We’re going to have a little departure from our normal Nostalgia Corner this week as part of my somewhat unplanned ‘Pagan Week’ on the blog. Today, we’re going to look at all the scripted shows (or as many as I can remember) on Western, English-language TV that have not just featured religions but have actually shown them to be true in some way or other.
Now, it might be tempting to instantly think that Christianity would dominate here – and certainly it shows up a lot, particularly on US TV. When it does it appear, it’s also taken more seriously and is dealt with largely more accurately than other religions.
But TV is largely secular, either because the writers are atheists or agnostics or because they’re afraid of offending or marginalising other religious groups, particularly when it comes to overseas sales. As a result, religion often lies unexamined in drama or when it does, it deals with ‘safe’ religions, doesn’t make claims for the ‘truth’ of a particular religion or is ‘fantasy’ so doesn’t pretend to say what it depicts is true.
Nevertheless, a few shows have done just that and I’m going to be running through them today. A few I’ve already covered in much greater detail elsewhere, so I’ll link to those posts if necessary, but I’ll still be looking at them from the point of view of religion, rather than as dramas, so there probably won’t be much overlap with what I’ve already written.
To be included on the list (and these aren’t 100% firm rules), the show has to fit into one of the following categories:
- It has to say a tenet of or an entire religion is true in some way, be it through the appearance of a figure from that religion or by the manifestation of their powers
- It features a follower of a religion actually performing important acts of that religion or explaining aspects of it, which are not later disproven or shown to be naive and which might even be proven right.
I won’t be including shows that
- Include figures from a given religion but reveal they’re aliens, spacemen, con men, etc (cf Star Trek)
- Made-up religions, except synthetic/reconstructionist religions that employ figures from other religions (so yes to Wicca but not to any alien’s religion, for example)
- Feature ghosts, the supernatural, magic, etc, unless those things are caused by/stem from a particular religion.
- Merely include worshippers or the iconography of a particular religion, but don’t claim that it’s true or demonstrate any aspects of it (so no Father Brown or Lost).
- Are cartoons (e.g. Family Guy, South Park, Lost Cities of Gold)
Before we leap straight into the list, though, I’d like to give a big thanks to Jim Smith, Stuart Douglas, Dave Hoskin, Simon Bucher-Jones, Naomi Jacobs, Philip Purser-Hallard, Ian Mond, SK and Jon Arnold for their invaluable help in its compilation. Cheers, everyone!
I’m going to break this down by religion. There are a number of ‘mixed faith’ shows out there, that have shown more than one religion to be true, but these generally show one religion to predominate and so will be listed according to that primary religion.
- Judaism and Christianity
- Hinduism and Buddhism
- Hellenism and Religio Romana
- Celtic, Western and Northern Germanic religions + Wicca
- Other religions
If I’ve left out any shows or religions, leave a comment below or on the relevant entry and I’ll update the list accordingly.