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Heard the one about the pope? Sadly, yes - Comments

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 6 by Anonymous

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Wed, 22 Jun 2011 05:51:39 UTC | #641525

Alex, adv. diab.'s Avatar Comment 7 by Alex, adv. diab.


Nice bait and switch:

"that the idea of a loving god is incompatible with the existence of evil and suffering, or that dinosaurs disprove intelligent design [..] Religious people are divisive. They are violent [..] They are pathetic fools. They are stupid – if not deranged."

When have you joined the Cambridge Interfaith Programme, and was that before or after you stopped beating your wife?

But I must say, if I had bought a copy of The God Delusion every time I heard it said that the earth revolves around the sun, Richard Dawkins would be rich! and therefore it must be wrong! I rest my case!

By the way, they only keep abusing kids because you atheists ridicule them so much. Are you happy? Are you happy now? It would all be well if you just stopped being so mean to religion.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 05:55:18 UTC | #641526

Michael Austin's Avatar Comment 8 by Michael Austin

Is the author a creationist? And why does he refer to secularists as 'we' when he's studying theology and religious studies?

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 05:58:47 UTC | #641528

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 9 by Anonymous

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Wed, 22 Jun 2011 06:04:25 UTC | #641529

Alex, adv. diab.'s Avatar Comment 10 by Alex, adv. diab.

Is the author a creationist? And why does he refer to secularists as 'we' when he's studying theology and religious studies?

Because professional accomodationism is the art of bending over backwards to screw over your own convictions sufficiently so you can bring yourself to proclaiming that critical thinking is the problem, not believing in fairy tales. If you master that kind of schizophrenia, you can easily be a secularist and study theology.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 06:08:54 UTC | #641530

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 11 by Anonymous

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Wed, 22 Jun 2011 06:14:30 UTC | #641534

andyseaspray's Avatar Comment 12 by andyseaspray

I loved Stephen Fry's answer to this kind of thing. (around 3:20)

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 06:36:19 UTC | #641540

jesusdiedLOL's Avatar Comment 13 by jesusdiedLOL

How would one make joke about atheists/secularists? Here's my attempt of scripted standup.

"So, these atheists think the world is a few billion years old! (audience:laughter) But the Bible says its 6000! (audience:laughter) Didn't anyone tell these people it's called the gospel for a reason? (audience:laughter, whooping, clapping, stamping feet)"

From a comedians point of view, how could they go past a bunch of adults who chant, wail and whine, are in love with an imaginary friend, think they're immortal, wear silly costumes... I could go on all day, hell, maybe there should be a comedian specializing in religion? I'd go see him/her.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 06:40:18 UTC | #641543

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 14 by ZenDruid

This guy needs to be given the Carlin and Python boxed sets, if he's such a comedy aficionado.

Or a session of Life of Brian a' la Ludovico.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 06:59:34 UTC | #641550

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 15 by Anonymous

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Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:10:40 UTC | #641552

skiles1's Avatar Comment 16 by skiles1

I can save that man and the people of England a bit of money - no doubt Cambridge can be a bit costly! Tell him the ridicule has something to do with the way the church - for instance - is so sanctimonious. Now, if he can make a whole master's thesis out of that, I'm not sure, but it isn't any more complicated than that.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:18:45 UTC | #641555

davedotcom's Avatar Comment 17 by davedotcom

Lighten up! If the man's head was any further up his own arse (ass for all the US readers!) the lump in his throat would be his nose!

And I don't see how the quote of Dylan Moran helps his case; isn't the point that god's are made up all the time just a polite way of saying all god's are made up?

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:20:45 UTC | #641557

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 18 by Jos Gibbons

Before I begin my critique of this piece, I’d like to reproduce the one comment below it in which our website is referenced:

Saxotelephone @FrankRoberts Who says atheists don`r have a sense of humour? Aside from Cif, definitve proof that they don't can be found on the RichardDawkins website. If you follow a bad link there, all you get is 'The page you are looking for doesn't exist. You may have mistyped the addres, or it may have moved'. Now, if I were running an athiest website, I would at least try to make something of that opportunity.

Now for my response to the article itself. I may rewrite this later to become a Cif comment. I can’t yet as I have too much else I have to do today.

Good stand-up comedy makes us question ourselves

Good stand–up comedy makes us laugh. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve seen it cause us to laugh with faulty logic, or with “Why is X the case?” questions experts can answer very well in such a way as to subsequently ruin the joke. Having said all that, I do like it when stand–up gets us thinking too, though not so much because I think it “ought” to any more than anything else should, but rather because doing two good things at once is always nice to see. I think an orange zest improves chocolate, but because it’s goo, not because chocolate ought to be like that (any more than orange–flavoured concoctions ought to be chocolatey). Presumably, if the author of this article is willing to concede there have been critiques of religion which satisfy his criteria, he might say, for instance, Bertrand Russell pulled it off. Should Russell have been funnier? Having said all that, I should also admit I’ve shared McKearney’s dislike of an irrational act that merely repeats the audience’s lazy assumptions. I’m talking about Dane Cook’s ragging on atheism. McKearney would like to see atheism tackled in comedy as well as religion, and would like to see religion tackled better, so presumably would also like to see atheism tackled well. And not only have I never seen atheism tackled well in any context, comedy or otherwise – and I have given the religious countless opportunities to change that – I’ve no clue how McKearney’s dreams could ever be fulfilled. Unless, of course, he would be happy with Dane Cook’s level of analysis for atheism but not for religion; but that would be a double standard. Here’s a link:

the contemporary ridicule of religion lacks any originality or insight

Much as originality or insight is admirable, to demand it is to require ideas to only be said once each, preventing their wide dissemination, and in any case there’s no especial need for it in comedy instead of, say, philosophy. And ultimately, if an argument is irrefutable, enemies of it shouldn’t focus on irrelevancies like “heard it before”. Yes, you have, because you ought to hear it again until you bother engaging with it, something McKearney doesn’t do with a single one of the arguments he says in this article he dislikes hearing. This article therefore presents yet another arbitrary rule regarding how criticism of religion should proceed should it occur at all. This is simple: if something is the case, say it, and let you only be critiqued for flubbing it. Insight, incidentally, is a subspecies of originality, so I won’t defend the two with separate arguments herein.

Catholics are often the butt of jokes about religion.

Aren’t religious people meant to be the butt of religion jokes?

They endlessly ridicule tired stereotypes of religion, but fail to turn their critical attention to secularism, atheism or liberalism.

If I condemned specific examples of stereotypes, I’d explain why they’re invalid too; and by “tired” McKearney references another irrelevant factor, age. This is ironic considering that an idea being old lends it some gravitas in religious contexts. As for failing to turn their critical attention on ... wait, why is liberalism in that list? Is religion diametrically opposed to it? ... But anyway, how would stand–up comedians give secularism (political neutralism with respect to religion) or atheism (lack of a belief in a god or gods) critical treatments? In fact, I will lower the bar: how would anyone do it, without also simultaneously having to be funny (though they can be if they want)? In other words, how would a case against atheism be made at all? I have yet to see anything approaching one. That’s the problem. Theists will use every excuse in the book for criticisms of religion to “suck” by standards disconnected with their validity, but they won’t ever defend their own crappy ideas.

they leave their own assumptions, ignorance and flaws untouched. They just reinforce our world view, rather than critically engaging with it.

Atheism is not a world view; it’s a lack of a world view. Secularism is not a world view; it’s a political policy. In any case, why must stand–up comedians only critically tear apart world views? Reasonable as that idea sounds, what it amounts to is they can’t assert, expand on or defend the world view they actually embrace. If McKearney’s bizarre criteria were genuinely important, stand–up comedians would be wrong to ever say what they think.

This lack of self-reflection must be the only way to explain their tedious repetition of generic, flat-pack criticisms.

Firstly, “X must be the only explanation of Y” is always, and I mean always, wrong. Second, what lack of self–reflection? Had it ever occurred to McKearney these views may be born of a self–reflection which has since continued but hasn’t changed their minds again because it’s already struck gold? That’s often how critical thinking works. Third, the rest of this sentence condemns further dissemination of ideas people have had. As I explained before, McKearney should instead explain why the ideas are actually bad, but he never even tries to do that.

I might have doubled Richard Dawkins's profits by now if I had bought a copy of The God Delusion every time I had heard that ...

There are any number of financial ways to make this point, the standard one being to talk about the wealth which would be accrued by gaining, say, a pound every time it happened. If we’re talking about tedious repetition of generic, flat–pack stuff, I’d like to know why YET AGAIN we’re treated to an aside reference to Richard Dawkins in an article that has nothing to do with him just because the article is about criticism of religion sucking. We’re talking about stand–up comedians. Dawkins isn’t one, nor do stand–up comedians making points similar to his acknowledge him as a source. And by the way, to double the profits on that book you’d have to buy as many copies of it as have ever been bought – and I bet you’ve not even heard 2 million jokes in your life (the approximate life’s work of Bob Hope), let alone 2 million about religion. So don’t even try this lazy hyperbole. Just say it happened a lot, OK?

Just off the top of my head I can think of six routines – by Eddie Izzard, Dara O Briain, Frankie Boyle, Ricky Gervais, Robin Ince and Stewart Lee – in which I have been gleefully told how stupid creationists are. But they are not the only caricature.

They’re not caricatures. Creationists are like that, and Christianity per se is not alleged by any of these comedians to be automatically like Creationism.

Anglicans are pushovers.

That’s what we like about them!

Muslims are violent, oppressive and backward. (Marcus Brigstocke)

You know what Creationists don’t get enough critique for from stand–up comedians who do bits on them? Quote mining, which is what’s happened here. Firstly, that’s not from stand–up; admittedly Brigstocke has done stand–up, but rules McKearney has particular to the genre only apply to radio if stand–up comedians should “always be on duty”, which is ridiculous. Secondly, only a couple of sentences earlier Brigstocke made it clear he was about to launch into a critique of extremists, and that although he had criticisms of moderates too those were separate. Again, here’s a link:

The next quotation quote–mines Brigstocke from later in the same piece:

All of them claim to be peaceful. Yeah, peaceful right up to the point where someone takes something they claim is theirs, or says the wrong thing or looks at them funny

McKearney pretends by “them” Brigstocke means religious people, but he actually means the religions themselves. In fact, if in the link I gave above you jump to the 3 minute mark, you’ll see McKearney deliberately omitted the word “religions” after peaceful. That means not only did he quote mine, he cut a bit out of the MIDDLE of the quotation. That’s the worst kind of quote mining!

McKearney is a liar and a charlatan and a fraud, and he and/or the Guardian should issue a retraction apologising to the slandered Brigstocke.

They are pathetic fools. They are stupid – if not deranged. "Religion's just what we thought before we understood what mental illness was." (Frankie Boyle)

Firstly, this doesn’t mean the religious are mentally ill; it means a lack of understanding of mental illness fosters religious beliefs. How do I know my understanding of Boyle is correct? Because he said religion is what we thought in a particular era of misunderstanding, not that it was something we misdiagnosed in a particular era of misunderstanding. Secondly, there’s no point complaining when Frankie Boyle offends you. I’ve only heard him say one vaguely inoffensive joke in his entire career – funnily enough, a joke about Creationists, from Mock The Week:

(I’m paraphrasing) Creationists deny dinosaurs. If you’re gonna deny part of science, don’t deny dinosaurs; dinosaurs are cool!

In sum, religious people are just wrong.

Either religion is partly right or wholly wrong. Whichever one it is, stand–up comedians should work out which, then say it. And complaining about them only critically analysing one of the two options – namely, the other one is ridiculous. Critical assessment isn’t about saying every view is suspect; it’s about reporting the findings of critical thinking.

it just narcissistically affirms that we were right all along. It is not edgy, original or insightful. One might even be tempted to call it preaching to the converted.

Firstly, who’s this “we”? Most people, especially historically, are religious. Secondly, the one thing religion’s defenders never tire of saying about criticisms of religion is that they’re too rude. If that’s not edgy I don’t know what would be. Or are religion’s defenders trying to eat their cake and have it? Third, I’ve already explained why originality and insight aren’t such a big deal. Fourth, “preaching to the converted” repeats the mistake of the first bit.

the last word goes to a stand-up who is still doing his job properly: "And we all think we're very rational and very secular, but we make gods all the time." (Dylan Moran)

First, that means Moran thinks god hypotheses are irrational, which is pretty much what you told off Noble for saying. Secondly, if this is the kind of critical assessment, originality or insight about religion you think other stand–up comedians should be giving us, I’ve no idea how you detect it. Apparently “religion sucks” is off–limits but “Our making religions proves how much we suck” is different. It’s almost as if McKearney cares more about religions than their followers. But, in fact, that’s often the case of those infected with a religious mindset. It is we infidels who can’t help but have a higher opinion of, and regard for, theists than theism.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:37:00 UTC | #641560

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 19 by Vorlund

Comment 9 by ZenDruid :

This guy needs to be given the Carlin and Python boxed sets, if he's such a comedy aficionado. Or a session of Life of Brian a' la Ludovico.

Religion is excruciatingly funny, who has not seen father Ted and pissed themselves laughing? Well the Poop for one and the Irish Catholics are reported to think it is a documentary but heh............

It is hard to crack jokes about rational thinking, but religion? well maybe it is the hypocrisy, idiocy, muddled thinking, pre-occupation with the matrimonial unpleasantness of sex and virgins, the self deprecating, supercilious incongruity of priests who flog themselves to distract themselves from masturbating and sell bullshit to the feeble minded every sunday and the whole gallimaufry of batshit philosophy which lends itself to so much satire and farce?

Perhaps religion was invented to give us all something to laugh about but the religios haven't seen the joke!

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:40:04 UTC | #641564

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 20 by Stafford Gordon

Once again, special pleeding for exemption from reality!

The subtext being, we are right and beyond questioning, therefore anyone who disagrees with our world view must by definition be wrong.

Childish piffle!

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:52:29 UTC | #641568

Outrider's Avatar Comment 21 by Outrider

I can't help hearkening back to - and I cannot recall who said it first - the idea that if religious people don't want their beliefs to be laughed at, they shouldn't hold such laughable beliefs.

By the same token, if religious people don't want people to still be laughing at the same laughable beliefs they used to...


Wed, 22 Jun 2011 07:58:23 UTC | #641571

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 22 by ZenDruid

Comment 14 by Vorlund :

Religion is excruciatingly funny, who has not seen father Ted and pissed themselves laughing? Well the Poop for one and the Irish Catholics are reported to think it is a documentary but heh............

Perhaps religion was invented to give us all something to laugh about but the religios haven't seen the joke!

Yes, I like that idea. After all, they dress like strange clowns on their high&holy days, right?

Alas, I've never seen Father Ted, but I've heard a lot of commentary.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:07:09 UTC | #641572

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 23 by Stevehill

If I want a comedy religious turn, I'll go to Evensong.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:15:55 UTC | #641573

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 24 by ZenDruid

Clowns. Strange clowns. All of a sudden something sorta chimed:

How many people were terrified of clowns as children? How many have carried that forward? Is there a statistical significance to the percentage of them who were/are Catholic?

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:17:44 UTC | #641574

hemidemisemigod's Avatar Comment 25 by hemidemisemigod

What a stupid article. What a narrow-minded viewpoint.

Contemporary stand-up comics do not spend the majority of their time mocking religion, but it's a rich source of comic material. They also make jokes about birth, death, politics, sex, relationships, men, women, pets, animals, TV, films, history, nations, cultures, fashion, food, drink, architecture, language, literature, work, school, technology, astronauts, scientists, etc. In fact they'll make fun of just about anything.

But there's no need to try to balance out these topics. A comic who can only makes jokes about one area of life would merely be seen as having a limited amount of material or comic ideas.

I'll tell you a funny joke about a stamp collector but then, to balance things out, I'll tell you one about a man who doesn't collect stamps.

Religions provide myriad comic ideas. It does not follow that the absence of religion will provide much material for stand-up comics.

Headstone on an atheist's grave: "All dressed up and no place to go"

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:26:31 UTC | #641579

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 26 by Dhamma

What's his point? Atheist comedians make great points, and he's not capable of rebutting them, which makes it completely unfair, and therefore god exists?


This article goes perfectly in line with an old feeling I've had: it's not so much the lucid atheist articles that convince me the most I'm correct, but the sheer stupidity in the religious ones.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:27:46 UTC | #641580

RDfan's Avatar Comment 27 by RDfan

Here's a winning formula:

Random idea + Richard Dawkins' name: Guardian article guaranteed.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:45:30 UTC | #641591

Reginald's Avatar Comment 28 by Reginald

This article is just an attempt to oppose ridicule of religion by deflecting the argument onto atheism instead. How does one go about ridiculing atheism,--which is nothing more than a rejection of religious claims? He would have to demonstrate how ridiculous it is to reject belief in God, and would therefore have to write an entire treatise on theological philosophy as well as science and history. Sorry,- been there, done that,--it does not work. Give it up and just accept that religious claims are ridiculous and stop worrying and enjoy your life.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:50:26 UTC | #641594

thebaldgit's Avatar Comment 29 by thebaldgit

Oh dear another sad god bother upset by the nasty nonbelivers taking the piss ahhh didums. If I had a pound for every religious nutter who said that they were being persecuted by non believers then i would have more money than Carlos Slim.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:52:40 UTC | #641597

Ballardian's Avatar Comment 30 by Ballardian

Patrick's partially correct, in that criticising religion in stand-up has become incredibly boring and lazy. But I think he makes a mistake when he names Stewart Lee. Lee's 90s Comedian routine about a grotesque encounter with Jesus is one of the best bits of stand-up I've ever seen, and it is a lot more subtle than any of the other comics Patrick lists. Lee is also the exception in that he was formally accused of blasphemy (which is where the Jesus routine takes off) and so had a pretty good reason for taking on the religious establishment in his stand-up.

I think many are missing Patrick's main point, which is that good comedy is about self-criticism, or including onself within the ridicule, rather than ridiculing the weak (or who we perceive to be the weak). Building stand-up routines around creationists is just an easy way to make fun of "stupid" people, and it's especially pointless in the UK where creationists are such a tiny minority. Comedy works best when the person telling jokes is the underdog, not the leader of the pack. There's nothing radical or interesting about telling liberal, secular gags to a liberal, secular audience.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:03:29 UTC | #641600

sunbeamforjeebus's Avatar Comment 31 by sunbeamforjeebus

Take one preposterous old man,dress him up in a silly medieval costume,put a ridiculous tall hat on his head,put a six foot gold shepherd's crook in his hand,walk him into a huge old building where there are little boys in dresses,let himwave his armsabout and talk a load of drivel as he asks his imaginary friend to turn himself into a try to keep a straight face!

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:07:44 UTC | #641601

Dr Doctor's Avatar Comment 32 by Dr Doctor

Here's a winning formula:

Random idea + Richard Dawkins' name: Guardian article guaranteed.

Almost. Ranty article, take a pop at Dawkins watch Andrew Brown make you a contributor.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:12:08 UTC | #641603

AlexP's Avatar Comment 33 by AlexP

Jokes about religion are repetitive, tiring, worn out and get on our nerves?

Frankly, for the most part, I agree!

Sadly, the one thing that is even more repetitive, tiring, worn out and getting on our nerves than jokes about religion... is religion itself.

Their "facts" have been proven wrong. Their claims have been shown to be baseless. In centuries, they could not produce a single shred of credible evidence. And yet they keep going. And yet they close their eyes, cover their ears and continue to ignore all reason.

As long as that doesn't change, what else is there to say, other than to repeat that was has been said a thousand times over?

It's like a guy sitting in front of a computer that isn't plugged in. All you can say is "You need to plug the damn thing in!". But that guy isn't listening. He keeps hammering away at the keyboard, wiping the screen and swearing at the machine. And you can do nothing but scream "Seriously, dude, you need to plug it in!". And he doesn't. He goes on and on while you're desperately trying to get him to understand what you're saying until he finally turns around and demands that you "stop repeating the same, tired advice over and over and do something constructive".

The sad part isn't that religious comdey doesn' change. The sad part is that it cannot change, because religion doesn't change - neither in response to ridicule, nor to evidence, reason or suffering.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:25:41 UTC | #641606

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 34 by SaganTheCat

2 problems

  1. usual accomodationalism guff from the guardian. give me back those wasted minutes please

  2. who gives a toss about what any hacvk has to say about comedy? if it's funny, we laugh, if it's not, we don't. nothing winds me up more than some sanctimonious windbag picking on comedians and their subject matter. comedy is like science, it stands or falls on its own merits and doesn't need some bleeding heart bandwaggon-hitcher to make me question whether i just laughed at a joke or not.

utter prick

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:38:01 UTC | #641608

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 35 by Stevehill

Here's a winning formula:

Random idea + Richard Dawkins' name: Guardian article guaranteed.

I have to say I've pretty much had it with the Guardian. Apparently it's the fifth most popular website in the world. But with a few notable exceptions, the comments seem to be the last resort of a bunch of 1960s Workers Revolutionary Party exiles who don't seem to have noticed the Berlin Wall came down and exist only to 'smash the system'.

Anyone who puts up a serious argument against A Contributor is accused of heresy and their posts are moderated/deleted.

The unwritten law is Thou Shalt Not Make Our Contributors Look Silly. How can you possibly comply, when they do it so well all by themselves?

AC Grayling used to comment a bit, but for wholly sensible reasons has long since given up, I presume in disgust.

I see they just posted a £33 million loss and are firing more journalists... 1,100-plus staff, 690 of them journalists, to sell 250,000 copies a day, and falling...

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:49:59 UTC | #641611