Jeremy explores many topics as he juggles his passion for writing with his career as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Superheroes and Religion
For years, we've watched our favorite heroes thwart crime, save the world, and wear tight spandex. Their adventures often reveal their motivations, desires, and faults, but often, we miss out on what they believe regarding the afterlife. Is there a God? Is there not? Like real people, different superheroes harbor different beliefs. Some are easier to identify than others, but almost all offer tidbits of their views at some point. Today, we'll examine the affiliations of some of the most well-known superheroes in history. Whose views will best match your own?
Real name: Matthew Murdock
Powers: Sixth sense and martial arts
Despite the "devil" part of his name, Daredevil firmly believes in God. Acting as both a lawyer and a vigilante speaks of the troubled emotions within himself, but his faith seems to always remain strong. The 2003 Daredevil movie even features many scenes inside a Catholic church. Outside of the film, Murdock isn't quite as much of a churchgoer, but still believes in a higher power.
Real name: Thor Odinson
Powers: Control over lightning, flight, enhanced strength
Affiliation: Norse paganism
Thor is a Marvel character that some people regard as a literal god. However, he himself freely admits that neither he nor his father, Odin, are omniscient or supreme. He's not always the most vocal about it, but will occasionally express the viewpoint that some sort of higher being exists. Thor is shown to respectfully remove his helmet when entering a Catholic church, but that doesn't necessarily mean he believes in the Christian God.
Real name: Bruce Wayne
Powers: He's freaking Batman. He uses gadgets, wealth, martial arts, and his incredible mind.
Affiliation: Episcopalian/ Atheist?
Batman, a character from DC comics, expresses interesting beliefs. Many fans interpret him as an agnostic or atheist, and a few stories portray him as such. Evidence strongly suggests that he was raised as an Episcopalian and Catholic believer in God. Did he discard his faith in God? You're free to interpret the character as you like, but it seems to me that he didn't - at least not entirely. Batman commonly uses the Christian cross for gravestones of his loved ones, and has even been hinted to pray on occasion. Maybe one day this genius will reveal once and for all what he really believes.
Real name: Tony Stark
Powers: Genius, and wears a durable and destructive "Iron Man" suit
Here we have a key member of Marvel's Avengers team. Tony Stark's views aren't easy to pinpoint. We occasionally see him pray, but other instances depict him expressing doubt that a divine being exists. Essentially, he's another character whose viewpoints you may interpret in various ways. Most agree that Tony is secular, and simply isn't as interested in exploring religion as he is technology. In my opinion, he seems to be a doubtful believer who lapses into and out of faith periodically, so "agnostic" is the closest term we can place.
Real name: Diana
Powers: Strength, flight, mystical weapons
Few words can properly sum up this DC character. In her world, Greek "gods" such as Ares and Zeus are shown to exist; Wonder Woman even battles them a few times. She obviously believes in the Greek gods; her other views are less clear. Diana appears to accept some higher power, but hasn't revealed much else. Perhaps someone should entangle her with her own Lasso of Truth and ask.
Real name: Peter Parker
Powers: Enhanced strength, agility, sticks to walls, shoots webs
Peter Parker, perhaps the most famous Marvel character, can be identified as a Protestant. His aunt is clearly a believer, and reminds her nephew to be humble and compassionate. As for Peter himself, he's shown to talk to the Christian God and pray, although he often has questions. Peter's loved ones are often injured or killed, and he struggles to understand why the being he believes in would allow such things to happen. Still, at the end of the day, Peter's faith remains intact.
Real name: Clark Kent/ Kal-El
Powers: Strength, flight, heat vision
One of the most powerful beings from DC is known to have been raised as a Methodist. As an adult, Clark is less connected to the church, but will, from time to time, pray to the Christian God for various friends. Similar to Iron Man, Superman appears more interested in Earth and its people than proving or disproving various religions, but seems to have more faith than Tony. Superman calls himself a "servant of all people, regardless of faith"; perhaps this is why he separates his own beliefs from his job.
Real name: Kurt Wagner
Powers: Teleportation and enhanced agility
Kurt is a member of Marvel's X-Men team. He's one of the easiest characters to classify in terms of religion. Though many call him a demon, due to his bizarre appearance, Nightcrawler believes in the Christian God. Kurt admits to not having all the answers, but nonetheless devotes his soul to his faith. He has even expressed interest in becoming a clergyman. Kurt's unfaltering beliefs influence teammate Wolverine (who is typically portrayed as agnostic), making him doubt his own doubts.
Real name: Steve Rogers
Powers: Peak physical conditioning, brandishes an indestructible shield
Steve Rogers probably won't recite Scripture to you, but has been identified as a believer. In fact, he actually attends services each Sunday. He seems to have few (if any) doubts about his faith, but won't mention it as much as, say, Nightcrawler. I'd be very interested in seeing Rogers discuss religion with the rest of the Avengers.
Real name: Antoine Sharp
Powers: Skilled with infiltration and technology
Affiliation: Believe it or not, Agnostic
He's not well known, but I had to include Antoine due to his name. Despite his title as "The Atheist", his views reflect agnostic beliefs. He's doubtful of higher powers, but his faith grows (at least a little) over time. Many criticize Antoine for having a misleading moniker, and I can't blame them. If you're going to write something about "The Atheist", you should probably write something about an atheist.
Future of Religion in Media
With that, we've examined the faiths of many of our favorite heroes. It's interesting to see what some of the most powerful individuals believe, but it's up to us to determine our own views. Many content creators are hesitant to test the waters of character religions, afraid to upset potential fans, but subtle hints can often crack the code and reveal an individual's belief system.
No matter what you decide, please remember to respect the perspectives of others, and thanks for reading today's examination!
© 2015 Jeremy Gill
Nathan Kiehn on March 19, 2019:
Yeah, I think Daredevil is one of Marvel's more interesting characters when it comes to matters of faith. Spidey does pray a lot, to be sure, but Daredevil seems to address religion more often and in a more topical manner.
I think the Netflix Daredevil series does a really unique, interesting job at discussing Daredevil's Catholic faith (or lack thereof, in certain instances). Father Lantom is also a neat character in that regard, a priest not written as JUST a priest, but as a human being with fully-formed feelings and beliefs who also happens to be a priest.