I just watched this one again for the first time in probably 15 years, and was struck by how brave it seemed to me that the writers would have Maddie admit to being an atheist (even though that actual word is never spoken). I honestly don't think they'd have done that, if the show were being made today, because it would seem unacceptable somehow--it would make a lot of people lose sympathy for the character, I think. (I mean, even on X-Files, while Scully was portrayed as being skeptical of the paranormal, her religious faith was always strong and unquestioned.) It was just interesting to me to see this, and consider it in the light of cultural shifts in the US over the past two decades.
You're probably right. I can't think of too many other series which have had an openly non-religious character. On "Different Strokes," which appeared within a few years of ML, when it was revealed that the father didn't go to church, his love interest kidded him about it and started trying to get him to go. Given the brouhaha over "The Book of Daniel" on NBC this year, and indeed certain changes in the social climate in the United States in the past 20 years, it's not as likely someone could say what Maddie did, right now, and not be the subject of complaints.
Actually, look at it from another point of view. David is very straightforward and honest (as always) as regards his beliefs and he does so in a loving way "I prayed for you last night". Also when he speaks up for Confession and the Church in "All creatures" he does it with his heart and it touches the person who is listening (Maddie in this case).
Way to go David - great way to show your Faith, with love always.
From a fellow Catholic.
" I've got a bad case of you, and you've got a bad case of me ! "