Why Scooby Doo Should Matter to Atheists

I’d never seen the show enough to make the connection but Chris Sims makes a strong case that Scooby-Doo is like a morality tale for Secular Humanists (emphases his):


Because that’s the thing about Scooby-Doo: The bad guys in every episode aren’t monsters, they’re liars.

I can’t imagine how scandalized those critics who were relieved to have something that was mild enough to not excite their kids would’ve been if they’d stopped for a second and realized what was actually going on. The very first rule of Scooby-Doo, the single premise that sits at the heart of their adventures, is that the world is full of grown-ups who lie to kids, and that it’s up to those kids to figure out what those lies are and call them on it, even if there are other adults who believe those lies with every fiber of their being. And the way that you win isn’t through supernatural powers, or even through fighting. The way that you win is by doing the most dangerous thing that any person being lied to by someone in power can do: You think.

Not only does it embrace the idea of the gang seeking out the truth behind the crooks who prey on superstition, it does so to the extreme where they’re pit against an entire town of adults who lie to them. It’s particularly telling that Velma, who has always been the show’s most iconic thinker, is seen in direct conflict with her parents, who have a vested interest in keeping up the lie of Crystal Cove being a haunted town in order to sell their souvenirs. She ends up valuing the truth more than her own self-interest, and in the end, so does Fred, on a much more personal level.

There’s a lot of truth to that. After all, what scares you more? Frankenstein or a Christian pastor who thinks the Bible ought to be the playbook for your life? The former might send a temporary chill up your spine, but the latter permanently ruins lives by convincing so many people that he’s right, hurting their ability to think rationally, manipulating them into giving up their money (even when they don’t have any give), convincing them that people who don’t fall in line with the faith are eternally condemned, and persuading them to put their lives in control of an imaginary being instead of taking full control of it themselves.

(via Boing Boing)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/Victoriaed90 Victoria

    this makes me think of the beat poem Storm by Tim Minchin. He makes this same point. http://youtu.be/HhGuXCuDb1U

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Irvine/506893850 Andrew Irvine

      Tim uses the Scooby Doo comparison in his act.

  • http://twitter.com/TortugaSkeptic A secret red slider

    We love Scooby and its critical thinking ways.  They’ve also become pretty progressive towards the female characters, Daphne it particular, has come a long way.  It has the added benefit of keeping my son out of Catholic churches or, as he put it, the spooky castles.

  • L.Long

    I LOVE Scooby and I’m very glad that my Grandkids do to.
    In fact when I Granddaughter was afraid of ghosts I used the Scooby show about ghosts to help explain there are no ghosts.

    Frankenstein monster or Preacher???  And how many people did the monster harm???
    If I even see a preacher  I automatically think con man and crook! He has to prove he aint one.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    Velma had parents? I think I missed that episode…

    • Michael White

      The article is talking about the new series specifically. The whole gang has parents now. 

    • Stogoe

      The article is not specifically about the new series, but the new series is good.  Can’t wait for the next season.

  • Jade

    Agreed. Major kudos to Scooby Doo in a world full of movie and television shows portraying skeptics as the bad guys.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JTBMQYMFVZMKNCXIMISICQ3Z6E Anonymous

    unfortunately, the scooby movies shanked all that and made the monsters real.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

      There was a period of time where that was true, but they are back to normal now.

  • Kyt Dotson

    Frankenstein doesn’t scare me in the least. Victor is a stupidly monstrous parent and much of Adam’s motivation at acting like a monster are rather well laid out–although he does become somewhat psychopathic in the end.

  • Dekkard1

    Fantastic post.

  • Shanti

    W.W.S.D????? (and to reiterate, check out “Storm” by Tim Minchin. you will not be disappointed!)

  • Dan W

    That’s one of the things I liked about Scooby Doo, that the bad guys were never real monsters but always adults in disguise. Too bad I didn’t see many episodes of it when I was a kid.

  • Anonymous

    Hemant, you never watched Scooby Doo as a child? That’s sad. It is perhaps one of the most classic American cartoons of all time.

  • L McCarty

    If you must watch telly, you should watch Scooby Doo.
    That show was so cool
    because every time there was a church with a ghoul
    Or a ghost in a school
    They looked beneath the mask and what was inside?
    The fucking janitor or the dude who ran the water-slide.
    Because throughout history
    Every mystery
    EVER solved has turned out to be
    NOT magic. – Tim Minchin

    • Rob Grikmeer

      And if perchance I have offended,
      Think but this and all is mended,
      We’d as well be ten minutes back in time,
      for all the chance you’ll change your mind

  • rob smith

    There are two major problems with Scooby-doo. 

    First, the show’s two main heroes are 

    • Anonymous

      According to my husband, Velma is the most sexy cartoon character ever created… and I’m okay with that.  :-)

      • rob smith

        Way to miss the point.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      As the linked article says, Velma’s heroism is subtle and probably unintentional. Scooby and Shaggy not learning is kind of critical to the show’s formula. They make the perfect foil because of their inability to think about what’s going on.

      Making Velma’s contributions more overt isn’t necessary. You’d just have a Captain Planet of critical analysis, with Scrappy Velma giving a monologue and annoying everyone.

      • rob smith

        I can’t believe I’m arguing about this, but here goes.

        You’re missing my point.  Shaggy and Scooby were clearly designed by HB to be the appealing ones.  Velma was designed to be less appealing to kids, by having her to conform to several stereotypically nerdy traits.  It’s as though HB didn’t want the intelligent, observant critical thinker to be the hero of the show.  

        Well, fair enough, it’s their show and they know better than I do what sells. I’m not suggesting that they should have made the show differently, just that there are some aspects of the show that I think make it struggle as a morality tale for critical thinkers.

        • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

          You had two points. I focused more on your first one before, but your second about Velma as some kind of object of loathing is unjustified.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The latest phony supernatural monster is unmasked!

    • Trace

      I knew it was the caretaker all along.

  • Sinfanti

    I can almost hear it now…  “And I would’ve gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you pesky atheists, humanists and skeptics!”

    • Michael Appleman

      One of my favorite moments in the new show was when they unveiled the bad guy of the episode, and it was another kid. “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling PEERS!”

  • Chris Hughes

    Scooby Doo? Lamest of the lame. Certainly the most annoying of  the cheap, limited animation programmes.

    • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

      *swoosh* What’s that? The point went over your head?
      All of the older cartoons were bad compared to the advances in animation that we have right now. Hemant is just saying that it’s a good tool to teach kids about skepticism.

  • Anonymous

    Jinkies.

  • Michael

    Now you put it that way it makes me wonder if the lesbian subtext was intentional.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, so next thread I want to see how Jonny Quest stands up with secularism!

  • Robbie

    The Scooby-Doo series was the anti-X-Files, but unfortunately, the new movies and shows have thrown out the only thing that made Scooby-Doo unique by having the monsters be real now.

    • Stogoe

      The movies were awful, to be sure, but Scooby Doo Mystery Inc has all-fake monsters, is episodic but with a deep myth arc, and actual character growth.  I recommend it if you like things that are good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    There was a spin-off show for a period of time somewhere in the 90s (had the Gang as babies, ugh) where the monsters/ghosts/etc. were real.  I was sorely disappointed.  Perhaps even worse, I believe that spin-off included SCRAPPY DOO.  UGH!!!

    I was very pleased to discover that the new Scooby Doo movies (not be confused with The New Scooby Doo Movies, by the way) have gone back to its former skeptical bent.

  • walkamungus

    Gosh, I saw all of the original Scooby Doo cartoons when they were first aired, back in … 1968? This argument is certainly true for the original episodes, even the ones from the mid-70s with Scrappy and Scooby Dum.

  • mingfrommongo

    Even though the mystery always turned out to be not ghosts, I was always freaked out by Scooby Doo. No matter where the gang was, the wind would kick up and the same tumbleweed and piece of paper would blow by, often several times in the same episode, always right to left. Freaky.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      There did seem to be a supernatural right-to-left wind. Sinister.

  • Jolly Banker

    You’re thoughts on the quote are a straw man argument.  You’ve used as your example the worst kind, that much of Christianity wouldn’t claim as legitimate. It would be like if we
    used Stalin’s atheism (when he basically starved millions, among other things) or the Columbine shooters (who were atheists) to paint all atheists the same way. I’m sure you’re not as ruthless as that (as with most atheistic types), just as most Christian pastors, and Christian laypersons are not money swindling thieves. In terms of thinking rationally, unfortunately Christians in the last 150 years have not been strong in it’s pursuit of engaging the culture intellectually, but this does not mean that Christians cannot think rationally. It’s unfair to argue that Pastor’s encourage the people to think irrationally.
    Christianity (or even God’s existence) has been and is still a robustly defensible and intellectually thorough (See: Willaim Lane Craig, C.S. Lewis, Alvin Platinga, and so forth). Additionally, millions upon millions would not say their life was ruined because of Christianity. Just because your perspective tells you that this is a great evil in the world and would ‘ruins people’s lives’ does not make it true. In regards to the Scooby Doo parallel,
    it’s a good thought, but still just because you call it a lie and just because you say Christians do not think rationally does not make this true. 

    *edited for formatting.

    • rob smith

      “It’s unfair to argue that Pastor’s encourage the people to think irrationally.”

      There’s nothing rational about believing enormously improbable things without evidence. Pastors encourage such things pretty much all the time, don’t they, by telling people that stuff in the bible is true?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Much love for Scooby.

  • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

    Another reason to love Scooby: his defining features are a big fuck-you to traditional breeding programs.

    “”There was a lady at (Hanna-Barbera) that bred Great Danes,” Takamoto
    explained. “She showed me some pictures and talked about the important
    points of a Great Dane, like a straight back, straight legs, small chin
    and such. I decided to go the opposite and gave him a hump back, bowed
    legs, big chin and such. Even his color is wrong.” – Designer Iwao Takamoto


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