Television

So much for St. Alicia: The Good Wife and Atheism

“I’m an atheist.” There. She said it. So much for St. Alicia.

We’ve been wondering for a couple seasons now exactly how Alicia would describe her own religious beliefs on CBS’s solid legal drama “The Good Wife.” In season 2, we first saw the likeable, semi-elite mother Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) wrestle with her daughter Grace’s (Makenzie Vega) foray into religion. Meanwhile, the estranged father and eventual Illinois State’s Attorney Peter (Chris Noth) found his own possibly-strategic conversion to Christian faith while in prison.

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In season 3, Alicia and the home viewers were scared into thinking that something tragic had happened to Grace when she disappeared in the tense episode “Parenting Made Easy.” Grace was eventually found by the Emmy-winning Archie Panjabi’s clever investigator character, Kalinda Sharma — she hadn’t snuck off to do drugs or see a boy; her phone battery simply died as she went alone to get baptized without telling any of her family.

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These stories have provided a provocative religious thread throughout the seasons, but we finally heard Alicia spill on her beliefs on Sunday night’s “The Seven Day Rule” episode. Maybe just a little tipsy, Alicia ignored the political implications of her beliefs. Her husband’s current campaign had expected her to say she was at least “open” to belief in God in order to paint an atheist political rival in a negative light. Honesty (and a little bitterness) demanded otherwise for St. Alicia, though, and she proclaimed her disbelief in God in no uncertain terms – “I’m an atheist,” she told the reporter.

The episode did not pursue the issue further (the show has a habit of leaving the religious thread incomplete). It will be interesting to see what this does for not only Alicia’s character, but also for viewer relationship to her. In the episode, campaign manager Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) made clear that voters wanted “St. Alicia” to believe in God (see CLIP over at CBS); I wonder to what degree that also reflects the desires of the actual American viewing public (79% of whom identify as having some religious affiliation, according to PEW data) which enjoys relating to their favorite characters.

Alicia Florrick is a clever, well-liked character who has been shown to have her own flaws. Will atheism turn folks away? Probably not. It’s not that viewers will identify with her atheism, but television viewers are trained not to expect religious belief out of their TV characters (less than 6 percent of television characters have religious identities according to a study by Scott Clarke at Michigan State University). So an atheist main character? Doesn’t come as a huge surprise. May be a bummer for some hoping for an “agnostic” Mrs. Florrick, but it’s probably not a big surprise to most viewers.

The real question is what they will do for the other characters. Will Grace be proven too naïve and Peter too calculative for sincere and acceptable belief? Will the writers keep open the possibility that religious belief may be a good thing? Or will Alicia’s atheism overshadow all other belief and serve as a criticism of faith?

Sound off in the Comments below – do you think this will affect viewers’ love for this well-crafted show? Will it force other changes in upcoming episodes? Were you bummed or relieved to hear her finally say it – she’s an atheist?

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32 thoughts on “So much for St. Alicia: The Good Wife and Atheism

  1. I think the writers and the network have made a grave mistake here. Having Alicia boldly laugh at the God question, twice during the episode, and subsequently delare herself an aethiest was incredibly offensive to the viewers. Many “good wives” have identified with this character and found her to be magnetically refreshing. Now, we are disappointed, astonished, and outraged. This newly revelaled facet of her character does not increase her depth or make her more intricate. This revelation was really quite baffeling and did not leave the viewer begging for more, but questing if s/he should ever watch this show again. This has left the character far less sympathetic and frankly a tad bit revolting. I think other viewers will agree.

    • You’re outraged?! Because someone doesn’t share your belief in god? How closed minded of you. And utterly ridiculous. You don’t need religion to be a good person. Alicia’s character is an example of that. And there are endless real life amazing, wonderful atheists as well. Continue to show your true colors as a hyper-judgmental christian. This is why so many of us find you & your religion REVOLTING.

      • At most 3 Americans out of 100 are atheist. I find you revolting. There are no deathbed atheists and you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll be like every other atheist on your deathbed. Four words will be flying out of your mouth..”Oh God” & “I’m sorry”. Oh I know, not you, not you, not you. Just wait….like all the rest of us …..your days are numbered and despite you’re desperate attempts to convince yourself that there is no ultimate accounting for your behavior in life, you will surely answer for every single thing that you do, good bad and in between.

        • It’s always interesting to read such delusional thoughts actually put down for everyone to read. I’d be embarrassed if I was you to be so foolishly deluded. There is in magical accounting to a nonexistent deity. There are more than 3 out of a hundred people who are atheists. There are no deathbed conversions by atheists since we’re generally not mentally primitives who believe in made up nonsense. You don’t believe in most made up nonsense and you’ll ridicule other religions who have made up their own stories that don’t agree with your made up nonsense. Everyone’s days are numbered, you should live your life well as a good person and love the people you love and be loved and not spend your life in fear from the wrath of something that doesn’t exist.

    • She is a Jewish actress. For some reason, the vast majority of Jewish people are atheists. The vast majority of writers in Hollywood are Jewish atheists. Not much can ever change unless someone creates a real alternative to Hollywood.

  2. I think the writers have left the door wide open to different paths they may take with the character of Alicia Florrick and her atheism. After last week’s episode, I will be praying that she gets saved. Wouldn’t that be a season finale!

  3. Great read! I really wish the writers will explore this more. 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? I hope they explored this more I would really love this.

    • Kiki, perhaps she is simply an atheist because she has never had any good evidence or reason to support a belief in any of the thousands of deities on offer through the history of our world…?

  4. Being atheist “it’s not a big thing” now a days, thankfully. It’s great having main characters on TV declaring their atheism, it’s a progress. Would people prefer to hear she declaring something that she isn’t, just to make you more confortable in your personal beliefs and getting votes? Of course not, because that would be pure hypocrisy. I’m happy for the show.

  5. Congratulations to The Good Wife for a breakthrough decision! Millions of Americans have awoken to the light of reason and rejected religion and superstition. Like Alicia, we are ethical, kind, thoughtful and intelligent – we are your neighbors, relatives and friends! So lovely to see ourselves finally represented in a positive way in the culture, and TGW did it after years of character groundwork that was very effective.

  6. Ok guys, i think this is a great progress for religious acceptance, 2 important characters being atheists in a show like this is a big thing. I must say that i’ve already expected that Alicia was an atheist, but i don’t think that it’s going to be the reason for changes in the show, it’s just… “whatever”. Also, i don’t think that she laugh at the ‘God question’ because she thinks the idea of religion is ridiculous or something like that, she just laughed because of the both campaign managers putting her under pressure, it was a way of trying to avoid such things.

  7. 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.

  8. I was an avid Good Wife viewer until this very episode. I can not identify with her any longer. Especially because so much of this series is her wrestling with morals right? Why wrestle with morals is there’s no reason behind 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.

    • Well anyone who requires belief in a deity to act in a moral way isn’t really acting morally out of an innate knowledge that it’s the correct way to be as a human being. They are just acting and restraining themselves from their harmful ways out of fear of their deity. That’s pretty scary right there. Hello Alicia (never watched the show before)

    • Why would you get so upset because she chose to be an athiest? I find all the religious fanatics aren’t so open to other beliefs, believe my way or else. Too bad you don’t run the country. You are brain washed.

  9. I got hooked on this show mid way through the first season, then have watched it ever since. When this episode aired and she laughed at the God question and so boldly proclaimed her atheism. I empathized with her through every situation that occurred to her. However, after her bold proclamation, I found myself not feeling the least bit sorry for her when she was upset over the way she was offered partnership.

  10. 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.

    • “Your inability to connect with people unlike yourself speaks volumes of how your religion actually diminishes your empathetic capacity.”

      Colin!!!!!! Bravo! Very well said :)

    • Thank you! You just read my mind! I watched this episode just today on amazon, and was really surprised, because stuff like that does not happen on the US network TV that often. I was thankful to authors for making Alicia an atheist. Because it does show that atheists are not all what so many Americans believe to be. We live moral lives, and just because we do not believe in supreme being does not mean that we mock them, or we have no reason to be moral, kind and empathetic! Kudos to the writers of this show,

      I do not have a cable, cause I pretty much don’t like all the drama on TV — I only watch movies, and occasionally HBO/Showtime shows, etc. But, after hearing time and again about Good Wife, I gave it a try, and I’m glad I did it! It’s probably one of the best portrayals of women in power on a network tv. I just love watching Diane Lockhart. She could easily be one of the best female role models for all the liberals (and everyone really) out there! This woman goes out of her way to offer pro bono cases. And, she totally knows where and why she stands politically, and would fight anyone for her views. I just love that woman! And, now, Alicia is an atheist?! Wow, this show has me invested! It has it’s cheesy moments, I agree, but I am a big fan at this point!

    • Well said and a good analysis of what you are reading. A good deal of fear and intolerance and closed minds expressing themselves. There is anger that the character is Atheist, anger that she didn’t keep it to herself and anger that she didn’t show the ‘proper’ reverence for belief in a deity. And with the use of religion by characters in the show to further their political careers you have an actual examination of tolerance and intolerance. Yes indeed, many of these folks will just run back to the Hallmark channel rather than let any thoughts in.

  11. Pingback: The Good Wife: Atheism on American TV | worldinfocus.net

  12. If you deleted the word atheist from all these comments and substituted gay or Jewish, people would be horrified. It does seem to me that there is a certain Christian charity lacking.

    • isn’t it interesting that if you substituted the word atheist with Muslim, people wouldn’t be that horrified?! it is amazingly hypocritical actually. I’m so used to it at this point, because I feel totally disensitivized to it. No matter how people see me (whether they assign an identity to me when they see me, i.e., a Muslim, or when they learn I am an atheist), both don’t seem to be good enough.

  13. Some of the comments above are staggering! What is it that people believe Atheism is? You make it sound as though she were secretly killing people, the character simply does not believe in any gods or supernatural events, its hardly shocking that some characters will and some won’t.

  14. Pingback: Avoidance or Aggression: The Newsroom’s Religion Beat | ReligiMedia

  15. Pingback: The Good Wife keeps its Faith: More religion coming in Season 5? | ReligiMedia

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