A god complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility. A person with a god complex may refuse to admit the possibility of their error or failure, even in the face of complex or intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks, or may regard their personal opinions as unquestionably correct. The individual may disregard the rules of society and require special consideration or privileges.
God complex is not a clinical term or diagnosable disorder, and does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The first person to use the term god-complex was Ernest Jones (1913-51). His description, at least in the contents page of Essays in Applied Psycho-Analysis, describes the god complex as belief that one is a god.
In popular culture
It is common in various fictitious media for characters—usually villainous in nature—to develop a god complex. Examples of this are as follows:
- In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet seems to suffer from a god complex, choosing not to kill Claudius while he prays (lest he go to heaven), and - in rewriting his own death sentence to condemn Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - orders them executed "not shriving time allowed," thus ensuring their damnation.
- In the Transformers universe, numerous villains have exhibited this tendency. Particularly noted is the Megatron character featured in the Beast Wars series, who at one point-while quoting from a Transformer religious text obviously based on the Book of Revelation-claims to be "Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End."
- In the 1993 movie Malice, Alec Baldwin playing the role of a playboy, can-do-no-wrong doctor, Jed Hill, feigns a God Complex in a plot reversal (he loses a lawsuit due to his God Complex).
- In the 2005 movie The Island, the main antagonist Dr. Merrick (played by Sean Bean) believes that by creating human clones that provide replacement parts for their real human counterparts he is a god that can cheat death.
- In the anime One Piece the character Enel literally claims he's an immortal god, fully donning a god complex, going as far as to destroy an entire island of his believers in order to remove anyone that may have their doubts so that his ego will go unscathed.
- In the Sly Cooper video game series, specifically the game Sly 2: Band of Thieves, the villainous character Neyla/Clock-La likewise claims to be "Alpha and Omega", claiming that she will attain victory after being utterly defeated by the protagonists of the game.
- In the Japanese anime series Death Note, the main character, Light Yagami, attempts to create and rule a world "cleansed of evil" as a "God".
- In the Japanese anime series, Naruto, the three primary antagonists all display tendencies characteristic of a god complex. The antagonist of part I, Orochimaru (Naruto), wishes to become "the ultimate being" by attaining immortality. In the beginning of part II, Nagato believes that he is a god who can make all people understand each other by inflicting them all with the same pain. He later regresses from his complex. In the end of part II, Madara Uchiha even more clearly displays this personality, attempting to rule the world and enslave humanity under an illusionary technique.
- The Japanese anime series, Soul Eater, portrays a character named Black Star, who claims he will "surpass God" with his might and power. In some episodes, if he is defeated, despite his incredible skill, his abilities will spiral downwards in his disappointment in himself.
- Lelouch Lamperouge from the 2006 anime Code Geass, who uses the power of Geass to force his will on anybody he makes eye contact with. He takes on the guise of "Zero" and, through controlling a terrorist organization Called the black knights, feels as though he is a god and rises up against an oppressive regime.
- Lelouch is very narcissistic, but it's less a God Complex and more a Messiah complex. He frequently compares himself not to a god, but rather a demon, similar to the role of Lucifer/Satan in Paradise Lost, seeing himself as a demon of vengeance against those who wronged both himself personally, as well as the oppressed people living under the main Empire in the story's setting.
- The Doctor, main protagonist of Doctor Who, is described as having a god complex in the episode "The God Complex" however he does not show the ascribed symptoms of the complex.
- In Fringe, attempting to explain the evident connection of David Robert Jones to the appearance of mysterious animals and catastrophic events in the universe, Walter Bishop calls the perpetrator a megalomaniac, elaborating further that Jones has a god complex.
- In the popular cartoon series King of the Hill it is believed by many that the character Peggy Hill has a god complex as she believes she cannot make mistakes and that she is unquestionably correct most notably her belief that she is fluent in Spanish where in reality her Spanish is very poor.
- In the Criminal Minds episode "God Complex", the perpetrator was profiled as a "narcissist" with a "severe God complex".
- In Final Fantasy VII Sephiroth shows a God complex, using his power as Jenova 's son to try and destroy the world and become the new god of Gaia. And he succeeded. Almost. He definitely won immortality and omniscience, adding to his already boosted skills. In his last and final appearance in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, his final words "I...will never be a memory" show that he will always exist, regardless if he has a body or not.
- In a video game developed by Frictional Games and Chinese Room, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, the main antagonist, The Engineer, shows a God complex. He claims that mankind is evil and filthy, that they are all "pigs", and he takes upon himself to "redeem" them and make the world "pure" (by "redemption" he actually means killing everyone and destroying the entire world, thus making it "pure"). He often uses religious and biblical terminology when talking about the world, himself, and his plans.
- In an Azerbaijani literature piece, the character Savior Javidan believes himself to be a god.
- In the black comedy sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the character Dennis Reynolds has a god complex. As seen in several episodes, he actually considers himself a god and is extremely upset when people ignore him or demean him in any way. He believes he has achieved physical perfection.
- In the fifth episode of the dark comedy series "Wilfred", Wilfred develops a god complex after he kills an old woman at a hospice.
- Grandiose delusions
- Messiah complex
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Playing God (ethics)
- Kaplan, Harold I.; Benjamin J. Sadock (1972). Modern Group Book, volume 4: Sensitivity through encounter and marathon. J. Aronson.
- TEDGlobal 2011. "Tim Harford, TED talk". Ted.com. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
- Deep Blue at the University of Michigan umich.edu Retrieved 2012-01-22
- Jones, Ernest (15 March 2007). "Essays in Applied Psycho-Analysis". Lightning Source Inc. p. 472. ISBN 1-4067-0338-9. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
- McLemee.com - The Shrink with a God Complex Ronald Hayman Newsday, (April 22, 2001)
- News-Service.Stanford.edu - Did Caligula have a God complex? Stanford, Oxford archaeologists find evidence that depraved tyrant annexed sacred temple, John Sanford (September 10, 2003)