Atheism / Humor / religion · January 26, 2006

Why Should Religion be Sheltered From Criticism or Humor?

Atheists and other non-believers are just like anyone else. We have good days and bad. We try to be good people. We cry, we laugh.

Until fairly recently in history, it was dangerous for a non-believer to laugh at religion. Doing so revealed you to be a heretic and would subject you to all sorts of bad things. Banishment, stoning, death. That sort of thing.

Religious people demand those who do not believe in their religion to ‘respect’ it. Then they define respect in ways that basically preclude any sort of criticism from non-believers. If I don’t bow my head when you do, I’m being disrespectful. If I look around while patiently waiting for you to finish your prayer, I’m disrespectful. It’s much worse if I give the opinion that someone is somewhat delusional for having a belief in an invisible person in the sky that is gravely concerned about how you think about the girl (or boy) next door.

Douglas Adams (writer of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) said in a famous speech given in 1998 that Religion has pretty successfully put itself above criticism – or critical thought – by having ideas that must not be challenged. From the speech:

Religion doesn’t seem to work like that; it has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That’s an idea we’re so familiar with, whether we subscribe to it or not, that it’s kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? – because you’re not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it, but on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday’, you say, ‘Fine, I respect that’. The odd thing is, even as I am saying that I am thinking ‘Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I just said that?’ but I wouldn’t have thought ‘Maybe there’s somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing or somebody who subscribes to this view or the other in economics’ when I was making the other points. I just think ‘Fine, we have different opinions’. But, the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody’s (I’m going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say ‘No, we don’t attack that; that’s an irrational belief but no, we respect it’.

Why is religion, unlike any other idea, above a critical response? Personally, I think this is part of the self-protective process of the religion meme. (link2) If the meme didn’t protect itself, it would die out.

Since I, along with about 35 million other Americans, don’t believe in religion, then that meme wouldn’t apply to us. Why shouldn’t we question religion, criticize it for it’s failures?

Or laugh at it.

Fair warning here – Atheist criticism or humor can be blasphemous. If you’re religious, you may be offended. That’s fine with me – you can read my blog and be offended, or you can go elsewhere – it’s your choice. I’m not concerned about making fun of religion, or criticizing it. To put it in terms of believers, “Hate the religion, not the religious.”

If you believe, you probably won’t find the photo of Jesus advertising Liquid Nails very funny.

Actually, I think this is sort of the logical next step in “The War On Christmas” – if you’ll recall, I warned Christians that forcing retailers to include Jesus might lead to product placements that they would disapprove of.

Take a look anyway – if you smile, does it mean you must repent?

And if you click on this link to more of these images, you’ll endanger your soul. If you laugh, then you might as well hang it up – you’re hell bound – If there is such a place.

Personally, I laughed – but then I don’t believe there is anything especially unique about religion to put it above criticism or humor.