The Gospel According to…The Simpsons?

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State of Belief Looks at the Role of Religion on The Simpsons

Washington, DCOn this weekend’s “State of Belief,” The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy interviews the Orlando Sentinel’s religion reporter, Mark Pinsky, who is also the author of The Gospel According to The Simpsons. Pinksy tells Rev. Gaddy that The Simpsons, though a comedy, treats religion as a source of ongoing, intelligent discussion.

The Simpsons is a show that rewards intelligence…the smarter you are, the funnier it is,” claims Pinsky. “They have this way of making these characters so well rounded. You can see the things that are good about them and things that are not so good about them.”

One of the complex characters that Pinsky admires is Ned Flanders, Homer’s neighbor. Flanders, who on the surface is overzealous and seems like a “doofus,” always returns the abuse he receives from Homer with love. The character Rev. Lovejoy goes through struggles that many preachers that Pinsky has covered in real life deal with.

When Pinsky approached the writers and creators of The Simpsons, they told him the addressing religion was an act of “creative desperation.” The writers did not expect the show to last as long as it has – 18 years – and they needed new issues to discuss on the show. At the time, very few other shows had the guts to tackle religion from a comedic perspective. Religion has provided The Simpsons with a frame to discuss ongoing cultural and political controversies over the years, including gay marriage.

Pinsky also found that because The Simpsons is an animated program that it is easier for their audience to stomach a religious message. That may explain why religion has flourished as a subject for other cartoons, such as South Park, but failed as a live comedy in the short-lived show The Book of Daniel.

The Simpsons Movie opens in theaters today.

Also on the show: William Lobdell, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, on how covering the religion beat caused him to lose his faith.

State of Belief is religion and radio, done differently. State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism. Through interviews with newsmakers and celebrities, reports from the field, and his own commentary, Rev. Welton Gaddy shows how religion and freedom are compatible and how the religious right is wrong for America and bad for religion.

10:00 to 11:00 AM ET each Saturday and rebroadcast at 7:00 to 8:00 PM ET each Sunday on Air America Radio Network. To see where and when State of Belief is broadcast or to stream or podcast go to: