Did Actor Denzel Washington Really Liken Atheists to Sociopaths?

Actor Denzel Washington (AP)

Denzel Washington, 57, is one of Hollywood’s most well-known and vocal Christians. His religious views are well-documented, as the actor has been more than open about sharing his religious perspective with fans and media outlets, alike. But recently, Washington has caught some negative attention for comments that some say link atheists to sociopaths.

While promoting his new movie “Safe House,” the actor described the difficulty of playing one of the main characters, Tobin Frost — an ex-CIA agent that has turned into an international (and infamous) criminal. When asked if it was challenging to portray the character, he said:

“There’s a book I read called ‘The Sociopath Next Door.’ And — I read something from it every day before I would go on the set. It really became my guide. When you think of a sociopath…you think of someone violent. The overwhelming majority of sociopaths aren’t violent. They just have a desire to win. They just don’t have a conscience — they don’t have it. The majority of them are atheists as well. So that was the book that was sort of my Bible if you will…in preparation for this part.”

See Washington make these comments, below:

In an interview with Matt Lauer of the “Today Show,” Washington made similar comments last week.

“I read this book called ‘The Sociopath Next Door,’ and that was like my Bible, that I related to,” he said. “The traits of a sociopath: No conscience, no sense of remorse, usually atheist, just always want to win, dominate…He’s about to get waterboarded and he’s telling the guy he brought the wrong towels. He’s still trying to win.”

Here’s how the delivered those remarks (around 1:45):

 

These statements have sparked some harsh critiques and accusations. The Christian Post provides a recap of the debate surrounding his commentary:

 

The character description offended some who said that Washington was purposefully linking atheists and sociopaths. The Examiner published an article titled “Denzel Washington Associates Atheists with Sociopaths.” Users on the Examiner blog had mixed responses. Some compared his statements to that of Mel Gibson, who was accused of being anti-Semitic and stated that they would no longer watch Denzel Washington films due to the offensive remark.

However others suggested that linking the comment was a stretch. “I think this is way over blown. He is describing his character. There are atheist nut jobs out there just like there are religious nut jobs. In other words, the actions this character is committing is not due to some belief in God, but due to some other sociopath traits,” Christopher Lewis wrote.

After reviewing Washington’s actual quotes, it seems he was saying that sociopaths tend (the majority) to be atheists, not that atheists are definitively sociopaths. There’s clearly a difference between those two ideals.

(H/T: Christian Post)