Didn't see a post like this offhand in the forums, but I only looked around a little, sorry if this is a repeat.
Anyway, I just came across a very well developed atheist character in Brandon Sanderson's 'Way of Kings' and was really thrown for a loop. Not only is she awesome and smart, she makes great rational arguments in favor of her position. It's interesting to me, because she's in a very religious world and has been branded a heretic, etc. What further interests me is Sanderson is a Mormon. I'm not sure why I'm astonished that a religious person could write a good non-religious person. But I'm very pleased. (I haven't finished the book yet, and its the first in a series, so I have no way telling if she gets eaten by snakes or zapped by lightning or something..).
It's fascinating to me to see an atheist in fantasy, in particular, because fantasy tends to accept that gods are real, along with magic and all that.
I was wondering if any other novels have atheist characters figured in. I mean, as of yet this isn't a major plot point, but its a central part of who this character is. So like that, not just something mentioned as an aside.
Edit: so she's apparently actually agnostic leaning towards atheist. But still
Okay, so I'm eight months late with this comment but...
Vulcans are not atheists. They have a pantheon of gods including War, Peace, and Death, and have their own Garden of Eden, called Sha Ka Ree. One of their sacred sites is a monastery where Vulcans can go to meditate for extended periods of time.
And judging from TOS dialogue alone, Kirk appears to be a Christian, or at least sympathetic to Christianity. A quote: "We have no need for gods. We find the one quite sufficient"
Pretty sure that Jean Luc Picard while not atheist, is probably agnostic.
EDIT: Prob. atheist.
Good points all, in particular Golden Compass, which I really should have remembered. :P
I enjoyed Ender's Game. The sequels, not so much. I've since come to think of Card as a miserable hack.
Read his novel 'Empire'. Or rather, don't. It's Card's right-wing fantasy about an army of liberal pansies taking America by force after George W. Bush and Dick Chaney are assassinated. Then a few red-state one-man-army types resolve the issue by going on a killing spree in the liberals' secret base in Washington state. Cute stuff.
His ideas have faded but his star has not. I hear he's calling his next novel "Speaker for the Contractually-Obligated Book Publisher".
I watch to much television and films, but it is fiction, and it is written by various people with various belief (I will exclude fiction which is written by atheists like Ricky Gervais).
So, openly atheistic characters would be: dr. House from House m.d. and Brian Griffin from Family Guy. Unfortunately that's all I know or can't remember.
I read a lot of books mostly written by people who aren't christians or aren't religious, sometimes I don't know their affiliation, like Albert Camus (definitely atheist), Salman Rushdie (not very open atheist or irreligious), Robert A. Heinlein (finds religion stupid), Haruki Murakami (probably irreligious like most of Japanese), Alan Moore (batsh*tcrazy), Douglas Adams (we all know this one), Ernest Hemingway (probably atheist), Carl Sagan and so on. But if your read all fiction written by this authors you will realise that they are mostly avoiding this theme, I don't know if any of them wrote about an openly atheistic character in their fictional stories.
Now, I haven't read everything this authors wrote, so I would like to know if they did in fact wrote about openly atheistic characters :D
Interesting point about Card, an author I feel highly ambivalent about, considering some of his personal points of view are so ragingly offensive. How someone can come off reasonable in print but be rather despicable in actuality is baffling (but I guess that's why they call it fiction).