August 15, 2006

Atheist on 30 Days

30 daysIn a previous post, I expressed come concern about what I feared the 30 Days episode involving an atheist going to live with a Christian family might involve. I suggested that it would make more sense to have a Christian move in with an atheist family. My point was that the show's setup usually focused on the individual learning to become more tolerant from the family they lived with temporarily. I was worried that the last thing we atheists needed to do was become more tolerant of false beliefs in supernatural entities.

I recorded this episode when it aired and finally had time to sit down and watch it. I was both pleasantly surprised and somewhat disappointed. However, I'm happy to say that I was wrong about the decision to have the atheist move in with a Christian family.

On the pleasant surprise side, I felt that the show clearly exposed that one can be a good person and have a moral, happy life as an atheist. Belief in the supernatural is not necessary for morality, effective parenting, kindness, or any other positive qualities. The show effectively conveyed this truth. I was also impressed to see how the show depicted evangelical Christians as being focused on converting the world. Based on my experience with such individuals, this seemed to be refreshingly accurate. Finally, I was surprised to see how well the show presented the intolerance, stubbornness, and irrationality of the Christian man in the household. While his wife was clearly attempting to look past the differences, he seemed quite uncomfortable each time he was asked to examine his own beliefs. This too fits with my experience of evangelicals.

The minor disappointment I experienced was mostly due to the atheist coming across as excessively fragile. I certainly understand her not wanting to rock the boat, but she had to realize that she was in the position of being a spokesperson for atheists to an audience who prefer to deny that we exist. Still, I think she was reasonably effective, and her presentation was still worthwhile.

I was wrong to predict that she show would focus on an atheist learning to better understand and appreciate the mindset of Christians. There were traces of this, but they were overshadowed by the Christians (at least the woman) gaining a better understanding of atheists and the fact that we are perfectly capable of leading good lives without worshiping nonexistent entities.

Here are some other opinions worth checking out:

Friendly Atheist
Deep Thoughts