Atheists and Reality TV

Atheists haven’t been portrayed very positively on Television, or very often. Sure there are skeptics, like Dana Skully or Lisa Simpson – but being a skeptic doesn’t make a person an Atheist – both of these characters are religious.

Sometimes a character will show up who is evil and Atheist. Sometimes the character is evil because of his atheism, and sometimes it’s reversed. If the character is an Atheist AND a skeptic, you can be sure that he or she is just a guest star who will be proven wrong during the show. Either angels will show up with glowing hair, or the poor Atheist will be eaten by a supernatural creature that he doesn’t believe in.

And when an Atheist IS portrayed on television it is with a character like Dr. Gregory House, in the show, “House.” Dr. House is cantankerous, manipulative, a drug addict, and all around unpleasant, but lovable in a pitiful way. I don’t know if his character is portrayed as being an atheist before his accident, or if he became a God Hating Atheist after the accident that left him in constant agony. The character certainly gives Christians something to point to. “See, he’s Atheist because something bad happened to him and now he ‘hates God!’”


But perhaps there is some hope, from Reality TV of all places! “Trading Spouses” last month announced that they are looking for a truly Atheist family to trade spouses with a Christian family. They don’t say, but I’ll bet they will look for a more conservative Christian family - as conservative as they can get without sliding into fundamentalism.

I’m sure they are not actively looking for a Christian family that is so wacky that they will flip out and kick out the Atheist. Still, you have to think that the ratings were pretty high on the Margaret Perrin episode. (Here's the video of what happened in case you missed it.) Fox might be hoping for something like that to happen again.

But Fox is already scooped by the FX network in the show “30 Days” when Brenda, an Atheist stay at home mother is hosted by the Shores, a religious family, for a month.

From the press release:
Though the Shores have home-court advantage, FX producers turns the tables while Brenda teaches them a crash-course in atheism and introduces them to an atheistic congregation in the Dallas area, called The Free Thinkers.

“This was a mirror for me, my family and, I feel, the Christian community as a whole to look back at ourselves,” said Mike Shores about the “30 Days” experience. “We [Christians are supposed to be loving the atheist community -- definitely not judging them.”
Wow. Perhaps reality isn’t like the popular misconception of Atheist by the mainstream? Perhaps your preacher is wrong when he says that Atheists are morally corrupt? Perhaps the Boy Scouts are wrong in teaching that Atheists are thieves?

Maybe there is a chance that the portrayal of Atheists on television will improve. Perhaps that will allow Americans to become more open minded, and see Atheists as normal people, as citizens, as human.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The show was aired last night (10 Aug) Did anyone see it?

No real sparks were thrown from what I understand. No change of heart from either the Christian or Atheist camps either.

However, the Christian family came out of it looking slightly bad - but it looks like there was bias there from the show's producer.

Brenda, tonight's atheist, comes off in some ways as more conventionally "Christian" than her apparently affluent, Bible church-attending hosts, who bristle at the suggestion that their church spends a lot of money on "infrastructure" and wonder why people object to Christians having "nice things."