On Black Sitcom, Atheist Character is Undateable

There’s a show called “Belle’s” on TV One, a network geared toward African-American viewers. (We can add both of those to the List of Things I Learned Existed About Four Seconds Ago.)

On the most recent episode, Jil Cooper introduced her boyfriend Jack to her family. (Get it? Jack and Jil!) Just one problem: Jack is an atheist — something even Jil didn’t know about — and father Big Bill Cooper can’t deal with it.

(Neither can the show’s staff, apparently. A description of the episode reads: “Jill meets the perfect guy and invites him to dinner for an introduction to Bill and the family. His imperfection is revealed and Jill has to decide whether or not to continue dating him.”)

Jil and Jack at dinner

The relevant scene begins at the 10:23 mark below:

Big Bill Cooper: So you became an atheist when… after seeing some traumatic event covering the war?

Jil Cooper: Or maybe somebody dropped you on your head when you were a baby or something like that.

Big Bill Cooper: I said I’ll handle this!

(Boyfriend) Jack: Actually, sir, it was a decision based on science, reason, and logic.

Jack: Just so I can understand this, so if I were a drug dealer or a bank robber, and I go to church and I confess my sins, you would welcome me with open arms?

Big Bill Cooper: Mhmm…

Jack: But because I’m an atheist, I can’t be forgiven?

Big Bill Cooper: Because a drug dealer and bank robber can be saved.

Jack: And I can’t? I thought your God forgives everybody.

Big Bill Cooper: Oh, he does. And when he gets around to you, you come back and see me.

So we all know how this will end: Jil finds a way to understand Jack, Jack and Bill reconcile their differences, and everyone has a happy ending.

Oh, that’s sooooo not how this goes down.

After that scene, Jil confronts Jack about his atheism. She’s pissed off — irrationally pissed off, I might add. She berates Jack for attending a church service with her (“I love the music!” he says). He apologizes for not admitting his atheism earlier. They embrace. It looks like things are kind of resolved. Yay!

But after their kiss, she says to him, “If your heart worked as good as your lips, you’d be one hell of a man.” (Say WHAT?!) She wonders how he can love anybody if he doesn’t love God.

Then we return to subplot #2 some time after that scene. Big Bill Cooper comes back to comfort his daughter. He tells her:

“I got halfway home and I realized there was something that needed to be said. You know the most important thing in my life is seeing my children happy…”

Oh! We know where this is going! He’s gonna tell her it’s ok if she dates an atheist, because all that matters is that they love each other! Right?!

Nope.

Big Bill Cooper: … I need to know: Are you so in love with that young man that life would be unbearable without him?

Jil Cooper: It’s ok, dad. It’s settled. I told Jack I… I never want to see him again.

Big Bill Cooper: And you’re okay with that decision?

Jil Cooper: I am.

Big Bill Cooper: Thank god! [He hugs her.]

[Cue end-of-show music]

What. The. Hell.

That’s the worst possible ending! What sort of lesson was learned?! Don’t date someone who relies on logic instead of nonsense? They never even gave him a chance to defend himself.

It’s not that a show couldn’t end this way… but I was at least expecting some sort of reconciliation between the atheist and religious characters (like that “Malibu Country” episode). There was nothing of the sort here. Not even an attempt. They never felt ashamed for stereotyping Jack as an “unsaved”-and-therefore-undateable guy. It was perfectly fine for the writers to throw the atheist character under the bus.

I have some ideas for how they could have ended it: Why not have the atheist character save the father’s life in some way? Why not have the atheist talk about how he respects Jil even though he doesn’t agree with her personal faith? Why not show Jil having a crisis of faith? Why not have the atheist experience a minor miracle that makes him think twice about God’s existence?

All of those would have been more interesting than what actually happened — dropping the storyline and just letting Jil break up with him for the “sin” of being an atheist.

What a letdown.

It’s like the writers took a page from the Steve Harvey playbook. The television/radio personality once told Tyra Banks about the advice he gives to women searching for a good man:

You need to get into some personal stuff: What’s his relationship with his mom? How does he feel about children? Does he have a relationship with God?

You sitting up there talking to a dude and he tells you he’s an atheist, you need to pack it up and go home. You talking to a person who don’t believe in God… what’s his moral barometer? Where’s it at? It’s nowhere. You gotta get into this stuff.

It was bad advice then, it’s bad advice now, and it’s still being perpetuated.

*Hemant breathes out*… Ok. In the writers’ defense (and I say this from my limited understanding of black culture), they could argue that the plot is actually pretty realistic. That’s what happens in many black families and this show was just a reflection of that. Art imitates life, after all.

I guess I just hold out hope that good writers — especially in a sitcom — can see past bigotry like that and offer a more idealistic ending, showing the audience that there is indeed a way to deal with situations like these in a positive way. There’s a way for us to expand our level of tolerance, even when our prejudices seem unshakeable.

In this case, the writers took the most disappointing way out. For shame…

For what it’s worth, some of the commenters on the show’s website feel the same way:

It would be wonderful if the writers returned to this storyline in the future and fixed their mistake. I don’t think it’ll happen… but I also didn’t think it was possible for a show to end like this.

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.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Personally I call that a lucky escape for Jack. Any family who would prefer the company of bank robbers and drug dealers to an atheist is not one I’d willingly be with.

    • Mario Strada

      And… there is that. Where I in Jack’s shoes I would feel fortunate.

    • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

      This.

      I’m really glad they didn’t have him experience a minor miracle and start questioning his unbelief, because that’s really overdone. At least the character got to remain true to himself, rather than being bludgeoned by the narrative to change.

  • ganner918

    Replace “atheist” with Muslim or Jew or Hindu and this episode would be considered to be blatantly bigoted and offensive.

    • Mario Strada

      No kidding. Especially considering how many black, Muslims there are.

      • Paula M Smolik

        No comma in black Muslims. What are you doing?

        • Mario Strada

          Stupid Keyboard. The comma is right below the K key.
          I won’t edit the post ofr we’ll seem insane, but the comma wasn’t supposed to be there. Just a combination of fat fingers and tiny keys.

  • Rain

    Big Bill Cooper: Oh, he does. And when he gets around to you, you come back and see me.

    So he’s supposed to wait for an invisible person that never says anything to “get around to” doing something invisibly. Yeah, welcome to the stupidity of religion.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    “If your heart worked as good as your lips” is a line Jack should have returned back to her.

    • http://www.facebook.com/robkerrmcr Rob Kerr

      Perhaps substituting ‘heart’ with ‘brain’.

  • HomerThompson

    Anti intellectualism is a huge problem in the Black community. We are encouraged by our peers and elders not to be different or even question the status quo. We are doomed until that mentality changes. Also, the more realistic outcome to that TV scenario is that the atheist suitor would simply lie about caring about god the way that religionist lie about the believing in god. They don’t. We all know it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=700851737 Sam Kay

      Very well said on the first part. However, I would hope that an atheist wouldn’t pretend to believe in god to keep a relationship under false pretenses. And I think you’re wrong also about theists not believing in God. Some may pretend to fit in, but I think many honestly believe it. It’s a fantasy most of them have been told is reality since they were children.

      • HomerThompson

        Sam, I think we’re on the same page for the most part. People lie about all sorts of things to keep their relationships together. Much more important things than that I would say.

        I think reasonable non-believers can disagree about whether theists actually believe. I have to admit that I’ve moved on from a simplistic explanation of belief – i.e. I want evidence. I want to see someone change behavior that they discover to be interdicted instead of explaining to me why a plain reading is incorrect and naive.

        I will believe that they believe when their fervor matches their level of responsibility. It’s easy to be anti-gay when you’re not gay. Where are the indignant lynch mobs when it comes to casual divorce or even rampant domestic/child abuse?

        I will believe that they believe when they actually use god to make a decision. I’ll believe it when they live as if there were a spiritual realm of foreverness instead of like atheists; many of whom believe that there is no hereafter.

        I will believe it when they convincingly look forward to death.

        I just don’t but it and they give me reason to doubt it with every breath.

        • Georgina

          Or even celebrate the promotion/reward of an RCC pope, instead of all that wailing and gnashing of teeth ‘cos the poor old bugger is dead.

  • MacCrocodile

    For what it’s worth, they wrote the atheist as a good person. The breakup scene was a little weak, but the character has depth, and that doesn’t just happen on its own. The writers gave him that, and made him sound rational. Other Christian writers might have given his reason for being an atheist as “Well, when my father died, I was so angry at God, I just decided not to worship Him any more.” or “I have yet to feel Jesus Christ’s love in my life. Nobody ever witnessed to me as a child.”
    And let’s be honest; many of us would have a hard time dating a born-again Christian. The fact that the relationship just ended due to irreconcilable differences is sure a whole hell of a lot better (and believable) than if it had ended with Jack being saved.

    • Mario Strada

      I noticed that too. It could have been a lot worse. Still, I doubt the writers wanted to make a point of how close minded and full of prejudice her and her family were.
      This looks to me like a group effort where at least one of the writers may be an atheist and was ruled out on most points. He or she could be the one crafting the line “science and reason”. Then the others took over and finished the episode.

    • ganner918

      And had it been framed as “faith is too much a part of my life and my family’s life to date/marry outside of it,” then that would have been much better and very different than “atheists don’t have working hearts, have no basis for morality, and aren’t worthy of dating me/my daughter.”

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        Yes, exactly. “We’re just too different” is a fine reason for ending a relationship. “I think you’re defective because you don’t believe in God” sucks.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          here’s a true story about black believers and atheists: my BIL is a very devout Christian. he’s intelligent, attractive, and actually follows the “teachings of Christ,” and is not a hypocrite. my sister is a hard core atheist.

          when they first started dating and were getting Serious (knowing marriage could be an option) he started to insist that she go to church with him, and profess similar beliefs to his own.

          she dumped his ass. for two years, they dated other people. then, knowing she’s beautiful and awesome (she is) and wanting her to be the mother of his children, he toned it down. they started dating again, and eventually married.

          he did not insist that she pray with him, or go to church. he only asked to introduce their children to his Christian faith, and she agreed, but with the caveat that she be allowed to explain to them about other faiths, and atheism. their children currently go to, you’ll love this, a Jewish-themed school.

          love conquers all, even religious stupidity.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jevon.myles Jevon Jv Myles

            Though a lovely story, there is a fundamental difference. I don’t believe if your sister was a Christian that she would be willing to make that change for the your brother-in-law. I’ve found that women (especially african american women) hold onto their religious beliefs way stronger than men, and are more likely to side with God than some atheist guy when it comes to being unequally yoked.

            If the roles were switched, I think we’d get something similar to what we saw in the above episode of Belle’s.

    • Art_Vandelay

      I agree completely. I’d be way more concerned about the way that show portrayed me if I were a Christian than I am as an atheist.

    • AxeGrrl

      Great post, MacCrocodile :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/alansimpson jediofpool

    No group of people do I have a harder time understanding their Christianity than African-Americans/Canadians. Talk about a short memory and/or a lack of historical education. The fundamentalists opposing homosexuality are even more baffling. They know they sound like white Christian fundamentalists from 50 years ago, right?

    • Dezzydez

      I don’t get it either. My ancestors were enslaved and treated inhumanly on the doctrines of the bible. Yet other blacks are super religious and look at me like something is wrong with me for being an atheist. I would not be able to marry my boyfriend of another race if we still went by the bible about interracial marriage.

      • http://www.twitter.com/alansimpson jediofpool

        It’s baffling. I really have to believe it’s just not knowing history. I hope that’s the case. It has to be tough being a minority within a minority; I applaud your courage on being an “out” black atheist. Especially when it comes to standing up to your family about interracial relationships.

      • Leigha7

        There was a poem we discussed in college that was written by a former slave, that essentially said that all that suffering was worth it because if they’d never been brought to America, they would never have known about God and would never have been saved (whether they truly believed that or it was a tool to gain acceptance from white Americans is up for debate).

        I think when you combine a history of religious beliefs, a country that is predominantly religious, and a religion that values suffering, it makes perfect sense for people to embrace religion even when it was used against them. If nothing else, it gives the previous suffering a purpose. I imagine that, for some people, “We were slaves, but at least it led to our eternal salvation” is a lot easier to stomach than, “We were slaves, for no other reason than the fact that people suck.” Religion is used that way a lot.

        Of course, the opposite reaction (being put off by a religion that was used against you/your ancestors) is also completely reasonable.

    • HomerThompson

      I say they do know how they sound. Keep in mind that many Black people supported segregation. There are tons of Black people who oppose interracial marriage even today. Not based on historical resentment but rather out of an independent sense of bigotry. (In other words, it wouldn’t be ok to date an Asian man either). Some people enjoy and more importantly profit from demagoguery and as you know it’s much easier to demonize and divide than to try to understand.

      • Dezzydez

        True. I know my parents had to get use to the idea I will be marrying someone of another race. They would prefer I marry a black man, but that is not going to happen. They want the idea of a strong black family, but I want a strong family without focusing on race. The black community will continue to disolve as long as there is an alliance between the community and church. The continued discrimination against atheists and LGBT will backfire as they lose the current and future generations of young blacks who do not want the religious aspects of our culture.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          i had a drinking buddy when i lived in chicago. he was Korean. his brother married… an Indian Hindu woman.

          his (Christian) Korean parents disowned him. it was really sad.

          people who love invisible beings more than their own children suck.

          adding: and after he became the First son, my buddy’s parents started setting him up dates, flying in Christian Korean women from Korea, so he could choose from the “right” kind of women. they’re rich, and totally unaware that he like white chicks who can drink and code computer languages.

          • cipher

            At one point, the Korean upper classes were heavily evangelized, so being a Christian has become associated with having “made it”. Also, apparently there was corruption within the Korean Buddhist clergy, so Christian Koreans tend to look down on Buddhism. At best, being a Buddhist is seen as being backward.

            I know a Korean-American woman whose parents are wealthy, and the mother is from an aristocratic background. She became involved in Tibetan Buddhism while in grad school at Harvard, and immediately after receiving her doctorate, she shaved her head and became a Buddhist nun. Her parents were beside themselves. Frankly, I think it accounts for much of the reason she did it.

          • AxeGrrl

            people who love invisible beings more than their own children suck.

            Nail. Head.

            This is one of the worst dangers of religious belief, imo. The prioritizing of the ‘vertical’ relationship with said nebulous deity over the ‘horizontal’ relationship(s) with other human beings.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lite.bright.50 Lite Bright

          “. They would prefer I marry a black man, but that is not going to happen. They want the idea of a strong black family, but I want a strong family without focusing on race.”

          But how do you know you won’t end up with a black man? Sounds like a definite no. You contradict yourself when you say race isn’t an issue….or do you mean any race, but your own. I’m attracted to all races too, but I’d never completely write off my own regardless of how much of an outsider I feel within my own race. Being agnostic & lesbian in the bible belt South, believe me, I know about feeling like an outcast. And the religion issue here isn’t just a concern within the black community…. in the bible belt, all races are religious. There are churches on every corner.

          • Dez

            Because I am in a long term relationship with someone of another race and also planning our wedding. That excludes black or any other race of men or women. The problem I have is the religious hold on the black community. Where I live even volunteering within the black community in non-religious events has some religion forced into because of the assumption that we believe the same.

    • Daarel

      What do Canadians have to do with it?

      • 3lemenope

        I think the slash was meant to be read as distributing the descriptor across the set:

        African-Americans/African-Canadians.

        • http://www.twitter.com/alansimpson jediofpool

          Exactly. I should have been more precise.

      • Evan

        You mean to tell me that there are black people in Canadia? Who knew?

        • http://www.twitter.com/alansimpson jediofpool

          There are! Most are descendants of the ones that left America on the Underground Railroad. Because slavery. ;-)

          • http://twitter.com/Crommunist Crommunist
            • http://www.twitter.com/alansimpson jediofpool

              CLOSE to true? Caps aren’t necessary, friend.

              Of course many black Canadians coming from other countries. In fact, many Canadians are 1st or 2nd immigrants from somewhere. It’s interesting that you took more hostility to my post than Evan’s. I was just making a point that there are in fact black people in “Canadia”, many of whom are descended from escaped slaves.

              As much as I hated to click on a freethoughts link, I did. I read your post(s). You write well and you were thorough with numbers you wanted to discuss. I didn’t see any numbers for the % of black Canadians who descended from escaped slaves. If you know where I can find that, please let me know. Seriously. I’m very curious.

        • Rich Rodgers

          Canadians are Americans. They’re on one of two American continents. I know it’s not the pop meaning, but I’ve always used it that way, growing up minutes from Canada.

  • Matto the Hun

    “She berates Jack for attending a church service with her (“I love the music!” he says). He apologizes for not admitting his atheism earlier.”

    Why should he? She (and her father) only prove why many atheists are reluctant to say we don’t believe. Maybe his answer should have been “Maybe I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d be a hypocritical bigot and act like you’re acting now.” Then he leaves and she’ll be left wondering “what if”. BOOM! That’s your fucking ending.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Utterback/500054477 Brian Utterback

      I agree that being of different faiths is sufficient reason to end the relationship, but to portray his atheism as making him some how damaged was just pure bigotry. But to be fair, the time to bring it up is either before going to church or perhaps immediately afterward. Once you know that faith is an important part of the other person’s life, then it isn’t fair to not bring it up.

    • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

      To be fair, letting the idiots know lets you avoid them.

  • LesterBallard

    Now I’ll be a friendly atheist; suck my sweaty balls, folks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=700851737 Sam Kay

    They actually characterized Jack as a decent and intelligent guy, so this story might have a better ending in a future episode. I almost feel like there’s an anti-religious tinge to the way the family reacted, especially the young guy with his praying you don’t get pulled over nonsense. It seems to mock religion (or at least people’s reasons for being religious), but maybe that’s just how I see it as an anti-theist.

  • Dezzydez

    In the black community religion plays such a big part that you lose your “black card” if you are not religious. I have been called heathen more times than I can count. Devil girl only once. And that’s from my parents. It’s only going to get worse when my parents find out I will not get married in the church and I will raise my children as atheists/agnostics. That will pretty much make me the black sheep of the family. I do not want to be an outcast because the black community is too blended with religion, but I refuse to fake being a theist to stay in the black community.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      That will pretty much make me the black sheep of the family.

      Doesn’t being a black sheep restore your ‘black card’?

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      this is very true. i’m sorry to say most of my friends are white or asian or other ‘races’ and not black (by which i only mean i wish i had more black friends). but my black family has always been not terribly religious. so we’re used to being outcasts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/desertraider91 Chad Phriday

      I’m black and I’m completely over this “black community” nonsense. There is only one human race. Skin colour is irrelevant. Just find cool, intelligent, tolerant people and you’re set for life. The time for tribalism is over.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lite.bright.50 Lite Bright

        I noticed you spelled color with a “u”, which most likely means you’re not American. “Black community” in America exists because of racism in the first place. While some things could use some work…the sense of a community in a racist society isn’t really “nonsense”. America’s history isn’t pretty when it comes to race relations and while things are better, the feelings are still there. It’s a lot more subtle of course. You seem to have good intentions, but be honest, this world is no “Kumbaya” utopia.

        • Chad Phriday

          Gandhi said to be the change you want to see in the world. I’m not opposed to the idea of there being a “black community” so much as I am opposed to the idea of trying to fit yourself into a group based on skin color regardless of whether the group represents what you are personally about or not. I hope to see a “kumbaya utopia” someday. The only alternative is our collective extinction and I’d rather not accept that possibility.

    • trickydix2000

      stand strong sista

  • Aguz

    “Look a wonderful person and exemplar human being… No wait, he’s an atheist, run!”
    Nice anvil there.

  • Randay

    That is the best way the writers could have ended it. No syrupy happy Hollywood ending. I don’t criticize writers for going against the “good feeling” standard especially on tv. I also think that people can see the absurd decision the young woman makes. It is not necessary to beat people over the head to pass a message. The scene is more subtle and I think effective than you apparently think.

    • DFS

      Sorry, I don’t buy this. That’s just not how sitcoms work. When the writers actually want to critique the actions of the main character it is usually made clear in the writing. It happened often on All in the Family when Archie Bunker’s bigoted attitudes were deliberately ridiculed. That’s not the case here.

  • DoubtingMarcus

    As someone who used to watch black tv shows like this, and knows the audience they are targeting, how low budget they are, and the quality of writing, I’m not surprised the show ended this way. As obviously bigoted as that ending was there was really only one other feasible option for a show like this and that would be Jack “seeing the light” of god and then being embraced by the family.

    Black shows like this are written by, and for, people so religious that they wouldn’t even have considered reconciliation with an atheist.

    • mobathome

      DoubtingMarcus:…there was really only one other feasible option for a show like this…

      A technical point: How about the atheist dies? Would that have be feasible?

  • JohnA

    How was this bad? A bigoted chick and her family reject a nice atheist, which is exactly what would happen in real life. No fake-ass “saved” bullshit or reconciling their differences. This show is real.

  • Just_posting

    Am i the only one who thought that Jack handled this respectfully but that the family was acting like a flock of stupid, imature kids?

  • http://twitter.com/porlob Patrick Orlob

    Huh. That kind of ending might be interesting and productive, if — IF — they come back around to it later on after Jil has had some personal growth and realizes “oh wait, I was being a horrible asshole.”

    Something tells me that’s unlikely, however.

  • jeff akston

    Can we please retire “African American”? It’s just laughably incorrect. So who is TV One’s audience in Canada? Canadian African Americans? African Canadians?

    Jesse Jackson decided he wanted people to be called African American. The rest of the world has largely ignored it. BET still calls them BET. TVOne’s masthead even says “Where Black Life Unfolds”

    • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

      Black refers to the culture and the people who adhere to the stereotypes and status-quo thereof. African Americans are people who have dark skin who have a racial tree mostly from the African continent who live in the Americas (which includes Canadians…).

      They’re two different concepts. Someone can be black without having dark skin, someone can be african american without being religious.

      • jeff akston

        I’m sure the black people in Canada would be surprised to find that they are “African Americans”. What about the African Americans in England or France or Haiti? Or what about people who live in American and are from South African or Rhodesian descent?

        It’s such a nonsensical term. Moreso, for such a progressive site, it’s such a American-centric term. We aren’t the center of the universe.

        “African American” is a moronic, inaccurate, and divisive term.

        • Oliver

          jeff, what is your solution then? Are you arguing return to the noble word “Negro”? Or you wish we had stopped at “Black”?

          “Laughably incorrect” “moronic, inaccurate, and divisive” — oh, like the trade that kidnapped people from the African continent and brought them in chains to the Americas? A trade that robbed them of knowledge of their actual origins in Africa, and made “one drop” of African heritage trump any European or American Indian blood?

          The United States doesn’t hold the monopoly on the term “America” either. A black Jamaican is in a way an African-American as well. If you can propose a better name, please be my guest. “Rhodesian descent”? You are really hanging on to the colonial past, aren’t you? For every Egyptian or white South African who says Black Americans “aren’t African” I say: I see your point, but go to hell. If you want to play semantic games with the identity of a structurally-discriminated people, go ahead making yourself feel good. Otherwise, please explain what is so offensive that relatively recently African-descended American people be referred to as such.

        • kaydenpat

          Rhodesia has been Zimbabwe since 1980.

    • Evan

      From now on everyone must refer to me as a European-America. The term white is offensive to my delicate sensibilities.

      • Oliver

        Sorry about the inconvenience, folks. I talked to all the other Black People and we’ll be reverting to “coon” to make you feel more comfortable.

        And you wonder why Black American Atheists can feel like outcasts in both the Black community and the Atheist community. A topic concerning Black folks pops up, and we have jerks debating terminology like this is Black History 101.

        I personally know of no Black person who is offended at being called Black. So I don’t understand why oafs like you constantly repeat this tired canard.

    • AxeGrrl

      Here’s a radical concept: how about we address people by whatever term/label they prefer?

      If I ever use the term ‘African American’ and the person I’m addressing tells me “I prefer the term ‘black’ over ‘African American‘”, I’ll respect that and use ‘black’ instead.

      I never understand why this is such an incendiary/controversial issue.

  • Neizha

    It is sad that they built a character that accurately portrays atheism and then treat him like crap and have the characters be so prejudice to him. And when they have the opportunity to say “We made a mistake, and were being prejudice assholes, sorry.” They retreat to the idea that he has no heart. Good job being bigoted jerks.

  • OaklandA’sBaby

    The only time I have racially insensitive thoughts about black people is when the topic is religion. You stupid bastards, you were given this religion at the end of a whip. WTF is wrong with you all? You see Roots and then you still get down with Jesus? Yikes. “Your name is Toby.”

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      it’s no different than poor white crackers in fundie churches.

      con artists gotta con, and the poor and downtrodden are the easiest marks. no matter what your “race” (a concept i’d really like to see retired once and for all) if you’re lacking in education, brought up in a tradition, worried about death and pain, or being beaten by a husband who insists you have to profess, well. you do.

      black people are factually less well educated in this country, thanks to racist educational policies. black preachers know that there is a tradition, thanks to great men like MLK, to get ‘respect’ by becoming con men with a “holy” church. so many black men are in prison, thanks to racism in law enforcement, and our best and brightest are locked up, while “good” con artists are left to suck up money from poor black women who want to find some comfort in the world.

      it’s the same deal with poor whites, poor Asians, poor Indians… poverty is the friend of religion.

    • DFS

      Yeah, that’s exactly the approach to open black people’s minds to atheism. Call them stupid bastards

    • http://www.facebook.com/lite.bright.50 Lite Bright

      a little harsh, but that last line had me ROFL.

  • DougI

    I’m dating a Black woman now and she doesn’t like the fact that I’m an Atheist. However, I’m so much better than the Christian men she’s dated so she keeps on wanting to go out with me. So maybe that’s why shows like this want to paint Atheists in a negative light, the Christians just can’t compete with the quality of Atheists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5736566 Scott Maddox

    I thought the sad ending(from an atheist’s perspective) felt more real and I’m actually glad they did it this way. It shows how life really is for a lot of couples. I think the show kept it pretty neutral as far as making a commentary on who is right in the situation: the family or the atheist. Ultimately, the family collectively did what they thought was right for them. The atheist basically got what he deserves for going to church without first dropping the “a-bomb”. I think the point at which you get invited to church is as good a time as any to inform people that you don’t believe in that stuff. As with any sitcom, this may not be the last we’ve heard from Jack.

  • Keulan

    Sounds like Jack dodged a bullet there. At least he no longer has to put up with that bigoted family. I’m sure the intended audience for this show is supposed to sympathize with Jil and her father, but if I watched that episode I’m sure I would sympathize with Jack.

    • Keulan

      Having now watched the episode, I stand by what I said. The only decent character in the whole episode (with possible exception of the narrating little girl) was Jack. Jil and her family are bigoted jerks. It makes me wonder if one of the writers for that episode was an atheist.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    It’s one thing to end a relationship if you know a non-negotiable means it’s not going to work. But I get the impression that religion wouldn’t stop Jack from remaining friends. But it sure seems like it would prevent Jil.

  • Tyro

    Didn’t the show’s writers ever see “Guess who’s coming to dinner”?

  • Robyman4

    Yeah, of course he’s not good enough for the girl or her family, because beliefs based on JEWISH culture should dominate the hearts and minds and lives of BLACK people on the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD from the locations where those ethnic groups originated. The writers just need to screw off. Steve Harvey, too.

  • Aneres

    This is the same reason (among others) that I can’t stand Ebony Magazine -.-

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Jackson/617808744 Deanna Jackson

    I’m black and an atheist and from my experience, many of us end up in interracial relationships because of this discrimination, too. I love my boyfriend, though, and the writers of this show can get fucked by a cactus.

  • Lauren

    This is just a *little* taste of the ignorance of atheism in the black community– and why it’s SO hard for black atheists to be “out”. This is literally the garbage I hear from my in-laws. I know that atheists of all races and backgrounds have to deal with ignorance, but it’s REALLY pervasive in the black community.

  • advancedatheist

    Don’t worry. Single atheist guys of any color can meet plenty of easy godless women at atheist conferences.

    Oh, wait. . .

    • Aneres

      Why is ‘easy’ included? Single atheist guys of any color are only looking for easy godless women? Uh?

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        i’m hoping what he meant is that atheist people are sex-positive, not being burdened with religious claptrap about women staying “pure” and all that crap.

        and it is true that every liberal/progressive issues conf i’ve ever been to has ended in me getting some sex. but that’s just me. ;-)

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13709847 Bryan Johnson

          No, he’s trying to bring it back to the whole “I can’t hit on women at conferences with impunity!!! What is the world coming to!?” thing. Nice try with your only tactic, the subtle-as-a-freight-train derail, “advanced” atheist.

  • Debbie

    Bad writing, bad acting, bad comedy…the fact that they’re promoting prejudice and religious bigotry almost gets lost in the whirlwind of bad.

  • Robert Stoll

    I really think there is hope. Certainly such tension would not be a thing to revisit again, maybe even saving their relationship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ajmimms Alfred Mimms

    You screen capped my response? LOL

  • Nicole-Lyn

    Never heard of the channel or the show, but, hearing about this, I’m glad that I haven’t. I’m a black atheist woman, and this is deplorable. I’m actually okay with having the girl dump him for being an atheist, but the least the writers could do was put a little moral ambiguity in there. Was it right to dump him over him not sharing my religion? questions like that. Maybe have her question her own views on the matter later after meeting a “perfect” guy whose only imperfection is him not sharing her religion. But the LAST thing you want to do is have her dump him and have it be played not only for comedy but supposedly as a genuine heartwarming father/daughter moment. Ew.

    The only time I recall this done well is on American Dad where the main character gets the perfect new friend and finds out, to his horror, that his new bff is an atheist. The end of the episode involves said atheist almost dying but coming back to life and becoming a Satanist, with the main character being okay with it and ready to continue on with their friendship because, “Hey, at least he believes in God now!”

  • http://twitter.com/BridgetGaudette Bridget Gaudette

    This is not abnormal, and people wonder why I talk about “black” atheism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephan-Goodwin/676660806 Stephan Goodwin

    I’d love to know what happens in future episodes. They really painted the Christians like jackasses, and the atheist in a good light. Does he come back, or was he a one episode guy?

  • Pedro Lemos

    Why is it that you have a black sitcom and even a black network in US? Sometimes I´m amazed by the segregacionism that still exists in your country and is seen like a normal thing. In movies, series, books and games black people only date black people and it´s the same thing with white people. It´s like two separate worlds, black people have theirs lives and white people have theirs, and these two worlds can´t be mixed. I know it´s not a rule, just a cultural trait, but it´s pretty alien for someone who lives in a country like Brazil, where you can´t even properly tell if someone is black or white.

    • Matthew Delemos

      American cable has channels and programs that cater to gays, women and latinos, not just blacks. Also, I’ve never read a book, played a game, or seen a movie (that wasn’t meant to be a historical lesson) where segragation was part of the experience….what titles of books/movies/games are you refering to in that claim?

    • kaydenpat

      You should google “Black in Latin America” and watch the episode about Brazil. Colorblindness in Brazil is fake.

  • BlackAtheistGuy1

    Jack said he “deny the existence of God”, I find that answer worthless… how can you deny the existence of something you don’t know to existence… How about he simply say I don’t believe the existence of God due to the lack of evidence ? smh

  • BlackAtheistGuy1

    I also happen to think that the atheist was dishonest… he should have told the girl that he was an atheist and I advise other atheists out there to tell them and it will make your life a lot easier.

  • Cardenie

    I’m a black woman and atheist. And unfortunately, this scenario probably goes down too many times to count. I applaud the writers for bringing this kind of encounter to light and not making the guy look like a fool, but they dropped the ball on this being a teachable moment for Jill. I find it funny, because some women like her talk shit about a guy like that possibly dating a non-black woman and complain about the supposed lack of good black men. And yet. Oh well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/HumanistKristy Christie Fry

    If they (the episode writers) were trying to make the atheist look bad, I think they failed miserably. In fact I think the atheist character may have planted seeds of doubt in a few viewers.

  • Eric of Brooklyn

    What about the little girl narrator? What lesson is she being “carefully taught”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/righteous.antitheism Marcin Druzdzel

    The improvements you suggest sound more like propaganda. This episode didn’t mischaracterize atheism. I think the audience can decide which characters acted most sensibly.

  • http://twitter.com/tastypaper David Harty

    It’s an interesting episode, because the producers obviously don’t set out to mock atheism, the atheist is portrayed no different than any real life atheist. Indeed, it is the characters themselves who the producers seem to be mocking, showing us their obvious one-dimensionality.

  • rosco

    This show/episode was barely mentioned on reddit, YouTube,
    or even in most atheist blogs. I’m surprised more people didn’t sit up and say
    WTF? …as I did.

  • Tommy Boyett

    I’m white but this same sort of thing happened between myself and my most recent girlfriend. She is black and a Christian, and for no reason beyond my atheism (at least this is what she says) she ended it. Not as dramatically as in this TV show, though. But speaking from Jacks? perspective, it isn’t so easy as “I dodged a bullet”. Sure, maybe in retrospect I did, but in the heat of it there aren’t any easy solutions.

  • Paula M Smolik

    Prayer and bourbon! How typical.

  • jimbox

    Perhaps they should have more confidence in God. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, all loving etc, he would not need defending from puny humans. His feelings could not be hurt in that so oh insecure human way. He would need to be worshipped as much as you need worship from bacteria. He would not be insulted because a person trying to understand this world thinks he does not exist.

    They have not really put much thought about how ridiculous this projection of faith is.

  • Ian

    Everybody is born an atheist, it’s just that some are indoctrinated with religion while others get an education!

  • joe

    i can’t stand steve harvey!

  • Ian

    Americans really are a strange breed, they seem to have religion, or lack of it, on the brain. I do not believe in gods or any supernatural nonsense, but I could count on one hand the number of times that fact has come up in conversation with my friends, some of whom, I suppose, believe and some who don’t. I know one of them is a Christian, because he’s a Vicar as well as a Biker, although we’ve never discussed religion because it’s just no big deal here in the UK.


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