Joss is an atheist and a Humanist. He’s also an amazing television writer who has an incredible sense of the humanity of others and uses his work to explore that humanity. I think there are some things he does that are problematic, but so do many people and his dedication to social justice issues as a function of his Humanism is really astounding.
I bring this up because this PostSecret has been making the rounds on my blogs
First of all, I think Hemant’s one line commentary was my favorite, “I’m sure this balances out because watching Christian television reaffirms my atheism.”
But also, it’s important to see that part of what makes these characters so human is that Whedon is aware of things like their faith. It’s something I’ve come to notice about things like character building as I became more aware of minority groups and the problems they face: I’m starting to take these things into account, so while I used to presume all of my characters to be straight and religiously ambiguous, I now have a better sense of them because I take those ideas into account.
Take a look at Malcolm Reynolds, for instance. Much has been made of his journey away from the devout religious man we see in Serenity Valley kissing his crucifix to the man who doesn’t want Sheppard Book to say grace aloud at his table. When asked by Book in Serenity to believe in something, anything, Reynolds chooses to believe in human beings and mocks the Operative’s Very Serious question about sin.
In Buffy, we see a lot of interplay about Willow and how the reliance on Christian imagery to fight and defend against various monsters worries her because of how her Jewish mother would react. As the series continues, we see her growing paganism as a metaphor for her journey of sexual discovery and eventual acceptance of her homosexuality.
When we encounter characters we like, we tend to make them as much like us as possible. So when something isn’t mentioned, we fill it in with us. I assume Ender Wiggin likes pasta, because I like pasta, and Card makes no mention one way or another of Ender’s feelings toward that particular food item, so I just assume he enjoys it. It’s this attitude that leads directly to situations like the black Lancelot kerfuffle sometimes, though.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t challenge us. Sometimes, especially on the big things, we need to see an atheist and a preacher being equally likable. It forces us to look for the common thread, and with Whedon it’s usually a dedication to being good, just, and honest…ish. It’s shared humanity in a pluralistic world. And that’s why it’s wonderful.