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The sacrificial atheist?

Spoiler warning: This post contains discussion about the season finale of True Blood and the movie The Ledge.
Atheists are popping up more and more in the television and movies. And like any minority group engaging in a civil rights movement – which, admit it or not, is what we’re doing – portrayals of atheists are becoming less and less stereotypical. We’re no longer nothing more than communist villains.

There are certainly stereotypical tropes about us being overly rational, cynical, heartless, selfish hedonists. Dexter, anyone? As much as I love House, he’s not exactly the poster child of atheism. But even within that show, you see another atheist (Cameron) who is un-House-like in every way. And the number of human-like atheist characters is rising – Ellie in Contact, Kurt in Glee, Malcolm in Firefly, Bones.

But I’ve been noticing something recently. I hesitate to call it a trend, since I only have two data points so far. But this came up during a panel discussion I was on at the Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference after we had watched The Ledge. The Ledge is a thriller revolving around the romance between an atheist, Gavin, and a woman, Shana, who is married to an emotional abusive religious zealot, Joe.

I really enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it. So if you haven’t seen it, read forward at your own risk – because I’m about to give away the ending.

Joe eventually discovers the affair and puts Gavin in a situation were either he can die, or Shana dies. And surprisingly, the film doesn’t have a predictable happy ending. The police don’t find Shana at just the right time. Gavin doesn’t have some quirky trick that makes it looks like he jumped from a 30 story building. Nope, he sacrifices himself for this woman.

And during this Sunday’s season finale of True Blood, we see the same sacrificial atheist. Tara, who apparently everyone hates except me, is asked by her best friend Sookie if she thinks Gran is in heaven. Tara replies that she’s always considered herself an atheist, but if there is a heaven, Gran would be president of it. Sookie then says that she wants to grow old together with her best friend, which let me know that Tara was almost certainly dying by the end of the episode.

And would you know it, in the last minute of the show, Tara jumps in front of Sookie to save her from a point blank range shotgun blast from a crazed werewolf lady. (You know, I never realized how dumb this show sounds until I have to type out what happened). People are discussing how she’s probably going to be saved in the first 30 seconds of the new season, or turned into a vampire, or be a ghost for Lafayette to channel, or whatever…but you can’t deny she sacrificed herself for her friend when half of her head was blown clean off.

When we were discussing the Ledge, we couldn’t agree if portrayals like this were heroic or tragic. Is this showing atheists in a good light – that even though we don’t believe in heavenly rewards or the afterlife, we’re willing to give up the thing most dear to us for people we love? Or is it showing atheists as these tragic individuals who never have a happy ending?

I lean toward the former. As much as I don’t want all of my atheist characters meeting untimely fates, I think it means something to give up your life when you’re certain no afterlife is soon to follow. It shows that we do care about other people and have greater value and purpose in our lives, even if it’s not handed down from a supernatural being. And I think it’s the first step to portraying atheists as real people – and soon enough we won’t have to keep dying to prove that point.

But again, not everyone agreed. What do you think? Do you know of any other atheist characters that fit or fight this trend?

Comments

  1. Valis says

    The mind boggles. I’m so glad I live in Africa, where religion is ridiculed and religious people are laughed at. I had my mind completely blown a few weeks ago. As a Formula 1 fan I thought I would try to watch an American Indycar race. I was astonished to see, before the race start, a minister leading the whole stadium in prayer! I had never seen anything like that in my life. Is this normal in the US? We don’t have anything like that here.The Ledge was a really great movie. I agree with you on this story line showing atheists in a good light. But then I’ve never had the experience of being seen in a bad light, lol. Atheists are always seen as the good people in my country, and the religious as the delusional fools they really are. I can’t imagine myself living in a country where it is the other way round. You all have my sympathy :)

  2. says

    Absolutely agree.  The Ledge wasn’t a perfect movie by a long shot, but it’s the first in a long time to make me cry.  Simply because I identified so strongly with a flawed guy, sincere in both his unbelief and in his determination to sacrifice for his loved ones.This crowd has likely already seen it, but for anyone who hasn’t, Greta Christina has an awesome breakdown of the movie:http://gretachristina.typepad….

  3. Matt Dillahunty says

    I’m actually looking forward to a time when it’s no longer worth commenting on the fact that a character is an atheist…but getting back to 2011:When Tara sacrificed herself, I didn’t even think about the fact that she’d just recently self-identified as an atheist. In this case, I think it’s because the show is full of so much overt supernatural stuff that labels like ‘atheist’ take on a slightly different tone (as do the implications of her actions). If your cousin is a medium and you’ve just witnessed a horde of dead ‘spirits’ interacting with reality and talking about how the dead are the fortunate ones…your take on dying and sacrifice might be a bit different.That said, there was still a sacrifice made and I think it was selfless and noble, like the one in the ledge…and that’s the message that I took away.

  4. says

    I don’t think there is an easy category to put the ledge-dude into, so I guess he was portrayed as very human, at least.  On the hero side, we have him sacrificing his life for another’s.  On the tragic side, we have his life being portrayed as meaningless when the people he loves are dead (or will be dead in his immediate future).  On the douche side, all the other characters besides the atheist and the cop, especially the lead woman, seemed more like plot devices rather than 3-dimensional human beings.  I can’t say I could enjoy it if I watched it again, unless I accept that being willing to die for someone makes up for treating her rapetastically the rest of the time.

  5. says

    Welll…. I have to say, I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed this before. But now that you’ve pointed it out, I happen to be reading Swann by Carole Shields.  And guess what? One character who is specifically described as being an atheist is about to die :( Here though is a funny part, she’s a librarian, and is describing why she enjoys espionage novels “And Death? Death is never for a minute left in the hands of capricious gods (the morose, easily offended Ontario God included)”

  6. says

    SPOILER ALERT!!!You forgot she was the sacrificial black atheist lesbian. Add that to the sacrificial gay Latino Wiccan(?) male nurse earlier in the episode, and you have a whole cornucopia of minority martyrs. I wonder if they had a quota to satisfy.

  7. says

    Big time Buffy/Angel fan here, and I remember the huge riot over the dead/evil lesbian meme being played out in Buffy S6.Apparently the new meme is dead lesbian atheist (or bisexual, whatever, fluid sexuality blah blah). I am happy to not see the evil atheist meme being dragged out (at least in the shows that I’m watching).Also, you’re not the only one who likes Tara – I’ve loved her from the beginning. She’s hilaaaaarious.I also adored Nan, so I wasn’t happy to see them both offed this season. Nan, Tara, and Pam all get the best lines – so if they kill of Pam or ignore her next season I might lost interest in the show altogether.

  8. says

    I haven’t watched the movie or the show, so I can’t comment specifically on those, but I do have some thoughts on the general topic.I think it depends on how it’s done.  I agree with you that, “It shows that we do care about other people and have greater value and purpose in our lives, even if it’s not handed down from a supernatural being.”  It shows that the person is loving and cares about others, and that people of all groups can exhibit this quality, regardless of their view on whether gods exists.As you said, these are only two data points, so we’d have to see how things look in the future when there are (hopefully) more shows with atheist characters.  If it becomes used as a default and too-often-used plot device to avoid controversy, to make sure that the show appeals to more people (i.e. not challenging their ideas about a minority group because the character is conveniently killed off) that can be a problem.  However, if it’s used in the way you’ve described, to show that a character is willing to sacrifice their life for others, then it can be good, especially if the character was well-developed in the story beforehand.”You know, I never realized how dumb this show sounds until I have to type out what happened”This made me laugh.  I feel that way when I’m trying to describe some of my favorite fantasy/science fiction books, movies, etc. to someone who’s not a fan.

  9. says

    Spoiler alert indeed.Sacrifice should have been the other way around. I like Tara.Well… I liked the hard-nosed voice of wisdom Tara from the first season. Second and third season Tara was just constantly hysterically traumatized so Sookie would have someone to pout over and save. It was a gigantic waste of a cool character.Sookie on the other hand drives me nuts:Sookie: Oh look, a painfully obvious distress ball. Sookie wants!Everyone Else: That’s a really, really dumb idea.Sookie: You can’t control me because I’m plucky and brave and stuff!Sookie: *runs to ball*Sookie: *gets kidnapped or something*Sookie: Uhh… Guys? Little help?Everyone Else: Can we just leave her there and get on with the Pam and Eric spinoff already?Authors: No! We have a railroad plot for the rest of the season in mind and we’d have to start over if Sookie dies. So go help her. Oh, and Sam’s suddenly a murderer now. Just so you know.Everyone Else: … the fuck?It’s weird I dislike Sookie so much given that I love Anna Paquin to pieces. That’s possibly the only thing saving the character for me at this point.

  10. says

    I hadn’t thought about the fact that she just declared herself an atheist and get almost immediately killed off. I think it was necessary to lead to the old age on the porch conversation smoothly… But yeah black, lesbian, atheist… just ow.As far as my thoughts on the show… I was unsure how bad Tara’s wounds were… it seemed like there was a lot of blow back from the mirror… and also a lot of blood loss… But I wasn’t sure she took the bullet directly to the head…  I love Tara. I’ve been annoyed with her at times… but she is a counterbalance to Sookie… She’s needed. I’m hoping that either of Sookie’s vampire exes, despite everything, will come… or that fairy from the forest might be able to do something? It seems the way it was structured was certainly meant to make us wonder if she had a shot at making it through. And yes it does feel ridiculous to type all this… but the show is good. :)

  11. jmatrixrenegade says

    There are various movies where people sacrifice themselves and no mention is made of an afterlife or anything.   The characters often are gutsy cynical sorts (or realists, if you like) who you wouldn’t be surprised if they are atheists.  If a parent or mate sacrifice themselves, the idea that they might get their reward in the afterlife doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference in many shows or movies.  I didn’t see the film, but the contrast here seems something of a gimmick.

  12. says

    What’s bad is that I actually enjoy Sookie’s character in the novels (they are all told from her perspective).  She is resourceful and enterprising in the books, and though she does need saving from time to time, those instances don’t make you groan and say, “there goes Sookie again, getting her ass into spots she can’t get out of.”In the show, she just comes off as a whiny damsel in distress with alarming frequency.  (As a side note, the novels – though certainly no intellectual masterpiece – are an easy fun read that you can get through with next to no trouble.  Very “shut off my mind and be entertained” reading, though they’re certainly crafted better than a “Twilight” type novel, for instance.)

  13. says

    Thanks for the reccomendation.I’ll upgrade the Stackhouse novels from ‘would like to read but will never get around to it’ to ‘will use these to refill my to-be-read shelf as soon as I make a gap’.Considering my to-be-read shelf is currently overflowing onto the floor, that could still be a while. In related news my girlfriend and I are buying a new bookcase this weekend.When I was a teenager my mother told me that I’d be able to do whatever I wanted once I was a grown up, so I should put the books down and clean my room already.Lies!

  14. P Smith says

    While none are admittedly atheist characters, consider the “detectives” in many British stories and dramas over the years, in novels, movies and TV (think A&E or PBS’s “Mystery!”).  Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse and many other such characters had a disdain for religion, never practiced, and most were very ethical, austere and rational in their lives and behaviours.  However, most were also unmarried, almost monastic or celibate, not exactly something most atheists want..

  15. says

    Not sure is there really is a self-sacrificing atheist trope in play yet. I’m keen to hear of more examples.But if it did come up, I think that its most interesting in the context of contrasting atheism against Christianity.Self-sacrifice for the plight of another is basically the Jesus story.So placing the atheist in the Jesus-like role is partially a critique that Christians tend to fail to live up to their own moral doctrines, as well as an acknowledgement that we don’t need religion in order to live moral lives.Which is all good stuff, methinks.

  16. velouria00 says

    Tara is coming back in at least some form next season.  Rutina Wesley’s option was picked up for season 5. 

  17. Beth Z says

    To be fair, I don’t think Tara getting potentially killed off had anything to do with her being an atheist, since I think that line was the first time we’d ever seen her comment on religion, period. My roommate has a theory that True Blood runs on the idea that whenever a character has created the maximum amount of possible drama, they have to be killed so they can create more drama. This would certainly seem to fit with some of the other deaths on the show, notably Tommy’s and Jesus’s. Things going well for a character? Time to kill off someone close to them, because no one is allowed to be happy in Bon Temps. :/

  18. Valis says

    Wow. My head is spinning trying to take this in. Also, the caption on-screen said “Track Minister”, they have an official position like this? I first thought maybe it was a special memorial or something, till I saw the caption. Oh, and this race was in Sonoma CA. I always thought California was less religious.

  19. JRB says

    Yeah, add my vote to team “Thinks Tara is awesome and Sookie is just a pain.”I don’t know if I can think of a more selfish, ungrateful, and unreflective character on TV that isn’t portrayed as at least something of a villain .The penultimate episode of this series had one of the most stunning examples of this yet, when Bill and Eric are about to blow up Moon Goddess until they learn that Sookie is inside and it is surrounded by a protective force field.  When Marnie and Sookie come out Bill and Eric are all: “Let Sookie go!”Marnie: “Only if you two kill yourselves.”Bill and Eric: “Alright we will.”[Bill and Eric about to kill each other]Pam:”Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”[Pam fires RPG, awesome explosion interrupts the double suicide, Marnie and Sookie run inside.]Eric: “Pam, leave now or I will kill you for disobeying me and putting Sookie at Risk”Marnie: “See Sookie, Bill and Eric care nothing for you.”Sookie: [Says nothing and totally gives that, "yeah, you're probably right but your still a bad person" look, completely failing to recognize that two "men" -- one of whom is over a thousand years old -- were about to face the true death so that Marnie would let Sookie go.]Me: “Fuck You Sookie, Tara’s going to take a bullet instead of you?!?!?!!? Hasn’t that girl already been through enough shit and still managed to soldier on, where as your biggest conflict right now is that three different men are in love with you!!!!!!!!!”P.S.  After watching the first two seasons I picked up the first two books of the series and made it through the first one and into the second chapter of the second one before I gave up.  The books just lack too much of what I enjoy about the show (sorry, I know that’s vague but it’s the best I can do) and Sookie’s actions are no less grating than they were on TV — that everything is filtered through her point of view probably made them more so, in fact.Just to let you know that enjoying the TV show does not guarntee that you will like the books in this case.

  20. Marian says

    I also really liked Tara.  I’m glad I don’t visit the fan community if they all seem to hate her.   And yeah I agree, Sookie is annoying and dumb.  But seeing as how she blew Deb’s brains out at point blank range I’m hoping she finally takes a level in badass.

  21. says

    If they shot Tara last season, I’d say that was it for her. She had been spiralling downward in a way that Wesley Wyndham-Price went. But now there are some storylines that just aren’t quite wrapped up (and her girlfriend is pretty hot). I don’t particularly like her suddenly going gay, because of all characters, the one who already has a gay cousin… it just seems convenient.But I do like that the person who just outed themselves an atheist is the one to leap in front of her best friend to save her life – even though she knows full well that that best friend can shoot giant power from her hands in moments of stress.As for the Ledge, I haven’t seen it, but I was a bit put off by all the “Look! Atheist protagonist!” statements when the whole story is about how he is stealing a married woman from someone. That’s not exactly a positive quality I’d like attributed to atheism. I should see it, though.

  22. Anon says

    I hated the books. Just… so random and poorly written.And Sooking falling head over heels for EVERY male character? *sigh*I think the series is awesome though.

  23. Mike says

    Hmmm. Interesting trend. I, too, am inclined to think this is a step in the right direction.While It’s not a perfect example, Edward Elric, the main character from Fullmetal Alchemist(Yes, I fully admit to being a nerd in advance)  is explicitly atheistic and ends up risking his life constantly for his younger brother, right up to the ending where(Spoilers:)he gives up all his special abilities to save his brother’s life. Like I said, not quite a “life or death” situation, but he’s been practicing those abilities since he was a child, and he’s built his entire career out of them. So it’s pretty much everything but dying to him.

  24. says

    All american racing like this–NASCAR especially. Football games(or hand-egg, as I like to call it) are also EXTREMELY religious in the south. We had prayer multiple times before each race/hand-egg game, we have prayer sometimes during the game–the marching band is told to pray before the halftime show, etc, etc.You can’t escape it. And yes, it’s normal. And yes, people go INSANE if you decline to pray with them…

  25. says

    California is weird and big and diverse. I’m a native of Sonoma County, which is full of both hippies and farmers. The farmers tend to be more conservative, although there’s plenty of overlap (see also: Emerald Triangle), and I don’t think the farmers here are as conservative as they are in the South. California contains both Berkeley (notoriously liberal; a recent mayoral race was between the left candidate and the further left candidate. The one further to the left won.) and Orange County (notoriously conservative). Granted, those places are 500 miles apart. It’s a bigass state with a bigass population.

  26. says

    My off the cuff, not at all developed analysis is that atheists are starting to get the same treatment that African Americans did in the movies for a while: You knew if you saw the black dude that he was gonna die, especially if he showed you a picture of his girlfriend.

  27. Svlad Cjelli says

    Meh, not a big fan of OMGZORZSACRIFICE HERO GO GO GO!You can block a shotgun blast for your friends, sure. But you can’t die for your friends unless they want you dead. You die AGAINST your friends. Death is failure. It’s justified by priorities, not by itself.Being dead is easy. Only the living suffer.

  28. MichelleZB says

    Don’t forget the best TV atheist of all time… Scrubs’ Dr. Perry Cox! Yes, he’s a diagnosing machine that runs on props, so let’s hear it…

  29. says

    Am I the only one bothered by people constantly claiming Tara’s character is now a lesbian? Have we forgotten that she used to date men, and there’s no evidence that she would have stopped? That called bisexuality. When Sookie questions her about it, Tara even says something to the effect that she fell in love with the person, not the gender.

  30. Rieux says

    And the number of human-like atheist characters is rising – Ellie in Contact….

    This is admittedly a hobbyhorse of mine, but I feel obligated to say it again: Contact (Richard Zemeckis’s movie, not the Carl Sagan novel it’s all-too-loosely based on) is a hatchet-job attack on outspoken atheism. Ellie Arroway is indeed human-like and heroic (thanks in large part, I think, to two atheists named Carl Sagan and Jodie Foster)—but the movie presents her principled and strong-minded atheism as her central character flaw. It can be frustrating to see atheists so dazzled by Foster’s character that they miss the nasty atheophobia that’s at the heart of the movie’s argument.More on this point here and here (oh, goodness—the latter started as an exchange between me and Jen herself).

  31. says

    Delurking due to the joy of discovering that I’m not the only one who loves Tara. Her death bothered me even more because my favourite moments in TB (and the only times I can stand Sookie) are the rare ones where Tara and Sookie get to hang out and be the best friends they allegedly are. If the show focussed more on that relationship instead of Sookie’s Magical Fairy Vagina I think it would stop being a guilty pleasure for me and start being an actual one!I’m not convinced that self-sacrificing atheists are a trend at this point – and I actually hope it doesn’t become one. I gave up fantasies of martyrdom when I gave up religion.

  32. says

    Would you call Mal an atheist? I always got the impression he believed in the space version of Christian-God but was angry with him. Sure, Serenity was his big losing faith moment, but my impression’s always been resentment and anger, not abandonment.Anyway. Positive atheist portrayals… Any atheist portrayals… Hmm. Well, there’s a wonderful anthology put out by Apex Books called Dark Faith. It’d probably be hard to get hold of given the small press aspect, but it’s worth a read, even if half the stories are just creepy variations on murder ballads. The only interesting TV portrayal I can think of immediately is Dean in early seasons of Supernatural. There did (spoilers) turn out to be a god (sorta) and angels and demons were all over the place in later seasons, but his argument was always good. What he specifically didn’t believe in was a God, since there were ghosts mucking up the place all the time, so the afterlife was pretty much a cinch, to some degree, and his arguments were good. And while Dean’s not a role model, he’s always been a well-thought-out character with depth and humanity. Well, I guess at the absolute start of the show he was a bit of a cartoon character, but in the end he was by far the most interesting hero. And he was essentially right about the “no loving, powerful, and good God would allow this.” So there’s that. What I can’t stand is the trope where the skeptic learns to allow for the possibility of blahlblahspirtualitywooblah as part of the lesson of the episode, and that character is as likely to be an atheist as your standard stogy scientist or straw vulcan, so that’s a hard one to escape.

  33. Rex says

    Loved the non theistic angle in the movie Contact. Movies like Paul and The Invention Of Lying were others that had religion held up as ridiculous and unnecessary, and frankly, harmful and silly.These entertainment examples that show atheism in a good light are becoming more abundant, and I think that helps our cause every bit as much as our activism.

  34. Rieux says

    As I said above, I’m afraid you’ve missed the point director Robert Zemeckis was making in Contact. The whole idea was to argue that an atheism that disrespects religious faith is cold, inhuman, and wrong. I can’t understand why atheists think it’s a movie that shows us in a good light.

    Why didn’t Jodie permanently lose the newage–rhymes with “sewage”–hippie after he tried to keep her from fulfilling her dreams for his own short-sighted horniness? That started to bum me, but it was the ending that finally broke my heart. The end of “Contact” asserted that belief in something tangible by a single person is equivalent to belief in god, and that the reality imagined by saints is the same as scientists understanding something they can’t explain to lay people. That is evil, utterly evil. - Penn Jillette, in his review of Contact

  35. says

    Agreed!! Although it pains me to say it, because some parts of the film were absolutely gorgeous (like the opening scene).The book is far, far better.

  36. Icaarus says

    Okay, so I’m a little late  to the party, but at the begining of the season True Blood’s writers did announce a favourite (original, as in from the books) character would be dead. Not Hollywood/Sci-fi come back later dead, but final death dead. Tara is not coming back, it is too bad we had to wait until her last episode to find her A. (I liked her too)Question: Does it make sense for atheists to exist in a world of fairies/weres/vamps/ghosts/magic/maenads? Is it rational to believe that there is no god when you have almost been killed by one?To answer your question Jen please see Caprica. Polyamory, atheism, counter-popular-religiosity, nonchalant homosexuality. Plus plenty more from you. Too bad the show’s plot took a left turn through crazy town into WTELF!!!

  37. Icaarus says

    You do realize it is a fantasy ROMANCE novel series right. She is supposed to swoon over all attractive people, that’s what the primary audience expects. 

  38. says

    Actually, that’s also one of the things that also bugs me about the series – but from the opposite direction to Anon.Oh look. Another ruggedly handsome, strong, magical male character with a dangerous, mysterious and interesting past that has, after a ten-second conversation, instantly fallen head over heels for Sookie and is prepared to lay down his life to save her from whatever trouble she gets herself into regardless of how much it puts him at risk and regardless of the fact that she’ll probably just give him the flick at the end of the episode anyway.How entirely unexpected.*facepalm*But you’re right. It’s meant to be a fantasy romance. Par for the course for the genre I suppose.

  39. Aliasalpha says

    Does this mean we’ll get atheist films along the lines of the 70s blaxsploitation films? Hope the soundtracks are as funky

  40. Randomfactor says

    In-between is Bakersfield, which is a little slice of redneck Southern religion transplanted into otherwise mostly-sane California. There are atheists here; we do what we can.

  41. TK says

    >.> Fantasy settings and science based thinking are immiscible. Although if they did, I’d definitely be a kid in a candy shop, can you imagine the number of new hypotheses to test?

    On topic to the post, I’m going to agree with Jen. First to be seen, then to be portrayed well regardless of outcome (instead of perpetual buttmonkey/villain/utterly ineffectual buffoon), then to be assimilated into popular culture. It’ll happen.

    As a Buffy fan, I’ll add that regardless of the dead/evil lesbian furor in season 6 of Buffy, it still remains one of the groundbreaking series to normalize and weave a homosexual relationship seamlessly into the narrative flow.

    Taras of the world to stay away from gun-wielding crazies IMO.

  42. borealis says

    I haven’t watched the show or The Ledge, but regarding the possible propagation of a ‘dieing to save another’ atheist meme, I’m not convinced it’s a particularly good thing. I keep thinking of all those 1950s westerns where at some point you know the ‘good’ Indian is gonna die saving some white cowboy’s clueless ass.

  43. freemage says

    Funny, that’s how I frequently interpret Bones (another one highlighted as a positive portrayal in the OP). I find it annoying that any time Bones takes a scientific and anthropological viewpoint towards some fringe culture, it’s always Roman Catholic Booth who’s shown to be “right” in declaring the group to be weird, wrong and ultimately unfit. (See: Polyamory, pony-play fetishists, probably others.)

    Similarly, whenever it comes down to it, Bones is usually portrayed as the “angry at God” atheist (because of the death of her mother/father’s abandonment)–it always seems like they need to “explain” her atheism, instead of it being simply a conclusion she came to after examining the (absence of) evidence. Now, Hodges, OTOH, is a happy, centered individual who doesn’t particularly believe in anything more divine than Angela (who truly is heavenly).

  44. DFS says

    Africa, the same place where homosexuals are subject to the death penalty and children are killed for being witches? The same Africa now being heavily influenced by the American religious right?

    Maybe you need to be more specific about your location? Certainly not my take that religion is laughed at in Africa. I’m confused.

  45. Jessica says

    rargh. Jenn I kept going back to ur old blog and wondering why you weren’t updating. So here I am going through all your old entries on ur new blog.

    Anyhow, I think the idea of the sacrificial atheist isn’t exactly new… it’s VERY common here in Taiwan. Buddhists here tend to praise atheists quiet loudly [my mother's guru is very praiseful of me, since I am not doing good deeds for the promise of a good reincarnation or for enlightenment].

    There are some that believe that you will go whereever you believe you will go, and the idea that good atheists will not reach heaven/reincarnate/nirvana doesn’t sit well with many people. There is also a lingering touch of Daoism, where people do not go to heaven or whatever after they die… the only immortality you have is either genetic or in memory. A hero will always be remembered, so Taiwanese like their good atheists to be heroes.

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