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Wednesday, February 06, 2013 

Tony Stark is an atheist now?

Denny O'Neil, who wrote Iron Man for a couple years in the mid 80s, wrote on Comic Mix about atheist characters turning up on television and in comic books, and it looks like the Hulk and Beast aren't the only ones in the MCU who've been turned atheist:
...Larry’s Google search revealed that there are at least 17 atheist characters on series television and – here comes the shocker! – nine in comic books. Among them is a fella I thought I knew pretty well because, for three years or so,I was his chief biographer. Tony Stark’s the name, and Iron Man’s the game.
Oh good grief. So now Tony's been turned into an atheist? Now that is definitely contrived. If he doesn't believe in God, then he doesn't believe he worked alongside Thor in the Avengers, nor does he believe in Asgard. What next, will the Marvel staff claim he hired Bambi Arbogast as a secretary because she's an atheist too?
When I was writing Iron Man for Marvel, the question of Tony’s belief system never arose, just as than the question of his favorite breakfast cereal never arose. That may be because comics are a very compressed way of delivering stories, and anything not germane to the plot is generally omitted, or it may be because somewhere in the pit of my psyche I thought that characteristics like religion were off-limits. Nobody ever told me that they were, but religion was never, ever mentioned in comics – or in movies or television or radio, and very seldom in genre novels. The no-religion stricture was one of those taboos that I assumed without really giving them much thought. However, I don’t believe that the taboo didn’t exist. My guess would be that the dudes in the carpeted offices feared that identifying a character’s religion would alienate anyone of a different faith. Maybe they were right.
Not at all, as the establishment of Daredevil and the Punisher's own Catholic faith should make clear. Audiences were perfectly fine with that. In fact, everybody was perfectly fine with Green Arrow spending a short time at a monestary in a sign of his own religious faith after he accidentally killed a criminal towards the end of the initial run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the early 70s; O'Neil should know, because he wrote it! Today's trendy new writers, however, clearly aren't so fine or respecting, which explains their sudden push to make more established characters atheists all for the sake of it. And the way they're doing it only suggests they're contemptuous of Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Since O'Neil brought up the subject of breakfast cereal, it does seem odd that much of the time, nobody ever tried establishing what the favorite foods of a superhero could be. I'd think it an excellent challenge to work on, and it's not something that has to stick with one single food at all times. They could have Tony Stark making asparagus his favorite food at one point, and later on they could establish that he went and considered corn-beef his favorite food instead, and back again. It certainly wouldn't be as controversial as turning him into an atheist.

If there's one more thing to worry about, it's whether Marvel's editors have turned Tony from capitalist into a socialist. I don't know if they've actually done that yet, but sadly, judging from all the out-of-character storylines appearing today, it could happen.

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A rebuttal here.

Well, now that I think of it, it is possible for Tony to take an atheist viewpoint based on the loss of his parents, Howard and Maria Stark. That would certainly be plausible.

I always assumed (even though it was never really shown) that he was Episcopalian like Howard Hughes, who he was modeled on, was. But it doesn't surprise me that he'd be an atheist.

I think atheist takes on a different meaning in the Marvel universe. You have to acknowledge various gods as being powerful, of course, but I think atheism for them would be something more like denying their divinity, which isn't that hard to do with the Nordic and Greco-Roman pantheon they are frequently exposed to, given how often they act less than godlike.

Atheism isn't denying the divinity of aliens like Thor, it's denying the existence of a supreme being- a real god, beyond any limit of power.

On that score, being an atheist in the Marvel Universe is no different than being one in out universe.

Denying that the Dalai Lama is a demigod is no different from saying Thor is an alien. Religious christians and jews would do that in either universe.

Atheism doesn't appear in isolation in these stories, it is indeed a possible indicator of socialist drift.

Socialism is a lazy fascist way to think, and laziness is endemic to the hacks of disney and warner comics.

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