The Humanism in ‘Orange is the New Black’

I watched the first episode and I just couldn’t get into it, but the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black” has an atheist lead character (“Piper Chapman“) and this scene contains the sort of dialogue I haven’t seen since that episode of “Glee” where Kurt refers to a “magic teapot” floating in the sky:

Piper: I can’t pretend to believe in something I don’t, and I don’t [believe in this]… I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens, although I do admit he could be kind of an asshole. I cannot get behind some Supreme Being who weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked by machetes. I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that we get cancer to learn life lessons. And I don’t believe people die young because God needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit. And on some level, I think we all know that…

Sam Mauceri of the American Humanist Association believes that “Orange is the New Black” is a show “humanists should absolutely be watching right now”:

Orange is the New Black makes it clear that it is not [character] Pennsatucky’s and Piper’s religious values that make them good or bad people, but how they treat others. It is a respect of others’ beliefs, a willingness to coexist, and an avoidance of extremity that allows many of the other prisoners to befriend one another and avoid conflict. This struggle to firmly maintain one’s own beliefs while living amongst others is a universal issue that humanists can certainly identify with.

In an environment [jail] where living ethically and living at all are at times mutually exclusive, the women behave in ways that make us question which courses of action we would take ourselves. In a system that effectively dehumanizes people, Orange is the New Black sheds light on the humanity of prisoners in ways humanists will certainly appreciate.

The first season of the show is now available on Netflix.

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.


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