Unwanted False Faith
Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong!
You don't need to follow me, you don't need to follow anybody!
You've got to think for yourselves!
You're all individuals!
The Crowd [in unison]: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd [in unison]: Yes, we are all different!
Man in Crowd: I'm not.
Another Man: Shhh!
Bob is neither a true messiah nor a scam artist wanting to make his own religion. He's just a regular good guy. And yet he is made into an object of misplaced religious faith. For added irony, this religion is likely to be one he finds repulsive — or would find repulsive, in the cases where he's not even aware of having followers. Of course, if the character is of a decent sort, he will try to clear up the misunderstanding, but that might take some persuading to do so.
Compare and Contrast Stop Worshipping Me!, where the guy not wanting to be worshiped actually is a god or messiah or similar: The faith is not truly false, but the deity doesn't want the worship anyway. See also A God I Am Not, when a powerful being rejects the label of god. Also contrast and I'm Not a Hero, I'm X: Cases of misplaced hero worship (rather then religious worship) goes into that trope.
No real life examples, please; not being able to see our universe from outside, we have no way of knowing which religion(s) are "true" or "false".
- In Fables, Boy Blue only wanted to be a regular guy. He became a war hero out of necessity, but hated the cruelty and slaughter that war entails and really preferred to simply be an office clerk. One of the main reasons he participated in the war effort was his hatred for tyranny. After his death, a cult springs up around him. His worshipers long for him to come back as a bloodsoaked tyrant slaughtering all who stand in his way and indulge in the most blatant and unfair forms of nepotism. Of course, they consider this a good thing, using rhetorics very similar to how the Adversary justified his own reign of terror.
- The above refers to how this religion comes across in its early story arcs. Later story arcs might show how the whole thing turns out.
- C-3PO, in Return of the Jedi: The Ewoks mistake him for a deity, much to his embarrassment.
- And also because it's somehow against his programming to impersonate a deity.
- So I guess we can cross-reference this to The Dev Team Thinks of Everything; presumably Anakin thought it was funny.
- And also because it's somehow against his programming to impersonate a deity.
- In Monty Python's Life of Brian, the eponymous character gets his own religion by mistake. See page quote.
- In The Invention of Lying, Mark lives in on an Earth where lying didn't exist until he came up with the idea one day. When his mother is about to die, he tries to comfort her by telling her rather than just not-existing, she'll go to a happy place ruled over by "The Man in the Sky." Unfortunately, the people nearby hear, and make him tell more about it until he ends up inventing Christianity, with to the point that he has to crash his true love's wedding in a chapel devoted to The Man in the Sky.
- This is part of The Reveal in The Man From Earth. Professor John Oldman is on the verge of suddenly moving away when he tells his friends and colleagues that he is actually a 14,000 year old immortal. Intrigued, his fellow professors try to prove his story false. Eventually they get around to asking John if he was ever anyone famous. It turns out John was once a student of The Buddha, and decided to do some preaching of his own. Through a combination of people misinterpreting his words and their shock when he didn't die, he wound up becoming Jesus. Despite John's frantic efforts to explain, the religion got started, and he's been privately mortified ever since.
- In Linnea Sinclair's An Accidental Goddess, the heroine wakes up and discovers that (a) she's lost a few centuries somewhere and (b) she's been branded a major deity. Awwwkward....
- In The Bible:
- Acts 14, Paul of Tarsus and Barnabus are witnessing in one Greek city and performing some miracles while they were at it. The citizens of the city were convinced that they were the Gods, Hermes and Zeus respectively and set up a whole procession to sacrificing to them as such. The apostles had to go to considerable lengths trying to make them to stop. This, in turn, made it easier for troublemakers to convince the very same citizens to attempt stoning Paul and Barnabus to death.
- Also, John tried to worship a angel, but the angel told him to stop as he was just a fellow servant and told him to worship God.
- Ciaphas Cain has a small sect that worships him as a manifestation of the Emperor, complete with holy book, founded when some very religious soldiers saw him face down a Daemon. According to the novels he never found out and probably would have been horrified.
- Paul Atreides of the Dune series fits this well, being a supposed messiah to the Fremen (even though he knows their myth about a saviour is inplanted by external influence and is only set up to look as a naturally created legend).
- In the later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo resents being revered as a "Founder" by Weyoun and the other Dominion grunts.
- In the early seasons of the same series, Sisko is uncomfortable with being the Bajorans' "Emissary", although he gradually comes to accept it. Since Sisko is portrayed as a regular human and the "Prophets" as enigmatic aliens rather then deities, this is Unwanted False Faith. However, as the series progress, the "Prophets" become less and less of "aliens mistaken for deities" and more and more of actual deities, with Sisko becoming more and more of the Messiah - so the example is only true for the first few seasons.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches the Watchers?", Picard inadvertently becomes a deity to a group of proto-civilization Vulcanoids. Fortunately, he's able to convince them otherwise by referencing the idea of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens (minimizing the damage to their "natural development") and asking them to consider how their own ancient ancestors might view them if they were to witness some of the things they could do with even their medieval technology.
- One episode of Red Dwarf was centered on Lister's discovery that the cat civilization had formed a religion vaguely based around Lister and his pet cat from 3 million years ago. He is rather horrified when he realizes that they fought a holy war over what color the hats for his planned doughnut stand should be.
- In Stargate SG-1, the Stargate crew are frequently mistaken for gods in the first five or so seasons, as the villains who pose as gods are the primary users of the gate. Then there was the the time they were mistaken for demons. This is mostly due to the fact that the Stargates on many worlds are left unexplained, and the people there are primitive.
- In the TV version of The Martian Chronicles, a telepathic, shapeshifting Martian encounters a priest who's undergoing a crisis of faith. Since the priest longs to meet Jesus, his thoughts force the Martian to take on Jesus' appearance. The Martian begs the priest not to see him as the Messiah because he can't bear the responsibility, and fears he'll be trapped in Jesus' image forever. The priest asks the martian to go whenever he pleases and come back as Jesus only personally for him and only on Easter.
- G'Kar became this in the final season of Babylon 5 after he learned that not only were his (unfinished) memoirs published without his consent, but they outsold even the holy Book of G'Quan.
- On Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Gaius Baltar never really asked for the cult of attractive young women who dedicated themselves to him, but his massive ego led him to accept them, until Apollo made him reject them in the end.
- On Dead Like Me Roxy accidentally inspires a religion centered on her as a manifestation of God. She doesn't mind, but her boss is pissed and makes her go back and smash the fledgling religion.
- The last we see of Damien in Drop the Dead Donkey is as a captive of a primitive rainforest tribe, an object of worship in a cage. The penultimate shots are filmed from his point of view, but then they destroy his camera and build effigies of it instead. For the first few scenes he is happy enough with his new-found status, but once they destroy the camera, he realises there is no likelihood that they will release him...
- In early Doctor Who the First Doctor castigates short-lived companion Katarina for calling him a god. Subverted in the modern series where not only he is frequently referred to as a god (or rather, the "lonely god", being the last of his Sufficiently Advanced Alien species) by some oracles, psychics and others who have a rough idea of what he really is, he seems to embrace the idea, generally in the Wrath department when it comes to evil doers. He seems to regard his status as the Last of the Time Lords (not to mention the destroyer of the Time Lords) as meaning he is one of the last real authorities left in the universe, and dares anyone to test that. Its gotten to the point where he is sometimes afraid of himself.
Margaret the Slitheen: I almost feel better about being defeated. We never stood a chance. This is the technology of the gods.
Ninth Doctor: Don't worship me. I'd make a very bad god.
- That same serial features the Doctor being mistaken for Zeus by Achilles.
Achilles: It is well known that when you come amongst us you adopt many different shapes. To Europa, you appeared as a bull, to Leda, as a swan; to me, you come in the guise of an old beggar...
Doctor (offended): I beg your pardon, I do nothing of the sort!
- In Transhuman Space, Adam Stein, the unofficial leader of a group of transhumanists who believed in The Singularity, despite the growing evidence it wasn't going to happen, responded to 2070s criticism that "singularitanism" was a cult by sarcastically applying to register it as a religion. He was very surprised when his application was accepted, and even more surprised when he started getting new followers who seemed to take the religious aspects seriously. As of 2100, half of the Singularitists are true believers, and Stein is still trying to explain to them that it was a joke.
- An unusual example from Warhammer 40,000: The Emperor insisted that the Imperium be devoutly atheistic and banned his followers from worshipping him despite knowing full well that gods exist; his intention was to starve them by removing worship. Indeed, the entire reason the Word Bearers fell to Chaos was because they were hurt when the Emperor rebuked Lorgar for worshiping him. Since the Horus Heresy, however, the Emperor has been powerless to prevent the people of the Imperium from venerating him, with the result that one can now make a case for him being an honest-to-Haruhi god.
- Unfortunately for the Emperor, the Chaos Gods are not powered by worship. They are powered by emotion, and existence itself.
- BattleTech has pulled this one a couple of times.
- Most notably, we have Jerome Blake. A man who simply just to save as much as he could from the inevitable wars between the Great Houses, he set up Earth (and the interstellar phone company based there) to be completely neutral and untouchable, the (secular) guardians of advanced technology, so that civilisation in the Inner Sphere could be rebuilt once the fires of war burned themselves out. One set of 'deathbed revelations' to his 'chosen disciple' later, we have the foundations of the pseudo-church known as ComStar, and after a couple of centuries of piled-on dogma and trappings? The Word of Blake and their Jihad.
- Aleksandr Kerensky would probably classify his post-mortem treatment this way, too. A military man who simply wanted to limit the damage the Inner Sphere could do to itself by denying them large amounts of weapons and soldiers, he would not have wanted to be remembered as "The Great Father" by the warrior society his son founded. Especially once the Clans tried to invade the Inner Sphere, starting yet another war.
- Most of the Exalted respond to developing a cult of their own with something along the lines of "awesome, free motes," but Alchemicals are tasked with suppressing any unauthorised cults that spring up - including ones worshipping them, many of which end up taken down by the very being they revere. (The exception is Nurad, a nation which is so screwed that Alchemical worship is actually mandatory so that the nation's remaining Champions can keep it safe from the oncoming blight zone, but most of them are not comfortable with the situation.)
- Michael Altman from Dead Space supposedly founded the Church of Unitology. However, he was actually simply a geophysicist who found the Black Marker, and people started worshiping it and called him their Messiah. In an interesting twist at the end of Dead Space Martyr, he was killed by government agents to make him appear as a Martyr, fueling the flames and allowing them to get rich of donations. They succeeded.
- Feral animals worship Zach from Housepets as the Opener of Ways, much to his annoyance. They even steal his diary to copy into a sacred text.
- The The Transformers episode "The God Gambit" involved a group of Autobots landing on Titan and being worshiped by the inhabitants. Jazz spent most of the episode protesting that no, they weren't gods and never were.
- In the South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet", Stan is mistaken by the Church of Scientology for the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, the church's founder. Though it turns out that L. Ron Hubbard was a fraud, and the Church's current president is simply using Stan as a way to bilk more money out of their followers.