If You’re Religious, Do You Put Your Soul At Hazard By Watching Comedy Central?

Below are four pretty good reasons for thinking humor is dangerous to religious belief:

  • Humor is dangerous to any confident expression of metaphysics, for it lampoons pretense. It deflates and complicates; it speaks on behalf of the sorts of contending truths that religious metaphysics, in its seriousness and blinkered focus, tends to ignore, marginalize, and oversimplify.
  • Humor is a weapon of democracy and experience, not miracle, mystery, and authority. It notices the marginal individual in the concrete, not just the abstract; the individual as an evolved social animal; an actor in contingent history.
  • Humor is subversive in that it takes the vantage of the outsider. The fool, the child, the fast food worker, the black lesbian: in humor, the vantage of outsiders like these becomes the fresh measure of all things; the vantage from which religion, God, and power might be judged–and found wanting.
  • The emperor has no clothes! Humor is a form of critique that can be directed at any metaphysics that is in excess of sane measure and reality testing–which is what faith and religion amount to (bad epistemic practice). Comedians are spell-breakers on bad epistemic practices.

In short, humor is on the side of doubt and irony, not certainty and religious metaphysics. Beware Tim Minchin and Monty Python!

_____

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to If You’re Religious, Do You Put Your Soul At Hazard By Watching Comedy Central?

  1. andrewclunn says:

    I think you give political hacks, who use “humor” as cover for propaganda, too much credit. One might as well ask if listening to Rush Limbaugh might challenge a progressive’s political sensibilities. It most definitely would not. Humor that attempt to enlighten by presenting novel points of view (and potentially converts) is a rarity. Humor that mocks the “other” and feeds on giving people their desired echo chamber is all the rage now. A religious person watching Comedy Central would quickly scoff saying, “Well this is garbage,” and change the channel. No risk at all.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Andrew:

      You wrote, “Humor that mocks the ‘other’ and feeds on giving people their desired echo chamber is all the rage now.” If this is the case, where is the conservative version of Comedy Central? Or a conservative comedic talent akin to Colbert?

      Great artists are often manic-depressives, and comedians tend to be temperamental anti-authoritarians. I wonder if comedy is a way of deconstructing the alpha male of the tribe. I’ve got to guess that the funniest comic talents in Putin’s Russia are not supporters of Putin.

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