There has been quite a bit of back and forth in the blogosphere about the statement by L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that Homer Simpson is Catholic. While L’Osservatore Romano may have overstated the arguments of the scholarly article about which they were reporting, I was mostly amused by the fact that such an article existed in the first place. In hindsight, though, I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised. In a television landscape overpopulated with "reality" shows that bear no resemblance to reality and overly dramatic medical/court room/cul de sac shows that find a way to churn out the exact same plot line 138 different ways, the Simpsons has managed to be deadly sharp, satirical fun since 1989. Throughout that time religion has been a regular theme in the show, enough so that books have been written on the topic (see The Gospel According to The Simpsons) and an entire section of the Simpsons archive dedicated to it. (This is a fun place to find all of the Scriptural references found in the Simpsons, as well as religious themes, prayers from the show and more. Someone has a lot of free time.)
With all of the fear about the overly secular nature of our society, I think that it is important to see the prevalence of religion as a theme in the Simpsons, especially since it is usually approached in an overall positive way. Of course the show gives direct hits at all things hypocritical, absurd and judgmental in the realm of individuals and communities of faith, and does so across denominational lines. But the fact that the show continues to depict the struggles of its characters with spiritual questions, and the real areas of insight and possibilities in their spiritual growth, points as much to the interests of the audience as it does to the interests of the creators of the show. Cowabunga.