The Simpsons Religious Critic or Spiritual Guide?
Is Religion incompatible with humour? • Is it okay to be Christian and laugh at religious jokes? • Did Jesus ever laugh? Or make jokes? • Can God manifest through humour? • Is The Simpsons seen as anti-Christian because “It is unquestionably the most culturally-literate show on television, except for perhaps Jeopardy. Each episode contains dozens of references to film culture, literature, rock and roll (thus the rapping rabbis who sing "Don't eat pork, even with a fork; can't touch this"), politics, history, philosophy and above all television culture itself-- Bart and Lisa many times refer to the damage that television has done to their memory or patience or imagination  and the FOX Network is always highlighted as a purveyor of junk TV. Because many evangelical Christians do not swim in this culture the humour and cultural literacy manifested will often pass them by leaving only images of a drunken father and a rude little boy.”
God • Does God “Exist” in The Simpsons? • How is God depicted? “Perfect teeth. Nice Smell. A Class Act all the way.” • Is God “mocked” in the Simpsons? • How many fingers does God have? How many do the rest of the characters have? Does this make any difference?! • Is God shown to have a plan - even for Homer?
The Devil • How is the Devil depicted in The Simpsons? • Does the Devil exist? • How is Hell depicted? • Would you rather go to The Simpsons’ Heaven, or Hell?
Personal Prayer “Are you there, God? It's me, Bart Simpson. I know I never paid too much attention in church, but I could really use some of that good stuff now. I'm... afraid. I'm afraid some weirdo's got my soul and I don't know what they're doing to it! I just want it back. Please?” (Bart Sells His Soul) “Dear Lord: The gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here's the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won't ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. Thy will be done.”
Morality • “If these two characters - Homer and Bart were allowed by the writers and directors of The Simpsons to triumph on each show, it could be argued that the program was morally objectionable... But in fact they do not. Homer's stupidity and greed never pay off (as when he gains so much weight in order to be considered disabled and allowed to work at home) and Bart's pranks are either thwarted or turn to ultimate good (as when he prompts a teachers' strike and has to bring them back to the bargaining table in the end.) Moreover Bart and Homer are balanced by the observant Christians Marge (who tells Homer never to make her choose between God and her man because he just can't win) and Lisa (who refuses to watch pirated cable TV because of her wish to honour the 8th Commandment and win Heaven). They represent the voices of sanity and piety and they always (or almost always) triumph in the end.” - True?
The Bible • How does The Simpsons portray the Bible (I.e., is it taken literally?) • What use do Homer, Rev. Lovejoy, etc. make use of the Bible? • Does this make the show “anti-Christian?” • "If the Bible has taught us nothing else -- and it hasn't -- it's that girls should stick to girls' sports such as hot-oil wrestling, foxy-boxing and such and such."(Lisa on Ice)
The Bible - Revelation • How is Prophesy and Revelation presented in The Simpsons? Is Christian prophesy of the End Times taken “seriously”? • What are the criteria for getting into Heaven, according to the episode “Thank God its Doomsday?” • What did you think about the criticisms of other faiths, science, and homosexuality in the fictional movie “Left Below” in this episode? Is this a criticism of fundamentalist views? • Do you think this episode is “anti-religious?”
Miscellaneous (Judaism) • How does The Simpsons treat other religions? (Krusty is Jewish, Apu is Hindu, Lisa is Buddhist) • Krusty: “I’d like to thank God for all my success, even though I never worshipped him or believed in him in any way.” • Krusty’s dad an orthodox Rabi, who did not give son a bar mitzvah because he feared his son would “act up.” • Krusty reconciles with dad and has a bar mitzvah - but continues to be an alcoholic, gambler, prescription drug abuser, etc. • What does this portrayal say about Judaism? Is The Simpson’s “anti-jewish?”
Miscellaneous (Hinduism) • How is Hinduism presented in The Simpsons? • Homer: “No offense, Apu, but when they were handing out religions, you must have been out taking a whiz.” • Vegetarianism. Apu wears a tee-shirt with a red circle and slash superimposed on a cow, with Bart’s slogan, “Don’t Have a Cow, Man!” and he secretly substitutes tofu for beef in his hot dogs. • 2. Reincarnation. Sideshow Mel, one of Krusty the Clown’s television sidekicks, says “You only live once.” Apu pipes up, “Hey, speak for yourself.” • 3. Meditation. Apu has a secret stairway in the Kwik-E-Mart that leads to a rooftop garden, where, he tells Lisa, “I go when I need some refuge from the modern world.” • 4. Pluralism. “I learned long ago, Lisa, to tolerate others, rather than forcing my beliefs on them,” Apu tells the girl. “You know, you can influence people without badgering them always.”
Miscellaneous (Buddhism) • Lisa: “I still believe in God. I just think there's another path to him. Or her.” • Lisa: (gasps) Richard Gere? • Lenny: Ooh! The world's most famous Buddhist. • Gere: Well, what about the Dalai Lama? • Lenny: Who? • Carl: You know, the fourteenth incarnation of the Buddha Avalokitesvara. • Lenny: Who's Buddha? • Richard Gere: It's a good thing Buddhism teaches freedom from desire - 'cuz I've got the desire to kick your ass!
Miscellaneous (Serpent-handling, Santeria, Voodoo - the religion(s) of Moe?) • Moe: “I was born a serpent-handler, and I’ll die a serpent handler.” • Moe: “Santeria, what can't you do?" • Moe: “I think I will return to good old fashioned voodoo.” • Using other faiths solely for laugh effect?
Family Values - Episode case studies • Does The Simpsons uphold “family values?” • Why does Homer leave Heaven in “Thank God its Doomsday?” • Why does Lisa return to celebrate Christmas in “She of Little Faith?” • How does Marge save Homer in “Homer vs the Devil?” • What brings Homer back to the Church fold in “Homer the Heretic?” • Does the family replace religion in The Simpsons?