As the television season wraps up, it seems that Satan is having a bad year on Fox. The still-Rupert Murdoch-owned network canceled not only 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. It 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. May 20 was Pentecost, the day Christians celebrate the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles, and Fox was kicking the usual "comedic" dirt at the faithful.
In the episode, Peter Griffin, the title character, lapses into a coma and believes he's stuck in an elevator with God. God says He's incapable of getting out of the elevator. Later it turns out He is trying to decide whether Peter is going to heaven or hell. (MacFarlane's God conveniently proclaims 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 a terrible parent," 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 says: "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 he uttered, "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-satisfied, secular sermon served in a Sunday-night cartoon.
An hour earlier, a milder mockery of religion showed up on "The Simpsons," which has been 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 Milhouse finds him in a dark room surrounded by crosses and lit devotional candles. He asks: "What's going on, Bart? Are you into God now? I always was." He then 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 cross-legged pose, Lisa utters her last words: "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.