Generally speaking, if you think of a god, a few characteristics come to mind: immortality, omniscience, omnipotence… But sometimes, we puny humans can get the better of our gods in art, if not in life. I’ve gathered up some of our most memorable deicides from genre fiction—some cathartic, some tragic, and some part of a grand cosmic plan.
Spoilers for murdered gods, apocalypses, the ending of Final Fantasy XIII (all of ’em), and possibly the damnation of your immortal souls.
Ghostbusters—Crossing the Streams
Gozer is a Sumerian god who wants nothing less than utter destruction. It’s also used to being the most powerful being in its plane of existence, taking any physical form it chooses, and occasionally roasting Shuvs and Zuuls in its belly. Luckily, the hapless, working-class Ghostbusters were able to take it by surprise, thanks to some quick thinking and experimental science! But remember kids, if somebody asks you if you’re a god, you say yes. It might be easier that way.
Mononoke Hime—A Perfectly-Timed Bullet
Lady Eboshi is going to show you how to kill a god. She is part of a larger wave of people who want to destroy the old gods so humans can have more power on the earth. She is the one who shoots the boar god Nago, who in turn infects the young prince Ashitaka. She also has a vendetta against San’s adopted mother, the wolf-god Moro, and finally moves her plan into its final phase by assassinating the forest spirit Shishigami. But, despite all of this, she’s never a villain. Rather than being a standard human vs. nature film, Mononoke Hime explores a complex ecology between humanity, nature, and gods, and never allows anyone to be a purely good or evil.
American Gods—Vehicular Homicide and/or Lack of Faith
In Neil Gaiman’s universes, gods need human faith in order to live. As their followers’ belief wanes, so do their powers. The gods that came over to America with their people are barely eking out an existence by the end of the 20th Century—it’s tough out there for Czernobog and Anubis when the monotheistic Big Three are sucking up all the faith. For Bilquis, (who was the Queen of Sheba back in the old days) things get even worse. She’s already gone from a revered goddess of love to a Hollywood prostitute, but when she inadvertently runs afoul of the technical boy (one of the then-new gods of tech and computers), she finds herself on the worst end of a hit-and-run.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer—“You wanna fight a god, use the weapon of a god.”
After the lackluster Big Bad pair of Adam and Professor Walsh in Season Four, Buffy the Vampire Slayer gave us a hilariously bitchy, infuriating Hell Goddess named Glory in Season Five. Glory seemed nigh invulnerable for most of the season—scrambling Tara’s brains, nearly killing a suped-up Willow, and proving to be more than a match for Buffy in their fights. When Glory kidnapped Dawn for a sacrifice that would open a demonic portal into Earth, Buffy finally defeated her with Olaf the Troll God’s mighty hammer and a little help from the magical Dagon sphere. But it was Giles who acted as the super-dark cleanup crew by smothering Glory’s innocent(ish) human host, Ben.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier—A Perfectly-Timed Question, Followed by Several Photon Torpedoes
Spock’s brother Sybok hijacks the Enterprise to search for God. And surprise: as soon as The Great Barrier stands before them, the formerly skeptical Kirk jumps at the chance to Go Where No Man Has Gone Before—even if he does have doubts about the religious quest. In the end they make it to Sha Ka Ree (or Qui’Tu, Vorta Vor, or Eden, depending on your persuasion) and meet God… or at least a powerful entity who claims to be God, and who also claims to need a ride on thier ship. When Kirk asks the perfectly reasonable question, “What does God need with a starship?” the deity turns out to be kind of a jerk, so the Enterprise blasts him with a photon torpedo, and then Spock finishes him off via a Klingon Bird-of-Prey.
Preacher—A Pair of Walker Colt revolvers forged from the Sword of the Angel of Death.
God was not thinking clearly when he created the Saint of Killers. The Saint is an omnipotent killing machine, but he wasn’t always like that. Once, he was just a man, a murderous soldier who had reformed with the love of a good woman. But after she and their baby both die, he goes on a rampage that sends him to Hell. The Angel of Death signs him up to reap the souls of those who die from violence, which goes fine for a while, until the Saint learns that God was behind his family’s death. It seems that to turn someone into a saint of vengeance, you have to inflict tragedy. And, well, once the Saint learns that he needs to take revenge on God, the deity’s days are numbered.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII-3—SWORDS! Plus, the Power of Friendship.
Almighty Bhunivelze, god of light, stands above other gods and holds the world in his palm. He revives a pink-haired badass named Lightning from five centuries of stasis so he can make her a savior, and have her gather souls for him. Although she just got done being the servant of another god in the previous game and it’s…well, it’s a Final Fantasy game, so it’s a little complicated, but basically after three somewhat interminable games we find out that Bhunivelze hates humans’ chaotic hearts and believes that if he destroys the souls of the dead, and erases living people’s memories of their lost loved ones, everyone will live in eternal bliss. Lightning, once she’s fully online, disagrees with this proposal, and somehow modern day France is involved. A lot of the Final Fantasy games involve destroying a god of some sort, but the FFXIII series is the one that really explores the aspect of destroying God so that humanity can truly exercise its individual will.
In Kevin Smith’s world, the JudeoChristian God is a pretty friendly character who just wants occasionally to take the form of Bud Cort and play skeeball on the Jersey Shore. Unfortunately, he’s attacked by some ne’er do well demons and ends up in a coma. In God’s absense, it’s up to the Last Scion—a descendant of one of Jesus’ siblings—to stop couple of rogue angels from bringing about the Apocalypse. She manages to unplug the life support system just in time to free God from Cort’s mortal vessel and intercept the angels, this time in the form of Alannis Morissette.
In “The Hammer of The Gods,” the A-List gods of paganism gather in The Elysian Fields Hotel to talk about the Apocalypse, but Lucifer crashes the party and wastes most of them while Sam and Dean Winchester hide behind a flame retardant couch. Then Gabriel shows up with an angel sword and battles Lucifer, which gives the boys (and more importantly, the Impala) time to escape. Now, since this is Supernatural, they don’t just stop with the old gods of paganism: Death tells the Winchesters that he will reap God Itself at the end of time. But since Supernatural keeps getting renewed, we probably don’t have to worry about that any time soon.
Mike Carey’s epic 75-issue run of Lucifer (the same Lucifer featured in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman) ends with God flat out giving up on his own creation, eager to experience a reality where he doesn’t know everything that is going to happen. In an interesting twist, God comes to see Lucifer as the only being who has grown equal to Him, and he shows up to offer Lucifer the keys to creation.
Lucifer refuses, and God wanders off to continue experiencing the unknown and Creation continues forward without its Creator.
The Amber Spyglass—Unlock the Cage
There are many things to be said about the theological wrestling that goes on in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, but I’m not going to get into those here. It does have one of the all-time great deity deaths, one which subverts much of the darkness of the rest of the series with some real poignance. The Authority—the angel who has set itself up as God—is caged and half-mad from old age and boredom, and the Metatron keeps it alive against its will for dogmatic purposes. While Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter scheme to oust the deity and overthrow the church, Lyra and Will simply unlock its cage, and allow God to dissolve into Dust as it giggles happily.
?????? Seriously I played all three games and ???? was it KOS-MOS? Was she God? Something about ????? the will of the universe? And Shion’s crazy boyfriend???? Spaceships = Biblical mythology????
Did I miss any of your favorite deicides? …Wait, am I the only one with favorite deicides?