In a world pervaded with paranormal menace and caped superhumans, how could a Marvel character conceivably remain an atheist? Well according to the popular comic series ‘All-New X-Men’, bewhiskered superhero and medical genius Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy is a steadfast, unshakable, puts-the-hair-in-Sam-Harris secularist.
Following March’s publication of All-New X-Men #5, Hank’s reveal had many readers confused, even indignant by the fallacious development in McCoy’s character.
“It’s complete nonsense,” wrote Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool, “Not for anyone reading the book, but for anyone living in the Marvel Universe. This is a man who has served on the Avengers with Thor, God Of Thunder.”
A genetic researcher and evolutionist, atheism seems a befitting trait for the cerebral mutant. But considering his experience with alternate dimensions, physical battles with supernatural entities, and proximity to actual Nordic gods, Beast’s revelation rings illogic like a Hitch Catch-22. How could Hank McCoy, an esteemed scientist, reject the haptic proof of divinity when it is literally standing next to him holding a hammer?
Thor standing next to him holding a hammer
That said, considering how faith-based rhetoric is expounded in the mainstream media, science and spirituality have become seemingly antithetical. Whether it’s an anti-theist assailant of intellect or a wacky zealot from Topeka, the pundit media is ubiquitous with polarizing extremes. Perhaps, in the context of modernity, it is reasonable for a superhuman geneticist to repudiate religion.
“[Some people do] decide to accept the value of both science and spirit,” writes Dr. Francis S. Collins in his bestselling book ‘The Language of God’, “but [they] compartmentalize these parts of their spiritual and material existence to avoid any uneasiness about apparent conflicts.”
Dr. Francis Collins, reputable for his leadership in the revolutionary Human Genome Project, is (like Beast) a famous physician-geneticist, and also surprisingly, a Christian. In ‘The Language of God’, Collins applies modern biology, physics, and chemistry to justify the belief in a higher power.
It seems Hank McCoy is (as Dr. Collins would say) “compartmentalizing” the spiritual and scientific aspects of his life, but since these aspects are intermingled so palpably, Beast isolates spirituality simply by discarding it.
Blogger JD Church argues that Beast’s atheism is plausible in a supernatural world, because the ‘supernatural’ entities he encounters are only supernatural to the reader:
“Can Hank be an atheist? Yes. Is it silly for him to be one? Of course not; he is simply accepting that his world is natural and sees no reason to believe in something beyond the natural world as it exists to him.”
In a world where the deceased are resurrected, where humans soar above mountains, and where mythical deities trudge the earth, a secular superhero is destined to be an outlier. But how befitting insubordination is for a medical genius that looks like a giant cat.