Is Faith A Legitimate Subject For Foolishness, Falsehood Or Fun?

Posted at 19:12pm on 29th September 2008


It’s a strange paradox that at a time when so many people profess not to believe in God, religion appears to be a subject enjoyed by the masses in almost all forms of multi-media. To mention but a few examples, we’ve had the stage-shows Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell; the book The God Delusion (and counter-argument The Dawkins Delusion ); umpteen TV comedies from All Gas and Gaiters to the inimitable Vicar of Dibley, and the film Life of Brian. Now I hear that we’re to have a new film, Religulous, and that the producers unashamedly want to espouse the same anti-religious zeal which makes for best-selling status. The film, we’re told, ‘takes on the pieties of religion’.

Good for them! We don’t want too many pieties in society, do we? Much better to have the profanity and violence of gang-warfare, knife-crime, drugs and greed. And who, in their right mind, would promote the cohesion of organised religion (the church) which, for all its failings, continues to grow worldwide, when we can have divorce, family breakdown and the broken society identified by politicians? Actually, when it comes to taking on the pieties of religion, few do so better than Adrian Plass, infamously author of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 371/2 a spiritual parody of Sue Townsend’s arguably more famous The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 1/2


What interests me about the works of the modern disseminators of anti-religion is the different forms they take. Richard Dawkins’s arguments, for example, strike me as being astonishingly fanatical and narrow-minded for a scientist. I thought science was all about exploration and thinking the unthinkable? Being sufficiently broad-minded, in fact, to wonder whether God might not have been clever enough to build carbon-datable millennia into his creation, just as he built age into the first man – who could easily, otherwise, have been no more than a sperm and an ovum, a foetus, or a baby! Then there’s the Vicar who is not the expected ‘man with a Bible, a beard and bad breath, but a babe with a bob-cut and a magnificent bosom’. In the Vicar of Dibley, the lovable Dawn French presents an entirely opposite point of view: warm and fuzzy and down-to-earth in a way that I can’t help feeling would please the parable-telling, mixing-with-sinners Jesus, no end. Who invented comedy, after all?

But there is a sinister side to all of this. The filmmakers, according to the report in the New York Times, deny that they pick on easy targets. Oh yeah? So why are there no films about Islam? Could it be that producers don’t want to attract the sort of fatwa which has dogged the heels of author Salmon Rushdie? Or is it that Christians simply turn the other cheek and don’t feel the need to defend their faith by such means? When asked about the taboo of making a film like this, Larry Charles brushed the question aside with the throwaway line that if it’s profitable, then it’s not taboo. Or at least, tabooishness doesn’t matter so much.


Accused of targeting only extremists, star of the film, Bill Maher, defends the notion that all religion is extremist, by pointing to the concepts that God had a son, that he’s a single parent, that the son went on a suicide mission, and that Christians, worldwide, drink his blood on Sundays. Put like that, it does sound as crazy and ridiculous as he claims it to be. But isn’t that exactly what God himself says about faith? ‘Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should be a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.’

So, bring it on, say I. Because the more foolish and fun-poking the book, film,
TV programme, the greater the audience. And if it keeps people talking about God, well then isn’t that an apposite demonstration of man’s wisdom being foolishness in God’s sight? Hang on a moment. I think I can hear him laughing at our puny efforts right now! What do you think?

Seriously, if you have a point of view on the subject – however controversial – then as long as it’s not abusive, I’d love to hear from you. Pass this on to your friends to see what they think, too.

Your Comments:

30th September 2008
at 6:13pm

You make a very good point about Jesus being a humorist. We so
often miss the fact that many of his stories were funny. We are so
used to reading them in a solemn context that we miss the point of
how over-the-top many of his stories are. Like the one about the
man who couldn't get a speck of sawdust out of his friend's
eye because he had a plank in his own. People flocked to hear him
in their hundreds because he was such a good entertainer.

Humour can be affectionate or hostile. It's up to us to come up
with great comedies that people, whether Christian or not, will
enjoy hearing or reading.

30th September 2008
at 7:29pm

Thank you Fay. You're quite right. Sadly there will always
be those whose humour - or other - is hostile, either through
ignorance or wilfully. Thankfully, God is wise enough to know the
difference, merciful enough to forgive, and powerful enough to mete
out justice when required.

Pete Hammond
2nd October 2008
at 12:51pm

Interesting comment about film makers avoiding criticising

Are you sure about this ?

If so, then they are showing negative religioius bias and that
is wrong.

2nd October 2008
at 4:56pm

No, I'm not 100% sure about this Pete, but I'm talking
about satire not criticism. Does anyone know of any films that take
a wry look at people of the Islamic faith? Or indeed any other?

Erich Keithly
5th October 2008
at 5:18am

As a college student I find your post all to true. It's
amazing the onslaught I have received since coming to college. In
fact, all the odds were stacked against God as I came to The
University of Oklahoma trying to find myself spiritually. However,
God did some of the most amazing things in the past five years to
make me realize my complete depravity, and need for Him. Thanks for
your post as it was encouraging to me.

5th October 2008
at 9:19am

Thank you Erich for taking the time to comment. I'm sorry to
hear of the problems you received at college but, sadly, not
surprised. It's good to know that God is at work in your life.
He will complete the work he has begun, because that's what
he's promised.

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