The Tolkien Road

A podcast about Middle-earth and all things Tolkien.

0218 – Lord of the Rings & Religion

What role does religion play in the universe of Middle-earth? What importance do Tolkien’s own religious beliefs have for informing our understanding of the world he created? Indeed, does one have to appreciate Tolkien’s own religious beliefs in order to fully appreciate his stories? Join us, as we begin our exploration of The Lord of the Rings & Religion.

This episode is executive produced by Kaitlyn of Tea With Tolkien!


On this episode we are looking at a controversial issue: Lord of the Rings and religion. Specifically, we are going to be looking at a recent iTunes review for The Tolkien Road that criticized us for interjecting our own religious views into Tolkien’s works. So we decided to take a close look at the significance of Tolkien’s religious views to his works. Join us!


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5 Responses

  1. Good episode and well said. It bothers me when in our current culture there are those that immediately want to cleanse any discussion of any religious connotation. In many cases you can’t do that and seriously study the work. You don’t have to believe in the religious views of the author, but to totally set them aside means you will miss much of the meaning of the work.

    My father taught high school English many years ago. He said often in his later years that he didn’t think he could have been an English teacher in today’s climate. You don’t have to preach or promote religion but you have to at least understand it to fully appreciate the motivations behind the characters in many works. For example, how do you teach a novel like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter without talking about religion. To white wash it of all religious connotation is to remove any meaning from the work. You need to understand their society in order to understand the book, and religion was an integral part of their society. There are many examples like that.

  2. I wish people would stop making stupid assumptions and criticisms without knowing what they are talking about. The more I learn about Catholicism the more I see in Tolkien works, and the more I learn about Tolkien the more I am drawn towards the Catholic Faith. It’s ironic because Both my mother and I were raised in the United Methodist Church.

  3. I wish people would stop making stupid assumptions and criticisms without knowing what they are talking about. The more I learn about Catholicism the more I see in Tolkien’s works. I used to think that Tom Shippey was right about what he said about Frodo, but now I agree with Joseph Pearce. Also, the more I learn about the Catholic Faith and about Tolkien’s faith the more I am drawn towards Catholicism.

  4. One additional thought. When I was in college one of the general requirements I took was an Eastern civilizations class. A big part of the class was at least a survey of the basic beliefs of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and others. There was no proselytizing or promotion of those beliefs just a presentation of this is what they believe. The professor’s point was you can not hope to understand the eastern cultures if you don’t at least to some degree understand the religions that were integral in shaping those cultures.

    I think this applies equally to conversations like this, particularly when Tolkien even discussed in one of his letters how his Catholicism influenced his work. To simply ignore this will never allow you to fully understand the motivations behind the work.

  5. Just have to add a +1 to the comments above. I’m an atheist and I’m not offended by discussing the place of Catholicism in his writings. Nor am I offended by discussing The Dao in the work of Le Guin. Or the place of Lutheranism in the work of Bach.

    Tolkien was a devout Catholic. That was an important part of who he was and is reflected in his writing. Just as he was English, fought in the 1st World War, loved languages and lived in the 1st half of the 20th century. To overlook the place of religion in his life and writing would be to have an incomplete understanding.

    There are some books that use Tolkien to push their idea of Christianity. These are dishonest, cherry-picking Tolkien to support their belief system. But I think they do little harm, mostly being read by people who already agree with the book. They are published by and distributed in places that are likely to find the audience who agrees with them already. And there are those devotional books based on Tolkien. Again not offended. Like I’m not offended by the quiz books. If some folks find them enjoyable, that’s fine.

    As for the related topic that Tolkien and Lewis were involved in the occult… Nope. Both were pretty traditional members of their churches. They did associate with people who have some connection to occult. Charles William had some connection, he was a member of the Order of the Rosy Dawn. Owen Barfield was an Anthroposophist. Not sure if that is occult, but it is out of the main-stream of western religion.


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It will help you…

  • Grasp the book’s complex structure.
  • Become familiar with key plot points.
  • Visualize the changing world with simple maps.
  • Deepen your appreciation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.