Humour, Arguments and Mockery

Quick note; this post is not child friendly.

How can you tell if an engineer is an extrovert instead of an introvert? He’s staring at your shoes instead of his own.

There are 10 kinds of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who do not.

Or, here’s a good one my little nephew enjoys. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Cash. Cash who? I didn’t know you were a nut.

Another engineering joke (I’m an engineer, so I love them). An engineer’s best form of birth control is his personality.

Let’s shift gears and enjoy a great little stand-up sketch by Rowan Atkinson.

Now let’s turn our attention to a comedy routine by “College Humor” (I warned you about this post not being child-friendly). Take a minute to view the video or however much of it you need to in order to understand their “jokes.”

What did you think of that skit? Did you notice something different from, for instance, Rowan Atkinson’s skit? The thing I noticed that was different was simply this; it wasn’t funny. Perhaps I should clarify; it was probably hysterical to a certain sub-section of society but not to the rest of us. The people for whom it was funny are probably very much like the people who created it. The attempts at humor were not rooted in a well-developed interplay of religious concepts that all converged toward a comedic end, all they did was describe religion. That was the extent of their “jokes.” All they did was read from the Bible and throw in some trivial commentary. The thought, it would seem, is that the Bible is so ridiculous that all one needs to do is read it to see just how ridiculous it is. The content of the Bible, unscathed by the manipulation of some talented comedian, is sufficiently humorous that giggles ensue by the mere reading of the book.

[As an aside, I actually did think the final line, followed by the wink, was kind of amusing. In part because it was the first hint within the entire skit that there were, in fact, trace elements of real effort exerted by the writers.]

One wonders why Rowan Atkinson went to all the trouble of preparing a well-scripted jab at the Biblical concept of Hell; just open the Bible and start reading to achieve the same effect, right?

Wrong. Consider if I simply read poetry out loud and declared the entire field of poetry utter nonsense because of what I just read. After all, “it’s obvious!” Or if I were to skim through a legal document and dismiss it with a wave of the hand, a condescending “hmpf” and some shaking of my head. The entire legal profession is obvious nonsense. No discussion, no explanation and certainly no effort to draw out a similar reaction in others. Why would I bother with all that, “it’s obvious!” In the same vein, simply reciting religious literature and assuming it is funny, absent any trace of comedic skill or effort, only works if one is preaching to the choir. And in this case “the choir” is almost certainly dominated by inebriated ex-Christians doped up on Viagra.

As much as this humor is anything but funny, the surprising thing is that many people think it is not only funny but also an effective strategy to refute the truth-claims of religion as well. If you dialogue with others on these issues it is not uncommon to have people ask you, with reference to the Bible, “Have you actually read it?!?!” This tactic is particularly heavily used with respect to many passages in the Old Testament, as the video so vividly demonstrated. God made a bunch of demands that we don’t like therefore he was wrong. End of story. Others may dismiss something like the resurrection of Jesus from the dead because it’s a miracle. Well, yeah, we kind of already know that; what’s your point? It’s a miracle, therefore the entire system of thought is false. Obviously! The mere fact that somebody claims a miracle happened is enough to prove that they are wrong. End of story.

But one must ask what, exactly, is the argument? What, exactly, do they find so obviously false about the Bible based on nothing more than merely reading it? In many cases (as in this “humor”) they do nothing more than yank a passage out of its literary, cultural, historical and theological context then apply whatever context they want to it (usually some kind of politically correct, 21st century, “progressive,” anti-supernatural context) and that is supposed to somehow “prove” that it is false. That strategy will naturally work with those who share the assumptions of the person who utilizes this tactic.

Well, if you ever have that thrown at you then don’t fall for it. It is not actually an argument; it is a bullying tactic. If they can shame you into rejecting your beliefs then they don’t have to bother actually defending their own. Put another way, this is a strategy for the intellectually lazy. They think they can simply laugh at your beliefs and you’ll tuck your tail between your legs and run for the hills. Don’t fall for it and don’t be lazy yourself.

There are some views that are so ridiculous that if you merely know what they, are you cannot help but see their falsity. Even then, though, you can explain what it is about them that is false. There is a justification that lies behind the intuitive rejection; there’s something more than simply an exacerbated, “it’s obvious!” Take the time to consider the underlying basis for the rejection of such nonsense, and don’t rely on the intellectual crutch of merely reciting it and assuming everything thinks exactly like you do. Perhaps you could even write a comedy skit that highlights the absurdity of it by actually developing something resembling a thoughtful analysis mixed in with a heaping cup-full of comedic talent.

Or, you could just follow the lead of the College Humor crowd. I’m not sure what College they’re going to, but if they are working toward a degree in writing then I dare say I hope the skit was written by first year students. If not, then it seems clear that their education failed them.

On a related note…


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