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File:Zeus Almighty.jpg



Priest: Offler is a vengeful god!

High Priest: Trigger happy is what he is.

Whether your local God is evil (in either sense) or a nice guy, you do not want to piss him off. Annoying the Lord of the cosmos with such things as common blasphemy, refusing to go along with Because Destiny Says So, and refusing to believe in him despite all evidence to the contrary tends to invoke his wrath. The most common form of aforementioned wrath? A lightning bolt to the face.

Said lightning tends to come out of nowhere (even indoors) and sends the very clear message that the big guy upstairs is not to be trifled with.

Occurs in both Greek Mythology and The Bible, making this Older Than Feudalism.

In Tabletop Games, this may be used as a more localized form of Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, designed to let the Game Master strike down the annoying Munchkin ruining the game without too much collateral damage.

In a commonly seen sub-trope, a character will swear that if they're lying, may God strike them down. God, of course, immediately obliges. Compare Holy Hand Grenade. Unrelated to Personal Raincloud, though that often involves bespoke lightning bolts as well.

Examples of Bolt of Divine Retribution include:

Anime & Manga

  • Subverted in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, as God fails to hit Takano. Turned around in the final arc, when Takano gets her chance to kill a god, and also misses.
  • One Piece have two examples
    • The first one is Eneru, who thanks to his electric powers, mind reading ability and god complex, kills anybody who goes against him with a lightning bolt.
    • And the other example is early on the series when Luffy is saved from a public execution when his executioner gets struck by lightning. Following that, attempts to light his ship on fire are foiled by rain and a strong tailwind allows Luffy and his crew to get away, prompting local marines to question if some divine force wanted to make sure Luffy survives. It's implied that a man later revealed to be Luffy's father caused the bizarre storm.
  • In Excel Saga, as cruel children pelt a Puchuu to death with rocks.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh 5 Ds, Team Ragnarok's Dragan plays a card called Polar God King, which is basically the card incarnation of the Norse god himself. When ever Thor is destroyed by the opponent, he revives himself and gives a couple of bolts to his enemy which not only inflict damage to their life points, but also inflicts real damage. Jack got hit by this twice.
  • In Wild Wind, in exchange for God not killing the manbeasts, Olgrius gets hit by divine lightning, physically scarring him (and his descendents) for life.

Card Games


  • Johnny Hart's B.C. often features these, accompanied by the word "ZOT".
  • Assurancetourix/Cacofonix (the bard) from Asterix is occasionally hit by divine lightning, if one of the villagers (especially Cétautomatix/Fullautomatix [the blacksmith]) isn't faster.
  • Subverted in Garfield. He does the lying variant, but as soon as he says "may lightning strike", he notices storm clouds rumbling overhead. He quickly changes the end of his sentence to "...the dog next door". Cue the sound effect of an off-panel "Kerpow!" followed by a "Yip!"
  • Calvin laments the absence of this trope in "Real Life":

It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.


Films — Animation

  • Happens in the Disney version of Hercules when Phil initially refuses to tutor Herc.
  • Zeus also did this in Fantasia, mostly because he's bored. This IS an accurate representation of him, though.
  • Appears in Beavis and Butthead Do America, when the title duo have spent several minutes taking confessions and assigning ridiculous penances (after mistaking the confessional for the toilet). They get hit as soon as they leave the church.
  • The Evil Queen in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. The bolt doesn't hit her directly, but it does knock her down a cliff and sends the boulder she was trying to push over the dwarfs down after her.

Films — Live Action


General (Graham Chapman): Well, of course, warfare isn't all fun. Right — stop that! It's all very well to laugh at the military, but when one considers the meaning of life, it is a struggle between alternative viewpoints of life itself. And without the ability to defend one's own viewpoint against other perhaps more aggressive ideologies, then reasonableness and moderation could, quite simply, disappear! That is why we'll always need an army, and may God strike me down were it to be otherwise.
(a lightning bolt destroys the general; cut to outside, where the Hand of God rises into the clouds; a sergeant major stands before his troops)

  • The film version of The Bad Seed. Apparently, it was thrown in at the last second because The Bad Guy Wins wasn't expected to go over well.
  • In the Clash of the Titans remake, King Acrisius tosses his wife and Perseus into the sea. He decides this would be a great time to tell Zeus (Perseus's real father) to suck it. Zeus does not hesitate to respond.
  • Subverted in Rat Race, when a mechanic threatens two contestants in a race out of money for car repair. One of the contestants calls him out on how un-Christian it is, to which he laughs and calls out to God to give him a sign of his displeasure. Seconds later, a rocket shoots past (ironically manned by two other contestants), creating a sonic boom that collapses the mechanic's garage.
  • When the protagonist forces the witch to enter the hallowed ground (the graveyard) in The Terror, she is struck by lightning.


  • Parodied occasionally in the Discworld series. As one book puts it, a man who goes around the disc arguing that gods don't exist tends to be found later as a pair of still-smoking shoes next to a sign reading "YES WE DO."
    • A notable example is when Dorfl (a ceramic golem) declares his atheism; he notes afterward that a bolt of lighting isn't much of a logical argument. He is probably the safest atheist on the Disc, by virtue of being immune to lightning bolts.
    • Averted hard in Small Gods with Sergeant Simony, however. Simony comes face-to-face with the god Om, speaks to him, and still refuses to accept that he is real. Om leaves him alone, remarking that "Gods didn't mind atheists, if they were deep, hot, fiery atheists like Simony, who spend their whole life not believing, spend their whole life hating gods for not existing. That sort of atheism was a rock. It was nearly belief."
    • In one description of the Disc, it mentions that it's the kind of world where gods go around breaking atheists' windows.
    • In the page quote, it's probably worth noting that Offler responded to this accusation by trying to hit the speaker with a lightning bolt. Fortunately it bent at right angles a few feet above his head and hit the floor instead. Being high priest of Io, chief of the gods has perks.
  • Midway through the Mage Winds trilogy of Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, the protagonists learn that the theocracy of Karse, which has been an enemy of Valdemar for hundreds of years, has very abruptly cleaned up its act and sued for alliance. This occurs entirely thanks to their god, Vkandis the Unsubtle, finally getting fed up with his priesthood's corrupt and demon-summoning ways and deciding to answer the invocation at the country's annual high holy ceremony by immolating a good bit of the highest orders of his priesthood - and that just for starters.
  • In the romance novel Fallen Angel by Katherine Kingsley, the villain has a habit of saying "May God strike me down if I'm lying," whenever someone accuses him of cheating at poker or what have you. He, of course, usually is lying, but nothing happens - until the end of the book, when he's stolen a magic wishing coin from the angel/ghost hero (long story), is promising not to hurt the heroine, and makes his customary pledge. God immediately obliges, killing him instantly.
  • Jane Eyre, at a crucial point in Mr. Rochester's marriage proposal.
  • One of the powers that Nicolae Carpathia in Left Behind gains after being indwelt by Satan himself is the ability to call down lightning to render his enemies to ash.
  • In book 10 of Warrior Cats this conveniently happens to Mudclaw, a minor villain.
    • StarClan may or may not have been behind that one, as they have a strict rule of non-interference in the physical plane. It was, in any case, an extremely convenient lightning strike for the Clans: not only was Mudclaw killed, but the lightning felled a tree which created a very handy bridge to a nearby island.
  • In Imajica, this trope backfires. On GOD. He becomes aware of some other deities in nearby parallel universes and, being a villain in this book, tries to destroy these rivals with a god-killing-caliber version of this trope. As He isn't omniscient about things in other universes, He doesn't know that the chain of universes loops around back to its starting point; the other deities dodge the Bolt, it loops around back to God's heaven, and kills Him.
  • Early in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Sun Jian gets hold of the imperial seal. He uses a more poetic version of the lying line ("If I have the seal and am concealing it from you, may my life be short and my death violent"). Guess what happens to him.
  • Though it qualifies as "wizardly" rather than "divine" retribution, the short story "Same-Day Delivery" by Desmond Warzel contains two mentions of the "blue bolts from the heavens" from first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons referenced under Tabletop Games below. According to the author, this is a deliberate Shout-Out.
  • In Sharon Shinn's Arch Angel, failure to perform the Gloria will cause the mountain to be burned with lightning. Raphael does not believe, and forces them not to. Whereupon. . . .
  • The Lighting Thief revolves around a quest to recover Zeus's stolen "Master Bolt," that he uses to generate his divine retribution.
  • The Accidental Time Machine: "Jesus" uses these via Kill Sat.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?": Apollo uses this a few times.
    • Since there were no Red Shirts around, he decided to pick on Scotty for wearing red.
  • On The Drew Carey Show, Lewis thinks he had been touched by God to become a prophet. Then, after he gives a lot of sanctimonious pronouncements, he gets hit by lightning. Repeatedly hit, each time offering an ever more feeble excuse for the most recent lightning strike. He just kept tempting fate until the third or fourth one, finally being helped inside by his friends, scorched and exclaiming:

Lewis: Hide me, hide me! God is pissed!

  • On the Stargate SG-1 episode "Demons", the Canon incapacitated SG-1 with a piece of Applied Phlebotinum that invokes this trope (the planet's population had apparently been kidnapped from western Europe during the Middle Ages). Carter later described it as feeling like being hit by a zat blast.

Myths & Religion

  • In many cultures, including Ancient Hellenic ones, "lightning" is described as "divine fire."
  • Zeus was well known for throwing lightning bolts.
  • The NIV translation of The Bible has God raining down lightning strikes during the plague of hail, although another common interpretation of this passage is that the hail itself was on fire.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Thor's thunderbolt hammer Mjolnir.
    • Odin's spear Gungnir, which is sometimes compared to a thunderbolt and said to never miss.
  • Ukko Ylijumala (Ukko the High God), the head of the pantheon of gods worshipped in Finland before Christianity, did this. In fact, the Finnish word for thunder is derived from his name.
  • In ancient China, it's said that children who don't show proper filial piety or people who don't repay debts (usually a life debt, which both were rather Serious Business back then) will get struck by lightning as punishment. The phrase "You want to get struck by lightning?!" shows up often in period dramas, although thunder sounding is sometimes used for comedic effect in dramas that occur in present day.
  • In Hinduism, the king of the Devas Indra wields the thunderbolt and tends to throw it at people who might one day be a threat to him.

Tabletop Games

  • Gary Gygax suggested blue bolts from the heavens as a possible punishment for unruly, disruptive or obnoxious characters in the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide.
    • At least one article Dragon Magazine has cited this as something a DM did to a fallen paladin, whose god was not the forgiving type.
    • Recent editions have given clerics the ability to invoke these as spells. The best known examples are probably Bolt of Glory and Flame Strike.
  • In The Dark Eye this is a power of the priests of the sun god Praios, they can only harm demons and knock out magic users though.

Video Games

  • While it's controlled by mortals and not gods, the most famous spell in the Tales (series), Indignation, is referred to as the "divine lightning of God" in ninety percent of its incantations, and - with the exception of Legendia - it always appears as a single bolt of lightning that hits the ground and sends out an electrical blast which nukes absolutely everything.
  • A possible outcome of angering your god in Nethack. If you've built up enough resistance to lightning to survive the bolt, the god shoots a disintegration beam at you.
    • If you're buffed enough to survive even the disintegration beam, this provokes the response "I believe it not!"
  • La-Mulana does this when you fail to solve certain types of puzzles. Or when you attack holy relics. Or some perfectly blank walls. As they lay out in the manual, it's an intentional attempt on the part of the developers to get players out of the Try Everything mentality.
  • Follow Honda in his plan to escape Tokyo on day 6 in Devil Survivor, and God exterminates everyone you left inside in such fashion. Bad End indeed...
  • One quest in Baldur's Gate 2 requires you to pose as a cleric of Talos. (For the uninitiated, Talos is not just a powerful evil deity, but in fact the god of lightning.) You're ordered to swear that you worship him, with failure to do so being proof you're an impostor. Actually do it, and you're struck by lightning — indoors.
    • However, if you're wearing the cloak the reflects lightning, the bolt bounces off and fries the cleric instead. This stops the cutscene dead, allowing you to just take the item you need off his corpse instead of fighting his mooks first.
    • And if you actually are a cleric of Talos, you can swear your loyalty without harm, and get the item without a fight that way.
  • If you worship Zeus in Age of Mythology, you get one of these as your one-off God Power. Not as spectacular as some of the others (Hera gets a whole lightning storm), but it handily One Hit Kills anything except creatures summoned by other God Powers, and Titans.
    • In the Expansion Pack, it gets upgraded to a three-use power. Much better that way.
  • This is ultimately the reaction of the player to the AI in a game like The Sims.
  • The God of War series has Zeus doing this to you in the latter two games during the battle with him.
  • Implemented by the dev team of Guild Wars as a way to emphasize the fact that being banned does in fact mean you're banned. On logging in, a banned player is treated to the spectacle of the Death God Dhuum rising from the ground and slicing them in half with a giant scythe.
  • In Discworld Noir, a disillusioned cultist decides to declare his complete renouncement of all gods from the top of his own temple. He is immediately struck by a dozen lightning bolts simultaneously.

Mooncalf: "What were the odds that I'd get hit by lightning just as I renounced all gods?"
Death: About one to one, I'd say.

  • Marietta from Yggdra Union will use lightning to smite your forces. She's just doing her job as an angel, defending heaven, which you are about to invade.
  • Arguably the Best Crusader skill (until the priest patch) in Dungeon Fighter Online, Revenge of Light calls down highly damaging lightning when the blessed player is hit with attacks that deal magic damage.
  • Druids of all classes in World of Warcraft have a number of spells that are essentially this, such as Moonfire. Priests' Holy Fire ability has a similar graphic.
  • In Drakensang Big Bad Wannabe Ulwine Neisbeck claims that not even the gods can't stop her plan. Sadly, the Gods of Aventuria disagree with her.
  • In the Family Guy video game, one of Peter's fighting levels has God as an NPC. Punching God results in Him calling down a lighting bolt to kill you.
  • From Dark Souls, Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight, and his faithful knights use this against the dragons in the game's opening cinematic. Solaire of Astora can use two miracles like this and so can the player, provided they join the Warriors of Sunlight covenant.A third version is available to the player with Gwyn's soul.
  • There is a mod for the PC version of Skyrim that kills gaurds with lightening if they dare mention the words arrow and knee in the same sentence. The Mod maker said that "even the Divines have grown tired"

Web Original

  • The Nostalgia Critic had the balls to claim that Chuck Norris Facts are a bunch of bullshit, thus God (with Chuck Norris as head) struck him dead with lightning. A-CHUCK-A-NORRIIIIIIIIISSSS!!!!
  • During one Global Guardians campaign, the Blood Red King mocked the heroes for their inability to stop him while standing over the corpses of children he had murdered. Hammer-wielding superhero Byelobog, who in reality really is the Slavic "White God" of the Sun that he is named after, promptly called down one of these to justly smite the villain. The Blood Red King never mocked Byelobog again.
  • In the second episode of the web series Fear of Girls, the neurotic and irritable GM Doug Douglason gets fed up with a fawning fangirl constantly interrupting him right at the start of the game. She fails the roll.

Doug: You are hit in the neck with a poison dart and die.
Jasmine: Well...what are my options?
Doug: Leave.

  • On the list of Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do In An RPG, one item says that it's a bad idea to taunt Greek heroes with "Who's your daddy?".
  • In Fine Structure, some scientists discover a wide variety of superscience-based technologies. As they apply them, they discover through trial and error that using them is a fast track to being killed in various lightning-related ways, such as reprogramming your teleportation machine to bury you alive. The entity responsible for this is eventually dubbed the "Imprisoning God".
  • In Marik Plays Bloodlines episode 6, Marik, freaked out by a very angry Mel Gibson, admits that he's gay. Immediately after, he denies that he's gay, asking god to strike him down if he's lying. Immediately after, a dumbwaiter falls from the sky directly towards him, and Marik just barely manages to jump out of the way in time. When he realises it missed him, he claims this is proof that he is straight.
  • Dragon Ball Abridged - Freiza was on the receiving end for making a Blasphemous Boast.

"If I'm really as evil as you say I am, then let God strike me down where I stand." (ZAP!) "Ha! Nice try, jackass! Next time, give it your A-game!"


Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The Boondocks has a lightning strike that serve two purposes: as a retort to one of the characters who said "and if I am wrong may God strike me down" (or something similar) and it also caused the power to go out for a minute, which saved the life of a wrongly accused man who was on death row.
  • In the Donald Duck short Trombone Trouble, the gods Jupiter and Vulcan send down a thunderbolt to imbue Donald with divine power so he can punish Pete for his terrible trombone playing. It doesn't end well.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has a funny subversion:

SpongeBob: And if I'm lying may I be struck by... (lightning storm flares up, Spongebob confidently snaps his fingers) A flying ice cream truck! (cue Bomb Whistle and Shadow of Impending Doom) AND LIVE! (truck stops in midair, lands on top of him and drives off)
Larry: (over megaphone) Please do not land ice cream trucks on the bathers.

  • Bugs Bunny has been subject to the lying version at least twice, once with a bolt of lightning and once with a train. Both times, he was underground, and in the latter case there were no train tracks nearby.
  • Animaniacs has the song "Hello, Nurse!", in which Yakko and Wakko say of Hello Nurse at one point "If she's not everything we've said, then may lightning strike us dead." Cue lightning bolts.
    • Note it didn't actually kill them. Simply sent them to the hospital... to be cared for by Hello Nurse!
  • Robot Chicken has a sketch where a little kid is frying ants with a magnifying glass. He laughs "ha ha", and not two seconds later is struck (non-fatally) by a bolt of lightning followed by a much deeper "ha ha".
  • One episode of The Simpsons tells the story of the Mayflower. During a harsh storm, Reverend Lovejoy is praising God when he gets struck by lightning. He concludes that clearly kissing God's ass is getting him nowhere.
    • In “Pray Anything”, Homer starts praying for all sorts of things but when he commands God to turn the rain into wine, he gets struck by lightning.
  • Subverted in the animated adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle: In one episode Boris Badenov tells the cadre of criminals if he was lying, he'd be struck by lightning. It does, but the little rat was wearing a lightning rod under his hat!
  • Ren calling juju out.
  • South Park:
    • "Christian Rock Hard:" When Cartman is trying to sign on with a Christian label, he says he's not in it for the money and "If I'm lying, may God strike me down." Butters and Token nervously edge away from him, though nothing comes of it.
    • At the end of "HUMANCENTiPAD," Cartman flies off the handle and starts screaming at the sky and trash-talking God. The scene ends with Cartman getting struck by lightning and ending up in a hospital room.

Real Life

  • During the filming of The Passion of the Christ, Jim Caviezel, the actor playing Jesus, was struck by lightning, and assistant director Jam Michelini was struck by lightning twice.
  • Saint Barbara's father had her executed for converting to Christianity and was killed by a lightning bolt later that day, which have inspired the popular use of lightning bolts as a tool of divine wrath.
  • One of the Darwin Awards in 1999 was won by a man who standing on a boat in the middle of a lake during the lightning storm screamed "HERE I AM LORD, LET ME HAVE IT!". For those not familiar with those awards - they are normally only given post mortem (a few lucky ones, if you want to call them that, had to settle for being unable to reproduce instead of dying, but this is rare).