Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names cannot hurt me

"A faith that cannot withstand ridicule is no faith at all. And a faith that cannot laugh at itself is a faith that defies human nature."
- “Your Free Speech, and Mine”, Timothy Egan, New York Times, 2015-01-16

There are too many people and too many governments that take offense too easily at any criticism of their religion or their government.  They are so insecure in their beliefs or of their power that they are willing to kill those who criticize them.

The current political insecurity is shown by the North Korean government.  They can’t take the spoof of their leader in an American film.  One, should they worry about a rebellion in North Korea because of this film?  It will definitely not be shown publicly.  Two, have they considered the spoofs of American politicians that are made daily in all kinds of media all across Europe and the Americas?  Does President Obama really have such big ears as drawn by many cartoonists?

The current religious insecurity is shown by those who take offense at caricatures of Mohammed.  This is also a political insecurity by certain governments who use religion to control their people.  Have they considered all the spoofs of religion and religious figures that have been made for centuries in Europe and the Americas?  Does the Pope really wear such a high mitre that his aides have to check the height of a bridge before the Pope can ride under it?

Wiley’s “Non Sequitur” frequently draws the foibles of people entering heaven.  I bet most of us have seen over a dozen cartoons in the last year from a variety of cartoonists picturing God.

Many of you probably know several jokes about religion.  Here are a few that I’ve known for decades.  I’ve shortened them a bit to save space.

A priest and a rabbi golfed together every Sunday afternoon for many years.  One day the priest asked the rabbi if he ever ate ham.  Hem, haw! “Well, yes, I have.”  “Tasted pretty good, huh?”  A couple holes later the rabbi asked the priest if he ever slept with a woman.  Hem, haw!  “Well, yes, I have.”  “Better than ham, huh?”

Two priests and a Protestant minister went fishing together.  After a bit, one priest said he forgot something on shore and walked across the water to shore and came back.  A bit later the other priest did the same.  The Protestant minister had to show that he could walk on water also.  He stepped out of the boat and sank up to his neck.  One priest asked the other, “Do you think we should have told him where the rocks are?”

Jews tell this about themselves: If two Jews are in a room there will be three opinions.  You can substitute Unitarians for Jews and probably several other religious groups.

Garrison Keillor claims the original settlers of Lake Wobegon were Unitarian missionaries, one of whom wanted to convert the Ojibwe with interpretative dance.

For a lot more jokes about Unitarians, see  The lead paragraph is “Many of these jokes are collected in the fine volume "The Church Where People Laugh" by Gwen Foss. They're full of unwarranted stereotypes suggesting that all UUs are flaky, coffee-swilling environmentally fanatical atheists ... as a UU, I find them hilarious.“

Monty Python produced two popular movies heavy on spoofs of religion: “Life of Brian” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

Ah, “The Holy Grail”!  There is a violent religion for you.  All the Christians that pillaged their way across Europe and the Near East to drive Muslims out of the Holy Land.  And many of them made alliances with the Muslim rulers.

Even religious groups that many consider strait-laced can laugh at themselves.

“A teacher asked her students to bring an item to class that represented their religious beliefs. A Catholic student brought a crucifix. A Jewish student brought a Menora. A Southern Baptist student brought a CorningWare.”

For many more like this, see

I was given a book by a French friend, “Dieu rit en Alsace” (“God laughs in Alsace”).  It has many anecdotes about clergy and lay people.  One of my favorites is about a young Protestant pastor asked to perform a wedding in another town.  He directed the couple to exchange knees and bend their rings.  I wish I still had the book to see the original German and all my other favorites in French.  I hope the person I lent it to can find it.

I wonder if God is so great, then can't he take care of blasphemers like he did with the Great Flood or with Sodom and Gomorrah?

I think those who criticize “blasphemy” are insecure in their own beliefs.  Like the North Korean leaders they see everything that contradicts their world view as a physical threat to themselves.  Many believe that the best counter to “blasphemy” or any insult is to dismiss these with “consider the source”.

Take a look at the “Charlie Hebdo” cover.  It was republished last week in both the Reader Weekly and the Duluth News Tribune.  Isn’t Mohammed shedding a tear about the violence done is his name?  At least twice this past week I’ve seen Muslims retell the story of Mohammed’s forgiveness of a women who threw garbage at him as he passed her house.

“...and you should forgive And overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And Allah is The Merciful Forgiving.” – Qur’an

“Life ain't no how serious.  We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Pogo

“Can't we all just get along?” –  Rodney King

Je suis Charlie!  Je suis Ahmed!