The Problem with Fictional Atheists on Television

Reader Nick created this image and it suggests a great question: Why are fictional atheists on television always so damn unlikeable?

It’s a fair question, because it’s news when we see positive portrayals of atheists on TV. Even when it happens, the response isn’t always positive in return. On one sitcom last year, the atheist character was fantastic, but his love interest and her Christian family couldn’t handle his beliefs — and the show’s writers somehow turned the atheist into the bad guy.

So are there any likable fictional atheists on television? My favorite one in recent years was on a show no one was watching, Malibu Country. The daughter on the show came out as an atheist and she was respected by her mother even though they disagreed.

There are a few popular exceptions, too — Kurt Hummel on Glee, Piper Chapman on Orange is the New Black, to name a couple — but in general, I agree with the image. It’s hard to find many openly atheist characters on TV shows who are also the popular, well-liked characters. Even those exceptions, to the best of my knowledge, were basically one-offs, where the characters referenced their beliefs in a single monologue but not very often beyond that.

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