|"Homer the Heretic"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Homer is visited by God in a dream.|
|Orig. airdate||October 8, 1992|
|Show runner(s)||Al Jean & Mike Reiss|
|Written by||George Meyer|
|Directed by||Jim Reardon|
|Chalkboard||"I will not defame New Orleans"|
|Couch gag||The sofa swivels round into the wall, and an empty sofa assumes its place.|
"Homer the Heretic" is the third episode of The Simpsons' fourth season, which originally aired on FOX in the United States on October 8, 1992. In the episode, Homer decides to forgo going to church and has an excellent time staying home. His behavior quickly attracts the wrath of God, who visits him in a dream. The episode was written by George Meyer and directed by Jim Reardon. The chalkboard gag from this episode was a reference to the previous episode's controversy involving various insults in a musical.
On a very cold Sunday morning, Marge is gathering the family to go to church. However, after viewing the weather outside and struggling with his pants, Homer refuses to go. He then proceeds to have what he declares "the best day of [his] life": he sleeps in late, dances in his underwear (à la Tom Cruise in the film Risky Business), makes his own brand of waffles, wins a radio trivia contest, watches an action-packed football game, and finds a penny under the couch. Homer attributes all his good fortune to skipping church. Meanwhile, Marge and the kids shiver their way through a rambling sermon, only to find themselves trapped at the end since the door has frozen shut. After finally being freed by Groundskeeper Willie and his blow torch, Marge is unable to start the car because of the freezing temperature. When they finally get home, Marge is horrified to hear that Homer intends to never go to church again. She becomes very upset with Homer and does her best to persuade him, but to no avail. After falling asleep, Homer has a dream in which God personally appears to him. God is very angry at Homer for "forsaking his church." Homer points out that "I'm not a bad guy, I work hard, and I love my kids...so why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to hell?" God agrees with Homer's point and agrees to let Homer worship in his own way. Homer then starts his own religion tailored to his own personal tastes.
Marge, Reverend Lovejoy, and Ned Flanders all attempt to convert Homer back to Christianity and fail. The next Sunday morning, Homer is once again at home while everyone else is at church. While smoking a cigar, he falls asleep on the couch and the cigar ignites some magazines. Soon, the whole house is ablaze. Homer wakes up but quickly succumbs to the thick smoke. Apu spots the fire, and summons the Springfield volunteer fire department (of which Krusty the Clown, Chief Wiggum, and Barney Gumble are also members). Meanwhile, Ned Flanders sees the fire and rushes to rescue Homer, pulling him free of the house just as the fire department arrives. After the blaze is extinguished, Homer fears that God was delivering vengeance. Reverend Lovejoy suggests that God was actually working in the hearts of Homer's friends, despite their different faiths. Lovejoy convinces Homer to give church another try. Homer comes to church the next Sunday, but sleeps through the service. God appears in his dreams again and consoles Homer on the failure of his religion. God starts to tell Homer the meaning of life (and implies that Homer will die within the year), but the viewers never hear it because God is cut off by the credits.
This episode originated when Al Jean commented to Mike Reiss, "We had a lot of luck with Homer stealing cable, which was based on the eighth commandment, so maybe we could look to other commandments. So we thought, 'Honor the Sabbath' would be a good one. So the 'Homer doesn't go to church' storyline was given to George Meyer." Reiss and Jean thought that as a lapsed Catholic, Meyer would "bring the proper degree of rage" to the episode. Meyer also had a lot of fun making the episode, thinking that most people could relate to the bliss of staying home from church, which to him was even better than missing a day of school or a set of booster shots. One of the main problems Meyer had writing this episode is that whenever Homer saw God, he had to have fallen asleep so that it appeared to be a dream. Meyer didn’t want to show that God was literally appearing to Homer. This resulted in him falling asleep so many times during the first draft of the episode that it was almost as if Homer had narcolepsy. This was also the first episode from season four that was read to the production team. The first read of the year is usually a little nerve-racking for the team, but it read very well, particularly some of the visuals in the third act such as the house on fire and Homer being rescued by Flanders.
This was the first episode of The Simpsons where the animation was produced by Film Roman. Up until this point, Film Roman had mostly worked on Garfield and Friends episodes, and were not used to the breakneck speed with which Simpsons episodes were produced, however they quickly adjusted. Film Roman went on to do the animation for the rest of the series and eventually The Simpsons Movie. Previously, the animation was produced by Klasky Csupo.
The abrupt cutting off of God's voice before he reveals the meaning of life was intended to be cut off by a voiceover promo for whatever FOX program that aired after The Simpsons. However, FOX did not pick up on this and so God's voice was instead cut off by the show's credits.
The brand label on Homer's shower radio reads "No Soap, Radio!", so-named for the punch line of a well-known practical joke. The scene where Homer dances in his underwear to the song "Short Shorts" is almost identical to the scene in the 1983 Tom Cruise film, Risky Business. The burning floor collapsing underneath Flanders' feet is a reference to the film Backdraft.
Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, loved the episode. They described it as "A brilliant episode, underlining everything that The Simpsons is about. Homer hates church, Marge wants the kids to see Homer as an example, and everyone pulls together in the end. Good stuff, and if God really is like that, he's a groovy kind of guy." In 2004 ESPN.com released a list of the Top 100 Simpsons sport moments, ranking Benjamin Franklin and Jimi Hendrix's air hockey game, a scene from the episode, at #83. The episode's reference to Risky Business was named the 45th greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.
The writers of the FOX program King of the Hill put "Homer the Heretic" among the five best episodes of The Simpsons, including "Brother from the Same Planet", "Lisa's Wedding", "Lisa's Substitute", and "Behind the Laughter". When asked to pick his favorite season out of The Simpsons seasons one through twenty, Paul Lane of the Niagara Gazette picked season four and highlighted "Brother from the Same Planet" and "Mr. Plow" which he called "excellent", along with "the sweetly funny" "Lisa's First Word", and "Homer the Heretic".