Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Funny Thing About Christianity... that it really is the salt and leaven of human life. It's not just that the slightest tinge of Christianity tends to raise life, both individual and social, to a higher plateau. It's that even the enemies and the deriders of the Faith tend to communicate its fascination and its power, in spite of themselves.

Rationalist and secular "debunkers" of Christianity simply can't help presenting it as deeper and more compelling than their own vision of reality. One always gets the impression they are trying to keep the miraculous, the supernatural and the transcendent at bay-- and that they return to the topic so often because it haunts them.

I think, for instance, of the fanatical secularist biologist PZ Myers who desecrated the Eucharist as an act of supposed protest against organized religion. Why was this man driven to re-enact the drama of Calvary? Surely there could be few more powerful demonstrations of the psychological grip that the story of Jesus has upon us all?

But right now I am thinking of the various satirical sketches that Rowan Atkinson has performed, in which he makes fun of Anglican clergymen. This one, for instance, is a skit on the present Archbishop of Canterbury. It's not especially well-observed, or funny, or original-- it's rather juvenile and mean-spirited.

But my point is that, even in a sketch intended to poke fun, Christianity seems more appealing than anything else we will encounter.

We now have a centuries-long tradition of satire on the Church of England-- literally hundreds of hand-rubbing, stammering, desperately earnest, politically correct comic vicars and curates and bishops, forever straining to draw some "spiritual" moral or allegory from anything that happens, or to show that Christianity is still "with it". ("And in a way, we are all like that man in the Bob Dylan song...")

Catholics frequently complain that the Church of England has compromised what remained of its orthodoxy almost to vanishing point, and in this we are generally in agreement with secular satirists.

But here is my whole point-- that even the good old Church of England, that barely seems recognizably Christian to traditionalists, as seen through the distorting lens of unsympathetic satire-- even that seems infinitely more charming, humane and sane that anything the modern world has to offer, in all seriousness.

More tea, vicar? Yes, please.


  1. PZ Myers and atheist comedians in general are good examples for the point I was making about people who try to be witty, but lack any real intelligence in their words. I hadn't heard of Myers until now, but he seems like a typical attention seeker desperate to create his own rituals in order to make some kind of point - the only question that really needs to be asked is why he even bothered?
    I find most atheist comedians lack any intelligence when making anti-religious jokes. They rely on controversy and insults for a few cheap laughs that only an easily amused atheist could find funny - and maybe a few religious people who are too embarrassed to point out the jokes are just bad. If you do point out the jokes are bad you'll most likely be told you're too religious and don't have a sense of humour. I could go on and on, but I won't.

    I'm sure a secularist will argue with you over the point you're making here Maolsheachlann, but as atheists constantly like to point out - they aren't a religion, they're nothing. It's quite difficult to argue that Christianity could be worse than nothing. Well, perhaps that's simplifying the whole thing a bit too much, but really atheism has nothing to offer people except a subjective moral code free from consequence (in a sense).

  2. It also makes an argument very unequal-- a Christian has to defend the entire history and doctrine of Christianity, while the atheist is making a purely negative argument and doesn't have to defend anything.

    I think there is a strong argument to be made that only a religious person can really make a joke, logically-- if you don't believe that there is any standard, any ideal, any immaterial good, then surely everything that exists is simply what it is, what is there to contrast it with?

    Myers is a biologist, and a science blogger-- although as far as I can tell his blog is more about attacking religion than discussing science. He makes Dawkins look like a gentleman-- he must be truly the nastiest of all the New Atheists.

    I do feel that atheist comedians simply beg the question in their comedy-- they simply rely on the listener finding the idea of miracles or answered prayers or apparitions ridiculous. But if you don't find them ridiculous, there's nothing funny about it.

  3. There's the problem right there Maolsheachlann. If a Christian somewhere in history has done something wrong, regardless of whether or not it was done in God's name, atheists will insist that the negative action is obviously a symptom of the person's religious beliefs. If you point out something that an atheist has done wrong in history, atheists will immediately distance themselves and complain that the connection is absurd because atheism is not a religion and therefore cannot be a driving force for any negative behaviour. As you said, it's easy to argue when you don't have to defend anything but your own pride.

    It's interesting that you say Myers appears to be more interested in attacking religion than writing about biology. I do get the feeling from some atheists that they only feign interest in science because they see it as a sort of bulwark against religion, though I'm not saying this is the case with Myers exactly.

    I agree with your point about atheist comedians. Some of them don't even try though. Some of them are basically atheist rallies where simply shouting random insults have the audience laughing. I even saw a Bill Maher clip once where he had to remind the audience several times they weren't at a "rally", as he called it. That sums it up really.