As the television season wraps up, it seems that Satan is having a bad year on Fox. Not only did the still-Murdoch-owned network cancel its devil drama Lucifer, but also The Exorcist, which “blessed” us with anti-religious plots about sexually active gay and straight priests and mercy-killing nuns.
They even waved goodbye to the sitcom The Mick, which routinely mocked religion as something only naive grade-schoolers believe until they grow up to be “smart and progressive.”
Is Fox going soft? Rest easy, atheists. For people who want to ridicule God and those crazy believers, there is still Seth MacFarlane and Family Guy, which has been renewed for season 17. On May 20, the day Christians celebrated Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles, Fox was kicking the usual "comedic" dirt at the faithful.
Peter Griffin, the title character lapses into a coma and believes he’s stuck on an elevator with God. As is usual with this show, God says He’s incapable of getting out of an elevator. Later, it turns out He is trying to decide whether Peter is going to Heaven or Hell. (MacFarlane’s God conveniently proclaimed to Peter that atheists don’t go to Hell, but somehow the netherworld's deepest torments are saved for people who say they are “spiritual but not religious.”)
When Peter asks God why He isn’t in Heaven, God uses the PR-speak of a Hollywood sexual abuser: “There was an issue. Uh, a few angels came forward. I don't remember things exactly as they do, but I respect their experience.”
When God tells Peter he’s an “inattentive husband and terrible father,” Peter retorts, “Oh, says Father of the Year!” Responding to the reference of a somehow cruel God sacrificing Jesus for the forgiveness of sinners, God responds, “Oh, please. He played that for all it was worth. ‘Why has Thou forsaken me?’....I did Him a favor.”
At the end of the episode, God tells Peter that he succeeded because Peter uttered the phrase, “You were right about everything.” God then explains, “That's what religion is. It's not about being good or bad. It's just blind subservience to an imaginary being.”
Count on Hollywood for a snarky, self-satistified secular sermon, served in a Sunday night cartoon.
An hour earlier, a milder mockery of religion showed up on The Simpsons, just renewed for Season 30. In this story, young Bart Simpson is in a coma after being struck by lightning and is seeing ghosts. In his dream, his annoying and nerdy friend Milhous finds him in a dark room surrounded by crosses and lit devotional candles. “What's going on, Bart? Are you into God now? I always was.”
Milhous holds up a crucifix and says of Jesus: “Look at those abs. The secret is less loaves, more fishes!” Bart replies, “I don't believe in some dopey religion. This is to keep out ghosts.”
At the end of the episode, after recovering from his coma and somehow possessing new psychic powers, Bart foretells to Lisa how everyone they know will die. Sitting in a Buddhist pose, Lisa’s last words are “Oh, my God! Now I realize, this has all been a waste of time.”
That might be an apt summary of a life spent watching too many hours of Fox cartoons.