I Was Wrong About Who Would Be #1 on This List

Steve Major has a nice list of the Top Ten Atheist Characters on Television at Humanist Network News.

#2 is Daria:

Is anyone missing from the list who should be on there?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • MichaelD

    No love for BSG?

    • http://twitter.com/RinnosukeETQW Jeff Simons

      Who would they say from that? Baltar? he converted at the end. Then again god in that universe is real.

      • MichaelD

        Umm Commander Adama…

        • Earl G.

          He even got called “Admiral Atheist” at least once.

        • Drew M.

          He became a believer though, courtesy of of Roslin. Would he count?

    • http://twitter.com/RinnosukeETQW Jeff Simons

      Now that I say that I realized Cavil/1 but then again he was an ass.

  • http://twitter.com/AgingGothMom Alessia

    Cleveland Jr. on The Cleveland Show is an atheist

  • Ritch

    Michael “Meathead” Stivic. 

    • brianmacker

      The list was supposed to be of admirable atheist characters on TV.   He was a loafing bum loser, and a socialist to boot.

      • Murph

        Thank you for participating, Archie.

        • brianmacker

          At least Archie paid his own way, Meathead.

  • Cole

    No Malcolm Reynolds? *nerdrage*

    • sesoron

       Even Book doesn’t care what he believes in, as long as he believes in something! <3 Joss

    • brianmacker

      Calm down and please don’t kick anyone into a running Firefly engine.   Average humans are flawed so it is understandable he wouldn’t make the list.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Sgt. Arthur Dietrich from Barney Miller, played by Steve Landesberg.  I’m not sure what the first episode was that his atheism was discussed, but he started on the show in 1975.  Any earlier examples?In one episode Barney asks “So suppose you die and find yourself standing in front of the pearly gates, ready to be judged?”  Dietrich just looks at him blankly and says “Oops.”

    • freemage

      In retrospect (I was a pre-teen when I actually watched that show in re-runs, but I do remember Dietrich), that was a rather odd line for them to give to Barney–he was Jewish.  They generally don’t do the whole “Pearly Gates” thing (fairly few–and I use that modifier simply because I don’t know the details EVERY flavor of Judaism–Jews believe they got to Heaven the way Christians describe it).  So really, if there’s Pearly Gates, that means the Christians or Muslims are right, and Barney’s gonna have almost as much apologizin’ to do as Dietrich, anyway.

  • Drew84

    I think the Doctor in Doctor Who is an atheist, if that is true then he should be on the list perhaps even on the top considering he has been around for nearly 50 years.

    • Jeff Xenobuilder

      From your point of view he may be 50, but from his point of view he’s well over 900 years old now.  :-)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUYAWTK33Yw

      • Drew84

        I’m talking about how long the character has been around for not his age which is now 1103.

        • Jeff Xenobuilder

           I thought it was obvious that I was joking.

          • Drew84

            I was just playing along lol.

            • brianmacker

              Who is this doctor you are talking about?  Dr who?

    • MC

      He is probably not an atheist, since the Whoniverse does have supernatural powers, assuming the White and Black Guardians count as gods. Jack Harkness, though, is certainly an atheist.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Maddie’s (Cybill Shepherd) atheism was brought up a few times on Moonlighting (in contrast with Bruce Willis’s David).

    The reference to Picard on TNG was a good one, but we should remember that Roddenberry was an atheist, and all the Star Trek series carried that sense. None of the characters had any obvious religion, and numerous episodes revealed gods as nothing more than advanced (and often immature) aliens. There was no supernatural.

    • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

      Hmm, I’d dispute the idea that none of the characters had any obvious religion.  I think McCoy was very clearly a theist of some sort, and Worf and B’Elanna both believed in the Klingon faith.  Neelix also believed in the Talaxian faith, although I don’t remember if his faith was just shaken or completely lost when he had his Near Death Experience.  The Bajorans were clearly religious, although their religion was explicitly presented as worship of advanced beings.  Chakotay was definitely spiritual, if not religious.  All that said, the franchise has definitely presented religion as primitive and less advanced, and the only real god-character on the show, Q, was an immature trickster.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I guess I should have said “theistic religion”. Most, if not all advanced species seemed to have no religion at all, or something more akin to Buddhism (perhaps of a violent flavor). Theistic religion was largely reserved for “primitives” that were run across from time to time.

        In any case, a series that produced hundreds of episodes and involved many writers obviously covered a lot of ground. But I think my assertion that the entire series, from the beginning, was substantially atheist, and even anti-religion, generally holds up.

        (There were a number of funerals on different episodes- I remember all of them as highly secular in nature. Were there any religious ones- in the Sky Daddy sense- that you remember? Certainly, if religion were going to pop up overtly, a funeral scene would be a likely place for it.)

        • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

          And I agreed with you that it tended to look down on theistic religions.  I just disagreed with the assertion that none of the characters were religious.

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

         Scotty was an atheist. I forget which one of them it was, but either Bones or Kirk told Apollo “Scotty doesn’t believe in gods.”

    • linford86

      Depends on which series actually. Voyager had a bunch of weird episodes, dealing with Klingon and Vulcan religion. Chakote had stereotypical native American spiritual stuff. But TNG was very humanist.

      • Icaarus

        Just a reminder Voyager was after Roddenberry’s death, so he didn’t have anything to do with those characters. 

        • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

          It was also basically run by Rick Berman, who, if I’m not mistaken, is blamed by many for the franchise not addressing LGBT issues more directly.

  • freemage

    The inclusion of Bones irritated me, mainly because of how they write most of her atheism–she comes across as the stereotyped “angry at God” atheist, who supposedly believes deep down, but just hates God because something bad happened to them.  It’s… really annoying, because it makes her seem shrill and irrational, in comparison to Boothe’s ‘straight-shooting’ Catholicism.

    • Icaarus

      Well that and she’s a great example of a hyper-rationalist

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgNZ9aTEwc

      • sesoron

         I was definitely about to invoke the phrase “Straw Vulcan”. Nicely preempted.

    • brianmacker

      She also comes across, well is, a socially inept idiot.   I watched the show for a while and it started bothering me so much I couldn’t stomach it any more.   They write her lines like she is some alien plopped down on earth with no understanding of basic human culture.

  • ConureDelSol

    Hmm…I think Bones should’ve been the #1, but I suppose Patrick Jane works.

  • Icaarus

    Kurt should either be first or disqualified, simply on the grounds that kurt isn’t really a character, but is in fact the characterization of the actor to fit the needs of plot, and one of the most well rounded faithless characters on TV. I’d vote for Sue to be on the list.

    • rlrose328

      From his own speech from the episode about God, he revealed he’s a situational atheist, saying why would God allow this or that.  While I adore him, I think he desperately wants to believe in a God but because he’s a persecuted gay, that means there must be no god.  I don’t count situational atheists as atheists.

      • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

        I don’t count Scotsmen who don’t like haggis as true Scotsmen.

  • Vukota

    How about Dexter? Ok, maybe a serial killer who talks to the ghost of his dead father isn’t the best representative of atheism, but he’s still cool in my book!  

  • Wmontana

     The number one spot is and always shall be Benjamin Franklin Pierce, aka “Hawkeye” played by Alan Alda in MASH.

    • brianmacker

      Was he an atheist?   I remember him making quips like “I don’t believe in atheism”.   He was an agnostic for sure but I’m not sure they clarified whether he was a theistic agnostic or a atheistic agnostic.  I’m not sure that quote was supposed to be sarcastic or not so I’m not sure how it count.    The Hawkeye character was so sactimonious and his oppositional foils such blantant sterotypes that the show used to make me want to puke.   I felt like I was morality play for liberals.

      • Murph

        The show was very good in its first few seasons. After it became The Alan Alda Show, it was pretty bad.

  • advancedatheist

    Carl Grimes in a 2nd season episode of The Walking Dead says “Heaven is just another lie, and if you believe it you’re an idiot!”

  • randomarguments

    How about Sherlock (BBC) and I suppose if literature was in the list, the original Sherlock Holmes. 

  • bulletproofheeb

    I’m always surprised that nothing from Stargate SG-1 makes it into these lists. That show was the definition of militant atheist:  a military team that travels from world to world encouraging people to throw off any notions of gods ruling them.

    • brianmacker

      I watched the show and the spinoffs.  Don’t remember any out and out atheists.   I do like to give the benefit of the doubt to intelligent characters who never bring up the subject but I’m pretty sure a Christian watching the same thing would assume the opposite.

  • Bill Haines

    My own top pick would be Bones.  

    The list is US-centric, missing characters like Andy Millman from the British sitcom Extras — probably the most glaring omission, since he was played by Ricky Gervais.  

  • Musical Atheist

    Tara Thornton from True Blood! How could anyone forget her? She declares herself an atheist explicitly in season four,although she has been portrayed as sceptical of the Christian church throughout. Of course, she does have to engage with vampires, werewolves, witches and fairies, but she’s so far remained resolute in denying the likelihood of God. She’s also a brave, loyal woman of tremendous originality, intelligence, love and integrity.  (Warning: spoiler on the link if you haven’t seen series 5.)

    http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0060865/bio

  • brianmacker

    Carl Dixon on Good Times.  Openly atheist and not some abnormal freak.

  • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andy Laa

    Han Solo…but then again he does start to believe in “Jedi-ism” towards the end…but then again…again, it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is true…

    Hmmmmmm….
    Another vote for Mal Reynolds, anyway.


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