Fear is a funny emotion. It makes you do irrational things, such as check under the bed for monsters, throw salt over your shoulder or believe in a made-up deity. Notice how some of these things are also tied to superstitions?
Tonight I watched an episode of Nashville, the country music night-time soap opera on ABC. On the previous episode, one of the slutty singing stars of the show had slept with a married man and his marriage failed after that. Word got out that she was the cause of this breakup, and people started protesting her shows and appearances, calling her a slut and home-wrecker.
She came face to face with one of these vociferous religious protestors and said, "There is no god ... that would listen to a crackpot like you." Someone caught it on video and released it on YouTube and news stations, but chose to only release the "There is no god" portion of the sound byte.
The ensuing backlash was hilarious. Her shows were cancelled because thousands of people requested refunds and stadium owners didn't want a blasphemer in their building. While I'm aware country music is rooted in a lot of religion (Jesus Take the Wheel, anyone?), I find it extremely improbable an A-lister of her caliber would suffer this kind of retribution, especially after they held a news conference with a fellow star stating what this woman actually said. I know finding an admitted atheist country singer is as likely as finding an admitted atheist politician, but Hollywood really went overboard.
News conference aside, more than 20 percent of America is non-religious, and atheists/agnostics/non-believers aren't outcasts to this extent, especially in the entertainment industry, regardless if it's country music. It's easier to find a non-believer than it is to find a Jew in America. (Of course I don't know of any Jewish country stars, either.)
The entire episode dropped hints that it was absolutely unacceptable to not believe. A friend consoles her and says, "It's OK, I know you believe." And her boss threatens her and says she better apologize to the fans and to god. While I'm not entirely convinced ABC, which owns ABC Family and Disney, wasn't the driving force in this stance, it doesn't surprise me this stance was taken.
It all gets back to fear. ABC and Nashville's writers believe they would lose viewers and fans if they didn't take this stance, just like the storyline (Hollywood imitating art?) Those who got refunds or who refused to let her perform in their venue were driven by fear, to get back to my opening statement. If they attended the show of a reported heathen then they think they would be guilty by association, which would in turn upset their vile god and could cause them eternal harm. Irrational behavior now rears its ugly head.
How do they react? By lashing out and intimidating her. Funny how Christian ethics go out the window as soon as someone doesn't believe in their man-made deity. When "Jesus" faced Doubting Thomas, did he make Thomas' life miserable or even kill him? No. But when someone doubts the existence of a god these days, many Christians resort to violence and intimidation out of fear.
At the end of the episode, we see her walk into an empty church, sit in a pew, close her eyes and fold her hands in prayer. She did NOTHING wrong, and yet she feels she needs to pray for guidance from the very god that put her in this position in the first place (He has a plan, remember?). "Let's make sure we show her praying so we can let our viewer know for certain she isn't a heathen!"
I would love to see her become an atheist on this show, even though I know that can't happen. It wouldn't be groundbreaking for television (remember Meathead on All in the Family?), but it would be a first in country music and could open up a whole new set of story lines. She is a rebel on the show, and she does have a lot of heartache (mother was a druggie while she raised her, then killed herself, father is dead, boyfriends cheat on her, she's had PR nightmares left and right) so the seeds for wondering why a loving god would treat her this way are sewn. But I doubt it will ever happen.