PZ Myers on Movie Atheists

Cover of "I Am Legend [Blu-ray]"

Cover of I Am Legend [Blu-ray]

In a review in Pharnygula of the Will Smith movie I Am Legend, PZ Myers notes that when atheists are depicted in popular movies they are either villains or stereotypical candidates for conversion.

The acceptable atheist is the one who has faced so much tragedy, whose life has been damaged by cruel fate to such a degree that his declaration that there is no god is understandable. . . . .That’s the standard trope: the atheist is a broken man, a nihilist, a cynic, someone who has come to his disbelief as a consequence of a devastating emotional experience.

This “acceptable atheist” almost always reconsiders their atheism by movie’s end. Myers notes that although “this is the kind of atheist theists are comfortable with” it has nothing to do with why most atheists today do not believe in any kind of god. “New atheists” have embraced a natural, scientific worldview, whereas the “movie atheist” still yearns for the supernatural underneath their anger.

I love Myer’s summary,

There are atheists who look on a tragedy and cry, “There is no god,” in despair. But we are atheists who look on beauty and complexity and awesome immensity and shout out, “There is no god!” and we are glad.

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