Seth McFarlane’s “Family Guy” Embraces Secular Humanism
March 30, 2009
I’ll confess. I love Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy. Granted, the show is rude, crude, and makes a frequent practice of trotting on or over the line. (But hey, what’s wrong with that?) Although syndicated on other stations, new episodes air on FOX, the show’s home network. Fortunately, FOX’s cartoon comedy is far superior to its news reporting. The rapid-fire banter and offbeat pop culture references arguably make the Family Guy the funniest show on television today. The most recent episode gave me one more reason to adore the show: last night, the Family Guy came awfully close to embracing the philosophy of secular humanism.
The episode, titled "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven," is available for free viewing on hulu.com . Meg, the cartoon family’s daughter/human punching bag, becomes a born again Christian after viewing an evangelical television spot by actor/fundamentalist activist Kirk Cameron. (For those who missed Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort’s infamous Banana proof of God’s existence, a visit to YouTube is a must.) In response to Meg’s annoying evangelizing, the one sane and rational member of the family finally speaks out: Brian, the family dog, announces that he is an atheist. Peter, the family father and Brian’s owner, gives an hilarious, Biblical response: "Shut up, beast. I have dominion over you and I command you to believe in God." But the citizens of Quahog, Rhode Island respond with violence and intolerance. The Quahog news team even runs a story featuring an unflattering photo of Brian carrying the caption: "Worse than Hitler."
Brian is hardly a saint of secular humanism. An unrestrained womanizer, he makes frequent and ill-fated romantic attempts on Lois, his owner’s wife. He is an unapologetic alcoholic; in this episode Brian feigns Christian conversion to finagle free booze from Meg. But when Meg and her right wing evangelical friends start burning copies of freethought classics (Darwin’s Origin of Species ; Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time ; and an anonymous volume titled First Grade Logic ), Brian waxes poetic with a monologue that encapsulates the heart of the secular humanist philosophy. Her faith shaken and wavering, Meg asks Brian: "But what is there to believe in without God? Where do the answers come from?" Brian’s response could have come straight from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos : "Well, that’s all part of the human experience. That’s what we’re here to find out. And I bet you that the real answer to the nature of our existence is going to be more unimaginably amazing than we can possibly conceive." The cartoon "camera" pans out from Quahog, the frame expanding to encompass New England, Earth, the moon, the outer planets, the Milky Way, and clusters of galaxies, in a scene that evokes the opening sequence of the 1997 film version of Sagan’s Contact .
This leads me to wonder: could Carl Sagan have been reincarnated in the form of an alcoholic cartoon dog?
#1 Rich Carlson (Guest) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 7:33pm
Kudos to the animators! Not only do they show the asteroid belt and Kuiper belt when zooming out of the solar system, they show something for the Oort cloud before getting to the local galactic cluster.
And Brian brings out my inner Christopher Hitchens.
god (is not Great) bless him!
#2 Logan (Guest) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 11:25pm
For the record, this is the first time Brian’s atheism was made explicit. In an episode from a season or two ago, Brian is buying a copy of “The God Delusion”, and reaches for the bookstore’s last copy just as it’s grabbed by an attractive red-headed woman, sparking a romance episode. That episode was called “Love Blactually”, which can also be found on Hulu.
#3 Logan (Guest) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 11:26pm
Correction: I meant “this wasn’t the first time Brian’s atheism was made explicit.”
#4 Derek C. Araujo on Wednesday April 01, 2009 at 12:30pm
Another Family Guy-on-religion favorite moment: Peter’s explanation of the Big Bang and evolution:
Other favorites>? Post them here!
#5 Zar (Guest) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 at 5:00pm
SO, you like it, basiclaly, because its another attempt at promoting Secular Humanism at the expence of Christianity, and happens ot be choked full of those lovley sterotypes, such as Christians hating Science and Logic…
I realise I leave myself open to attacks for defending Christian intellectual cpacity givin my spelling (ANd usually peopel say grammer, even though the grammer is fine) but Ill say this, Im dyslexic and dont really have the time to sit here for prolonged periods to use a spell checkign hoping it works.
But here is the point.
Christians don’t actually burn “Freehtought classics” like “A Brief History Of TIme”. I’m a Christian, and own two copies, one of which is now worn out.
I also own (Admitedly more for historical reasons) the Origin Of Speicies.
Christians do not really hate Science, and in fact many Christians are Scientists.
As to Logic, this is another routine attack. Christians use this too. All one needs to do is consider that the Father of Modern Philosophy was a devout Christian, Rene Des Carte, and even today many of the finest mathematicians and Philosophers happen to be Christian as well.
Even not-so-famous Christians, though, frequently use Logic in their dialy lives, and even in their faith.
Such attack son Christianity are actulaly unjustifiable in reality, and only serve to propogate a sterotype abotu CHristians as unthinkign and irraitonal that is acutally not helpful in creating a world of tolerance and respect.
Oh and spare me the endless examples I usually hear. I know of Fed Phelps, or of that crazy profanity laced preache ron Youtube, but lets try to focus on a real and representitve Christianity.
That said, Family Guy is really a coarse, crude, and highlypropgandistic show to begin with.
If this is a fine exampel of Secular Humanism as a Religion then surly you make the case agaisnt Secular Humanism.
( And it is a Religion guys, I know, you dont beleive in any gods or supernatural powers, but neither do the Zen Buddhists, your still a Religion by definition as you are a conprehensive worldview, which acts the same way as all pother religions)
#6 Paula (Guest) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 at 8:55am
Zar, please name at least 5 scientists who are Christians. I’m interested in their perspective.
Non-believing is the norm. The burden of proof is on the religious believers. Worldviews (comprehensive or otherwise) are not religions…they are worldviews.
P.S. Owning copies of books is only useful if you read them.