Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Fictional atheist strawmen, part 2

I wanted to highlight this post by PZ Myers, mainly because it so neatly dovetails with what I was saying a month ago about The Reaping. I also did a TV episode about fictional atheist strawmen, which you can watch here.

In talking about the movie I Am Legend, PZ highlights a similar major problem with movie atheists, which is that the only time they are portrayed in a positive light is when they are a kind of "failed biblical Job", put through all kinds of awful tribulations until they finally crack and declare that there is no God. Even though this turns them into a sort of sympathetic figure, the fiction in the rest of the story always proves them wrong. As I said regarding a similar character in The Reaping, very few people really come to atheism that way.


  1. Another one like this is a cool character from a cool show--Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly. "We Browncoats lost the war against the evil Empire, and right then I decided there ain't no God."

    Of course, the show was canceled before he got to see the error of his ways due to the vague spiritual mumbo-jumbo of Shepherd Book, but you could see it coming.

    On the other hand, Joss Whedon is no Southern Baptist, so maybe Reynolds wouldn't have turned back to the (irrational) light side. Dunno. Point is, whether Reynolds remained an atheist is an open question, but how he became an atheist falls neatly into the stereotype.

  2. I remembered another good exempele
    of a positive character that is atheist. Its in a TV show cold bones
    Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan its a
    show similar to CSI.

  3. One of my favorite lines from Mal in Firefly:
    "God's a long wait for a train don't never come."

    Shepherd Book was actually an alright character, I did like his dying words: "I don't care WHAT you believe...just BELIEVE it..."
    i.e. be true to yourself.