Jesus, Buddha, Yahweh (aka Allah), the Pope, Zeus, Odin, and Mohammed walk into a bar…. You don’t hear too many jokes that begin this way.
Religious icons have been fodder for humorists and novelists for centuries, though much of the mockery has stayed underground until the 20th century. Good-natured (and bad-natured) humor directed at gods and their prophets could, and often did, result in slow death. A single death was usually sufficient to slow down the person so bold as to find hilarity in the buffoonery of whatever clergy held power. Religion, for the most part, frowned upon “funny” unless, of course, it was directed at heretics, apostates, infidels, or insurance salesmen.
Of the holy people listed in the opening sentence of this essay, the two that stand out as being the most humorless come from the Middle East: Yahweh (Allah) and Mohammed. Yahweh (Jewish), Allah (Muslim) is the same character worshiped by Christians, who called him God. In the holy books of all three religions, God is a humorless, nasty character, a repeat-offender serial killer, in fact. Early stand-up comedians found out quickly that making fun of God would get you and your whole family cast into a fiery pit or used for target practice by marketplace rock throwers. Crack a joke, and God would fuck you over.
As early religious times wore on, I suspect that some people got fed up with all the gratuitous violence that God had perpetrated, or supposedly caused to be perpetrated, in His name, so they decided to write a sequel to their holy book. It was called the “New Testament,” and it reinvented God into a more pleasant and approachable fellow named “Jesus.” This Jesus character eschewed violence, liked red wine, hung out with the hookers, and wasn’t above cracking a joke or two.
After Jesus died a particularly gruesome death, his followers reverted to Old Testament rhetoric, and the sequel ends with horrifying scenes of beasties, blood, and mass killings. Humor, it seems, was one of the first victims of the final chapter.
People seemed to prefer the mayhem and strict dogma of their old God and quickly forgot about Jesus’ non-violent approach to life. Nevertheless, they formed a religion based on Jesus, and for a couple of thousand years they seriously kicked the asses of everyone who dared jest about their dogma. Eventually, most of the Old Testament people and the Jesus people decided, “What the hell, we can take a joke,” and they tapered off whacking people who made fun of their religion.
A few hundred years after Jesus took his last bow, a new holy guy named Mo arrived on the scene in the Middle East. Mo proclaimed himself a spokesman for Allah (aka God) and ripped off parts of the old holy book, added a bunch of new stuff, published it, and it became a bestseller. The new book had a lot of nice, peaceful parts, but also a lot of the same old kill, smite and misogynous doctrine as the old version. (You need to give the people what they want, after all.) After Mo cashed in his chips, his followers did pretty much what Jesus’ original posse did, and put the scimitar to the scrotum of anyone bold enough to crack wise about their religion, which, in this case, was known as Islam.
Followers of Mohammed (Muslims) and the followers of Jesus (Jesims) tolerated each other for a while, but had absolutely no sense of humor about it. Eventually, a Palestinian comic named Rasheed made one too many jokes at the Jesims’ expense, and Europeans sent Crusaders and anti-Muslim comedians to stamp out mockery of their religion in Jerusalem. The Muslims fought back, and the people on both sides enjoyed a great religious bloodletting. When you’re not allowed to poke fun at things, it breeds a certain savagery.
Religious savagery has continued right up until today, but in the modern world, the comedic overtones are more freely expressed. Unfortunately, it seems the vast majority of Muslims have decided not to enter the modern world.
If you make a joke or write a parody about the Pope, it is unlikely Catholic ninjas will be dispatched to blow up you and your family. If you expose a bloated televangelist for the corpulent weasel he is, the likelihood of you being burned at the stake is small. You can joke about Jesus, write a limerick about the Buddha, or draw a caricature of Zeus with a tiny penis, and it’s doubtful you will suffer even slings and arrows. But, mention Mohammed in an unflattering light, and you’ll have fanatical Islamic sheep bleating for your death. It wouldn’t be so bad if the sheep would just bleat, but a lot of them are armed and will point their weapons wherever the shepherd tells them.
About now, I expect some people are saying, “That’s bigoted; you are prejudiced against Muslims.” Given today’s climate of appeasement to even the most radical elements of society, I am not surprised that people might think this. The truth is, I don’t give a monkey’s scrotum about religion. I am prejudiced against stupid, intolerant and humorless people. We all have our prejudices; those are mine.
So, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha walk into a bar. Jesus asks for a glass of water so he can turn it into wine. Mohammed asks where the virgins are. Buddha sits back and laughs his ass off.