Atheist Characters: A List of Atheist and Agnostic Film and TV Characters
Non-believers in Fiction
With atheism and agnosticism on the rise (and showing no signs of slowing down) it felt appropriate to celebrate the growing movement by once again compiling a list of the worlds most famous atheists — this time of the fictional variety (for famous atheist and skeptical actors, writers, musicians, and other artists, click here).
While the appearance of atheist and agnostic characters in film and TV have been rare, we've nevertheless had them show up on our TV sets and movie screens for decades. All the way back to All in the Family's Meat Head, to nearly every fidgety protagonist portrayed in a Woody Allen film.
Granted, at first glance this may not seem like a very important issue. But it must remember that atheists are a minority just like any other. A minority that has been repeatedly shunned, put down, and had their voices go practically unheard for years. Having openly atheist and agnostic characters appear in popular films and television series' is just one small step in helping non-believers in general be heard and acknowledged as the people they are. Very similar to the way in which homosexuals began to come out and become accepted after such shows as Ellen and Will and Grace began to bring awareness to how okay it is to be different from everyone else.
So here's what's going to follow: I'll list in alphabetical order (by character names) each atheist and agnostic character. I'll include a photo, a brief reference to their skepticism, and occasionally a video link (when available) of them expressing their feelings about religion, god, atheism, etc.. If you want to see more video clips of atheists and agnostic characters on film & TV, click here to go to The Gutter Monkey Youtube Channel.
If anyone has any suggestions for the list, leave them in the comments section at the end of the page. I'll then fact check them and add them accordingly if they appear to be legit. Thanks. Enjoy.
Count Laszlo de Almasy
Played by actor Ralph Fiennes in the 1996 film The English Patient
Dialogue from the film:
AlmÃ¡sy: There is no God... but I hope someone looks after you.
Madox: Just in case you're interested, it's called the suprasternal notch. Come and visit us in Dorset when all this nonsense is over.
[Heads away but turns back]
Madox: You'll never come to Dorset.
Played by Simon Pegg in the 2007 film, Hot Fuzz
While meeting his new neighbors at a dinner party, Nicholas Angel (played by real-life atheist Simon Pegg) is approached by a reverend who asks him to read a homily at Sunday service. To this Nicholas declines, suggesting that his involvement in such a thing would be hypocritical because he's an agnostic.
Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway
Played by Jodie Foster in the 1997 film, Contact
The character Ellie from both the 1997 film, Contact, and its novel of the same name, is an openly atheist scientist who is forced to contend with the popular opinion of the religious public when she's chosen as a candidate to be the first human to make contact with an alien race.
The story of Contact was based on the novel of the same name by the well-known skeptical scientist, Carl Sagan. In film, the character of Ellie is portrayed by real-life atheist and actress Jodie Foster. The story itself attempts to find an equal ground for both science and religion to get along and acts as a positive portrayal of how a real, atheistic person can still have hope, humility and passion in life and how they can remain strong without the need of a deity.
Played by Woody Allen in 1980s Stardust Memories
As with most Woody Allen films, in this 8 1/2 inspired film Allen doesn't focus too much on the atheism of his character, yet nevertheless is sure to let his non-believe be known through at least one or two lines. In Stardust Memories, Allen delivers one of his most memorable of these pieces of dialogue when he replies to someone: "To you, I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the loyal opposition."
Played by actor Chris North in Sex and the City
On the episode, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, the ever-enigmatic Mr. Big is seen exiting a church by his off and on girlfriend, Carrie. Shocked that he may be religious, she confronts Big about it. He then reassures her that he is an atheist, but don't tell the pastor.
Dr. Paul Blaylock
Played by Ed Harris in the 2011 film, Salvation Boulevard
In Salvation Boulevard Ed Harris plays a Christopher Hitchens-esque atheist debater. He's later shot in the head by a fundamentalist preacher.
Played by writer, director, and actor Woody Allen in the film Deconstructing Harry
There are many instances in this fantastic movie where the character Harry Block (played by real life atheist Woody Allen) expresses his lack of belief, The greatest and most humorous of which is during a fight with his psychologist wife (played by Kristie Alley) after she finds out that he's been having an affair with one of her patients.
While Harry's wife angrily confronts him about the affair, she asks him if this was the only one. Harry responds in the affirmative, emphasizing the point with: "May god strike me down if I'm lying." When his wife furiously screams back, "You're an atheist, Harry!" Harry quips that "Hey, we're alone in the universe. You going to blame that on me too?"
Temperance "Bones" Brennan
Played by Emily Deschanel in the TV series Bones
The character of "Bones" is a brilliant board-certified forensic anthropologist who works in the Medico-Legal lab at the fictional Jeffersonian Institute in Washington D.C. Like many film and TV scientists, she's portrayed as being extremely rational and logical to the point where it makes her have trouble fitting in with the outside world. Unsurprisingly it's this rationality which also leads her to be a doubter of religion and superstition. Throughout the series she can be seen repeatedly mocking and criticizing those less-than-rational beliefs of others.
Played by Kristen Wiig in the 2011 film Paul
In the 2011 comedy film, Paul, Kristen Wiig plays an extreme Christian fundamentalist who, after arguing with Paul and his cohorts (atheists Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) about evolution, has her faith shattered after Paul shares with her his vast knowledge of the universe which excludes all possibility of her Christian teachings.
After discovering that she is no longer bound by the strict rules of her religion, Ruth becomes elated at the idea of being allowed to swear, have sex, and live her life without worry of being damned to Hell.
Allison Cameron, M.D
Played by actress Jennifer Morrison in the TV show House
While more respecting of others beliefs than her colleague and fellow atheist, Gregory House, Allison Cameron is also open in her atheistic views, as mentioned on several episodes of the TV show House.
Played by Viggo Mortenson in the 2016 film, Captain Fantastic
Living out in the wilderness, away from society and its rules, Ben Cash and his family live life in their own unique way. One of those ways involves shedding away all of the silly holidays most people celebrate, such as Christmas; opting, instead, to celebrate Noam Chomsky Day. In one scene, found here, Ben's son questions his father about why they can't celebrate Christmas like everyone else. Ben's response is to refer to Christmas as the celebration of a "magical, fictitious elf".
REFERENCE: The scene occurs approximately 45 minutes into the 2016 film, Captain Fantastic.
Played by Trin Miller in the 2016 film, Captain Fantastic
While Leslie Cash herself is only briefly seen in the film, Captain Fantastic, and doesn't mention her beliefs in those scenes, her husband Ben briefly explains her beliefs later on in the film during a funeral scene. He says that she practiced Buddhism, which to her was a philosophy and "not an organized religion." He goes on to say:
"In fact, Leslie abhorred all organized religions. To her, they were the most dangerous fairy tales ever invented. Designed to illicit blind obedience and strike fear into the hearts of the innocent and the uninformed."
To find the full clip, check out my YouTube page here.
REFERENCE: The funeral scene in the 2016 film, Captain Fantastic
Played by Taylor Schilling on the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black
A line from the show:
"I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver, and Neil Degrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens -- although I do admit he could be kind of an asshole. I cannot get behind some kind of supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don't believe a billion Indians are going to hell, I don't believe 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 I think on some level we all know that. Don't you?"
Played by actress Rachel Griffiths in the TV series Six Feet Under
The groundbreaking HBO TV series, Six Feet Under, tackled many issues having to do with religion and human nature. The character Brenda Chenowith (played by real life atheist Rachel Griffiths) who was raised by two smarmy and condescending intellectuals, was a fascinating multidimensional character who was dangerously smart while at the same time severely flawed. She remained an open, outspoken atheist throughout the entirety of the series.
Played by actor Jim Parsons in the TV show The Big Bang Theory
Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the hit CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, is a brilliant theoretical physicist who has no patience for the illogical ideas or delusional thinking of those around him. While never explicitly classifying himself as an atheist in the show, he's been seen multiple times speaking of his doubts and denial of gods existence.
Evidence for this is seen in the following clip of Sheldon cursing the "deity whose existence I doubt!", among other clips.
Detective Rustin Cohle
Played by Matthew McConaughey in the 2014 HBO series, True Detective
Rust is a complicated man with a very complicated past. With a brilliant mind and his true detective skills though, one thing that he's crystal clear about is that this is the only life we have. So we better live it.
"If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of sh*t. And I'd like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What's that say about your reality?" -- Rustin Cohle
Dr. Perry Cox
Played by John C. McGinley on the TV series Scrubs
The atheist Dr. Cox from the spectacular TV series Scrubs is a brilliant, quick witted doctor who just can't help but press everyone's buttons. In the following scenes from Scrubs, we watch as Dr. Cox repeatedly battles with a colleague over whether or not there is a reason why things happen.
Played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the 2001 film Donnie Darko
When Donnie Darko tells his psychiatrist that he can't bring himself to believe in such a thing as a god, his psychiatrist explains to him: "Donnie, an atheist is someone who denies altogether the existence of God. You're an agnostic. An agnostic is someone who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God, but does not deny the possibility that God exists."
Played by Woody Allen in the 2003 film Anything Else
Once again Woody Allen plays a character who is quite similar to himself, both in philosophy and in theocracy. He's states that he's an atheist in the following dialogue with his friend Jerry Faulk:
David Dobel: ...and the next thing I knew they made some crack about my religion which I found in poor taste.
Jerry Falk: Religion? You're an atheist!
David Dobel: Yes, I'm an atheist, but I resented the fact however obliquely that they implied that Auschwitz was basically just a theme park.
Played by Antonio Banderas in the 1999 film Play It To The Bone
In response to the way his friend and boxing partner, Vince, is acting toward religion, Cesar says: "I am an atheist, thank God!"
Played by Spencer Tracy in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind
Referred to both as an atheist and an agnostic throughout the film, Spencer Tracy's character, Henry Drummond, from Inherit the Wind is based on real life agnostic, Clarence Darrow.
Played by John Cusack in the 2007 film, 1408
In the 2007 horror film, 1408, Mike Enslin is a skeptic who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences. If his career choice wasn't enough to hammer the point home, throughout the film Mike makes his non-believe in god and the supernatural abundantly clear. One such instance occurs when he tries to convince a hotel manager to give him the key to the hotels so-called "haunted room":
"Just give me the key! Listen, I stayed... at the Bixby House. I brushed my goddamn teeth right next to the tub where Sir David Smith drowned his whole family, and I stopped being afraid of vampires when I was 12. Do you know why I can stay in your spooky old room, Mr. Olin? Because I know that ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties... don't exist. And even if they did, there's no God to protect us from them, now is there?"
Prof. Hubert J. Farnsworth
Played by voice actor Billy West in the television series Futurama
Strangely enough, Futurama's the best reference proving Professor Farnsworth's atheism is in a 2014 episode of The Simpsons where the two shows crossed over (not in the spiritual sense). In it, Farnsworth informs the gang to all pray to their respective deities. Farnsworth, however, informs them that he is an atheist. To emphasize this, he then drops to his knees and begins to pray to nothing.
REFERENCE: Season 26, Episode 06 of The Simpsons, "Simpsorama" (2014)
Played by actor Nick Frost in the 2011 film Paul
In the 2011 film, Paul most all of the protagonists are atheists. When Clive, played by real life atheist Nick Frost, is asked if he's a man of god, he answers that no, he's a man of science.
Dr. Norman Goodman
Played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1998 film Sphere
During a particularly harrowing moment, the character Harry asks Norman if he's a religious man. Norman immediately responds with "Atheist," then quickly follows it with "but I'm flexible."
TV Show - Family Guy
The smart, cultured, cynical, and often times drunk family dog, Brian, repeatedly acts as the voice of reason on the mega-hit Fox cartoon sitcom, Family Guy. Created and designed by self-proclaimed atheist and Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane (and voiced by MacFarlane in his own natural speaking voice) many take Brian to be the embodiment of the show creator himself.
Like MacFarlane, Brian is unashamed about his atheism and has many times expressed his atheistic views openly and frankly. One example can be seen in the following Family Guy clip where Brian explains how people got along for thousands of years without religion:
Played by Woody Allen in the 1975 film, Love and Death
Love and Death is a comedy written, directed, and staring Woody Allen in 1975. In it, he plays Boris. As usual with many of Woody Allen's character creations, Boris seems to be in an almost constant state of existential panic and questions god on several occasions within the film. One of the most memorable of those occasions is during a discussion with his friend Sonja (Diane Keaton) at about 7 minutes into the movie. During this scene, they have a somewhat heavy debate over whether or not god is real — Boris, of course, being the skeptic.
REFERENCE: Approximately 7 minutes into the 1975 film, "Love and Death"
Played by Joan Allen in the 2000 film The Contender
[closing remarks at Congressional confirmation hearing]
" ... And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism. Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves, that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church."
Played by actress Cybill Shepherd in the TV series Moonlighting
In the unforgettable 1980's comedy-drama, Moonlighting, a lot of innovative ideas in television came into play. One of my personal favorites was the openly atheist, chic, smart character Maddie Hayes who voiced her views of reason and science over superstition, myth, and the irrational in the episode In God We Strongly Suspect. A clip of the scene can be found below.
REFERENCE: SEASON 02, EPISODE 13 OF MOONLIGHTING, "IN GOD WE STRONGLY SUSPECT"
E. K. Hornbeck
Played by Gene Kelly in the 1960 film, Inherit the Wind
Gene Kelly's Hornbeck character, from the 1960 film, Inherit the Wind, was never explicitly referred to as an atheist. However, it's strongly implied throughout the film that he would at least go by the label of agnostic. This is shown by his support of the agnostic attorney Henry Drummond and his regular mockery of the religious citizens of town.
Max Jerry Horovitz
Voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the 2009 film Mary and Max
In the 2009 claymation film, Mary and Max, Max mentions his atheism twice. He explains that he quit believing in god after reading many books that have "proven god is just a figment of my imagination." Max does, however, continue to wear his yamaka; as it keeps his brain warm.
Gregory House, M.D.
Played by actor Hugh Laurie in the TV series House
Scarily smart, quick, logical, evidence based, and always right (even when he's wrong), Gregory House (played by real life atheist, Hugh Laurie) is everyone's favorite curmudgeon misanthrope. And, just as most other educated men of science, he also happens to be a proud atheist.
While not always tactful, and rarely a delight to be around, he does get his point through. In the clip below we have a fine example of a frustrated House trying to explain why if religious people were rational there would be no religious people:
Played by Chris Colfer in the TV series Glee
Kurt Hummel, the breakthrough character of the mega-hit TV show, Glee, was an openly gay, openly atheist character. In the episode entitled "Grilled Cheesus," Kurt tells his father, "I don't believe in God, but I believe in you, dad." (paraphrasing) when his father is laying in a hospital bed after a heart attack. In the same episode, Kurt also explains Bertrand Russell's classic teapot analogy when conveying to his friends why he can't make the same leap of faith as they have.
REFERENCE: Season 02, Episode 03 of Glee, "Grilled Cheesus"
Played by actor Simon Baker in the TV show The Mentalist
The former fraudulent psychic medium, Patrick Jane, from the CBS crime drama The Mentalist, is yet another brilliant fictional character who scoffs at the ideas of religion and the supernatural. In the scene below, Jane has a conversation expressing how there is no afterlife nor is there any such thing as a real psychic.
REFERENCE: Season 01, Episode 01 of The Mentalist, "Pilot"
Played by Woody Allen in the 2012 film, To Rome with Love
Here we've got yet another instance of Woody Allen explicitly stating that one of his characters is an atheist. This view of god bears no relevance to anything else within the story of To Rome with Love other than acting as a quick moment of comedy when Woody Allen's character, Jerry, is on an airplane experiencing turbulence. The scene occurs early in the film (at around the 5 minute mark) and his religious beliefs aren't mentioned again.
REFERENCE: 5 minutes (approx.) into the 2012 film, "To Rome with Love"
Played by Mary Kay Place in the 1983 film, The Big Chill
"Maybe it's a sign from God that I should reconsider. Too bad I'm an atheist."
Played by Michelle Williams in the TV series Dawson's Creek
The character of Jen Lindley (played by Michelle Williams) classified herself as an atheist on the very first episode of Dawson's Creek. She reemphasized her disbelief in a deity during the series finale of the show, when writing a letter to her daughter.
REFERENCE: Season 01, Episode 01 of Dawson's Creek, "Pilot" and season 06, episode 24, "... Must come to an end"
Played by Omar Epps in the 2000 film, Dracula 2000
In this cringe-inducing film from the year 2000, we see a newly made vampire named Marcus (played by Omar Epps) attacking a man. The man thrusts a crucifix toward the bloodsucker, giving Marcus ample opportunity to squeeze out the quick line "Sorry, sport. I'm an atheist."
Played by actor Oscar Nunez in the TV show The Office
In the American version of the Ricky Gervais (atheist) created television show The Office, the character of Oscar Martinez is found to be an atheist when during the Pledge of Allegiance he omits the words "one nation under god." To see the scene, click below.
REFERENCE: Season 07, Episode 23 of The Office, "Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager" (2011)
Played by actor Michael Pitt in the 2003 film, The Dreamers
"I don't believe in God, but if I did, he would be a black, left-handed guitarist."
Played by Ricky Gervais in the TV series Extras
Ricky Gervais is rapidly becoming a powerful force in the movement against religion. From his thanking god for being an atheist statement at the Emmy's to his film and television roles where he playfully mocks the ridiculousness of religious myths on a regular basis. One of Gervais's greatest creations (along with the wildly famous series The Office) was the series Extras.
In the following scene from Extras we watch as Gervais's character, Andy, discusses why he is an atheist.
REFERENCE: Season 01, Episode 03 of Extras, "Kate Winslet"
Played by Woody Allen in the 1973 film Sleeper
"I'm what you would call a teleological, existential atheist. I believe that there's an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey."
Played by Michael C. Hall in the TV series Dexter
Clearly not one of our proudest claims to fame, this beloved fictional skeptic is nevertheless another intensely rational (albeit misguided) popular figure on television. He lives by a moral code which pushes him to kill those he determines as evil while in the meantime posing as an average, well-respected non-sociopathic citizen of the community.
Voiced by Tracy Grandstaff in the TV shows Daria and Beavis and Butthead
Daria is the epitome of the sarcastic, intellectual teenage loner of the 90's. She is shown to be an atheist in the episode Groped by an Angel when her sister Quinn comes to believe that a guardian angel is looking out for her. When bad things began to happen to Quinn, however, she grows depressed and unsure if there ever even was a guardian angel in the first place. At which point she turns to Daria for advice. In response to her sisters questions about whether or not we're alone in the world, Daria tells her she believes we're alone in this world and we should treat people how we wish to be treated.
REFERENCE: Season 04, Episode 11 of Daria, "Groped by an Angel"
Played by Robert John Burke in the 2001 film No Such Thing
In 2001 this quirky little film was released about a curmudgeon, misanthropic monster who spends the majority of his time drinking vast amounts of alcohol and tearing whatever human he can find to shreds. Having been alive for millennia, he's seen the human species rise from the pond scum to become the most dominant species on earth. It makes him sick and he's grown tired of living to witness it — too bad he's indestructible, otherwise he would have killed himself already.
The Monster's lack of believe in god isn't mentioned too much within the film, other than one scene where he delivers a monologue in which he laments having to watch humans evolve into the controlling species on the planet. It occurs sometime at approximately one hour and sixteen minutes within the film. In it, he mentions that he knows of no god and then remarks, "Unless, of course, I am god. What difference would that make? I'd still be fucked."
REFERENCE: 1:16:00 (approx.) into the 2001 film "No Such Thing"
Sidney J. Munsinger
From the Amazon Studios original series Crisis in Six Scenes
In the fifth episode of Woody Allen's series Crisis in Six Scenes, Allen's character, Sidney J. Munsinger expresses fear that God is going to punish him and his wife for some shady dealings that they're involving themselves in. His wife quickly reminds Sidney that, "God's not going to punish you, you're an atheist." To which Sidney replies: "Yeah. But if I'm wrong, we're in big trouble."
REFERENCE: SEASON 01, EPISODE 05 OF CRISIS IN SIX SCENES
Played by Charlie Hunnam in the 2011 film, The Ledge
The character of Gavin Nichols is openly (very openly) atheist throughout the entire film, The Ledge.
Played by David Lee Smith in the 2007 film The Man from Earth
While there are more overt aspects of this immortal (literally) character that could work well describe his reasons for not being a believer. This movie is too good to ruin it's surprises though, so let's try to use this spoiler-free quote from the film instead. When asked directly if he believed in god, Oldman replies:
"In the words of Laplace, I have no need for that hypothesis."
Jon Osterman aka Doctor Manhattan
Played by Billy Crudup in the 2009 film, Watchmen
After his girlfriend comments that he is now like a god, Doctor Manhattan replies:
"I don't think there is a god. And if there is, I'm nothing like him."
Paul (the alien)
Voiced by actor Seth Rogen in the 2011 film Paul
The alien Paul in the 2011 film of the same name is shown to be repeatedly antagonistic toward ideas of Christianity and other religions, as well as ideas of creationism. After hearing a creationist (Kristen Wiig) go on about how she believes evolution to be a myth, Paul becomes frustrated and shatters her faith by telepathically sharing with her his vast knowledge of the universe, which excludes all her religious beliefs.
Played by actress Gillian Jacobs in the TV show Community
The character of Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) in the NBC television series, Community has openly stated that she is an atheist.
REFERENCE: SEASON 01, EPISODE 12 OF COMMUNITY, "COMPARATIVE RELIGION"
Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Played by Patrick Steward in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation
Jean-Luc is never specifically called an atheist or an agnostic with in the series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, in the episode "Who Watches the Watchers" he does imply a particular disdain toward religion and superstition.
This occurs when inhabitants of a usually rational planet suddenly mistakes Jean-Luc for a god. When Jean-Luc is asked to go to the planet and pretend to be the god they think he is, he replies:
"Your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement? To send them back into the dark ages of superstition, and ignorance and fear! No!"
Make of that what you will.
REFERENCE: Season 03, Episode 04 of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Who Watches the Watchers" (1989)
Played by Leisha Hailey in the Showtime original series, The L Word
In first episode of season 3 of the Showtime original series, The L Word, Alice Pieszecki mentions that she doesn't believe in god when explaining why she's a Angelica's "Earth Mother" instead of her godmother.
REFERENCE: Season 03, episode 01 of the Showtime series 'The L Word'. Episode entitled: 'Labia Majora'.
Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2007 film There Will Be Blood
Plainview may not be the most likable guy to ever to hit the big screen, but there's not denying that he's one smart and savvy character. At the end of There Will Be Blood he has one last success when he uses money to goad his bible-thumping nemesis into admitting that he is a false prophet and that god is nothing more than a superstition.
Played by Lily Tomlin in the 2015 film, Grandma
"I don't believe in an eventual god. When you're dead, you're dead. It's blackness, the end of story, void. Get used to it."
Played by Mats Bergman in the 1982 film Fanny and Alexander
During the 5+ hour version of the Ingmar Bergman film, Fanny and Alexander, the character of Aron Retzinsky admits to being an atheist at approximately 51 minutes into the movies final act, after having a conversation with Alexander about god and the supernatural.
Played by the actor Nathan Fillion in the TV series Firefly and the film Serenity
Malcolm Reynolds is a character on the television show Firefly (created by the openly atheist Joss Whedon). Reynolds became an atheist after a particular devastating experiences in his life opened his eyes to the fact that there is no divine power behind it all. At least, this is one interpretation. Many argue that Malcolm in fact believes in a higher power yet is angry at Him. You can be the judge on this one.
REFERENCE: Season 01, Episode 01 of Firefly, "The Train Job"
Played by Martin Landau in the 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors
Woody Allen films continue to hold the number one spot for most openly atheist characters. In this wonderful, dark film Martin Landau plays Judah Rosenthal, a man who reluctantly involves himself in the murder of his mistress. Throughout the film, Rosenthal, an atheist, is plagued by guilt and while going through the motions he turns back to god for a short time. Yet, by the end of the film, he becomes content with his life again as it was before.
Played by Corey Stoll in the Netflix original series, House of Cards
While sitting in a diner with Doug, a recently sober Peter Russo states that he doesn't believe in any kind of higher power like the other folks in his AA meetings speak of.
REFERENCE: The seventh episode of the first season of the US version of 'House of Cards', entitled 'Chapter 7'
Played by Woody Allen in the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters
After a health scare, Mickey (Woody Allen) has an existential crisis when he realizes that death is inevitable. To sooth his worries he begins seeking different religious faiths in a search for life's meaning only to come up empty-handed, until seeing the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup.
Played by Justin Roiland in the animated television series, Rick and Morty
In Rick and Morty, the titular character of Rick Sanchez has mentioned his disbelief in god in the very first episode of the season, when telling his granddaughter that "There is no god, Summer. You gotta rip that band-aid off now. You'll thank me later."
In the season 2 premiere episode, Rick once again voices his disbelief in god after a near-death experience.
REFERENCE: Season 01, Episode 01, of Rick and Morty, "Pilot" and Season 02, Episode 01, "A Rickle In Time"
Played by actor Ray Liotta in the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina
After Manny Singer's (Ray Liotta) wife dies, leaving him the sole supporter of his child, he hires Corrina (Whoopi Goldberg) as his maid. In one scene when Manny catches Corrina telling his daughter that his mother went to heaven with the angels, Manny pulls Corrina aside and politely requests that, although Corrina is free to believe in what she wants, Manny and his wife were both atheists and he didn't want Corrina teaching his daughter those superstitions.
Spock (and most of Star Trek in general)
Played by actor Leonard Nimoy on the Star Trek TV series and films
It's is widely believed that much of the Star Trek franchise is atheistic without it ever actually being said aloud. This is due to many reasons, such as the shows many implications that religious belief can be dangerous to societies and the continuous examples of Clarke's Third Law in action (that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic). Furthermore, the shows creator, Gene Roddenberry, regarded himself as an "agnostic atheist," and subsequently banned any religious references from the show. I only list Spock here as he is the most logical thinking of Star Trek characters, and relies primarily on rationality and evidence based beliefs, but there are many moments where many characters (in all of Star Trek's incarnations) show signs of atheism and/or agnosticism.
Nevertheless, since his atheism or agnosticism is not specifically mentioned on the shows or films, it's acceptable if one chooses to remain a bit skeptical about this assertion. Although that would not be logical.
Played by actor/director Rob Reiner in the TV show All In The Family
The ultra-liberal Michael Stivic (Meat Head) was always the perfect counterbalance to the conservative, god-fearing Archie Bunker. From politics to religion, he'd always have an opinion that would drive Arch nuts. So, of course, his atheism and choice to let his child chose its own religion was one which the two locked horns on. To see the clip of this discussion click below.
REFERENCE: Season 06, Episode 11 of All In the Family, "The Little Atheist"
Played by Steve Coogan in the 2013 film Philomena
Martin Sixsmith's atheism is referenced many times throughout the film Philomena. One of the more direct quotes include:
"I don't believe in God, and I think He knows."
Troll Hunters, Hans, Thomas, and Johanna
Among the many benefits of atheism, is that it just so happens to be one of the key ways of avoiding being decimated by the many gigantic trolls that are secretly roaming the earth.
As it turns out, trolls can smell the blood of a Christian. With that in mind, before troll hunter extraordinaire, Hans, decided to allow a documentary film crew to follow him around during his adventures, he made sure to question each member of the group as to whether or not they believe in either God or Jesus. Laughing at the absurdity of such a notion, all three in the crew initially said no. In the end, however, we learn that one was lying. The other two, Thomas and Johanna, were just as faithless as Hans though. So they join him on our list.
Played by Rutina Wesley in the HBO television series, True Blood
Throughout the run of True Blood, the character of Tara Thornton has seen spirits, witches, vampires, and a whole bubbling stew full of other instances of the supernatural occur. Somehow, however, she still managed to remain an atheist. Good for her, I say. One example (out of several) of her mentioning her beliefs occur about 5 minutes into the 7th episode of season 4, entitled Cold Grey Light of Dawn, when Sookie Stackhouse asks Tara if she believes her grandma is in heaven. Tara's response is as follows:
"Well, I've always considered myself to be an atheist. But if heaven does exists, I'm pretty sure Adele Stackhouse would be elected president."
REFERENCE: Season 04, Episode 07 of True Blood, "Cold Grey Light of Dawn"
Played by actor Tommy Lee Jones in the 2011 film The Sunset Limited
Atheist, "White" (Tommy Lee Jones), has a long existential argument with the devoutly religious "Black" (Samuel L. Jackson) in the 2011 made for TV film, The Sunset Limited.
Played by actor Simon Pegg in the 2011 film Paul
In the 2011 film, Paul most all of the protagonists are atheists. When Graeme, played by real life atheist Simon Pegg, is asked if he's a man of god, he answers that no, he's a man of science.
Played by Joel McHale in the TV series Community
Joel McHale's character Jeff Winger in the NBC television series, Community has stated that he's an agnostic. You can see a short clip of the scene below.
Click here see Jeff proclaim his agnosticism.
Reference: Season 01, Episode 12 of Community, "Comparative Religion"
Played by actress Sandra Oh in the TV show Grey's Anatomy
In the hit medical drama, Grey's Anatomy, Sandra Oh plays a doctor who is culturally Jewish but is an atheist in her religious beliefs. She has a passion for science and has little patience with superstitious ideas pertaining to the supernatural.
Reference: Season 2, Episode 12 of Grey's Anatomy, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
Played by Larry David in 2009's Whatever Works
Portrayed by real-life atheist, Larry David, in a film written and directed by real-life atheist, Woody Allen, the character of Boris Yelnikoff is cynical, narcissistic, misanthropic, and has the unfiltered tendency to tell things how he sees them. But even he will admit that if someone wants to delude themselves (no matter how frustrating it may be to the outsider watching) people should do whatever makes them happy. Whatever works.
© 2011 The Gutter Monkey