An Atheist On Fox

I don’t mind Christians on TV shows. They do make up the majority of the country so I expect most of the characters I enjoy watching to be Christian, it only makes sense. But I do love it when I find an atheist as the lead character in an American series. It makes me feel vindicated in some small way.

Which brings me to the point of this little missive, a new medical drama on Fox entitled “House”. If you haven’t discovered it for yourself yet, please, give it a try. The lead character, Dr. Gregory House, is a cantankerous, unpleasant, misanthrope with the brain of Sherlock Holmes. Each week is a medical mystery, a patient with a strange sickness, and it’s up to House and his team of elite doctors to diagnose and treat the real problem. Did I mention that he is an atheist? Witness the following exchange between House and a patient, a nun who has decided to check herself out of the hospital and return to the rectory where God can take care of her.

House: Room’s paid up for the rest of the week. Might as well stick around.

Augustine: This illness is a test of my faith. If it’s His will to take me, it doesn’t matter where I am. I can accept that.

House: Does anybody believe anything you say? You’re not accepting, you’re running away. Just like you always do. You ran away from the Monastery to get laid, you ran away from the real world when getting laid didn’t work out so good, now things aren’t working out again so off you go.

Augustine: Why is it so difficult for you to believe in God?

House: What I have difficulty with is the whole concept of belief. Faith isn’t based on logic and experience.

Augustine: I experience God on a daily basis. And the miracle of life all around. The miracle of birth. The miracle of love. He’s always with me.

House: Where is the miracle in delivering a crack-addicted baby? And watching her mother abandon her because she needs another score? The miracle of love? You are twice as likely to be killed by the person you love than by a stranger.

Augustine: Are you trying to talk me out of my faith?

House: You can have all the faith you want in spirits and the afterlife, in heaven and hell, but when it comes to this world, don’t be an idiot. Cause you can tell me that you put your faith in God to get you through the day but when it comes time to cross the road, I know you look both ways.

Augustine: I don’t believe He is inside me and is going to save me. I believe he is inside me weather I live or die.

House: Then you might as well live. You got a better shot betting on me than on Him.

Egotistical, arrogant and surly, House is perfectly played by Hugh Laurie, a British comedian who does the job here in a perfect American accent.

You can find House on your TV on Tuesday nights at 9pm, on Fox.


33 thoughts on “An Atheist On Fox

  1. House is such a wonderful show.  I routinely curse Fox for its stupidity in cancelling excellent programming (Firefly, Keen Eddie, etc., etc.), but I can’t help but also admit that they really do have some excellent shows that they have kept around (so far, at least).

    I’m really loving the series so far and Hugh Laurie is fantastic as Dr. House.

  2. I fell in love with this show the day I saw the pilot. House himself is one of the best characters on TV—he’s abrasive, arrogant and the most blatantly sarcastic character I’ve run across in a while. And the fact that he’s located on Fox was a welcome surprise as well.

  3. Maybe it’s me, but I wasn’t really impressed with this show.  Just another CSI where everything is neatly laid out.  But perhaps, I should give it another look.

  4. Unfortunately House is on a night when I’m not usually home but I did see it once.  He’s the stereotype of a brilliant atheist curmudgeon who doesn’t want anyone to know he also has a heart of gold.  In fact, I bet that phrase appears somewhere in the series prospectus presented to Fox.

    But I did enjoy it.

  5. Well, as the CSI shows happen to be my favorite thing about TV at the momment, I have a hard time taking that as a criticism. Yes, they do wind up neatly in just an hour, but unlike detective shows of old, these use hard science and to me, it more about technoque then the individual crime. Much the same, on House I find the diagnostic process itself more interesting then the individual cases. Also, in this day of huge story archs and shows that you need to watch every single week for fear of losing the plot, it’s nice to have plotlines that are completely resolved in a single hour. Miss an episode? doesn’t matter, new story next week.

  6. My wife and i watch House any chance we get. I love that show so much…never knew House was an atheist though. Can’t say i’m surprised, however.

  7. Love Hugh Laurie since his brilliant and varied roles in the 4 Blackadder series.Intruiging he’s managed a flawless yank accent considering his oh-so-very-british regular voice!

  8. It sounds like a pefect role for the great Hugh Laurie, been a fan of him since his Blackadder days. Sounds like a show to investigate.

  9. Thanks for the recommendation!  I love that line: “‘Cause you can tell me that you put your faith in God to get you through the day but when it comes time to cross the road, I know you look both ways.”

  10. One little irritation:  do you know how many shows come up when you search for the word “House” on a DVR???  (Searching on Hugh Laurie works much better.)

  11. Absolutely love the show!  It’s the reason I speed home from my Tuesday night class…I usually miss the first 10-15 minutes of it…but I’m on Spring Break this week…so you know what I’ll be doing tonight! smile  I wasn’t familiar with Hugh Laurie, now I have to go find other stuff with him in it.

  12. Mick, I totally failed to make the connection with Black Adder. I kept looking at the guy and thinking, “Damn, I know I know him from something else!” Thanks for jogging the old memory.

    Incidentally, Fox has had a series with an atheist in the leading role before. The captain of the previously mentioned Firefly was also an atheist as I recall.

  13. Les,
    I did the same thing.  I haven’t seen the show, but I couldn’t place him from the previews.  Now I’m going to have to watch, since I love Black Adder and George is one of my favorites.

  14. Incidentally, Fox has had a series with an atheist in the leading role before. The captain of the previously mentioned Firefly was also an atheist as I recall.

    Not quite. I believe Whedon’s back story on Mal was that he was a former Christian who had come to hate God for all the atrocities he had seen in the war.

  15. 1.  I’ll always think of Hugh Laurie from his Jeeves and Wooster hi-jinks, myself.

    2.  I may have to watch the show, though I hardly have time for the shows I do watch. 

    3.  Decent-sounding dialog from House, albeit against a straw-man true-believer.

    4.  I believe KPG is right about Mal Reynolds—he had much more of a hate on at God than a disbelief in same.  A pity we didn’t get to see more of that (and conflict with Book) in the series (and aren’t likely to in the movie, I suspect).

  16. “I routinely curse Fox for its stupidity in cancelling excellent programming (Firefly, Keen Eddie, etc., etc.)”

    Don’t forget Family Guy.

  17. Thanks heaps for calling this show to my attention. It is indeed unusual to allow even the word ATHEIST to have any validity in the media today without denigration, mockery and scorn. The pervasive influence of True Believers makes it unlikely that any show will present non-believers in a positive light.

  18. I’ve recently read that Hugh Laurie has signed to play Perry White in the new Superman movie planned for 2006. Another definite for casting is Kevin Spacey to play Lex Luthor. Heh! The idea of another superman movie seems kinda stale to me and “Batman Begins” definitely does but there’s some interesting casting going on with Superman.

    I had an off reaction to Laurie’s voice on House and now I know why: It’s affected speech. However I do like the show for his acerbic comment style.

  19. Ah but Brock;the new batman stars the fantastic Christian “American Psycho” Bale.Enough reason to see it for me…never mind the bat thingie!

  20. Watched it again last night and was disappointed.  He lied to a transplant committee to save a patient who clearly was a poor risk, with the justification that she was his patient.  For a guy who’s supposedly this big rationalist…

    He’s like a packaged imitation of a strong character compared to the blinking cyphers around him. Something tells me even if one person’s name is listed as “writer” that the story lines are being written by a committee.  Too bad.

  21. I think Hugh Laurie took the “House” role in part to clear his actorly palate after playing the dad in the “Stuart Little” movies (also with a flawless American accent, I might add).

  22. House is the only thing I watch (except for the occasional NRL, AFL or movie) on commercial (every time it gets interesting or not) TV and that’s only to hear how Hugh delivers his often bitting lines, flawlessly.
    I like clever sarcasm and arrogance.
    Probably why I like SEB. grin

  23. I managed to catch a few episodes of House when I was in the States last month (no, it’s not offered here in benighted Austria).  Although I agree with Angie that the plots are a bit predictable (medical mystery, ranting and soulsearching, brilliant solution found every time), Hugh Laurie is a great actor and the character House is a breath of cold fresh air in the warm and fuzzy wasteland of American television.

  24. Revisiting this thread after one year, minus one day, because it showed up in my updates.  In that year I have come to forgive the show for its faults and now I never miss it.  Why?  Because I crave the sarcasm.  He says all the things I’d like to say in a normal day.  Also, they’ve ratcheted up the intelligence of the other characters a bit.  And, because I can identify with a grouchy atheist with a chronic pain condition, except I’m not brilliant, lacking writers and consultants. 

    Hugh Laurie is an amazing actor. So that makes 2 shows that I watch now.  I’m becoming a TV addict.

  25. Revisiting this thread after one year, minus one day …

    Thanks DoF.
    I’d just been cruising and noticed the ‘House’ ref … and in Oz our date is Day/Month/Year so obviously I was a bit confused (in the mental translation) and I wanted to make a comment and …
    Now, consciously looking at the preceding date, I was a coupla days in front, even if it’d been 2006 – squirm squirm. red face

    A good excuse to add that, I also like to hear the Oz accent in a US show; in this case from Jesse Spencer.
    Not enough of them.
    Anthony La Paglia in ‘Without a Trace’ is another Ozzie who bows down to do a convincing Seppo (it’s an Oz ref to Yanks thing) accent. wink

  26. Some atheists probably think this show makes atheism look bad – judging by some of the comments.

    But, I must disagree—no matter how sarcastic and unlikeable House is (though I personally love the guy) , even the average Joe must admit that he is RIGHT most of the time.  The question the show raises is – is being right everything.

    And, I must say till now—yeah smile

  27. Revisiting this thread again after another year plus 48 days, the show is still fun and has enough great episodes so that I buy seasons on DVD.

  28. I was almost ready to give up half-way through the third season. I like the fourth season better, but these days I can’t always figure out how House is right—assuming he’s supposed to be right in the first place.

  29. The ending of the Tritter story line was very unsatisfying.  and that whole re-staffing story line was just scrambled.  But this most recent episode was very funny – very Wooster in a genius curmudgeon way.  Coming up is a story line in which House is mentally impaired somehow and still has to diagnose people.

  30. I’ve seen the first two seasons in their entirity and most of the third and I agree the whole Tritter storyline was annoying. I’m trying to get caught up with the series again, though, so I’ll probably be watching it tonight. Still one of the better shows on TV even if I think they sometimes make House way more of an asshole than he needs to be.

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