The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World’s Most Animated Family

The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World’s Most Animated Family




Many books have been written that either include references to “The Simpsons” or are specifically about the series. I’ve recently reviewed an oral history, another about the use of mathematical concepts in the series</a., and going back further I reviewed a book where Homer Simpson helped train you in how to make persuasive argument. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the number of topics that have been written in relation to “The Simpsons”. So it is no surprise that someone would get around to writing a book about religion in the series. Although for the record, this book came out before any of the others I linked above.


How did The Simpsons, one of the most popular television shows in history, go from being attacked by many religious leaders for its lack of family values to being called one of the most theologically relevant programs in prime time? Religion journalist Mark Pinsky tackles that question in this accessible, witty, and enlightening book.
Pinsky explores the individual characters, interviews several of the show’s writers and producers, and concludes with a discussion of whether the show – once cited as further evidence of the decline of civility and morality in the world – is subversive or supportive of faith. The answer may surprise you.
©2002 Westminster John Knox Press; (P)2008


The fact that “The Simpsons” has spent many episodes dealing with religion and values is no surprise. A show that has been on for as long as “The Simpsons” would be hard pressed to go that long without addressing those concepts at least a few times. Yet, it’s a big part of the show, with characters such as Ned Flanders, Rev. Lovejoy, Krusty the Clown, Apu, and even Moe having some sort of religious background. And then of course there’s the the complex relationship between God and the core Simpson family.
Journalist Mark Pinsky has published a book that tries to put all of the references to religion in the series, at least up to the point that the book came out, into some sort of context. He talks about The Simpsons and their relationship to God, Ned Flanders, the church, and characters such as Apu and Krusty who are Hindu and Jewish respectively.
Pinsky makes the argument that “The Simpsons” is not anti-religion or anti-family values, the same argument that has been made by the show’s staff over the years. It’s nice that he was able to discuss the role that religion plays in the series with people who were present at the time, some of whom are still there all these years later.
Pinsky uses plots from actual episodes, episode dialog, descriptions of scenes and character profiles to help make his point. One of the more interesting aspects of his book is how he has people of faith, who don’t normally watch the series or allow their children to do so, view some episodes and give their feedback.
Pinsky asks interesting questions, such as why the God of The Simpsons is more Old Testament than New Testament. The short answer? Wrath is funnier than grace. He looks at how the show has portrayed Catholics, Jews, Hindus and Muslims, and why the latter hasn’t gotten much play at all on the show.
Regardless of your own religious convictions, or lack thereof, and your own feelings about “The Simpsons”, there are a couple of things that both topics have in common.
The first is that they are both pretty broad topics in general. Religion has been around since the beginning of mankind, and it feels like “The Simpsons” has managed to tackle every subject under the sun since its debut.
The second is perhaps the more complicated issue, at least as it relates to this book. Both religion and “The Simpsons” can mean very different things to all types of people. My interpretation of a message from a given Simpsons episode could be much different from that of Mark Pinsky, and so could my idea about what a particular passage of scripture is trying to tell the reader. It can be difficult for people to come to any kind of consensus on either topic.
So if you decide to read ‘The Gospel According to The Simpsons’, keep in mind that this is only one man’s interpretation of the show. You will probably find that you agree with Pinsky’s conclusions at times and disagree with him at others. But regardless of this, you will at least be presented with some thought provoking ideas which you might not have considered on your own.


Mark I. Pinsky is definitely knowledgeable when it comes to religion and to “The Simpsons”, which makes his arguments persuasive enough. If I have one issue with the book’s format, it would be that no voice is really given to those who might disagree with his interpretation of episodes. Also, he leaves some terms such as mainline denominations undefined, so it’s difficult to know who he’s talking about when he says members of those denominations think, believe or feel a certain way.


We learned with The Extra 2% that Lloyd James does a decent Mr. Burns impersonation. It must have been a trait he discovered after this book and before that one because there are no attempts at character voices to be found here despite the wealth of dialog that comes from the show.


The track sounds pretty good. There are no music or sound effects, but the audio chapter stops are kind of frustrating. The word random serves as the most apt description of where they are placed. There are only 6 audio stops for the book’s 13 chapters, and pressing the ‘chapter forward’ button on your app is more likely than not going to put you in the middle of something rather than at the beginning.


‘The Gospel According to The Simpsons’ is one man’s view on how television’s longest running sitcom has handled the topic of religion and values over its lengthy run. Pinsky uses examples of specific episodes or scenes from the show, as well as interviews and persuasive argument to make his case.
The points he makes are worth considering because they are interesting and thought provoking. Of course, someone could just as easily take plots of episodes and specific scenes to make completely different cases.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World’s Most Animated Family Mark Pinsky Lloyd James Arts & Entertainment 02/11/2009 7 hours, 48 minutes 7.25/10