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Austin Cline

Forum Discussion: Atheist Fiction

By September 11, 2013

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In much fiction, atheists either don't appear at all or, if they do, they are portrayed negatively. Religious and theistic faith, in contrast, are typically depicted positively, are encouraged, and are supported. It's little wonder that atheists would be interested in finding "atheist fiction" which speaks to their own experiences, interests, and values.

A forum member writes:

Are there really that few fiction books with atheist heroes/subjects? I know and read and like Vonnegut, and I've read Contact. I'm not that into SciFi, so what else is there? Anything current and funny and fun to read?

It's true that atheist fiction appears to be relative scarce, but some books do exist. What have you read that you like? What can you share with other atheists on the forum about books with atheist topics and/or characters? Add your thoughts to the comments here or join the ongoing discussion in the forum.

Comments
January 23, 2008 at 10:08 am
(1) CrypticLife says:

Note that Alonzo Fife at his Atheist Ethicist blog is looking to start a contest for fiction where atheists are portrayed positively.

January 23, 2008 at 11:31 am
(2) SomeAtheistGuy says:

The television series ‘Bones’, starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, depicts the main character as an Atheist, and very positively, as the character is based on Kathy Reichs, a well known Anthropologist and author who created the characters.

Reichs has written several books which were used as the basis for the series.

January 23, 2008 at 1:04 pm
(3) Gotweirdness says:

Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly/Serenity is an atheist having giving up religion after watching a large number of wounded troops abandoned on the battlefield. Joss Whedon, the creator and writer is an atheist himself.

James Di Griz from the Stainless Steel Rat series if novels is an atheist although he is described as a Scientific Humanist.

A fair number of anime characters tend to be atheist or agnostic. Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist is agnostic and Roronoa Zoro from One Piece is an atheist.

Several comic book characters atheist as well, Mr. Terrific and the Question.

January 23, 2008 at 8:55 pm
(4) Doug says:

Even though he is portrayed as a misanthropic cynic, Dr. Greg House on the TV show House is an atheist who’s atheistic views seem to be vindicated on many episodes.

January 25, 2008 at 1:49 am
(5) Bachalon says:

GW beat me to the Harrison. Spider Jerusalem from the “Transmetropolitan” comic book series.

January 29, 2008 at 3:32 pm
(6) John Hanks says:

James T. Farrell wrote an excellent novel which was part of his five book autobiography. It is called, “A World I Never Made”. I have read many books by many authors. I would say that Farrell’s novels have the most integrity. “Studs Lonigan” is almost an anthropological study.

January 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm
(7) John Walter says:

Usually called an existentialist I would consider the novels of Albert Camus such as The Plague and The Stranger close to what you’re looking for. The protagonist of The Stranger resists the pressure to wrap himself in the garments of religion at the end of his life.

February 1, 2008 at 10:14 pm
(8) RJ says:

Fantasy novelist Piers Anthony is an atheist. Wrote “On a Pale Horse” and more.

February 1, 2008 at 10:17 pm
(9) RJ says:

Oops. Meant to be characters in the novels/shows. Sorry about above on author not characters.

May 22, 2008 at 1:24 pm
(10) Lenoxus says:

It’s never too late to add thoughts, is it? Assuming that’s the case, here are mine:

When you think about it, it’s tricky to have a story be explicitly “atheist,” because, of course, theism is never totally falsifiable. Fictional characters can’t exactly say “OK, turns out there is no God,” because of course, any god could still be hiding in the fringes.

That’s why most of what I would consider atheist fiction actually tests “religion-positive” in terms of its literal content, but negative in terms of its messages. The major example I’m surprised nobody mentioned is Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, the fantasy epic that emphasizes the superiority of the present physical world over any possible “spiritual” one. I also recommend any book by James Morrow. (However, I must admit my opinion is biased in his case ;) .

May 27, 2008 at 6:30 pm
(11) TomEdgar says:

Try books by Australian authors.

One of the things I find so annoying in many, otherwise excellent, books from America is the persistent intrusion of religion. I make allowances as I realise that this is only reflecting the attitudes of the general population.

Power without Glory is a Frank Hardy classic in which he takes on the Catholic and Criminal elements in Australia, for which he was sued and he eventually won. The Dead are Many is another. Frank, sadly gone, was the typical Aussie of another era.If it doesn’t put you off. He was also, proudly a Socialist. The books are still around or in print and well worth the reading.

tomedgar@halenet./com.au

June 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm
(12) K. Anonymous says:

Following on from TomEdgar’s comment, Garth Nix is an excellent australian author, I’d recommend him highly.

September 6, 2008 at 7:59 pm
(13) Myron Curtis says:

You can send you a complementary copy of my novel ‘The Gospel Probe’ if you like. It is an timetravel/alternate history saga. I do not trash Christianity but I do not take it seriously either. I have tried to inject a some humor into the narrative while telling a good story. Please email request to me at:

mecurtis@earthlink.net

Regards,

Myron Curtis

October 8, 2008 at 12:17 am
(14) tom says:

I am an author of atheist fiction (among other things) – including an “atheist science fiction comedy cult classic” (orangecarwithstripes.blogspot.com) and its sequel, currently in progress, a work of “atheist pulp fiction” (missytonight.blogspot.com)

as a lifelong atheist (and as a fifty year-old, i do mean ‘lifelong’) I’m encouraged that I finally get a chance to “come out” and enjoy the atheist sunshine for a change!

October 17, 2008 at 12:55 am
(15) Mark says:

Calling Bernadette’s Bluff
by Dale McGowan

http://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.asp?bookid=12552

Great novel about an atheist professor at a catholic, feminist college. A place that is described as “where critical thoughts go to die”. A hilarious book. A must read for any atheist.

August 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm
(16) Atheist Fiction says:

I love to see fictional atheist characters. That’s part of why I started atheistshorts.com. I know it’s not big name author’s, but I think there are already quite a few quality stories submitted.

August 12, 2013 at 10:40 am
(17) John M. McNamara says:

I am an atheist, an author, and an avid reader. I recently published a new novel in which one of the main characters is an atheist blogger beset by a religious zealot who goes beyond angry words in reaction to what he perceives as blasphemy. I understood at the outset that the subject matter would be offensive to some and that an atheist protagonist was essential to the book.

Here’s a link to the Amazon page…where you can find a lengthier description of the novel:

http://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Teddy-Schreck-John-McNamara/dp/1491280832/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376318356&sr=1-1

Even with all the citations of print, film and TV atheist characters, they remain rare.

September 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm
(18) David Cross says:

How about Arther C. Clarke ?
” Childhoods end ” is one of my favorites ! a subtle swipe at organized religion.
Another is ” Joeseph ” a story about a construction worker who falls to his death but doesn’t die. I’m sorry I can’t remember the author.

September 18, 2013 at 5:11 am
(19) retiredwheezer says:

Born into Calvinism, Herman Melville mocked Christian hypocrisy in his 1851 masterpiece, MOBY DICK. Captain Ahab and Melville are both apostates, if not outright atheists, deriding the notion of a just and benevolent god. Melville in his maturity saw Christianity as a tool of nationalism, the military, and predatory capitalism. Moby Dick represents the despot Christian god, whose whiteness represents “the colorless, all-color of atheism.” As Melville said to his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, MOBY DICK was “broiled in hell-fire,” but the author “felt spotless as a lamb.”

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