and tend to enforce their viewpoint a tad more more zealously than other demons.
- Hell. Lucifer is an extremely manipulative bastard, YHVH is a utterly amoral tyrant, Philemon won't do jack in the face of the Apocalypse and abuses his position as The Powers That Be to fulfil his agenda, and Nyarlathotep is, well... fucking Nyarlathotep. No matter where you look, all extremes in the alignment axis suck. Which makes sense when you really think about it.
- Bayonetta has this: demons are genuinely evil, and angels look pretty but are actually monstrous once you get past their gold and marble outer appearance.
- The "real" storyline of Guardian Heroes works out like this. Advance Guardian Heroes makes things even worse.
- The page image is from the God and Devil Show, a web cartoon in which God and the Devil host a celebrity talk show. While less severe than some of the examples on this page, they're still jerkasses.
- In Sinfest, the Devil is a Corrupt Corporate Executive, using his wealth and influence to ruin civilization. God, on the other hand, is a Cloudcuckoolander who's constantly annoying and mocking other characters with inane puppet shows.