Atheists in The Office

In case you missed The Office this week, Dwight is the interim regional manager. One of the things he does with his power trip is make all the employees say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The camera then pans in on Oscar keeping his mouth shut while everyone else says “Under God” (sorry, non-Hulu people!):

Later in the episode, as Gabe confesses his love for Erin, his lovely monologue includes a whole lot of backpedaling about God:

Gabe: Erin, I am in love with you. I don’t believe in much. I don’t believe in horoscopes. I don’t believe in Christmas. I sure as hell don’t believe in God…

[Erin winces]

… or maybe there’s a god, I don’t, I don’t know, I mean, it’s just not a guy with a long, white beard…

[Erin winces again]

… or it could be. I mean, it’s possible that that is exactly what God is. But for all of the disbelief, I believe in us.

It’s nice to see atheists in a mainstream show. Gabe is pretty neurotic, but Oscar tends to be the rational, intelligent guy on the show. I don’t know if Ricky Gervais had anything to do with the atheism references, but I’d love to see more of them :)

(Thanks to Curt for the link!)

  • Jason

    I watched this and when I saw these references I thought to myself, “I wonder if Hemant is watching this”. Thanks for putting this up!

  • Jade

    Yay! I was hoping you would post something about this – I was actually going to message you yesterday but couldn’t really find a sufficient link for it.

    The Office is one of my favorite shows, and I thought it was great that they focused so heavily on the atheist stuff this past week. I wasn’t sure if Oscar’s omission of “under God” was an atheist move or a staunch “separation of Church and state” move. But either way, it was fabulous. Thanks for posting!

  • NewEnglandBob

    So far, I have a perfect record. I have missed EVERY episode of that show.

  • Meredith

    I watched it, saw both of the references and grinned broadly each time.

  • Don Pope

    As soon as they started reciting the pledge I was watching for it
    and… Jackpot!

    The Gabe thing I wasn’t expecting at all.

  • Larry Meredith

    that show hasn’t been good since season 5.
    new characters like Erin and Gabe is are cartoonishly unrealistic. Erin is far too ditzy and gullible. The writing has just been getting worse and worse and just because they did something that shed some positive light on atheism doesn’t redeem it. It’s a lame show and Steve Carell isn’t even jumping off a sinking ship by not renewing his contract. He’s jumping off a ship that already sank and is at the bottom of the sea.

  • beckster

    There was also a good line when Angela says “Amen” at the end of the pledge. Because really it is basically a prayer.

  • John

    The problem with an atheist on “The Office” is that “The Office is A COMEDY SHOW, so the character is NOT TAKEN SERIOUSLY! Let’s see an atheist on a SERIOUS SHOW, like “Law and Order: SVU”, or something dealing with reality of some kind!

    • http://twitter.com/sowonrider Dood

       Haha “reality.” Yeah, sure.

  • Rob Bos

    The show “Bones”, which has a forensic anthropologist as its main character, has excellent portrayals of atheism in most of their main characters. The writers delight in introducing woo, and then tearing it down (a recent season had Booth meet a former compatriot as a ghost, then later, discovering it was a symptom of cancer).

    I like it a lot.

  • Dan

    John,

    Like Rob pointed out, there are atheists on some shows. Besides Brennan in Bones, Hugh Laurie’s character on House is an atheist. I seem to remember Dr Cox from Scrubs is also an atheist (and possibly Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory).

    What all the above people have in common is that they are chronically angry and/or emotionally detached. That is why I was so happy to see the hint that maybe Oscar on the Office is an atheist. He is probably the most normal, well adjusted, intelligent, and caring person on the show, so it was nice to see a possible atheist portrayed that way, instead of feeding into all the stereotypes of the atheist as an anti-social rational robot who doesn’t understand emotions.

  • Rieux

    Oscar’s nonbelief isn’t actually news: four years ago, he identified himself to the other Dunder Mifflin employees as a secular humanist. So we’ve known that he’s “one of us” for a while now.

    Gabe—eh, I don’t think we’re going to be putting him on FFRF ads.

  • cbc

    I haven’t had a chance to watch it all the way through. But after watching the Pledge Scene, I wonder if I’m alone in feeling that part of the joke is at the expense of those who refrain from saying “under god.” It almost seems like part of the joke is “oh yeah, you made a BIG difference there, way to go.” And the transcript of the Gabe/Erin exchange seems to make a joke out of non-belief as well. I know it’s a comedy show, and it wouldn’t be so popular if it weren’t, well, funny, I’m just not sure this is such cause for celebration.

    Of course, I could be overanalyzing, as usual.

  • http://betterthanesdras.wordpress.com Abbie

    I saw that ep but totally missed the pledge scene. That’s pretty awesome.

    I may be delusional, but I think The Office has been better recently… kind of was in a desperate see-what-sticks mode for a while. Hopefully Carrell’s leaving will reinvigorate it.

  • Gregory Marshall

    When Oscar omitted god during the pledge, I turned to my wife and said “Ah, Oscar’s an atheist, he omitted god from the pledge like I do.”

  • mike

    Oscar revealed in a previous episode that he was raised catholic, but now identifies himself as a secular humanist.

  • http://kaleenamenke.blogspot.com Kaleena

    I was impressed by the “shout-outs” in this episode too!

  • http://sunombreenvano.blogspot.com/ Diego, El Mapache

    It would have been awesome if Jim had done that. Part of my admiration for him died when he christened his daughter. But, hell, he married an awesome girl and he receives points for that.

    I don’t see how is bad that a couple of the last characters are cartoonish when we already had Dwight and Michael to begin with.

    Finally, they’ve made fun of Angela for a long time.

  • Peter Mahoney

    To those who complain that these TV atheists are just there in a “comedy show”, I say we should rejoice at atheists being in every show we find them in.

    Comedy is a GREAT way to get mainstream folks comfortable with a new idea, with accepting a new group, etc.

    Remember the sit-com “Three’s Company”, where Jack Ritter was straight but “pretended” to be gay? His pretend gayness was silly, juvenile, stereotypical, making a caricature of what a gay guy is like. BUT, it gave America a chance to laugh about the topic, removed it from being taboo, and his character was endearing. Thus, vicariously viewers could feel that they had actually met or seen a gay (albeit just a tv character) and still liked him.

    I say we celebrate whatever inroads we get.

  • CounterPoint

    Different Perspective:

    Imagine you are in a mainstream family watching this show. You are a young person who is pretty sure that you are an atheist watching this with your religous family, whom you are afraid to “come out” to.

    Oscar, the homosexual latino character displays his atheism by not saying under god in the pledge.

    Father of the family turns and says to rest of family “See, the God hating homo also hates his country.”

    Remember, we aren’t the audience for an NBC sitcom that comes on Thursday nights.

    Discuss

  • Craig

    On Bones:

    It’s a show I really like, and I like how woo is often knocked down, but I agree that I don’t like how Booth is portrayed as having a better connection to people and the world and how his faith is doing it for him. It’s good to have good and decent people shown as atheists but I agree, more “normal” depictions of atheists would be a good thing.

  • Peter Mahoney

    @CounterPoint: in your scenario, where the viewer audience has a dad who is a bigot against atheists, I think it’s good that the atheist children who are in the closet know their father’s bias, so they can make an informed decision whether to stay in the closet a while longer.

    Conversely, if Dad says “hmmm, reminds me of Uncle Bob and Aunt Stephanie, their atheists you know, and thy’re lovely folks”, then the kids will know it’s not so taboo to discuss in their home.


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