Ted Knight, the superhero known as "Starman" was an astronomer by profession, and a superhero by avocation. He was a member of the Justice Society of America.
In recent years, Ted Knight was apparently retconned to be an atheist, although he was not originally depicted as such (at least not overtly).
In a discussion with Starman (Ted Knight, a materialist), the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott) cited the Spectre and Dr. Fate as evidence of the existence of God and the reality of forces beyond mortal understanding and straightforward material reality. From: All Star Comics #2 (1999), written by James Robinson and David Goyer, pencilled by William Rosado; page 17. Reprinted in The Justice Society Returns! trade paperback, DC Comics: New York City (2003), page 225:
Green Lantern (Alan Scott): I just pray our combined power can destroy the magical energy in this force-beam.
Starman (Ted Knight): I don't believe in the power of prayer, GL [Green Lantern], or in magic. What you call magic is simply a form of energy science has yet to explain.
Green Lantern: What about Dr. Fate and the Spectre? Hell, what about my ring? How do you explain that?
Starman: Like I said . . . all forms of energy. That's all this force-beam is too, although one whose origin eludes me, I'll grant you that.
Green Lantern: Well, as long as our powers can destroy it.
Starman: The laws of conservation state that energy can't be destroyed or lost. We're never going to stop this beam with brute force. We've got to redirect it. Any thoughts?
Green Lantern: Well, I'd suggest sending it to a magical dimension if you believed in that sort of thing.
Starman: Funny. Not that we have time for humor.
Green Lantern: No. Come on, then. Let's do it!
From: Michael Deeley, "Times Past, Present, and Future: A Look Back at Starman, Part IV", published on Silver Bullet Comics" website (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/soapbox/102172844836833.htm; viewed 18 July 2007):
1944: Science and Sorcery: [Starman] Issue #42
In 1944, Nazi sorcerers have stolen a spell book that opens up a gateway to a void dimension. They wish to use it as a weapon. The Demon tracks them down, because the book would give him power to rule Hell. And since the sorcerers are in Opal City, Ted Knight investigates.
I should point out that Robinson has ret-conned Ted into an atheist. He has no believe in anything remotely supernatural. When Knight meets The Demon, he can't accept its supernatural claims. A year later, Ted Knight suffers a nervous breakdown after seeing the effects of the atom bomb he helped create. But in his journal, The Shade wonders if meeting a real demon didn't contribute to Ted's problems.
Not much else to say, save that I enjoyed "Day of Judgement", which was also drawn by Matt Smith. Granted, it wasn't great, but it was a fun read and it got Hal Jordan up and around again.
From: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&start=15&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 3:31 AM
re: "Wow, if Superman is Methodist, it gives you new respect for the religion"
Er . . . why? He's heroic, sure, but is he more heroic than Batman or Colossus or Mister Terrific or Starman, who don't really believe in any religion? More heroic than Wonder Woman, who venerates the Greek gods? More heroic than Catholics like Doctor Mid-Nite, or Buddhists like Green Arrow?
...Not trying to be argumentative, just scratching my head . . .
From: Jon Colchester, "Two-pronged post: On Faith and Clever", posted 14 March 2006 on "Face Down in the Gutters" blog website (http://facedowninthegutters.blogspot.com/2006/03/two-pronged-post-on-faith-and-clever.html; viewed 12 May 2006):
For some reason, over the years, I've grown incredibly sick of DC characters who think that magic and religion are merely sciences beyond comprehension. I'm sorry, but when Zeus gets an occasional speaking part, atheism just seems sort of silly. Sure, I thought it was clever when Ted Knight brought it up in Starman, but it seemed to be the only character trait Mr Terrific had going for him excepting "is very smart" for about five years of JSA. I figured Terrific's lack of faith was made moot at the tail end of Lost, when the Spirit King beat him half to death and he saw his wife and son in one of those near death experience vision type things, as he followed that up by freakin' going to church...
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
Date: 22 Oct 2004 14:06:41
Out of interest, are there any comic characters, mainstream or otherwise, that are unbelievers? And if so, how do they tend to be depicted?
Date: 23 Oct 2004 13:55:30
From: The Babaloughesian
The issue doesn't often come up. Here are some things I can remember:
...Ted Knight (Starman): "...fought crime alongside the Spectre and Doctor Fate, yet still denies the existence of an afterlife." I think he's probably in the "magic is just unexplained science" camp...
From: "Possible writers' cliche/prejudice: No well-adjusted athiests/agnostics in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 26 May 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-5064.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
May 31st, 2005, 09:25 AM
re: "...there are positive portrayals of identified religious characters in comics. If they can do one [positive portrayals of religious characters], why not the other [positive portrayals of atheists/agnostics]?"
I hear the original Starman was an atheist and he seemed to be portrayed positively.
Well, except for his affair with the original Black Canary. :p
May 31st, 2005, 08:27 PM
Did you catch the reference to original Starman, Crawford? I think it was his story about Etrigan where he (only once in all his years of teaming with the Spectre) even considered that religious mythology was more than fairy tales. I believe the slight conflict there was the "shaking of faith in atheism" but was NOT portrayed as "now he believes in God!". It was more of a "there are still mysteries my science does not explain" theme as I read it...
June 1st, 2005, 11:33 AM
I suspect your issue is that you don't believe any of the divine forces exist in the real world, hence your seeking "positive" portrayals of atheists. That is, you are taking issue with what seems to be the "side" the DCU takes . . . because you're on the other "side."
June 1st, 2005, 11:54 AM
That's exactly it. He has said as much. The DCU is biased [against atheists], and its pretty aggravating...
I think that thusfar the only good example of a functional atheist in the DCU has been Ted Knight in Starman, as has been previously mentioned...
June 1st, 2005, 02:22 PM
As to the ongoing debate about the believability of DCU atheists... this is all very interesting and what not, but it's getting really repetitive and beside my original point. We're just going around and around about the same things - same statements, same answers, all left-of-center of the issue that I originally rose.
The depictions of faith and the absence thereof are clearly written AS IF they were taking place in the real world, and these stories surrounding faith, including the negative connotations surrounding "non-believer" characters are clearly meant to resonate on a real world level. The creators don't take into account (except in occasional passing remarks) the further complications that arise from these issues by addressing them within the context of the DCU - most likely this is deliberate, so that the messages of these stories can resonate more realistically to the reader.
Therefore, they're sending messages about "real world" faith and lack thereof through their stories, DCU circumstances notwithstanding. So, whether or not atheism is "crazy" in the DCU or not is immaterial. The positive messages about faith and the negative messages about "non-believers" are told as if real world circumstances apply with the undoubted intent of resonance on a real world level.
So... although people have made very intelligent remarks on the subject (whether or not atheism is feasible in the DCU), it's irrelevant to the issue at hand, so - and I say this with a sweet lilt and fluttering eyes - can we please drop this side debate or shift it to another thread?
As to the on-topic points... Superman Prime and Kris make a good point about Ted Knight - he is the closest to a positive example that we've seen, BUT he still falls into the cold, emotionally weird (until close to the end of his life, when he seemed to normalize, mend fences with Jack, etc.) stereotype. More mildly than some, but he remains the distant, logical figure whose ability to embrace and comfortably express his feelings, even to his own family (until the last couple years of his life), are deeply flawed and/or nearly non-existant. Still, compared to the rest of the available examples, I'll take him in a heartbeat.
Still, that's only one so-so example, and it still falls in with the stereotypes I've listed.
June 1st, 2005, 03:00 PM
Your ultimate point that there's some agenda at play is the real issue, though. I just don't buy it. I gave three recent counter-examples earlier. When faith itself isn't under the microscope, faith-based precepts such a sexual chastity are constantly dumped on in comics. It must depend on where you're standing.