Center for Inquiry and the Freedom from Religion Foundation announced a contest late last month looking for contestants to send in a script to “contribute to the downfall of civilization by writing a sitcom and/or producing a webisode that features a likeable atheist”. The winners will receive $15,000 for the best sitcom script and $25,000 for the best webisode. There is a $40 entrance fee and winner will be announced sometime in July. It was originally June 13th 2015, but the responses were so huge they had to push it back.
The contest’s goals are as follows:
A) The goal of this contest is to promote a positive view of atheism, so each entry must include at least one young, likeable, attractive, atheist who gets some of the best and funniest lines in every episode/webisode.
B) The atheist character should be just an atheist, with that being their defining characteristic.
The contest sponsors offered this bit of advice:
Your work can touch on topics like what to say when someone sneezes, atheist writers who hate the idea of submitting something called a “bible” for the TV show, how to respond when someone wishes you a “blessed” day, how to handle “the holidays” – the malls, the inescapable holiday music, fake trees, the workplace, gifts, parties, family traditions, greeting cards, the “war,” new traditions like “festivus” with its airing of grievances and feats of strength, etc., etc. Also, what happens when you get sworn in for jury duty or in court as a witness, “prayers” in legal complaints, AA or other 12 step programs referring to a “higher power,” events like weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc., filling out applications that ask about religion, etc., etc.
It’s surprising that some religious right organization hasn’t picked up on this and made it a point of protest, or FOX News hasn’t added it to it’s growing War on Christianity list. It’s not exactly rare to have a character in a sitcom who proclaims themselves an atheist. On the most popular show on TV, The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon is a self-proclaimed atheist despite his family being bible belt Texas Christians. Often, as in that example being an atheist is akin to being an outcast, nerd or geek and tends to be to the detriment of the character. Or if they are in a movie or novel it’s often used to have the character experience some magical miracle as a mcguffin to change their minds about the whole God thing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out when they announce the winner.