Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Rick and Morty and the “No Atheists in Foxholes” Trope


Rick and Morty is definitely a show with some strong atheist themes in it. Rick very openly professes that there is no God, and many of the episodes that deal with religious themes are set up specifically to disprove religious beliefs. Even in the episode where Rick faces the literal devil, the whole point is about how humans are more powerful than these religious figures by showing that Rick is able to humiliate and even beat up the devil. However, there is one moment where Rick’s staunch atheism falls apart, albeit briefly. In the episode “A Rickle in Time”, there is a moment when Rick thinks he is about to die and prays to God, but after he survives, he goes back on his prayers, declaring once again that there is no God. This plays into a rather offensive trope that “there are no atheists in foxholes”, which is the idea that under pressure, everyone believes in God. But is this really the message that Rick and Morty is trying to send?

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The Downside of Growing Up Nerdy

growing up 2

… I was a kid.

If you looked at my list of things that make me a nerd (which doesn’t actually exist, but metaphorically speaking), it would include all of Star Wars, all of Star Trek TNG, all of Voyager, and all of (the terrible) Enterprise. In a way, it’s somewhat impressive. However, there is a catch of sorts, and let me tell you what it is.

My dad is into a lot of geeky things; he’s claimed to have seen every episode of The Twilight Zone just as a frame of reference. I guess that’s where I got my geeky tendencies from. So my Dad and I watched Voyager once a week live, Star Wars when it was rereleased in movie theaters in the early 90s, Enterprise live, and TNG reruns. My Dad recorded his favorite episodes (on tape).

This guy? I thought his name was Felix. So when I say I don't remember things, I'm not joking.

This guy? I thought his name was Felix. So when I say I don’t remember things, I’m not joking.

I’m sure that all sounded great to you guys. Growing up with some good sci fi, what could be bad about that? In reality, it’s been something of a mixed blessing. While I can say that I’ve seen everything, I honestly don’t remember a lot of it. I can’t tell you episode names, and I’m lucky if I can come up with the names of the less important characters. So I find it challenging to talk to other people in fandom, where attention to minute details is critical.

The other downside is that I’m raised on certain… beliefs, or prejudices (for lack of a better word). My mom has a story that she doesn’t like cats because her father told her not to and she (nor her siblings) never questioned that. There wasn’t a particular reason given to explain why they shouldn’t like cats; they just didn’t. The same scenario applies to me and Captain Kirk. My dad imposed the idea that Captain Picard was the best and I’ve stuck to that. I honestly don’t even think I’m capable of not thinking that way. I know it sounds silly, but when it was so engrained in my childhood I’d hope you understand that it’s something I probably won’t be able to change. And I guess in the long run being anti-Kirk is a lot better than many sexist/racist/bigoted thoughts that could have been engrained in my skull during childhood. But it still doesn’t let me have my own ideas; maybe I would have liked Kirk, but because the idea that Kirk is awful was thrown at me at such an early age I didn’t have the chance to come to that realization (or disagree with it).

So while growing up on sci fi sounds awesome, it’s not as great as you’d think. I mean, I remember Star Trek is awesome, but when I’m trying to have a conversation with other nerds, I can’t remember anything specific. Because what’s the point in growing up on it and then not being able to remember?