The Good Wife: Atheism on American TV

I’m a fan of The Good Wife, an American legal procedural drama that delves into law and politics in Illinois. I was catching up with the latest series showing in the UK (a few months behind the USA) and the lead character, Alicia Florrick, played by the lovely Juliana Margulies (most famously known for her ER role) finally ‘came out’ as an atheist, when her husband’s political team tried to score points by exposing an opponent as the same.

I had a look around on the internet, and sure enough, there was quite a reaction in USA to this apparent non-event. I found this article, So much for St. Alicia: The Good Wife and Atheism, on a religiously focused website – the article itself is balanced, however the comments below it were not. I responded as follows, though I repost it here should it not make it through moderation.

I’ve been catching up with this series in the UK, so rather late to the party. It never fails to amaze me how this issue is even relevant in society and especially politics in USA.

The Prime Minister of Australia is an atheist. The Deputy PM and opposition leaders in the UK are atheists. I’m sure many high-ranking officials throughout Europe are, and we don’t know because we never bothered asking them.

I found the comments to this article enlightening, and not in a good way. They betrayed bigotry, intolerance of other (non-)beliefs, and an expectation of special privilege which flies in the face of your own constitutional First Amendment.

I’ve answered some of them below:

“Why is Alicia an atheist, what lead her there? And is weird a character like Alicia who is so empathic, seems out she is so anti religion?”

– She has never even mentioned religion before (aside from her daughter’s involvement with it), until put on the spot. Seems to me that religion simply does not play a part in her life?

“Having Alicia boldly laugh at the God question, twice during the episode, and subsequently delare herself an aethiest was incredibly offensive to the viewers”
and
“The glib way Alicia proclaimed she was an atheist (after the way she was upset because her daughter was baptized) was enough for me. I will never watch the show again or any other show that tries to belittle my belief in God through the atheist writers.”
and
“she laughed at the God question and so boldly proclaimed her atheism.”

– How dare she disagree? If she had blurted out “I’m Jewish” and you had responded like this, you would be branded an anti-semite, and rightly so. She’s not belittling your belief, she just doesn’t share it.

“I was an avid Good Wife viewer until this very episode. I can not identify with her any longer.”

– Why not? You identified with her on grounds other than religion, and those have not changed.

“Especially because so much of this series is her wrestling with morals right? Why wrestle with morals is there’s no reason behind it?”

– A moral life has what reason we give it.

“I can’t imagine not having God in my life and wonder incredulously how any grown adult can wander through life without this relationship so I am just disconnected to Alicia’s character now. Buh Bye Alicia.”

– Many Muslims cannot imagine not having Allah in their lives. Many Europeans cannot imagine having religion in their lives. They’re still human. Your inability to connect with people unlike yourself speaks volumes of how your religion actually diminishes your empathetic capacity.

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