I’m not normally one who mocks anyone or anything. But much of what I write here can (rightfully) be called mocking of religion, and more specifically of Christianity. Most of the time, I’m poking fun at a particular branch of Christianity — that of fundamentalism, or as I am prone to call its adherents, “fundies.”
Why do I do this? I suppose there are a few reasons for it.
First of all, I do it for my own sanity. I was completely and totally consumed by fundamentalist Christianity for nearly four decades. It made me neurotic, afraid, insular, judgmental, and — much of the time — miserable. I would have cowered in fear back then at the very thought of questioning God or anything having to do with God. It’s not a good place to be in.
Suddenly finding oneself no longer afraid of the bogeyman under the bed has a tendency to make one want to laugh at it. I find it to be cathartic. Every time I share a joke or story that removes a bit of the air of invincibility from my personal bogeyman, it further loosens the grip it once had on me. So it’s like cheap therapy in that regard.
Second, like the cartoonists who dare to draw Mohammed just for the statement it makes, I feel it is important to challenge the longstanding unspoken agreement we have had as a society that religion is off limits to ridicule. It seems that it’s okay to laugh at politics, entertainment, societal norms, and pretty much anything else — but for the most part we don’t mock religion in America. That is becoming less true each day, and that’s a good thing. If there is any value in the practice of religion, it should be able to withstand full and open discourse in the public square and that discourse ought to include the same literary devices we use for other ideas, including mockery. If ideas cannot weather this storm, then they deserve to die.
Third, mockery is one of the best ways to point out absurdities in any belief system. Believe me, I know how religious programming can dull one’s senses to these things. As an example, suppose you had never heard any Christian doctrine and for the first time you stumbled onto a conversation about a talking snake, a fiery hell, 900-year old men, demonic possession, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of your god, and so on. Pretty bizarre, isn’t it? And yet, for millions of practicing and cultural Christians, this kind of language is no stranger than talking about the weather. For these people, it takes a very blunt instrument to reveal the underlying absurdity of such notions. Mockery is one such tool.
Finally, I think it’s just plain fun! I think as a rule we tend to be too quick to take offense. This is my way of thumbing my nose at that zeitgeist.
One thing I try to avoid is making fun of people. I prefer to focus on ideas and practices of religion, rather than its adherents. Sometimes I do stoop to poking fun at individuals, especially public figures in religion, who make such easy targets at times. But I try to avoid directing my acerbic wit at the rank-and-file people in the pews, many of whom are my friends and family members. However, I reserve the right to go even there from time to time.
Nobody’s perfect, right?