Main Hollywood Atheist Discussion

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08:31:58 AM Oct 2nd 2015
Does the Cynicism Catalyst stereotype stem from the fact that the problem of evil is one of the better arguments for atheism?
06:21:45 PM Oct 2nd 2015
Probably not. I think it's more that people mostly believe in a loving, all-good God so something bad making someone lose that makes sense. This is related, but most people likely don't know about the specific problem of evil unless they have studied philosophy or theology.
09:18:14 AM Feb 21st 2014
edited by
Anyone else agree with me that this trope should be called Straw Atheist instead?
09:49:11 AM Feb 21st 2014
I agree with you that Hollywood Atheist is a bad name and that Straw Atheist is better. But trope renames can only be decided via Trope Repair Shop. Feel free to start a thread, but be prepared to explain your reasons.
08:13:54 PM Feb 21st 2015
Straw Atheist is already a redirect for it, though I agree with you.
02:01:13 AM Feb 22nd 2015
Worth noting that this trope is not solely about strawman characters, so I would be opposed to a plain rename.
12:05:57 PM Feb 22nd 2015
That's true, perhaps a better idea is a split as some proposed in the past.
07:31:29 PM Aug 24th 2013
Why is this included?

  • Atheists only seem to have arguments against their culture's predominant religion. There is never any evidence that they've looked into non-mainstream religions for something they can find more plausible. To be fair, this is often Truth in Television; if you mention online that you are a theist, it will only be an exceptionally rare Atheist who will not immediately assume that this means you're an adherent of one of the three branches of Semitic monotheism.

It's not like Atheists have an obligation to seek out a religion.

05:12:35 PM Oct 27th 2014
edited by
It's included because that is a common criticism of actual atheists-as in, they only oppose (or even know about) their culture's dominant religion (usually Christianity) and thus are ignorant, angry at the Judeo-Christian God, or something like that. They aren't obliged to seek out religion, but this is a stereotype and thus it makes sense to be put down here.
08:46:34 PM Aug 9th 2012
edited by MariaElaineLovelace
Is this meant to be a trope about how atheists were once portrayed in Hollywood - which I assume to mean pop-culture media - or how they are portrayed now? I am not trying to start a flame war, but most mainstream media do their best to avoid these stereotypes, and instead show atheists to be rational, calm, and generally more morally upright than a religious person. Most films and books that show religious people to be correct or more upstanding than an atheist are typically rejected by mainstream culture. Not saying that these stereotypes do not exist at all, but I just don't think they really exist in the Hollywood of today anymore.
03:17:47 PM Aug 10th 2012
This is about a caricature of how atheism is portrayed in various media; just like how If Jesus Then Aliens is about how "believers" are gullible and think that All Myths Are True. It's about stereotypes, basically, and it may even be in the process of becoming a Discredited Trope (or at least, a Dead Horse Trope).
04:17:18 PM Aug 10th 2012
Yeah, I know it's about stereotypes, it's just that I was confused by the "Hollywood" part of the name because these stereotypes rarely if ever appear in the mainstream media of today.
10:31:53 PM Aug 27th 2012
edited by Malchus
Rarely? Have you read all the examples? A lot of it is still recent. That a few make the effort to avert this trope doesn't mean it suddenly disappeared, or even that it's suddenly became a small number.

It's still an annoyingly common character archetype, and many writers still use it either for convenience or for other reasons.
08:32:50 PM Sep 29th 2012
edited by MariaElaineLovelace
Can you give some more contemporary examples? I just really don't think the negative/straw-man portrayal of atheists in *mainstream media* is as common as one would think. For example, think of the portrayal of the so-called Christians in Easy A; the Bible-thumping preacher in Footloose; the evil warden in Shawshank Redemption; the perverted priest in Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame; the plethora of psychotic serial killers who turn out to be Christians in "Criminal Minds" and similar shows - these "Christians" are all portrayed as villains, and the characters who question them or serve justice to them are seen as the heroes, implying that a lack of Christian belief results in a nicer, kinder and overall better person. Also think of House, where the lead protagonist is a firm atheist. Kurt Hummel of Glee is another atheist shown in a positive light.

I just think the adjective "Hollywood" is really misleading, because Hollywood/mainstream media does not go out of its way to slam atheism and typically does not endorse the tenets of Christianity. These stereotypes do exist, but generally in poorly written Christian fiction, not Hollywood. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "Flanderized Atheist" or something similar?
07:33:41 AM Oct 12th 2012
edited by Malchus
Since you're focusing on mainstream American media, then I'll mention a few film and American TV examples that are already listed this very page made in the 2000s so you can read this page for details and I won't have to repeat them:

  • Signs (2002)
  • The Island (2005)
  • Knowing (2009)
  • The Bucket List (2007)
  • The Rite (2011)
  • The Mentalist (2008-still running)
  • House (No, he is not a positive portrayal. Just because he has redeeming qualities doesn't change the fact that he's an asshole, or that his atheism is presented in an assholish "I'm right, you're wrong, fuck you" way—one of the traits listed in the trope description. I'm even kind of insulted you think such a portrayal is a positive example of an atheist.)
  • Firefly (2002)
  • Scrubs (2001-2010)

Also, I have to address the fact that you think this trope only applies to "positive" or "negative" portrayals. How positive or negative the creator who uses these stereotypes does not matter—this trope is about characters constructed to the basic structure as out lined in the trope page: (1) They are in some way bitter and cynical, sometimes extremely so; (2) something bad must have happened to make them atheist, they can never have just come upon it through their own choice and reasoning; and (3) they have one or more of the character traits as listed in the trope description. Whether the character is a villain or not, whether atheism is being condemned or not, does not matter. If he fits the stereotype, then he is a Hollywood Atheist.

And that's it. So what about Christianity also being stereotyped? We have Strawman tropes about that too, and that has no bearing on this discussion. Nor does Christianity being stereotyped itself somehow mean that atheists being stereotyped is suddenly lessened or somehow doesn't apply anymore.

Also, what does the term "Hollywood" have to do with my point? I in no way addressed your point on the trope's name and was very specifically responding to your statement that they "rarely if ever appear in mainstream media of today" when they still do.

07:39:06 AM Oct 12th 2012
I am Legend and The Grey are two other recent films that are pretty strong examples.
06:25:37 PM Nov 5th 2012
I'd still disagree with House. His cockiness can be seen as deserved, considering his successes and intelligence, and there are several instances where his arrogance is shown to be more of a bravado. I don't really see how "I Am Legend" or "The Grey" slams atheism; and of the films and shows you listed above, I'm not familiar enough with their content to offer any rebuttal.

However, my issue with the word "Hollywood" is that it implies that mainstream, public media is negatively biased against atheism, which is somewhat misleading because the majority of mainstream films, literature and music generally approves or does not object to atheism. My point isn't that negative biases against atheism don't exist, because they do; but rather, that such biases are fairly uncommon in mainstream portrayals. I just think it would make more sense to say "Strawman Atheist" or something similar.
03:41:25 AM Nov 10th 2012
edited by Malchus
And again, you miss the point entirely. As long as the character is explicitly an atheist and fits several of the features listed in the description, then he/she qualifies for this trope. Whether his cockiness is deserved or not, whether his skills are good or not, and whatever the cause of his arrogance, House still fits with this trope because he is an outspoken atheist and possess the following of the features discussed in the trope description:

  • Atheists only seem to have arguments against their culture's predominant religion. There is never any evidence that they've looked into non-mainstream religions for something they can find more plausible. (Most of House's arguments are always about the Judeo-Christian God)
  • Atheists are depressed, lonely, avoidant and often Nietzsche Wannabes. (Does House live a miserable and lonely life? Yes.)
  • Atheists exist solely to mock religious people. (Every time House's atheism is brought up, it is always to mock religion in one way or another.)
  • Atheists are smugly convinced of their own intellectual superiority and usually blinded to the "truth" by their own elitist pretensions and, usually, are Not so Different from their religious opponents. (Smugly convinced of his intellectual superiority is a defining character trait of House, and as I said, whether it's "justified" or not doesn't matter. It's there, it counts. He has also been shown to be wrong several times due to his arrogance. And many of his more stubborn arguments with the religious were used to show that he is just as unbending in his beliefs as they are.)

Several of the episodes focusing on House's atheism have made use of those features I listed above. Thus, he qualifies as this trope. Why are you so insistent against that when it is spelled right out?

Also, why are you conflating the I Am Legend and The Grey examples with mine when I didn't include them in the list and it was suggested by another troper replying to my comment? Please don't put his words in my mouth.

Again, my issue is not with the "Hollywood" part of the name. Why do you keep bringing that up? It's makes it seem like you're ignoring my point entirely just to pursue your personal peeve. I don't give a damn what they call this trope, and in fact a redirect of it is already Straw Atheist.

My problem with your position has always boiled down to your claim that this trope is uncommon in recent mainstream media. I listed several examples above already, which you admit to not knowing enough about to rebut. So how can you judge whether it's fairly common or uncommon when you admit that you have no knowledge of several of the examples I listed? That only means that it's uncommon only for the things you have watched, and saying that it's too uncommon for mainstream media in general is a faulty conclusion based on what you admit is a limited point of reference. Last time I checked, mainstream media is not limited only to what one person has watched. So why should we take your word—and your word alone—that this is uncommon in mainstream media when our experiences prove otherwise as backed by the examples I listed?
05:55:39 PM Apr 5th 2012
edited by Melesmelda
Never mind, dumb question.
06:58:20 AM Apr 5th 2012
Quick question: if the character is stated to be an atheist, but doesn't make a fuss about it (in fact, one of their best friends is religious), but they are portrayed as being somewhat immature or overly idealistic. By comparison, their religious friend is The Cynic because they see all the evil in the world.
05:45:47 PM Jul 23rd 2012
So, uh, what was the question?
03:15:54 PM Aug 10th 2012 bad. The question is, wouldn't that be an inversion of some kind?
04:44:38 AM Mar 17th 2013
08:36:48 AM Jan 10th 2012
Look, the reason why few Abrahamics are transhumanists is because they see it as blasphemy. Defiling the body that God gave you or trying to surpass Him. Descartes was a devout Christian and most of the faith have adopted his belief in the "Ghost in the Machine".

There are quite a few Buddhist transhumanists because they believe that practically anything can have a soul and in reincarnation. So if one were to dice up someone's brain in order to make a virtual copy a Buddhist might believe that the original person had been reincarnated as a computer program. While most Christians would think a virtual copy of someone's brain is, at best, a mere copy, at worst, a dead man denied his rightful place in Heaven.
12:59:14 PM Mar 14th 2012
edited by Stoogebie
I wouldn't go that far. There is truth to that statement, sad to say; a fellow Catholic I know once said that a human clone wouldn't have a real soul, and possibly be animated by a demon. I found that to be completely ridiculous, although I'm not crazy about the idea of biology fooling around with things like that just because they can. Still, I'm not sure if I'm an exception, but suffice it to say it's a little unfair to presume "most" Christians are like that, especially considering (spoiler marked for risk of offensiveness) the position of Pro-Life

To add to that, if transhumanism extends to such things as cybernetic prosthetics, then I'm promising that no Christian would actually say that someone with a robot arm/leg has no soul or something. Or for that matter, having an organ that was regrown and transplanted. Bodily modifications such as these (which are pretty much the most common type today) probably don't fall under this though, right?
05:58:34 AM Sep 28th 2011
I took out the section reading "Alternatively, the writers who use these tropes may simply be extrapolating (or exaggerating) from common stereotypes about atheists or basing them on experiences with atheists they have known personally."

The first example there is so obvious it needn't be said, the second is just bigoted. If we were talking about a trope that stereotypes and belittles another minority, we wouldn't say that the writers may be basing it on people they know.
11:56:10 AM Mar 15th 2012
edited by Stoogebie
I understand why you find it offensive, but what's really sad is that there's a bit of truth to it. Some atheists are irreverible jerkasses, the same way some devout religious folk are The Fundamentalist or Straight Edge Evil knights templar. The kind that some writers "have known personally" and thus base this trope upon may be either a Vocal Minority or those who the sensible freethinkers wish would Stop Being Stereotypical, but they're out there. It happens among organized churches as well, sad to say.
07:48:35 PM Mar 16th 2012
edited by XiVXaV
Why? For a few reasons. First, yes it's probably true, but that's not why the phrase was bigoted. It was bigoted because it's essentially trying to justify these stereotypes of atheists based on "Well some of them really are like that." It would be like trying to justify the Greedy Jew stereotype because there are really some greedy Jews out there.

Second, "Some portion of this particular group happens to be made up of assholes" is true of any group, no matter how you slice it. It's basically People Sit on Chairs applied to Real Life. Therefore, there's really no reason it needs to be said in particular about atheists.

This one is more personal for me, but third is that I feel like it takes a lot less for an atheist (as well as really any other minority group) to be labelled an "asshole" or "militant". To some religious people, the very mention of atheists is "offensive". This makes the statement even worse, in my mind, because these "asshole atheists" the writer was supposedly drawing from may have just been someone who was an atheist and dared to be outspoken about it.
12:38:09 AM Jun 9th 2011
Maybe split the trope?

Divide it into Straw Atheist and Asshole Atheist. There is by definition no such thing as a real-life Hollywood Atheist, but we certainly know of atheists who are to say the least unpleasant.
01:01:56 PM Jun 9th 2011
I agree.
10:09:54 PM Jun 12th 2011
edited by XiVXaV
Essentially split down the line of "Atheist as The Failed Job" vs. "Atheist as jerk/snob"? I could get behind that perhaps if there was also a page for more positive depictions of atheists.

However, I don't particularly like the sound of your last sentence there. It seems more like you're asking "Can we make a page where I can list real life examples of atheists I find 'unpleasant'?"
02:44:45 PM Jun 14th 2011
I didn't take it that way, but obviously we shouldn't have a "real life" section for a negative stereotype of a real-life group.

The problem is that this trope can't decide whether it wants to be about atheists who are Strawmen, atheists who have been Rule of Drama'd, or Atheists who Aren't a Paragon of Patience and Virtue. I'd like a split, but not before we get a consensus on what the future pages should be.
10:27:51 AM Jun 15th 2011
I guess I'll just lay out a few suggestions then. First, to keep with the sort of naming conventions we have for these things, make a page just called 'Straw Atheist' basically including all of those that are about exaggerating atheist positions in order to make them easier to knock down.

I also am fond of PZ Myer's "Failed Job" description of the "Rule of Drama" Atheist, so I think that that would make a pretty good title for a page on that, which could also go on to explain how such depictions are implicitly endorsing religion (Though that's always kind of the point of any Hollywood Atheist, isn't it?).

For the last, I don't know, something simple maybe? Just something like "Jerkass Apostate" or similar?

As I had said before, I also would think it would be a good idea to have a page for more positive depictions of atheists, because A) Outside of the useful notes page, none of the pages here really look positively on atheism and B) so we can get the numerous subversions off the negative trope pages.
08:15:14 PM Jun 15th 2011
I think this works.

"Atheist as a Failed Job" makes a good title, but I wouldn't write any political views into it, as 1. That's asking for an edit war, and 2. That's really not in the spirit of the Rule of Drama.

"Straw Atheists" for any atheist that's actually a strawman. Meaning a position nobody holds in reality.

And "Snobby Apostate" for people like House, who are smart, know why they hold their position, and let everybody know about it. People who are shown as "not-so-different" from evangelical fundies could go here too.

I like it. But I'd still like to get at least one more opinion before I start the working process. Besides, I work for the next seven days.

On second thought... maybe put a line into "Atheist as a Failed Job" about this being a common way to implicitly endorse religion, but this might open a can of worms. It would have to be gentle.
08:32:50 AM Jun 16th 2011
I would suggest you also make a forum topic if you want to get some more opinions. Not a whole lot of people check the discussion pages.
03:02:00 PM Jun 16th 2011
I thought the "Hollywood" tropes just covered unrealistic but relatively common depictions in media, often including more than one type. I don't see any reason this should be split; it talks about various inaccurate portrayals of atheism.
12:11:29 PM Jun 17th 2011
But the way it is now is confusing. Also, the header suggests that this trope only covers strawmen, which is completely different that disproportionate representation.
04:39:57 PM Dec 26th 2011
edited by Stoogebie
I'm for splitting the trope. Hollywood Nerd is another case where I'd say it's a bit weird, and it's hard to tell if a character actually qualifies (on the one side, it's The Urkel Up to Eleven; on the other, Hollywood Homely with Nerd Glasses).

Some "Hollywood" atheists are somewhat accurate in Real Life. The asshole variety is definitely Truth in Television, which even other atheists can point out.

Let's have a TRS on this one though. Oh, and I apologize if I inadvertently sounded like an ass.
03:07:43 PM Jun 7th 2011
It might be time for another cleanup. Is this page about straw atheists, or any portrayal of an atheist that somebody finds unflattering?
05:17:33 PM Jul 19th 2011
Is about stereotypes.
02:15:14 PM Jul 23rd 2013
The use on the wiki has devolved into "Any atheist that is not portrayed as both absolutely right and a completely amazing human being, constantly with no variations." Cleaning up the trope page itself is probably a moot point as the Flanderization is just associated with the trope now, and most people on the wiki probably have no interest in reining in the current usage anyway.
06:52:06 AM May 24th 2011
edited by fibojoly
Would adding the French theatre play Dom Juan, by Molière by an acceptable example of this trope? (although there are many versions of the story, it's the one this troper is familiar with). In it, the eponymous protagonist is portrayed as an atheist, whose mission in life is to dare God to strike him down if he exists. He's a Doubter like Thomas of Aquin, hence his libertine ways and his pleasure to break anything sacred out of spite (such as sleeping with nuns, offering indecent money to poors if they will curse God, etc). Except that in the end, God does send somebody to kick his unbelieving ass in the form of an animated statue of a man he previously killed. This would make the Trope Older Than Radio.
02:18:00 AM Jun 6th 2011
Sounds like a perfectly good example.
11:52:19 AM Jan 10th 2011
Atheists in real life can be a rather diverse group. After all, the only thing confirmed by the label "atheist" is that the person does not believe in any god(s).

Actually, the most accurate definition for atheism would be "not a theist". Just that. Nothing more. An atheist is just somebody whose worldview does not include thinking that there are one or more gods/deities/divine beings/whatever (which is not the same as thinking that there aren't any gods). This definition, though, is so broad that it would be wrong to call atheists a "group", much like "people who are not soccer hooligans" is not a group either. Hell, one could think that alien wombats from a parallel dimension invade Earth to steal our invisible unicorns and that the government is covering it up and that we can fight them by consuming homeopathic medicine, and he would still be an atheist. "Atheist" does not mean "disbeliever", "skeptic", "pragmatic" or "reasonable". "Atheist", as a label, is beyond utterly useless, because it's so broad it defines nothing at all. Saying that somebody is a "secular humanist" says something about his philosophy and worldview; same would go for "naturalist" or "empiricist". "Atheist"? Not so much.
01:54:28 PM Jan 10th 2011
Actually atheists do have a considerable amount of group identity, if the majority were not believers it might be different.
09:39:35 PM Mar 24th 2011
Erm, this atheist would like to contest the assertion that atheists "have a considerable amount of group identity;" she - along with most other atheists she's met - "group" herself with other atheists. The label "atheist" merely describes a lack of belief, and nothing more and nothing less.
01:20:56 PM Dec 15th 2010
I deleted the following line from the Comic book section:

  • Which is a surprisingly logical and realistic standpoint for an "atheist" character in comics, since most, like Mr. Terrific, just stick their fingers in their ears and go "LALALA I can't see you, LALALALA!"

Since comic books characters reasons and ideas change Depending on the Writer is hard to tell with certainty such thing about Mr. Terrific plus we don't need more Flame War bait already.
09:20:55 AM Nov 14th 2010
This page having a troper tales page didnt make sense to begin with but it definately shouldnt have one when its counterpart The Fundamentalist had its troper tales wiped.
09:32:09 AM Nov 14th 2010
to clarify now that the page is deleted can we just lock it to prevent the flamewars that spawn there
11:58:48 AM Nov 14th 2010
edited by XiVXaV
While I have been advocating taking down the page, I can't say I'm comfortable with having you just decide for everyone else that it should be completely wiped. You should probably take this to the forums and discuss it. In the meantime, I've saved the page's contents.
06:08:42 PM Nov 16th 2010
okay im not really used to the way wiki pages like Troper Tales works
09:20:59 AM Sep 24th 2010
The entry on Wolverine from the animated X-men show seems problematic to me. First off, it states that Wolverine thinks that "God has given up on mutants", which seems more like Nay-Theist to me. Second, any pretense of neutrality is lost when the writer declares a moment with Wolverine sitting in a church reading a Bible to be a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Am I the only one bothered by this?
04:06:48 PM May 4th 2011
No. I'm with you.
06:58:16 AM Sep 20th 2010
Can we do something about the section that says writers may be basing things on their own experiences, etc? It seems to me that that's just a shade away from writing a vicious anti-Semitic stereotype and justifying it by saying, "But some Jews ARE greedy! I'm just extrapolating from common stereotypes! We've all met or heard of someone like that!"

I say unless someone can come up with a less problematic way of stating it, we strike the whole bit.
08:30:47 AM Sep 20th 2010
Agreed. It seems to have been written by somebody with the same kind of preconceptions stated within the trope. I know we're not supposed to be as formal about things as the other wiki, but the articles should at least be impartial.
09:17:12 AM Sep 24th 2010
All I can think of to replace it with would be to strike out the part that starts with "Let's face it..." and goes to the end of the paragraph, and replace it with something along the lines of, "However, while these portrayals may reflect real life experiences the writer had with a particular atheist, that in no way justifies the stereotype, just as the fact that greedy Jews exist does not justify the stereotype that all Jews are greedy."
10:58:57 PM Sep 8th 2010
edited by Sines
In subjects like these, I'm usually cautious about adding a Real Life example, but this seems tame. Still, I thought I'd put it here for criticism. Here's my idea for the example. Alternatively, this could be put in the discription (With some alterations).

It's not unusual for religious people to have bad experiences that make them question their faith. This can either be played straight, or subverted if the religious person deconverts because of atheistic arguments. In the latter case, the bad experience is what causes the person to question in the first place, but does not become the sole reason for disbelief.

Alternatively, a note somewhere (In descriptions or examples) as to how there exists arguments that are essentially well thought out versions of the Theme Park Version the Hollywood Atheist represents. These usually question how an omnipotent, loving god would allow evil (Either at all, or in excessive volumes.)
07:08:53 PM Sep 20th 2010
We've tried adding the examples but things keep getting out of hand. Sometimes, whit certain topics, you have to accept that you can't win. But hey, don't take my word for it, just look at the Troper Tales and enjoy the results.
10:19:51 PM May 30th 2010
Xi V Xa V : I would really like to continue the discussion on the removal of the troper tales page from Hollywood Atheist. A) No one there is actually paying attention to the characteristics laid out on the page, they're just using it as a place to whine about atheists they've met who also happen to be jerks about it. The way I see it, that's not what this page is about, but instead the representation of atheists in media as either having illogical reasons for their disbelief (Bad things have happened to me, therefore God does not exist, and the like) instead of reasoned skepticism, and being depressed or irresponsible (Anyone who claims to know an atheist who "lives solely to belittle religious people" I would accuse of gross exaggeration). B) As a War On Straw page, Hollywood Atheist is about a stereotype, and as such is always going to be Flame Bait. The Fundamentalist had it's Troper Tales page taken down for the same reason.
04:24:54 PM Jun 15th 2010
Now it's gotten nasty on both sides. It's probably due for heavy trimming at the least.
04:08:55 PM Jun 16th 2010
Like I said, it's just Flame Bait to have a Troper Tales page dedicated to a stereotypical portrayal of a group of people.
04:52:21 PM Jun 28th 2010
[sigh] Yeah, you're right. If this is where it goes — to be honest, the recent stuff disturbs me even more, but it got there for a reason — then it was a bad idea.
10:29:46 AM Jul 16th 2010
So... can we get some more opinions from others? I'd really like to know how other people feel about this.
12:11:16 AM Oct 8th 2010
Yeah, I've noticed too. Most "tales" are about whining, actually - very far from the spirit (no pun intended) of the trope.
03:37:23 PM Jan 21st 2011
I personally don't hate atheists themselves. I realize that not all atheists are whiney little bastards who want to piss off Christians and flip the bird at God(s) they don't believe in. Many simply choose not to have a religion. I'd call the Hollywood Atheist a sort of Flanderization of how some atheists are.
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