Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through American Popular Culture

By Timothy M. Dale; Joseph J. Foy | Go to book overview

8
“GABBIN’ ABOUT GOD”:
Religion, Secularity, and Satire on The Simpsons

Matthew Henry

Many people [in America] remain convinced of God’s existence but
realize increasingly that the reality of their world is secular. Thus, they are
constantly coming to terms with this secularity—and suffering the pangs
of adjustment associated with acquiring any new status.

—Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven

Religion is undoubtedly a prominent element of The Simpsons, and the highly contentious issues related to it are featured in episodes on a regular basis, either centrally or tangentially. Not surprisingly, no topic on The Simpsons has garnered more written commentary than religion, and the ensuing discussions have led to some of the most diverse interpretations of the show among fans and scholars alike.1 This raises some important questions about how The Simpsons engages the ongoing tension between religious and secular forces in the United States. Does The Simpsons operate from a theological or a philosophical position? Does it promote a religious worldview or a secular one? Answering such questions, of course, is not easy and requires careful consideration of the show and its historical contexts: namely, the rise of the Religious Right in the 1980s, the increasing influence of religiosity during the 1990s, the debates over the roles of science and religion in the public sphere, and the intensification of religious fundamentalism in the post-9/11 environment. As the growing body of scholarship on The Simpsons attests, the show does more than simply mirror modern American life; it also regularly intervenes

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