Sample Religious Studies Paper on Religious Portrayal


Fox drama House has extensively portrayed religion within American popular culture. There is presence of religious characters in this contemporary popular culture depicted in the movie. Fundamentally, the ideological messages presented in the movies are produced by an American contemporary cultural system. Many movie directors are motivated by their audience to produce contents that align to cultural beliefs of the American people. The messages are geared towards transforming spiritual, philosophical, and ethical beliefs into contents that can be consumed by American people. Similarly, a section of movie producers have also produced content to be marketed to specific racial, ethic, and gender segments, and sometimes to appeal to prevailing religious ideology of the society within which they are produced. However, it is also critical for the audience to question contents delivered to them due to the prevailing religious bias witnessed on television today. The media is known to set religious agenda. Hence, the media decide the kind of religious messages that is consumed by the audience. Therefore, religious ideologies are portrayed in popular America culture through movies; an example of this portrayal is in the popular Fox drama House.

Portrayal of Specific Religion and Beliefs in the Film

In movies, religious messages are time-encoded. Consumers, on the other hand, decode the messages and arrive at their own interpretations of meanings. Consequently, broadcasting companies can produce numerous episodes with religious contents embedded. Within the audience, some can decide to watch while others may ignore. Among those who watch the movies, some will like the content while others will not. Considerably, a broadcasting company will be interested in finding out the reception of the movie by the audience. New episodes will then be released to take into consideration changes that were discomforting to increase acceptance. Americans are driven by the need for meaningful orientations with popular contemporary religious culture and ideologies.

House extensively focuses on the subject of religion and faith. Several episodes revolve around the idea of religiosity. In this popular film, the main character Gregory House is an atheist devoted to his religious beliefs and ideals. Similarly, other characters, especially hospital staff and patients, also depict own religious beliefs. House appears to reject faith something that forms the basis of discussion. The phrase “Oh my God” has extensively been used in the movie repeatedly. This phrase is common among the American contemporary culture. The expression is deeply rooted in the American religious ideals and the culture to an extent that it cannot be disregarded. In House, the main character and his team of doctors are involved in saving the lives of their patients. Hence, there is an element of life, death, and religion within the plot. Significantly, religious representations are surprisingly dominant and prevalent within the film. Surprisingly, there are more than 100 instances of religious content spread across the 155 episodes (Alem n.p).

Overwhelmingly, the vast majority of religious beliefs in the film revolve around atheism versus religion. Therefore, a focus on faith promotes lack of specificity in regards to people who fail to identify with atheism and those who identify with it. Instrumentally, the film has accommodated both religious and non-religious audience. For instance, in Season 6, the episode dubbed “Wilson,” a patient vehemently refuses to undergo a medical procedure because it conflicts with his religious faith and beliefs. In this case, Doctor House claims that religion just killed another individual. In Season 3’s finale, an atheist husband breaks into tears and kneels to pray for his wife in order to “fix her.”  However, human error worsens the situation of the patients, and Doctor House claims that maybe it was God’s error before finding a biological treatment for the patient. For that, he forbids the patient’s husband from praying, since, according to him, that would complicate the situation. Experts reveal that the issues surrounding prayer and God are the most religious references portrayed on House (Alem n.p). Therefore, dialogues on religion in the film have considerably allowed the popular American culture to attract more audience. Distinctively, the film is pleasing to a majority of the audience because it fails to identify with Christianity, Buddhism, and Muslim beliefs. The generalization of characters and issues are also appealing to atheist viewers who are left to interpret content and representations of religion.

Gregory House, the main character in the film, is a devout atheist who does not believe in anything not founded on scientific research and evidence. Predominantly, his argument is common when issues of faith arise in the course of his medical practice. His social life does not align to societal expectations and values. For instance, he is a drug addict who often breaks the law, steals from other people, hires prostitutes, manipulates colleagues, and makes rude comments. Perhaps, this justifies why he does not want to abide by religious teachings. Doctor House does not care for others, he only thinks of himself. According to one of his friends, House tends to read the Bible and Koran to get a snippet of the mistakes people are making in following religious teachings (Alem n.p). According to him, all the religious viewpoints define people’s behaviors, especially the mistakes that they make.

The antagonism existing in the film is the fight between those believes in religious teaching and those that do not. Experts assert that from time to time, atheists become the main focus of the plot and are cynical towards people who believe in religion (Alem n.p). According to the film, religion is promoted as psychologically uplifting and morally superior compared to atheism (Alem n.p). Religious believers are portrayed as ever happy. But from the viewpoint of people like Gregory House, religion is represented as inferior to science, and most beliefs are given alternate medical explanations that challenge the need for religion. Evidently, religious patients in the film tend to suffer from neurological, psychological symptoms, and mental illnesses. When Dr. House is later put in a psychiatric hospital, he comes across people with strong religious beliefs. In fact, one of the patients believes he can fly while the other acclaims that they get more “Jesuses than superheroes” (Alem n.p). To some extent, Christianity has been represented in House because guest characters comprises of nuns, priest, faith healers, and a crucifixion reenactment extremist, as well as average daily believers.

Later, it emerges that Dr. House’s biological father is a religious believer, Dr. Chase is a former seminary student, and Dr. Cole is interested in vying for the position of a fellowship team in the film. Further, Judaism is frequently portrayed with only three instances less than for atheism. Dr. House’s supervisor and a medical fellow mentioned in Season One are all Jewish. Dr. Taub is consistently mocked by Dr. House in regards to his religious beliefs, heritage, and appearance. Notably, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam are portrayed only nine times within the entire seven seasons of the film. The few mentions affirm the popular beliefs that Americans and the media tend to avoid non-western religious orientation (Alem n.p). Similarly, Islam has been referenced in the film only twice and the portrayal towards religion is necessitated by the lack of Islam characters in the film. Fundamentally, the exclusion of some religion in the film speak volumes about popular belief of Americans avert from other non-conforming religious beliefs and values. There are also worldwide religions that fail to get representation. Consequently, the film House delivers religious content that is easy to understand, and popular culture tends to criticize traditional religious beliefs.

Broad Portrayal of American Religion

The American popular culture and beliefs tend not to support what is described as non-western religion. Thus, other religions have failed to get representation while others have been given minimum coverage. However, the overall attitude of the show tends to end in agnosticism that effectively decides what is right and wrong. American religion is represented effectively as a tool that goes beyond science. Many of the patients believe in the power of healing arising from prayers and faith. In one of the scenes, a husband of a patient is seen praying for his ailing wife to recover. There is clash between science and religion where people like Dr. House believe that science is superior to religions while patients are of the opinion that religion is superior and most healing are as a result of prayers. The film portrays how Americans are not accommodative of religious beliefs that do not align to their way of life (Leins n.p). For instance, studies reveal how Native Americans do not value Islam as a religion. According to them, Islam is a belief that promotes extremism and anti-social behaviors among the American society (Gjelten n.p). Most terrorism activities are due to strict Islamic teaching supporting Jihad.

According to the film, religion in America is founded on Christian teachings. Christianity is portrayed more than any other religion. Undoubtedly, the American popular culture is anchored on biblical teachings about Christ. According to Americans, other religious beliefs such as atheism encourage anti-social behaviors that do not align with societal expectations (Beinart n.p). As an atheist, Dr. House is involved in certain activities such as stealing, prostitution, and arrogance that are not supported by the American religious beliefs and values.


Religion is one of the most important institutions that have been portrayed in the media. The discussions presented have delved on the representation of religion in different American films and TV shows. The investigation has revealed that religion is a hot topic that must be structured to appeal to the audience. Fundamentally, movie directors have tried to reach Americans using films that glorify certain religious beliefs. Undoubtedly, House depicts an American society that is deeply divided along religious beliefs and values. Instrumentally, it is evident from the film that the popular contemporary American culture is defined by western-based religious beliefs. That is, Americans disregard non-western religions that do not conform to their expectations and beliefs.


Works Cited

Alem Belton. Character Analysis: House M.D. Reel Rundown. Reel Rundown, 2016. Available

at: Retrieved April 27, 2018.

Beinart Peter. Breaking Faith: The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is

something much worse. The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 2017. Available at: Retrieved April 27, 2018.

Gjelten Tom. To understand how religion shapes America, look to its early days. NPR. NPR,

  1. Available at: Retrieved April 27, 2018.

Leins Casey. Americans are becoming less religious. US News. US News, 2017. Available at: Retrieved April 27, 2018.