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Guidance Counsellor: Dwicky, you really believe in aliens?

Dwicky: Ha ha, not any more! All the childlike wonder was ripped from my heart the day my foot was stuck in an escalator, and aliens didn't come rescue me.
Invader Zim: Vindicated

Bob is in a crisis, so he turns to God, gods, Crystal Dragon Jesus, aliens, or Trope-tan for aid but laces it with an ultimatum. Bob will be the bestest follower and prophet of his/her/its/their greatness if they'll just come through with this one teeny-tiny miracle. If they don't? Well then he'll have empirical proof of the absence or jerkassness of God, and will convert to another religion or become a Hollywood Atheist.

This gets very thorny very quickly as Bob's miracle fails to manifest. Did he not pray hard enough? Was he ignored? Is God even there? Bob just pulled the trigger on the one loaded chamber in his game of Religious Russian Roulette. After blowing his theological brains out, Bob will embrace atheism with all the Fundamentalist fervor he can muster: if the Powers That Be didn't come through for him, why would they do so for anyone else? This nice little angry depression will last right up until a left field miracle kicks in. It is Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, but Bob now has something spiritual to chew on.

Typically, any non-answer from the Powers That Be is chalked up to Bob asking for the wrong thing or for the wrong reason, such as selfish or hurtful wishes or expecting God to out and out prove His existence on demand. If it's anything like a Chick Tract, the appearance of a true miracle (on demand, no less!) will instantly convert Bob to whatever religion the author wants. In works where the existence of God and the Devil are established facts, this situation is often caused because either God Is Evil, a Jerkass, inept, or simply flawed. At the very least, it's a case for God and Satan Are Both Jerks.

See also: Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter.

Examples of Religious Russian Roulette include:


Film

  • In Major League, Pedro Cerrano is a practitioner of voodoo, worshiping the spirit Jabu. In his last at bat, Pedro tells Jabu that if he can't hit this curve, he won't believe in him anymore. After two strikes, he decides to abandon him anyway. "I say 'Fuck you.' I do it myself." He hits it, it's a homer, and by the sequel he's converted to Buddhism. It's also implied that this is how he came to worship Jabu in the first place; when a teammate talks to him about Christianity, Pedro remarks that he likes Jesus very much -- but he never helped him hit breaking balls.
  • Conan the Barbarian, rather than giving Crom an ultimatum, simply says, "To Hell with you! I'll do it myself." And it pays off; when Conan is about to be struck down, a vision of Valeria appears so he can finish the battle.
    • Probably the most accurate part of the movie: Crom, being the war-god of a Proud Warrior Race, has no time to aid weaklings who cannot overcome their challenges alone.
    • In the books Crom explicitly can't be prayed to; those who believe in him say that the only response to such audacity would be death. According to them Crom has already given them everything worth having by giving them life and the ability to do battle. It's up to them to do the rest.

Literature

  • An unusual example in Mistborn: After Sazed crosses the Despair Event Horizon, he loses his sense of generalized faith and starts going through the 200+ religions he knows about looking for one that he feels can offer a suitable explanation for everything wrong with the world. He winds up throwing out all of them for having logical flaws before eventually realizing it doesn't really work like that.

Live Action TV

  • In The Facts of Life, Blair describes how this applies to her: she once prayed to God to stop her parents' divorce; He didn't, and she stopped believing in Him.
  • Sergeant Major Williams does this in an episode of It Ain't Half Hot Mum where he tried praying to Hare Krishna.

Newspaper Comics

  Calvin: Do you want me to become an atheist?!

    • Played with in another Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin, just before beaning Susie with a snowball, prays for a sign that this would be wrong. No sign; he beans her and she beats him up. "How come the universe always gives you the sign after you do the thing?" In this case, he's hoping for a negative result, and the object of the experiment is objective morality rather than God, but otherwise the structure is the same.

Real Life

  • This can sometimes be the impetus for real life turns to atheism. Something doesn't happen the way their religious belief suggests it would, and they start to doubt. However, rather than leave the person a bitter, god-hating shell, it's more likely to make the person more perceptive to atheists reasons for disbelief. Sometimes it sticks. Other times, the religious person will end up renewing their faith. Either way, the common end of this trope, being angry at god, is at most a temporary state, if it happens at all. The person either returns to their faith, or stops believing, and why be angry at a non-existent deity?
  • Christianity calls this trope the mortal sin of "Tempting God". Demanding an action from God in order to justify faith or prove himself real. A Real Life example is Abusive Parents refusing medical treatment for their child because they expect God to heal them. The most common, but extreme example to explain this to children would be jumping off a cliff and expecting God to catch you.
    • Notably, this is exactly what Satan tries to convince Jesus to do during the second temptation. Jesus replies, "[Scripture] also says, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
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