In the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I think it is a good time to discuss the relationship between religion and jokes. Purely from an observational standpoint, it very much appears to me that the more religious someone is, the less of a sense of humor they tend to have.
Fundamentalist religious believers have the worst sense of humor. It’s far too easy to point a finger at Muslim fundamentalists, who far too often kill or threaten to kill those who mock their religious beliefs; the sad fact is that fundamentalists of pretty much any religion aren’t a whole lot better when it comes to taking a joke.
Bill Donahue of the Catholic League wishes Catholics would slit the throats of those who dared to mock Jesus and has practically said as much publicly. Christian fundamentalists and Jewish fundamentalists all take their ridiculous beliefs far too seriously for anyone to joke about or satirize. The irony, of course, is that the more seriously people take their religious beliefs, the funnier those beliefs become and the easier it is to mock and satirize those beliefs. More importantly, the more serious people take their religious beliefs, the more necessary it is to mock and satirize those beliefs.
I use the word, “necessary,” for a reason. Ridiculous beliefs need to be mocked and satirized. Humor is the best weapon against ridiculous beliefs. Humor cuts through the bullshit and reveals the obvious. This is why comedy shows like The Daily Show, The Simpsons, and South Park are so popular and important. They not only poke fun for entertainment, but also as a commentary on ridiculous ideas and beliefs.
When it comes to mocking and satirizing religion, South Park is the Pope of the church of humor. The show’s creators have gotten death threats from Muslims fundamentalists because they dared to show Mohammad. They also have angered Catholic fundamentalists by depicting the Virgin Mary statue bleeding menstrual blood, Mormon fundamentalists by retelling the story of Joseph Smith, Scientologists for mocking Tom Cruise, Jewish fundamentalism through the stereo-types of the Broflovski family, Christian fundamentalism through Cartman’s antics, and even vocal atheism by mocking Richard Dawkins and commenting that atheists would fight each other based on superficial differences.
Even though I am an atheist, I laughed at that episode and had no problem being the butt of the joke. As it turns out, their criticism of atheists was actually really valid. It is important to be able to laugh at ourselves and to see why our values might be considered humorous to others. If the jokes are funny, we should laugh. If they make a valid point about our own beliefs, we should acknowledge that and think about changing our beliefs and/or behaviors. Fundamentalist religious believers often can’t do that. They tend to be so wrapped up in the fundamentalism that they have lost that perspective and any funny bone they might have had.
Recently, I asked some Muslims online about whether or not they support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish blasphemous cartoons. While I am pleased to say that some do, one Muslim said that it was a tricky question and asked me if anyone really has the right to publish “nonsense.”
YES!!!! All Fox News does is publish nonsense, but I support their right. The Torah, the Bible, and the Koran are all nonsense, but I support the right of religious believers to publish and even believe that nonsense even though it is a threat to human happiness, human prosperity, and even human survival on this planet. To paraphrase Dr. Lawrence Krauss, you don’t censor nonsense; you expose it! One of the ways you expose nonsense is through satire. If you are offended by satire, then there is a good bet that satire has exposed your beliefs to be nonsense. Your house of cards has been blown down and all you can do is attempt to censor the wind.
Support Dangerous Talk by bookmarking the Amazon link below:
- Religious Strife vs. Scientific Advancement (skepticink.com)
- Response: ‘5 Lies Atheist Tell’ (examiner.com)
- Christian Films Are Hilarious! (skepticink.com)
- Ignoring Ridiculous Beliefs Won’t Make Them Go Away (skepticink.com)