Not a tortured Catholic (or whatever) who's "lost touch with their religion" -- that's common enough -- but an atheist, entirely comfortable with their lack of belief.
Warning: VERY mild semi-spoilers for the episode follow below.....
Why was I so happy to see this? Well, apart from the very fact of her being atheist, the thing which really made it so awesome was that the character was very strongly moral. This was a person who had no faith in any higher power telling them what they ought to do/think, but who had a powerful enough set of morals that she was not willing to cause emotional pain to others in order to gain a heart transplant she needed to live.
How often do you see THAT on television?
The one dampener on it was when the argument was made that here was this atheist doing a very Christian thing. I think the statement was in fact ok in that it was the right argument for the character that said it to make to those he was addressing it to (a jury) in the context of the show. That said, it was a bit of a pity to slightly water down the message that ATHEISTS CAN HAVE MORALS TOO by painting it as Christian. On the one hand, I do understand that it was totally valid in that there are kind of two definitions of Christian (the one saying that someone is of a given religion, and the one saying that they are kind and selfless). On the other, it, well, as I said, seemed like it slightly weakened the message.
Still, with that one mild reservation about it, I applaud the writers, producers and network. Bravo! Kudos!
In case I haven't done so publicly already, I was extremely pleased that President Barack Obama in his inauguration speech mentioned atheists/agnostics in with the list of religions. Kudos to him also!
It is all too common a misunderstanding among Christians (especially in America) that an atheist can't be moral because ... who is telling them what to think? An atheist friend of mine once pointed out that isn't it in fact more moral for someone to choose to do good because they believe it is the right thing, the human thing, to do rather than because they were told to do so to save themselves?
While that argument is persuasive, there are also many religious people who are good because they know, deep down, what is right and not because they are following orders. I know many good, moral people with very high standards of morality and who are thoughtful towards others who are atheists, and many who are religious (and of course there are plenty of obnoxious people of both persuasions too).
Really, the point of all this is not to hold up one or the other as better, more right(eous), but to show that morality does not hinge on somebody sharing your beliefs (or lack thereof).
It pleases me to see that message in mainstream media.