Breakdown of Family Guy: Brian Becomes An Atheist March 30, 2009

Breakdown of Family Guy: Brian Becomes An Atheist

In case you missed Family Guy last night (like I did because Jim Gaffigan‘s stand-up special was on Comedy Central and that man is awesome), Brian officially came out as an atheist. Incidentally, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the show, is also an atheist.

The show is available on Hulu (sorry, non-Americans!) and the best bits are timestamped below.

Kirk Cameron makes an appearance and converts Meg (sadly, there was no Ray Comfort banana parody):

Brian tells his family he’s an atheist and has to face their (expected) reactions:

Later, Brian gets found out by the general public (and the Mayor insults Islam):

Finally, Meg takes Brian to a book-burning only to have Brian talk her out of her faith. The moral of the story comes through wonderfully at the end:

Obviously, they’re focusing on fundamentalist Christianity and anyone who evangelizes constantly. Is it reminiscent of most Christians? In my experience, no.

But I thought the portrayal of atheists was fairly spot on. Telling others you’re an atheist causes many religious people to overreact, atheists face de facto discrimination in places you would never imagine, and there is a beauty in not knowing all the answers and trying to discover them on our own.

What did you think?

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  • matthias

    the videos only work for U.S. IPs. That sucks.

  • TXatheist

    I have been getting email alerts from AFA and they are going nuts over these Family Guy shows.

  • Ian

    I thought it was one of the best Family Guy’s in a long time. Patrick Stewart and the cast of TNG plus the atheism.

    There was an episode a while ago where Brian met a girl at a library and they were both atheists, but they just made a bunch of bad puns/jokes from it (I almost prayed you’d show up to our date etc.), but this was much more entertaining.

    I agree, a banana reference would have made it perfect though.

  • It’s been pretty obvious for awhile that Seth McFarlane is using Brian as an avatar for himself in the series. I thought he did a good job capturing how people usually react to deconversions. (Well, except for the whole Prius through the window part)

    The book burning was over the top but I did particularly like the “Logic for First Graders” being harmful to god.

  • I’ve got the Youtube version up on my blog (for as long as they allow it on). Good for Canuckians like me.

  • Todd

    This has just added to the best Monday I’ve had in months! I was checking to see if you had posted about it yet after I finished watching it on hulu when I rolled out of bed around 11. Then I heard that my thesis data had been recovered from a drive that crashed a few weeks ago so I don’t have to spend the next three months doing it all again. Better go buy lotto today and ride the streak.

    Great episode. I love the way they ever-so gently push ideas. It’s pretty much all you could ask for with 22 minutes that had to be shared with a Trek storyline. Plus it beats the previous episode when they started parody-ing previous episodes with another “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” scene.

  • He came out weeks ago with incident but it was the first time his family found out. My only disappointment with Kirk Cameron was there wasn’t a banana joke!

  • Gilbert

    I understand what you mean about atheist discrimination. I came out as atheist both at work and at school–if theists didn’t blame atheism for my homosexuality, they indicted “atheist doctrine” as the means by which “everything is permissible.”

    Let’s not forget that there are still State laws that must be obeyed. If morality is so closely tied to virtue, shouldn’t my lack of Christian values somehow interfere with my capacity to be a mere civil citizen?

    I will never understand how theists can feel under assault when someone does not share their beliefs. I observe Christians in my own community who are at least tolerant of differences–so long as one of those differences includes a faith tradition they’ve at least heard about and isn’t Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainisn, Zeik, etc.

    Great post. I’ve never been a fan of family guy (I thought South Park did a wonderful job lampooning the show). Perhaps I’ll surprise my roommates and join them next week when another episode airs.



  • Family Guy has been lacking of late, in my opinion, but this episode was great and timely social commentary. I was thrilled to see the jab at anti-vaxxers, too.

  • Dave Huntsman

    …there is a beauty in not knowing all the answers and trying to discover them on our own.

    Well said; that goes in my quote book.

  • I loved it! Definitely the best episode in a long time.

  • Eric

    Hijack possibility: Jim Gaffigan was awesome. I watched both of the back to back showings, in the hopes I would memorize more of it.

    Imagine a gas station bathroom… that sells waffles. And now you’ve been to a waffle house.

  • I thought this was remarkable in that nobody won. Even Meg’s lurch back to reality was done through a kind of cruelty. But no one got any smarter, no one thought a little differently, and Brian had to go on living a lie. True to life? I bet it is far too often.

  • The best part was Patrick Stewart hitting Whil Whheaton on the back of his head. The “Worse than Hitler” gag was pretty funny too.

  • I liked it. I watched it for the ST:TNG cast, not knowing anything about the atheism angle. I think the Brian/Meg clash was better than the Stewie/Star Trek part, which seemed to go nowhere.

  • Great episode.

  • Yeah, I saw it on FOX last night. Is it funny, though….as soon as I heard the word “atheist” and the way people on the show reacted to it, I immediately though, “Hemant’s gonna blog about this one.”

    Not that that’s a problem; it’s awesome, in fact. Brings my two favorite ways to kill time (Family Guy and Friendly Atheist) together~

  • I’m gonna dissent and say I personally didn’t like it. It did not entertain me. I could not relate to the characters. That is all.

  • Vincent

    I thought it was pretty good, but American Dad was better, and I don’t usually like American Dad.

  • Miko

    It’s also up at Fox:

    I’m not sure if that link is also U.S. only, but one advantage to watching there instead of Hulu is that you can rate the episode after. There are currently 4628 ratings and it has an average of 2/5, which isn’t good since this is the sort of thing a TV exec might actually look at. If you want to see more discussion of topics like this on television, I hope you’ll watch the show and use the ratings to express your feelings.

    And “Logic for First Graders.” Brilliant.

  • Miko, it’s U.S. only too. Darn it. There’s always bittorrent. 🙂

  • I can sympathize with the whole “atheist discrimination” thing. A client of mine visited my blog and was notably upset that I was an atheist. Now if she had told me she was a christian I wouldn’t have sighed, or chided, or anything like that. But that’s just how it goes I guess.
    I think religion is mass mind control, but I don’t try to talk people out of it. They on the other hand never pay me the same courtesy.

  • LA la la

    Any one care to talk about the meaning of the ending.

    Does anyone think that the light was code for brites?

    How about monster under Adam West’s bed? Nice code for a “god”?

  • I used to be an atheist, but this show changed me.

    Now I think Seth McFarlane is a god.

  • Ben

    To the contrary — I’d say it is indeed reminiscent of most Christians. I’m not talking about Meg – she was the special case. But when Lois said “…but we believe in God in this house!” it sent a too-close-to-home shiver up my spine. Peter getting angry, but generally not knowing what’s going on – and Chris being chiefly concerned with Santa…it was more realistic a depiction of real Christian reactions than many I’ve seen. Lois’ vague “believing in something nominally is good, but don’t go overboard” and naive “I just thought you were against *organized* religion” were, I think, representative of the majority liberal Christian point of view.

  • Echoing others here in saying how well done this Family Guy episode was. Both the ST:TNG cast and Brian’s atheist discussion were spot on.

    Of course, the lunacy and humor that is part of Seth’s comedic genius is always great. The jab at Kirk Cameron was pretty funny, using his own words against himself in animated format.

  • Joe

    I liked the the portrayal of the reaction to Brian’s coming out, esp. Lois’ statement that “in this house we believe in god,” as though it’s something that can be legislated.

    On the other hand, you can’t look to FG for any consistent position: they’ll do anything for a laugh, and that will alsways be the bottom line. In the episode where Peter is being worshipped as a healer, e.g., it was Brian who figured out that “God is pissed” after coming down with a case of fleas.

    And they’re milking the “wh” gag beyond my threshold of endurance.

  • beeker

    i love family guy, i think it’s one of the best show’s on, but i just felt the atheist part was a bit too preachy, but i also found it funny, and again with the first episode of season 8, when brian and stewie travel to an alternate universe, and stewie says this is quahog same time and place but because christianity was never around it’s 1,000 years ahead, kinda dumb on that cause if thats the case then all the beautiful art which was inspired by christianity was never created, the ups and downs were never really established on it and made it all seem one sided.

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