As atheist TV characters increase, here are 5 of the best

Print More
'True Detective' star Matthew McConaughey at the 83rd Academy Awards.

'True Detective' star Matthew McConaughey at the 83rd Academy Awards. Photo by David Torcivia via Wikimedia Commons.

Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content by logging-in here.

'True Detective' and 'The Good Wife' are putting atheist characters in the spotlight. To celebrate the rise of atheists on TV, here are five of the best nontheist TV characters from the last five years.

  • Bob Blaskiewicz

    No Gregory House? 🙂

  • Bradley

    I’d include Bones. She seems to represent a true Faithiest; accepting of her husband’s Roman Catholicism; quite willing to work with people of religious faith for the common good.

  • McConaughey’s character in True Detective is THE BEST atheist character I’ve seen. He has some of the greatest lines, including “If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then, brother, that person is a piece of shit.”

  • Atheist Max

    It is wonderful to see the world waking up.
    The end of religion is the beginning of philosophy, science and wisdom.
    Atheism is the only honest approach to the absence of any evidence that any gods are real.

  • Chris

    Hey, Bob…they did mention Gregory House. Also they said “Patrick James” from The Mentalist…but his name is Jane, not James. Anyway, cool list! Loved the OITNB speech! Haven’t seen True Detective yet, hadn’t really heard anything about it, but this article makes me want to see it now.

  • Joe

    Freaks and Geeks is the only one of those shows that I ever watched.
    Loved Lindsay Weir but hated the whole grandma dying stuff. I wish American TV would just let her be a pothead like that character would be in real life……Instead they had to come up with this kind of nonsense as the trigger of her rebellion. It’s sad really

  • Ben Griffith


  • Jeff

    I was pretty much put off the show completely when she had her near-death experience, which gave the clear indication that, as far as the show’s universe was concerned, she was wrong. Haven’t watched it since. Did they backtrack from that idiocy?

  • Ituri

    NDE’s are not religious in nature. They’re scientific fact. NASA can purposefully recreate a NDE during astronaut training, in the centrifuge device. It’s a matter of firing neurons and the human brain making sense of confused or randomized signals, and the human brain has a way of hallucinating when it happens, before people tend to black out.

    Theists just pin on it because they err in thinking there is no science that explains it.

    That said, tv producers aren’t the most creative sort, so your show may well have been using it as a “prove the atheist wrong” plot device, which is admittedly ridiculous and overused.

  • Comp

    Cpt Malcom Renolds on Firefly!

  • Jeff

    Oh, I know it’s not religious in nature. Theists typically fail to get what the N in NDE stands for (just as alien conspiracy nuts do with the U in UFO). NDEs are actually fairly well understood at this point, though not completely. Of course, any gap in understanding is always pointed out as evidence by those anxious to advance a theistic agenda.

  • Yes, McConaughey’s character is my favorite too, although probably not the ideal role model for atheists. He is sort of the apologist’s strawman nihilist version of an atheist.

    Oscar from the Office was an atheist as well as being gay. They didn’t talk about it, but he refused to say “Under God” during the pledge of allegiance once.

  • I almost forgot Davos Seaworth from “Game of Thrones”

    “I think mothers and fathers made up the gods because they wanted their children to sleep through the night.”
    ―Davos Seaworth

  • strangebanana

    I can’t believe the author left out Brian Griffith!

  • strangebanana

    *Griffin, Brian Griffin. I can’t believe I spelled out his name incorrectly!

  • Thalass

    Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He’s the “I went through hell, and god wasn’t there for me” kind of athiest.

  • Mi5ael

    Yeah, Brian Griffin rocks and should’ve made the list even though he can (well, “could,” now they killed him off) be a real down-your-throat liberal douche.

  • Duh

    Oscar from The Office.

  • P Smith

    If you expand it and stop talking from a US-centred view, many detectives from novels were agnostics or atheists, or at the very least, had no patience for religion in general. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse and many others in novels, TV and movies could be added to the list. It’s no surprise that fiction matches real life – critical thinkers tend to be atheists, those who want easy answers are believers.

    And let’s not forget any Star Trek made while Gene Roddenberry was alive, none of the pro-religious drivel made after he died. Roddenberry’s goal of using TV to make social commentary and change (e.g. the first black-white kiss on TV) included his atheism. Many of his characters reflected that, especially in the “Next Generation” series.

  • Ashley

    Dexter! I know it’s not technically still on tv…. But still….

  • AkaiKoru

    OMG LOVE THAT QUOTE! Absolutely watching the show now 😉

  • Darlene

    Matt Albie (played by Matthew Perry) from the insanely wonderful and way too quickly cancelled Studio 60 is for me, the best example of atheism on TV that I’ve seen. He was witty, earnest, intelligent and thoughtful (albeit at times sarcastic and incredulous- but who of us isn’t?) in all of his discussions and debates about religion (and there were MANY). His longtime and fiery relationship with Sarah Paulson’s Harriet Hayes, a devout baptist and spiritual music-recording comedienne, made for some of the best, funniest, and evenly matched arguments on the subject of religion in television history. [A relationship that’s rumored to be based on writer Aaron Sorkin and his ex actress/singer Kristen Chenoweth]

  • jaakko

    Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch!! Honorary mention to Brian Griffin!

  • Larry

    Sgt Dietrich from Barney Miller (Steve Landesberg’s character) was probably the most well adjusted and mundane portrayal of an atheist I have ever seen. Well educated, a little quirky but just matter of factly atheist.

    Not the “God wasn’t here for me!” or “all religion is evil!!” sort you see on TV. The ones where the atheist is seen as someone “damaged” or just a “wounded believer”.

    There is one line which I always love bringing up. Barney asks Dietrich, “So suppose you die and find yourself standing in front of the pearly gates, ready to be judged?” Dietrich just looks at him blankly and says “Oops.”

  • Homer Simpson on God: “God is so in your face. He’s my favorite fictional character.”

  • Susan

    I’m glad someone else remembers that line. I loved it. No one else has remember when I’ve mentioned it elsewhere.

    He was a great character. He was always my favorite.

  • Claire

    The near death experience can be interpretative anyway you like it to be. Heaven is an idealistic end result and Temperance did grow up in america which is saturated with the christian belief.

    Coupled with her missing her mother it could have easily just been her mind hallucinating and trying to cope with the fact that she was dying. Temperance is a very self aware person, that and the fact that some studies show how realistic dreams can be right before you die, I’m going to just interpret that scene the way I want to interpret it, because they haven’t mentioned it since, it could easily have been some of Booth’s religiosity rubbing on her psyche, and It doesn’t really distract from the interpersonal connections I watch the show for.

  • Sarah

    A lot of the children’s books I read my kids have parents who aren’t religious. In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume, for instance, there’s a section where the boy tolerates the annoyance of his religious grandparents. No one talks about god in Harry Potter, and Rick Riordan’s books are all about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian gods. I agree with the poster above that many writers must be atheists or agnostics themselves.

  • Jerry

    Wasn’t the girl from bones an atheist?? Idk I may be wrong I haven’t watched the show recently

  • Amanati

    Dr. Maura Isles, Rizzoli & Isles

  • Stephanie Rona

    Robin from how I met your mother is at the least a skeptic/agnostic.

  • Dudley Jones

    What about the original Sherlock Holmes in the books?


    “God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence. “Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’”

    Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan; Estate Ltd., The Conan Doyle (2011-08-15). THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES and THE COMPLETE TALES OF TERROR AND MYSTERY (All Sherlock Holmes Stories and All 12 Tales of Mystery in a Single Volume!) … Conan Doyle | The Complete Works Collection) (Kindle Locations 5841-5843). The Complete Works Collection. Kindle Edition.

  • amir jabril

    Oh is that what u western peoples zionist created anti religious propaganda tell ya now?

  • amir jabril

    Yes because this theory can’t possibly be wrong according to u atheists. Love how u western atheists preach tolerance and yet some of the most intolerant people when it comes to others beliefs.

  • Me

    Do you realize how drenched in hypocrisy your words are? I’m 16 and an atheist, and I am clearly more tolerant than you will ever be.

  • Dan Ciora

    Now about Doctor Who? Doctor Who is clearly an atheist.

  • Beaner

    Says the guy coming on to an atheist thread and bashing them for non-belief. How very tolerant of you.

  • Felix

    Unless Martin comes up with a huge twist, the irony is that within GoT, atheists are almost certainly wrong. Davos was always one of my favorite characters when I read the books, even before any atheist tendency was apparent. He is calm, critically aware, interested in educating himself and gaining intellectual skills, and just too honorable not to be abused.

  • Dean Smith

    Not saying boo for fear of offending someone’s beliefs isn’t tolerance, it’s condescension.

  • Al the Atheist

    Sarah, unfortunately Harry Potter stories reek of theism and Rowling confessed that her faith colored the stories.

  • Ila

    I see you share interesting content here, you can earn some additional cash, your blog has big potential, for the monetizing method, just search in google –
    K2 advices how to monetize a website

  • amir jabril

    Atheism is only growing in the west and last i checked the west wasn’t the rest. So keep dreaming about ur atheist paradise cuz thats all it is.

  • DnD

    I prefer Richard Dawkins’ response to a similar (if not smug) question: “What would you do if you died and found yourself face to face with god?”
    Dawkins replied, “I’d ask, ‘Which one are YOU?'”

  • Pingback: Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ wrestles with faith amid rise of atheist TV characters()

  • Pingback: Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ wrestles with faith amid rise of atheist TV characters | Vegas 411()